Aloy in Love: The Problem with Burning Shores

 

Warning: This is not an article condemning Aloy’s option to enter into a queer relationship, but is instead this writer’s opinion on how well the Burning Shores DLC implements the introduction of new character, Seyka, and Aloy’s first significant romantic relationship in the series thus far, and what this relationship means for the future of the series. Please keep the comments courteous and respectful. Hate speech of any kind towards the LGBTQ+ community in the comments will not be tolerated. Any comments of this or of an inflammatory nature will result in the deletion of the comment and the blocking of the user. Be advised that this post contains massive spoilers for the Horizon series.

 

 

Though I absolutely adored returning to the world of Horizon Forbidden West in its DLC, Burning Shores, when I was first spoiled on Twitter about Aloy’s romantic relationship with the newly introduced female character, Seyka, I honestly wasn’t quite sure how to feel. Aloy has always been seemingly indifferent to romance, though players did witness her initial disappointment over Varl’s relationship with Zo in Horizon Forbidden West, which I thought was interesting and well portrayed. I also enjoyed what ambiguous hints there were to optional and potential romantic partners that were spread throughout the Horizon series and liked to imagine who Aloy might end up with one day after she saved the world. I liked the possibility that it could literally be any character (though my top choice would have been Kotallo, admittedly, but more on that later).

 

But mostly, I truly saw Aloy’s lack of romance as her being a strong and independent woman with an incredible sense of responsibility and one who simply had no time for such trivial things when the fate of the world was at stake. I also felt like Aloy served representation for people who found trusting others hard and for those who were uninterested in romance or unable to feel attraction to those with whom they did not have an intense emotional connection. Upon reflection though, I realized how hypocritical of me it was to not want Aloy in a relationship, as I’m always out here lamenting that strong female character’s love interests are almost always killed off in entertainment, as if these women couldn’t possibly be fierce and be supported or personally fulfilled. So with a self reality check to keep an open mind, I impatiently waited for the development of Aloy and Seyka’s feelings for each other.

 

Girl Meets Girl

Seyka meets Aloy

 

I have to admit, in the beginning of Burning Shores, I really did not care for the general interaction between Aloy and the newly introduced Seyka at all. Though Burning Shores tries to take a humorous approach to both of these capable female characters being unlike everyone else (but each other, of course), I did find their competitive banter tired and grating. It felt like a rendition of the song, “anything you can do, I can do better.” Thankfully, when the two finally get to know one another a little better, a lot of this competitiveness fades away and it’s clear why these two kindred spirits could potentially find solace in one another, if that’s what the player decides.

 

If players, like myself, choose the option for Aloy to return Seyka’s feelings, they’re greeted with a heartwarming scene, but one that feels incredibly sudden. It’s refreshing to see Aloy happy and with a goofy smile, as the rest of the time, the poor woman seems to be in an almost constant state of focus, urgency, and stress. With this choice, it’s nice to see Aloy finally take a moment to live her own life without worrying about the fate of the world. She deserves to do something, anything, for herself.

 

Despite the feel-good scene and Aloy’s happiness, I couldn’t help but wish again that Seyka and Aloy were more different from each other personality-wise, just because there was nothing really markedly unique about the characters. The main difference is that Seyka looks to Aloy for direction and seems to be a lot quicker to anger. Seyka, like Aloy, has a sister with whom she doesn’t always see eye to eye, but needs to protect. And like Aloy, Seyka struggles with being a black sheep in her community and with straining against the norms of this society. It is almost as if Aloy basically manages to fall in love with a variation of herself and I wondered at the attraction and appeal of dating someone who is, for all intents and purposes, the same person.

 

In an interview with Video Game Chronicles, narrative director Ben McCaw lead writer Annie Kitain answered questions on the future of the series and the romance in Burning Shores. When asked about the challenge of introducing Seyka, McCaw responded:

 

“What we really wanted to make sure with Seyka was that Aloy had met her match, that it was someone that she could really respect on a whole new level. So it had to be someone who really grabbed her attention.

That’s one of the reasons why we included certain similarities between Aloy and Seyka in terms of the story – they both use the focus,  we wanted to have those things be echoes of Aloy’s own past and own character, so that we could understand as players and as the audience to how Aloy is kind of able to identify with her.”

