Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores DLC – Aloy is Gay and That’s Okay
Aloy proved she’s the character I thought she was in Horizon Zero Dawn, and I couldn’t be happier she’s found someone to spend her life with.
The conclusion to Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores confirmed, for me, a suspicion I’ve always had about Aloy, the fiery-haired protagonist of the series. In her final conversation with Seyka, a person she’s grown to know over the course of several days and extraordinary ordeals, the pair kiss. It’s a beautiful moment that captures the spark of love and pang that accompanies it when the two people involved now have to spend months, maybe years, away from each other before they can live a life together and fully realize their feelings for one another.
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Aloy is a complicated character, an orphan outcast by her tribe from birth. She’s lost the closest thing she had to a parent and now considers the ancient memory of the human she’s a clone of to be the only real family she has. Despite this, Aloy is kind, always tries to protect those in danger, and only has the best interests of the entire planet at heart. She’s on a mission to save the world and still manages to have some compassion for the people living in it, even though many of them shun her at first or just try to kill her. She’s her own person and needs no one. At least, that’s what we thought.
Light spoilers ahead for the Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores DLC story.
Aloy meets Seyka at the start of the Burning Shores DLC. From the very first second they lay eyes on each other, they’re complimenting the way the other fights, their knowledge of old-world technology, and their climbing prowess. Aloy is a master of machines, and Seyka a master of the sea, but both have a shared obsession with technology from the world that came before theirs. Over the course of the main questline in the DLC, the two are side by side every step of the way. They hide things from each other because they don’t want to darken the mood or reveal that they’ve been holding back some part of the truth. This isn’t in there for the plot; it’s character development that shows how these two meet, fancy each other, start to feel their attraction deepen into something more, and then go through a shame spiral over how they’ve acted.
Partway through the story, there’s a massive blowout. Seyka’s ideals are shattered when Aloy reveals a world-ending secret no one else is aware of. It pushes them to the brink, past the point most people wouldn’t bother recovering from. But there’s something neither of them can let go of. That’s why they forgive, fight together, and ultimately save many people’s lives. This story isn’t about the bombastic machine fights or epic implications of each story beat, though; it’s about Aloy finally finding another human she loves and who loves her for who she is.
It’s hard when your friends meet new people, and you don’t get on with them. It hurts a little when you’re excluded from something, even if it’s unintentional. Imagine knowing everyone chose to kick you out of your village, town, city, or just your house. People you see loving and caring for each other, but who don’t want anything to do with you. Then think about the heartbreaking relief you’d feel when someone finally accepts you for who you are.
That’s the most powerful thing that the Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores DLC does. It’s a visually-impressive thrill ride, but the impact the story has on your heart is most important.
Even if your version of Aloy doesn’t kiss Seyka and isn’t gay, it’s hard not to feel moved by this moment in the story. Aloy is going into the next game with hope, a life to return to, something worth fighting for more than the greater good. It makes her a more human character and someone you can identify with.
It’s a shame then, that this DLC was mercilessly review-bombed by people who couldn’t take a moment of happiness for Aloy because it meant she was gay. It’s important to note that this is just one of three options you have for the ending, meaning no one is being forced to choose to kiss Seyka. I think it speaks volumes that Metacritic, the site where the DLC was review-bombed, is now addressing the issue and will be putting in preventative measures to avoid it in the future.
Aloy doesn’t ask players to do anything. She fights machines for you, gathers supplies, climbs, takes incredible photos, and has endless conversations with the eclectic range of tribes in the series. Instead, it’s the way she acts that made so many people choose the ending that sees her and Seyka kiss. Aloy clearly adores her new companion and wants their friendship to blossom into so much more.
I’ve seen a few people explain that they believe Guerrilla Games wrote the ending of Burning Shores before making anything else and built a lousy game around it. They call it lazy development, bad writing, and other things. I just don’t see how that’s possible, though. Not only does the expansion do a great job of delivering more of what you want from a gameplay perspective, but it also manages to do so while telling a powerful story that you don’t pick up on the impact of until the final couple of quests. There’s no hand-holding or truly intimate moments until the last few main quests. Outside of that, you’re listening to the pair bond over machine fighting and puzzle solving like you would in The Last Of Us or Uncharted 2.
I have no insight into this DLC’s development or its narrative design. But I do have insight into my own feelings, and they’re that Aloy is gay, and that is not just okay; it’s perfect. That’s who she is, and she’s not changed because of it. She has not been rewritten, modified, or altered because she has found love. She has found companionship, and that should be celebrated. So often, when a character comes out as Queer, it is assumed they have been changed when just like in real life, this has been something they’ve dealt with long before the story’s events – even if it wasn’t in the spotlight. Aloy hasn’t been “turned” gay; she just is, it’s part of her, and there is nothing wrong with that. Now that I’ve finished it, I don’t want a Horizon 3. I want a cozy life simulator set in the Horizon universe where I get to see Aloy and Seyka build a farm and town and grow old together.
Guerrilla Games is known for pushing boundaries, but the truth is that this moment wasn’t boundary-pushing. It’s an incredible showcase of how games can convey honest thoughts and feelings that move you and almost the most powerful emotion-inducing moment I’ve experienced in a game. At the end of the day, though, it’s just two people kissing on a screen, and that shouldn’t ever spark controversy.