It's Starting To Feel Like Horizon Is Cursed - But Why?
Guerrilla's flagship title has certainly earned its stripes. Aloy is a PlayStation icon now, and with her, the Horizon series has become one of the greatest accomplishments under the console's banner. The post-future post-apocalyptic romp across a United States reclaimed by nature and the brutal remnants of an immensely advanced civilisation have been a treat for players - but the game has seen resistance at practically every turn.
The incredible success of the game is a testament to the quality of title that Guerrilla Games can turn out, because the gaming industry, from its developers to its consumers, has made the production and release of these games much harder than necessary - but in many ways, it's made both Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West all the better.
Aloy's Terrible, Terrible Timing
Despite Horizon's current gamer-household-name status, the two games we've seen so far weren't exactly released with the cards stacked in their favour. We know now that these games are fantastic opportunities to explore vast open worlds, but they have both had the cards stacked against them pretty hard.
The first game was released mere days before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched, leaving players with a big vote to make with their wallets, and forcing many to choose one over the other. Naturally, many chose Zelda, with the two games featuring immensely dense worlds and a gameplay style that puts exploration first - and only one of them featuring one of gaming's most popular mascots.
Despite this, Zero Dawn was able to pull through and perform well with fans - but even now, the franchise is set to take a hit once again.
Horizon Forbidden West only saw release last week, and perhaps the most anticipated open-world title of the year, Elden Ring, has just launched. The game is already critically standing as one of the greatest of all time, presumably much to the dismay of Horizon - though, luckily again, the game currently stands as the second-biggest PlayStation 5 video game launch, and still sits atop the game charts. This may well change, but it looks like the game hasn't suffered too much - despite the odds beforehand very much suggesting otherwise.
The Gaming Industry Is Sexist! Who Knew?
As will come as no surprise to anyone, gamers can be particularly resistant to change in video games - especially when women are at the helm. We've seen it all before in the complaints that The Last of Us Part II's Abby simply didn't "look like a woman", with her actress Laura Baley falling victim to a litany of death threats - and naturally, Aloy didn't get off easy from snobbish misogynists either.
In fact, it was Horizon that kicked off the "hire fans lol" meme, with men claiming that Aloy, a woman raised in the wild, simply didn't look feminine enough, with "barely no curves or rough non-feminine features". A similar attitude has reared its head thanks to Forbidden West's immensely detailed player models, with one Twitter user declaring that Aloy's peach fuzz is a "beard", and outing themselves as someone who hasn't been so much as close to a woman before.
The games have received due criticism before, but the amount of focus that these takes have on Aloy as a character, with her design being a big part of Reddit discourse much like many female protagonists before her, prove that the cards were stacked ahead of Aloy from day one. Yet, once again, the game has thankfully prevailed in spite of this.
Ashly Burch, Aloy's actress, went on to see a swathe of award nominations for her performance, and the post-apocalyptic combatant has since gone on to become one of PlayStation's most celebrated characters, and while misogyny isn't exactly on its way out, Horizon's continued successes in the face of such rampant sexism is proof that you can piss off the right people.
Horizon Forbidden West's Success Is A Tale Of Persistence
The persistent success of Horizon as a series is a delight to see, even aside from critical opinion of the game's genetic makeup. Both games have been met with hardships upon launch, and with swathes of sweaty dorks decrying the way that women actually look - but Aloy's adventures have become a big part of PlayStation's identity, and it's all the better for it.
We're confident that we're yet to see Aloy peak, and we're hoping that whatever comes next for Guerilla's flagship franchise doesn't take such an inadvertent beating from its peers next time. If Nintendo has the nerve to launch their sequel to Breath of the Wild at the same time, we'll be having some choice words.