 

But their overwhelming similarities mean the relationship lacks complexity, especially since the two are always in agreement about their next steps and major decisions in the main questline. Personally, I think romance is much more interesting between characters who have less in common, different backgrounds, or even opposing ambitions or viewpoints. While Aloy is from the Nora and Seyka is from the Quen, it didn’t really cause any substantial friction or differences. This is despite the fact that the Quen are a very authoritarian empire, with access to information strictly monitored and greatly controlled under the guise of religious reasons. The Quen are not above killing someone who gains access to information they shouldn’t (along with the perpetrator’s entire family), or erasing and withholding knowledge that doesn’t match their Legacy and their worship of the Old Ones. 

 

Therefore, I was shocked to see Aloy, who freely doles out her precious focuses and the information on lost technology, become so infatuated with Seyka, a Quen marine. Quen marines are basically enforcers for this theocratic empire, which also features a pretty unjust caste system. At the very least, it seemed odd to me that Aloy had so few problems with Seyka’s belief in the Quen’s worship of the Old Ones. And that Seyka was so open-minded to the fact that her entire belief system was either outdated (the Quen’s focuses were unable to be updated and therefore only provided information up until a certain point, meaning that much of their Old World information has been misinterpreted), or just plain wrong. Surely there should have been plenty of conflict here ripe for the taking. Instead, the biggest conflict Aloy and Seyka encounter is that Aloy is reluctant to divulge to Seyka the secret of Nemesis, the approaching AI who wants to and is fully capable of destroying the planet, and Seyka is angry at Aloy for withholding information from her. To me, this was a weird choice for a source of conflict, when there was plenty of other potential material right there and because frankly, neither woman had been particularly open with the other, so Seyka had no grounds to stand on, in my eyes.

 

Too Much of a Good Thing

 

Though I loved the idea of Seyka’s character, her similarities with Aloy would have been far more interesting to me if those similarities were employed as a foil to Aloy in some way. Going to expose myself here and compare Aloy and Seyka’s relationship to that of two other societal outcasts and foils in popular culture (who are also famously queer coded), Naruto and Sasuke. Both are outcasts, but for very different reasons. Naruto is hated and shunned for something entirely out of his control and an orphan. He’s never known the love of a family. Sasuke is set apart for the mere distinction of being the last of his famous bloodline, having lost his entire family (and the rest of his relatives), to a massacre at the hands of his older brother. 

 

Despite the difference in the details, the end result is the same, both characters are lonely and isolated and more than ready to grasp whatever power they can. What makes it exciting to watch though is that the two make vastly different decisions on how to gain power, despite having started with a uniquely similar situation. We also see how the two constantly grapple with their differences, namely that Sasuke knew the love of a family and had it brutally ripped away from him as a child, whereas Naruto has always been alone and never knew what it was like to have a home or any love. For Sasuke, this dichotomy causes resentment, because he feels his pain is worse and that Naruto will never fully comprehend the depth of it. But there’s also no one else that can even come close to understanding, which forges them into what is an unbreakable bond, to Sasuke’s some time dismay. 

 

Their key contrasts bring essential complexity to their bond and their struggle to understand one another, something that Aloy and Seyka lack due to their overwhelming similarities. With Naruto and Sasuke, viewers ultimately get the sense that if things were just a little different for one of the characters, their positions could be reversed and one could easily wind up where the other is.  If Aloy were to die, I do not think for a second that Seyka could do what Aloy does, which would not be an essential for her character if not for the fact that the writers push so hard that with Seyka, Aloy has finally met her match and constantly beat us over the head with telling us how capable and special she is. But anyways, back to Naruto—more importantly, each of Sasuke and Naruto’s strengths and weaknesses seem to balance the other’s and it’s clear why they make a great team and are each other’s most important person. We don’t see any of this complexity or depth with Seyka and Aloy. There is no nuance to their relationship. 

 

Perhaps the developer of Horizon, Guerilla, tried to implement a difference in decisions with Seyka, but it’s not well executed. Seyka ultimately chooses to part ways with Aloy in order to stay with the Quen and before that, she states that she likes having community and feeling like she’s a part of something. This is definitely unlike Aloy who rejected the people who rejected her, and struck out on her own only to eventually create her own family of sorts with people she trusts. Much of Seyka’s journey, if one can even call it that with how strangely it ends, revolves around her finding the courage to accept that she deserves better treatment and recognition for her accomplishments, with Aloy’s guidance and support.

