'Horizon Zero Dawn 2'
Will Aloy settle down? Where can the story go next...?
With Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games didn’t just write and make a compelling award-winning story but also created a game which has got everyone talking. Horizon Zero Dawn took the world by storm with its stunning graphics, well-rounded characters, and deep connecting story that for the first time in a game made me truly feel for all the characters.
Just a note of warning for those of you who haven’t played Horizon Zero Dawn or the Frozen Wilds expansion, there are spoilers ahead.
Now with Guerrilla Games all but confirming that a second game will be coming, and to be honest with the success of the first they would be silly not to turn this fantastic standalone story into the beginning of a new franchise, we have to start asking the questions, can they repeat the success of Zero Dawn? Will Aloy return? And where will the story go next?
Of course the main story evolved around Aloy, the motherless outcast of the savage Nora Tribe born with a destiny to save the new world. With that destiny now fulfilled, there are many out there who say that Aloy’s story is complete. That in the next installment they wouldn’t be surprised to see her settled down, maybe with a child whom the story is based around. Yet in my mind, Aloy wouldn’t be the sort of person to settle down. Nor would it be wise for the franchise to jump several years into the future just yet, when there are rich stories that could still be told in the here and now.
Aloy is the perfect character for the franchise. She is brave, cunning, intelligent, compassionate, and selfless to a fault, but most importantly she has that impulse to explore. I don’t think her traveling to the Sobeck Ranch at the end of Zero Dawn was the twilight of Aloy’s Saga but the beginning of its next chapter. But what that chapter is to be remains speculation. Throughout Zero Dawn, Aloy was driven by a single question. “Who is my mother?” With that answered, what else could drive her?
Let’s evaluate what we do know and where the story could potentially go. First of all, HADES wasn’t defeated like Aloy thought, only deactivated. His reawakening was witnessed by citizens of the Carja Sundom. Will this news reach Aloy? She is close with the Carja after all and was the savior of Meridian on more than one occasion in Zero Dawn. And her relationship to Sun King Avad should at least grant her the right to know if anything happened near the spire.
Secondly, we have Sylens. This man is a mystery. While he helped Aloy uncover the truth of Project Zero Dawn and therefore arm her with the knowledge needed to defeat Hades, he is far from a hero. In fact, I would go as far to say that his thirst for knowledge and his willingness to use any means necessary to unlock the wisdom of the old ones makes Sylens the most dangerous man alive. That we know of…
Thirdly who are the masters? The ones whose signal activated Hades. Will we meet them? Are they members of the Old ones who somehow survived the Fargo Plague? Are they another tribe from far away who have unlocked the knowledge of the Old ones? Do they have some connection with Ted Fargo? Who knows… all we do know is that at some point they will have to show themselves to us.
Finally, there is Cyan who we met in Frozen Wilds. Aloy and this AI immediately hit it off. Could Aloy unlock her connection with Elisabet’s genius and with the help of Cyan rebuild Gia? Will Sylens and Hades use Cyan to their own ends? Will Cyan play any part in a future story? I hope so.
All of these are potential foundations on which to build a story. Who knows, perhaps all of them will feature? Who says that Zero Dawn will only have one sequel? But the next question we have to ask is will Aloy feature? This is based around the speculation on online chats that Aloy will have a child and that that baby will be the character in all future installments. But here is why I don’t think that will be the case.
Varl & Teb - Aloy's Early Nora Allies
Firstly, as aforementioned, I don’t think Aloy is the sort of person to settle down. But if she were to as many have surmised; who would it be with? And where?
As to the whom, in my mind, there are only really three options. Teb and Varl from the Nora and Erend from the Oserom. The issue I have with all of these likely suitors is where they live and why I don’t think Aloy would fit in. Both Teb and Varl grew up as Nora tribesmen. Their home is the Embrace close to All-Mother. They both had a taste of the wider world when they came to Aloy’s aid at Meridian, but I doubt that either has the will or curiosity to leave the Embrace for good. Secondly, I doubt that Aloy would ever return to the Nora. Not permanently anyway. Her only connection to the Embrace is Rost’s Grave. She grew up as an outcast and therefore had a healthy skepticism which only grew into the cynicism of tribal law, culture, and tradition. Aloy has never been at home with the Nora and so I would say that both of these characters are out of the picture.
Nor do I think she would be at home in Meridian. Though Aloy spends the best part of her story in the Carja Sundom the idea of Aloy settling in Meridian is as alien to me as her becoming a Matriarch of the Nora. She has too much of the wilds about her to fall into the routine of city life, and due to his connection to the Vanguard and Meridian would probably count Erend out as a potential partner also. Though that being said it wouldn’t be impossible for Erend to leave Meridian. Though he has made a home there he is also an outsider. Yet still I think this is a long shot.
I think if Aloy were to settle down, I think it would be where the story ended. At Sobeck Ranch. I think if she has a connection to anyone in the original story, she would be drawn to Elisabet and try to learn more about her life. So far, all Aloy knows is that Elisabet created Zero Dawn and sacrificed herself to save it. Her life outside of that role remains a mystery.
But my main reason for there being an Aloy replacement as the main character is practicality. Guerrilla Games went to the trouble of making a complex backstory to Aloy which took the game to unravel. If they were to write another character in then it would probably take as long to develop her or his story. Whereas with Aloy they can just pick up where they left off.
So, if Aloy isn’t going to settle down, what will happen then? If Aloy isn’t to be the main character there is only one way I can see another being brought in. The only role in which I could see Aloy excelling in is teaching. Not for a child but a thrush of the hunter’s lodge. If there is to be any separation from Aloy in the next game this is how I would want it to go. Another character may be a Banuk, perhaps one of the exiles from the Frozen Wilds expansion who was traveling to Meridian. They arrive in the aftermath of the battle against Hades and the Eclipse and join the hunters lodge as Aloy’s Thrush. Aloy can then still have a strong connection to the story without being the central character. If they intend to take the story over more than two games, which given its success I’m sure they will, this would be a great avenue to follow allowing the third game to start with two well-developed protagonists.
If this is not the avenue to take, then I would want the story to focus on Aloy.
The final question asked in this piece is can a second game truly match the success of Zero Dawn? In truth, until we have a game to play this answer is impossible to speculate. Many great franchises have been bought down by poor installments. One of Horizon's great appeals was its uniqueness as a game. With that now gone, Guerrilla will have to work extra hard to meet expectations. Can they do it? Well, look at it this way, they did it with Zero Dawn. So, in theory, they have the potential to do it again.