You see that? You see that skeptical-ass look on my homegirl Aloy’s face? That’s where I’m at right now. You may be aware of my YouTube channel, where I spend much time playing the video games for your entertainment and edification. Are you following me yet? You should be following me. Go follow me right now. You don’t use YouTube? You’re not interested in video game videos? That’s okay. Do it anyway.
I just finished up a series on the recent expansion for Horizon Forbidden West, known as The Burning Shores. You don’t really need a ton of background information here, but I’ll give you what you need:
- Aloy, who is the redhead up there, is probably my favorite video game character of all time, not just because she’s a supreme badass (she is) but because of how well-realized a character she is. She’s an asshole. She has absolutely earned the right to be the precise kind of asshole she is. She has absolutely no time for anyone’s bullshit and I love that about her. I have almost ordered this statue a million times and if you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket you should get it for me. After you follow me on YouTube.
- Aloy has, in the two LARGE games she has starred in, not had a whisper of a romantic life until this expansion.
- In this expansion, at the very end, you get the chance to have her kiss a girl if you want to. You can choose not to, either because you’re a giant bigot (unacceptable) or you don’t think Aloy would even pretend to have time for a relationship (still annoying, but justifiable within the story).
- You should have Aloy kiss the girl.
The game has taken the usual-and-sadly-expected amount of review bombing and soulless abusive bullshit from shithead chuds who are mad because the fictional video game lady won’t fuck them, and I hate those people a whole lot but that’s not what this post is about.
Let’s back up a bit. Early on in the expansion you come across Otosu and Lan, two side characters. The details don’t matter; Lan needs rescuing so you go rescue him. The thing is, Otosu and Lan are super queer-coded, especially Lan, who comes across as a bit of an obnoxious queen. But the game never admits it. Otosu is super worried about Lan when he sends you to go rescue him but he never says anything that explicitly acknowledges them as a couple even though their every interaction makes it really clear that that’s what they are. I was fully expecting a “bury your gays” situation here, which, to the devs’ credit, didn’t happen, but the fact that they never even dropped a “my partner” into the dialogue was annoying. It’s almost worse in 2023 to have a clearly gay couple and never acknowledge it than to have no queer representation at all.(*)
So anyway. It’s the end of the game. Aloy and her love interest have more or less done the impossible together and defeated the bad guy and all that. Seyka, the love interest, asks Aloy to meet her where they first met. (“Meet me here” as a way to distinguish one mission from another gets kind of annoying in this game; never more than here.) They meet. Seyka confesses feelings. They kiss. Because Aloy deserves some God damn happiness, damn your eyes, so you’d better have made them kiss and the kiss had better end up canonical.
And do you know what the fuck happens next?
Aloy leaves. “I hope I’ll see you again,” and she bounces, because– and this is almost justifiable given the character– Aloy has Shit to Do, and that third game is coming, and the stakes are higher in the third game than they’ve ever been before.
So she’s gotta leave now???
I was not pleased with this decision. And the worst thing is, again, I can justify it with the character. And she is going to have to leave, as the Burning Shores expansion takes place in a different location than the other two games and she’s got to go back home. But … now? Right fucking now? This minute? You don’t have time to let the game end with the two of them sitting on the beach and watching the sun set together and maybe tomorrow morning she goes back home?
Like, writing all this out now, especially given the number of words I had to burn to get here, part of me feels like I’m overreacting, and in general if you’re pissed about the story in a video game enough to complain about it on the Internet you probably are overreacting to some degree or another, but this really ended the game on a sour note to me. I was pissed. I still am; it’s the next day and I’m writing about it. Why the hell would you go to the trouble to set up a romance, doomed or otherwise, between these two characters and then literally give them one kiss and Aloy has to leave immediately? Because that’s bullshit. This is a fictional story. Y’all coulda faded to black or given her a day or shown them having a picnic together or some fucking thing. And somehow you’ve managed to make a game with two different gay couples in it and an onscreen gay kiss and still managed to come off weirdly homophobic, and that there is a fucking achievement.
Or a trophy, I guess. It’s a PS5 game after all.
(*) At least to me, the straight cis guy. Maybe my opinion should be disregarded here; I dunno. Let me know if you disagree with this.