 

 But despite Seyka stating that she likes the sense of belonging and being a part of something that she gets by being in the Quen marines, she contradicts herself by later saying Aloy is the only place she’s ever felt truly like she belonged—and this is after we basically faced death and world destruction trying to save Seyka’s sister, sheesh. Then Seyka immediately follows this admission by saying she’s going back to help the very people who have spurned her. And what’s even weirder is that despite her previous pleading for Seyka to leave her people and their discussion on what the true meaning of a home is, Aloy suddenly just randomly and wholeheartedly supports Seyka staying with the people who don’t appreciate her. All of these developments just feel terribly inconsistent, contradictory, and rushed; they practically serve whiplash on a silver platter. It’s clear that more time was needed than what was allotted for mere DLC to give Seyka a stronger character arc and better development. 

 

In the case of Aloy, I wondered if Seyka being so similarly headstrong and capable in battle would truly balance Aloy out or provide her with the support and patience that she needs. I couldn’t help but to feel there wasn’t much distinguishing Seyka from other more memorable side characters, or much separating her arc and her personality from that of Aloy’s. It feels like I’m watching a reboot (Seyka) of an original show (Aloy), but that the original did it all better. Though Aloy talks up Seyka and her abilities, I sadly found Varl’s AI in even the tutorial of the main game more helpful. Seyka was constantly begging my Aloy to help her up from being KO’d in battle, which is very much not out of the norm for the AI, but is definitely not sending the message that she’s the only one who can keep up with Aloy. Sadly, the most significant and new thing Seyka brought to the table was her skiff, and even that quickly becomes obsolete when Aloy destroys the tower taking down her flying machine mounts.

 

I didn’t get the sense that there was any one thing that Seyka could do that Aloy couldn’t—she didn’t have any special abilities, needed Aloy to teach her how to use a focus like the rest of the characters, and wasn’t particularly respected within her community, so Aloy didn’t need her as a liaison. Aloy easily could have been her rather abrasive outlander self and eventually earned the trust of the Quen with her actions, as we’ve seen her do time and time again in the rest of the series. Without Seyka, I fully believe Aloy would have still found a way to take down Horus, defeat Londra, and escape. 

 

Out of Character

Aloy with her head in her hands.

 

I couldn’t help but feel that the romance between those two characters didn’t feel quite “earned” and in fact, felt pretty rushed. I didn’t really feel any natural romantic tension between the two and it all seemed a bit too easy, and far too quick for someone like Aloy, who consistently struggles with the intimacy of friendship. It’s a hard sell that Aloy would develop romantic feelings for Seyka so quickly, let alone that she’d even recognize those feelings as romantic ones, and I didn’t buy it. At times, this push for their romantic development feels completely out of character and jarring.

 

For example, during the penultimate quest in the main storyline in Burning Shores, Seyka thanks Aloy for all of her help, and to my shock, Aloy responds something along the lines of, “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”  I could not fathom that Aloy would say that out loud to anyone with romantic intention, especially not to someone she just met a few days ago. This is the woman who is always hell bent on sprinting off on the next quest to save the world, rejects people falling for her left and right for the sake of the mission (or for fear of their safety by association), and seems to consider feelings of any kind or most social interactions an unwelcome distraction. Burning Shores clearly wants me to disregard all those facets of Aloy’s personality and to believe that Aloy just hadn’t met the right person yet and obviously, that that right person is Seyka.

 

Even if I disregard Aloy’s past traumas and antisocial tendencies, which is something that admittedly wouldn’t make much sense for staying in character, it doesn’t feel like there’s any way that she and Seyka could have that depth of feeling or intimacy so soon. With the two focused on their mission and hunting for secrets, as well as the fact that Seyka constantly departs in order to report back to the Admiral on their progress on tracking down her sister and the rest of the missing Quen, the game doesn’t convince me of what they definitely want to appear as some sort of life altering bond between the two women that makes everything click into place for them. It also feels incredibly out of nowhere for Aloy, the former outcast who struggles with social niceties and forming bonds with people (and keeping them), to be suddenly giddily exclaiming to herself about Seyka’s intentions and analyzing all of their interactions when they’ve had a few conversations that basically amount to, “that sucks. I’ve been there.” I simply could not reconcile the idea of the intensity of their supposed connection with Aloy’s established personality.

 

It also felt very inorganic to have Aloy talk to herself about her feelings in a rather blatant and forced method to tell players that she had caught feelings for Seyka. There were no sly exchanges about Seyka and her feelings for the other woman among friends or with NPCs or awkward admissions of attraction. Hell, I personally would have loved to see Aloy clumsy or even more awkward in front of the first woman she liked. Nothing like this happens, except for a few shared glances and prolonged touches that feel incredibly out of place with the short amount of time they’ve shared together. Honestly, though I hate this trope, I would have found it more convincing if the writers had worked the instalove or attraction at first sight angle than trying to act like it was a fully developed, life-altering bond. But again, Aloy isn’t the type to fall head over heels at first sight, so I guess the writers made the choice to try and cram an entire romantic arc into a DLC.

 

But the whole romantic relationship between Aloy and Seyka got even less convincing for me after their confessions and admissions of shared feelings, which is obviously the option I chose. To my horror, Seyka was far too willing to accept that she might not see Aloy again and to leave her side to return to the Quen, the people who mistreated her, and her sister, who abandoned her, after learning about the threat of Nemesis and the possible destruction of the world. And though Seyka claims knowing Aloy’s requited feelings is enough for her, I don’t understand how this warrior woman, willing to break all societal norms (risking probable imprisonment or worse), to pursue her sister, could declare that she considered being with Aloy as her new home, only to turn around and let her shiny new girlfriend walk away to face the forecast of the next apocalypse—the deadliest AI ever—all by her lonesome, as if it were the only possible answer. One minute the game wants me to believe that these two are madly in their feelings for each other and the next they’re already moving on. 

 

How am I, let alone someone as emotionally stunted as Aloy, supposed to process all of this within the timespan of a fifteen hour DLC? It feels especially hard to believe in the face of the fact that the main game, Horizon Forbidden West, can take a completionist over 100 hours to finish. And that’s not even counting the time spent on the previous Horizon game and its DLC.

 

It doesn’t feel realistic to me or in-character for either woman to not fight for what they supposedly want. Simply put, the emotional payoff isn’t there either, it doesn’t feel like Seyka and Aloy are enemies-to-lovers, or star-crossed lovers, or even lovers tragically forced apart by circumstances beyond their control. Both women, who claim each other as their long sought after home, immediately and easily abandon it (or possibly even put it back on the market, depending on player choice and interpretation). This is a choice they make with their eyes wide open. What’s even more baffling is that Seyka and Aloy make absolutely zero plans on how they might make it work in the future either, making their entire romance feel rather pointless, especially as the non-romantic options seem to show off much more of what makes Aloy so special—her priorities and ideals—as well as her hard-won growth. Having Aloy not merely catch feelings, but fall for someone she just met, not only undermines a lot of the painful work she did to learn to trust in her friendships by implying that she could recklessly give her heart to someone she just met when so much is at stake, but also basically sets up the romantic relationship itself, and its impact to the players, to fail.

 

The Other Options

 

Sadly, the “rejection” of Seyka’s feelings just rings truer for Aloy, and for the story, largely because as far as we know at this time of writing, it’s an optional romance, which means it can’t affect the story at large without erasing a staple of the series, player choice. After watching the alternative dialogue options, I really felt the best, most in-character response to Seyka’s confession of feelings was Aloy’s answer of “it’s just too much for me,” with the other option of “I’m not ready for this” coming in second. As the main game shows from the very beginning, Aloy is not used to being appreciated or celebrated, let alone having friends who want to be around her and to help her. She remarks several times that she is still trying to figure out the whole friendship thing. So her explanations to Seyka in the non-romantic dialogues feel more in line with the personal growth we’ve seen Aloy struggling to make through Horizon Forbidden West and shows that she is still working on her own development, and has to put herself and the fate of the world first.

 

Plus, the “it’s just too much for me” response didn’t really feel like an outright rejection of Seyka’s feelings anyways, as Aloy did not dismiss the possibility of ever being in a romantic relationship with Seyka, but admits that she simply cannot handle the fate of a world and being a good romantic partner. This makes perfect sense for someone who is the only person who can save the world and also finds socializing incredibly taxing. Plus, Aloy has always had an overbearing sense of duty and responsibility to not only the world, but also for the safety of the people for whom she cares. Personally, I don’t think Aloy would actually ever commit (or allow herself to commit), to a relationship until she had saved the world and could be a fully devoted partner to her love interest. In fact, we see her reservations to even stop for a chat with a world leader or a drink with an old friend before she saves the world again at the beginning of Horizon Forbidden West. It’s even remarked that she left an entire celebration in her honor early to set off on her next quest. Later, we see Aloy show disappointment when she recognizes that she has forever missed the chance to pursue something with Varl, which she would not allow herself. Perhaps that missed opportunity, along with Varl’s eventual passing, is a driving force behind Aloy’s jumping into a relationship with Seyka, but Burning Shores does not make that correlation, which is a shame.

 

On these options, and which was the canon option, narrative director Ben McCaw had this to say:

 

“We strived to make them all fit in the realms of Aloy’s psyche. If you really look at the other two besides the one where she kisses Seyka, they really are reflective of her journey in Forbidden West.

They’re really a continuation of a theme that we have in both games, about her not being ready for various types of social contact, because of her upbringing, but also because of the enormous challenges that she faces ahead. So for me, they’re all viable.”

 

It’s telling to me that he specifically remarks that the two options besides the romantic option with Seyka are the most reflective of Aloy’s development in Forbidden West . As much as I wanted to love Seyka and Aloy’s romance, I agree with the sentiment that Aloy isn’t ready for a a romantic relationship, at least not with an entirely new character who she has only known for a few days, and especially not a relationship with this degree of seriousness.

 

The Other Suitors

Talanah was right there. And also deserved better.

 

I do think Aloy deserves a romantic partner and it’s clear solely from the beginning of Horizon Forbidden West alone that she craves companionship and laments that she always ends up alone. To the people decrying Aloy’s happiness because players can choose that she finds fulfillment and joy in a queer romance, it’s 2023, and time to recognize that other people’s happiness might not look exactly like yours. I think all games should offer romances across the board, regardless of gender or what it might mean for the protagonist’s sexual orientation. Putting the very important matters of equality and representation aside, I do honestly think it would take a pretty special man to “handle” Aloy’s independence and battle prowess without feeling inadequate or even emasculated. And on the other side of the spectrum, other male characters, like Avad and Varl, practically worship Aloy as a deity, which is also incredibly unhealthy. Both Avad and Erend (the latter arguably, as I know people do ship Aloy and Erend as well), also see Aloy as a replacement for Ursa, Erend’s late sister, and Avad’s former lover.

 

So, it’s entirely possible that what Aloy needs is not a man, but another woman in her life. That that woman should be Seyka in particular, over other women like Talanah or Petra or anyone else new, Burning Shores doesn’t quite convince me. Though I initially had trouble definitively picturing Aloy in any specific romantic relationship with absolute certainty, and ardently wish her first substantial romance option hadn’t taken place in DLC versus the main game, the romance between Aloy and Seyka did end up making some sense to me. The optional scene between Aloy and Seyka was certainly touching and hit me right in the feels. The lines exchanged between the two women about the meaning of a home felt like it loosely aligned with Aloy’s journey, but I wasn’t convinced that Seyka was “The One,” for Aloy—which the writers are definitely pushing for her to be—especially after such a short time that they spent together. Seyka is certainly a strong female character and I love those, but she doesn’t really stand out amongst the other side characters in the game.

 

Talanah, for example, is just as capable in battle and has known Aloy longer. Though the events of Horizon Zero Dawn are hazy for me, the two bonded over the loss of their father figures and the difficult positions they were in as a result of those losses. A lot of their playful interactions can be interpreted as flirtatious too (for the sake of brevity, which has already clearly gone out the window, check out this post by Tumblr user foibles-fables for a more in depth analysis on why Talanah and Aloy would make a great couple). Why not have Talanah, fresh from her breakup in the crappy storyline she was given in Horizon Forbidden West, join Aloy’s gang at the base as the representative of the Carja clan? We already have representatives of the Tenakth, Quen, Oseram, Utaru, and Nora, so it would make perfect narrative sense for Talanah to join as the Carja member, especially one as influential as the Sunhawk.

 

Talanah and Aloy, after getting reacquainted further, could have then reasonably come to see each other in a different, romantic light. I really do love the friends to lovers trope as well, with the big realization moment of the friend recognizing that the right person was in front of them all along, and I think Talanah would have fit this better than Seyka, who feels more like a failed attempt at rivals-to-lovers, or something. Even though I like Seyka, and know all of Aloy’s friends would welcome her with open arms, I just couldn’t comprehend or see from what Burning Shores showed me what made her particularly such a special person or prize to Aloy, which is something narrative director Ben McCaw claims they tried to do in the mere fifteen hour DLC:

 

“What we really wanted to make sure with Seyka was that Aloy had met her match, that it was someone that she could really respect on a whole new level. So it had to be someone who really grabbed her attention.”

 

Unfortunately, for me, this was a failed attempt and one that came across as painfully and obviously contrived, probably because the relationship wasn’t given enough time to unfold in an organic way. Instead, it feels fast and forced and doesn’t succeed in its mission to make Seyka not like the other girls. I also really just did not feel the chemistry between Aloy and Seyka, and personally felt like there were more sparks between Talanah and Aloy, the friends who consistently provide each other support in quests that are not mutually beneficial or in the case of Aloy, with personal issues that she did not fully comprehend.

 

Kotallo

 

There is another relationship in Horizon Forbidden West that I feel echoes a lot of the same themes of Aloy and Seyka’s romance, but does a much better job establishing emotional intimacy over a longer time period and just pulling it off in general—Kotallo and Aloy’s.  From their first meeting, Kotallo and Aloy have a very interesting dynamic. Kotallo was standoffish with her in the beginning, and it was quite clear he didn’t know what to make of her, which led to some very humorous disagreements. When he asks her, “did you hit your head?” And she responds by asking if he’s going to follow orders to help her or disobey orders like the “other arrogant piece of shit up there,” I was absolutely living for it, especially when he begrudgingly trudged after her, muttering that her words were an “unkind comparison.” But yes, finally, someone treated Aloy like she wasn’t fragile, or worse, some kind of a god, and related to her directly as an actual human being.

 

More importantly than their entertaining exchanges, however, is that it’s obvious that Kotallo came to see Aloy as a person, and as his equal (or even superior)—someone who didn’t need to be protected, scolded, or coddled. She can be her full socially-awkward self around him and he doesn’t try to change her. He doesn’t admonish her for not wanting to party, to drink, or to move on to the next part of the save the world quest. In exchange, Kotallo can even let his own eccentricities out with Aloy, prattling on about the ancient practice of listening to sea shells (if you know, you know). He trusts her judgment implicitly. And I think Aloy really values this, as not even Varl, who tracked her across the continent, could restrain himself from picking at her and her decisions. It doesn’t take too long for Kotallo to see Aloy’s worth. In fact, the fearsome and largely reserved Tenakth warrior even tells her outright that he is “inspired” by her. Can’t say we see many men saying this in entertainment.

 

What’s more is that Kotallo doesn’t see Aloy as a diety, the Savior of Meridian, the Elisabet Sobeck clone, or the Anointed One.  And Aloy doesn’t see him as less than just because he lost an arm, something that makes him an outcast in Tenakth culture. Both Aloy and Kotallo have faced judgment from others who didn’t believe in their skills or thought them weak or unable to handle challenges, constantly. So to see these two get over their initial impressions of each other and to come to trust and understand each other so well that a simple look or a word alone is enough to communicate, it’s pretty amazing. There’s plenty of emotional payoff.

 

Aloy helped Kotallo build a prosthetic arm—something that not only had huge implications for him personally, but could even change the way the Tenakth view physical disabilities. After all of this time planning the prosthetic arm, gathering the parts from deadly machines they’d hunted together, and building the actual arm together, it feels like these two are actively working towards something together. Completing that arm feels like a huge victory for not only Kotallo (and Aloy, his friend), but also for the player. Though I was initially surprised that Kotallo did not want to use this arm, Aloy’s reaction was immediately supportive. After his time with Aloy, Kotallo realizes he doesn’t need the arm to be whole, his struggle without his missing limb has made him who he is today.  He can use the arm as a tool when he wants to, but having it doesn’t define him or his worth as a person. Aloy is obviously proud that he finally got over the opinions of the Tenkath and realized his own value. She tells him she wouldn’t have him be anyone else other than himself. It’s touching, it’s in line with both of their characters, and it sticks the landing, unlike Seyka, who chooses to go back to the Quen.

 

I didn’t think things could get any more touching between Kotallo and Aloy, but after a fight at Memorial Groves, Kotallo declares that he’d stand with Aloy and give her what’s left of his life. Aloy is temporarily rendered utterly speechless, as was I, and this is the same woman who didn’t even need to take a breath before rejecting a proposal from the literal Sun King earlier in the game. She finally manages to reply, “how can I say no to that?” This exchange alone between these two reserved people was practically a profession of undying loyalty and respect, and her reply was her acceptance of his desire to remain by her side. It was shocking in itself because Aloy has no problems saying no to literally every other person interested in her. Personally, I also viewed a lot of their glances as subtly, but romantically charged, but that’s open to player interpretation.

 

What I loved the most about their relationship, whether players view it as strictly platonic or romantic, is that there is effort put in on both sides. While Aloy helps Kotallo, he also helps her by serving as her liaison with the leader of the Tenakth, Chief Hekarro, and with fighting Regalla. It feels balanced and less one-sided than Aloy’s interactions with Seyka, who seems to require a lot of direction from her and could be considered as using Aloy and her knowledge to get what she wants—her sister back. In fact, Aloy even has to convince Seyka to help her complete her own mission to defeat Walter Londra after Seyka has gotten her sister back safely. Though I think Burning Shores tries to echo a lot of the same themes we see in the course of Kotallo and Aloy’s relationship, it simply does not have enough time to establish the depth of feeling that they are abruptly pushing between Seyka and Aloy.

 

With Kotallo and Aloy, the time these two spend together, going from reluctant allies forced to work with one another to trusted comrades and then to friends, is distinctive and does not happen in as short of a period of time. It feels like their relationship progression occurred naturally over this extended period of time working together and their mutual rapport was shown, rather than just abruptly told with lingering hand-touches or dialogue brandishing a claimed connection that just isn’t there.  

 

The Implications

 

Most of all, I cannot help but to feel annoyed that Aloy finally gets her first substantial romance option, with actual displays of affection, only for it to be relegated to what is basically a mere fifteen hour sidequest behind a paywall. Heck, most people probably won’t even pick up the DLC, which came out over a full year after the original game, and I don’t understand how it will be implemented in future installments of the series. Are the writers going to have to reduce Aloy and Seyka’s relationship, which is incredibly significant to Aloy, to a mere recap at the beginning of the next game? Or perhaps, they’ll have to retcon the romantic option altogether, rendering their status murky for the sake of continuity and player choice. After all, we’ve seen Guerilla retcon player choice before, in the case of Nil, who players could choose to kill in Horizon Zero Dawn, but then regardless of choice, we see very much alive and well in Horizon Forbidden West. I feel that any of these choices to reduce, recap, or retcon, are a pretty big indication that this is not how the story should have played out.

 

 Aloy deserves more. Seyka deserves more. And this is especially true, if what people are saying is correct, and Aloy is definitively gay and Seyka is the canon love interest or character serving as her gay awakening. When Aloy returns to Varl at the base and tells him about Seyka, proclaiming “she’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met,” I want to believe that. I want to feel it. But it doesn’t ring true, especially when there are other characters, like Kotallo and Talanah, walking around doing the themes of Seyka and Aloy’s romance, but better. If it’s true that Seyka is Aloy’s canon love interest, then their romance, bare minimum, should not feel less plausible than optional romances or other friendships and should be given more than a mere few days for someone as reticent as Aloy to develop feelings. Giving players a mere few hours to get used to the idea of Aloy in a relationship, at all, regardless of whether it’s queer or not, was setting up Burning Shores to be a lightning rod for outrage. 

 

I also can’t help but to worry that the quickness of Aloy and Seyka’s relationship is mere setup for poor Seyka, pigeon holed as Aloy’s love interest, to get killed in the next game. I’m especially anxious about this because Varl, the other person for whom Aloy held strong feelings, ended up dead in Horizon Forbidden West. And with the very prevalent trope—“bury your gays,” which renders queer characters absolutely miserable, if not dead, instead of just allowing them to be happy—I fear for the direction of future games in the series. Especially because this is something we saw more than once in another video game (and its HBO television adaptation), featuring a queer female protagonist, The Last of Us. 

 

The Treatment of Female Characters in Games

 

Why is it that female characters seem to only get the same three types of development: unhappy queer, bereaved straight woman with a dead romantic partner, or sex symbol? Aloy is one of the few main female characters—ever—carrying the sole weight of a massive AAA video game franchise on her shoulders and still can’t get a decent romantic arc. This decision to throw Aloy’s first romance into a DLC really undermined the relationship as a whole, making it feel like an afterthought, or worse, contrived for publicity, and to make people buy the DLC. Similarly, The Last of Us, also released a DLC revealing their main female character, Ellie, was gay, but the DLC itself was a flashback that added development to the world-building and to the protagonist. It showed us a defining moment and person in Ellie’s life and how it had shaped her into who she was in the main game. It in no way changed the trajectory of the main story, its gameplay, or the characters. Instead, it simply fleshed out the character and the world, and gave the players more insight on both. It also served to foreshadow for the next game, where Ellie would have a romantic relationship with another woman. But still, why relegate all of this to DLC?

 

For the sake of comparison, imagine this hypothetical scenario: the responses that would have exploded if another lead of a major Sony franchise, Nathan Drake, had suddenly been given his sole fully romanceable love interest, who just so happened to be male, in the DLC to Uncharted 2. It wouldn’t fly. And developers wouldn’t even try it.  Instead, Mr. Drake thankfully gets the entirety of Uncharted 2, (and honestly, the entire series as a whole), to work out his love life. As Uncharted 2 begins, we see Nate has a new love interest, newly introduced Chloe, and we first see the two as a happy couple and how they work (and don’t work), together and why.

 

Then much later on, after a few cracks in their relationship have already begun showing, Elena, Nate’s love interest from the original Uncharted game, reappears. And it’s demonstrated quite clearly that Nate isn’t entirely over her. Players then see Chloe recognizing his feelings for the other woman and changing her opinion on the outlook of her relationship with Nate and making decisions based on that information. Nate realizes that he’s never gotten over Elena, and then the game ends with hints that Nate and Elena are going to reconcile romantically and that it’s going to be different this time around. We then see them together as an established couple in Uncharted 3. Players are given ample time to adjust to all of these romantic developments, which is what makes it believable, relatable, and good writing. It’s not a sudden, abrupt change that messes with Nate’s entire character arc or previously established relationships, it’s consistent. Every development of the relationships are shown to players through events in the main game, and not told to players, as we see with Aloy talking to herself about Seyka or even simply telling Seyka to her face how special she is, as if to convince players of the veracity of the depth of her feelings.

 

Why is it that a man’s romantic arc gets all of this time and spotlight, but a woman’s only takes place in a DLC? This is especially interesting when you consider that both Uncharted and The Last of Us were developed by the same company, Naughty Dog.

 

Regardless to how one answers the above question, if people have to reflect on an entire series to look for hints or clues to justify a development, it wasn’t well written, plain and simple. This was the case with Game of Thrones’s Daenerys’s outlandish and abrupt descent into madness and tyranny and to a lesser extent, for Aloy’s queerness. Though viewers can look back at the series and point to a part where Daenerys maybe did not have quite the “right” reaction to something, they should not have to mine for this gold to make allowances for wildly out of character behavior and the entire ending of the series. With Burning Shores, I’ve seen countless players pointing to the fact that Aloy is a clone of a queer woman, Elisabet Sobeck, as irrefutable proof that Aloy, too, is gay. While this makes a certain kind of sense, as her queerness could quite literally be written in her DNA, I don’t think players should have to get into a nature versus nurture philosophical debate about what actually makes a person gay in order to make Aloy’s sudden relationship with Seyka make any kind of sense.  

 

Nor should they, because part of what makes Aloy so special is her own agency, her confident and firm decision making in the face of overwhelming obstacles. By attributing her queerness to solely her DNA, it takes away Aloy’s freedom of choice. It makes it seem like everything was already preordained and none of Aloy (or the player’s choices), have any bearing on the story or character development. This is a pretty big disconnect for a game with player choice as one of its defining features of gameplay. Plus, this DNA justification doesn’t fit with other parts of the story. If DNA is the deciding factor in Aloy’s decisions, then why doesn’t Aloy begin a romantic relationship with Tilda, Elisabet’s former lover? Yes, it’s clear these two women have very different goals as the story progresses, but not initially, so why don’t we see any attraction between them? After all, by the reasoning of the DNA argument, should Aloy not be attracted to or in love with the very same person as Elisabet? 

 

Even more compelling against this notion is that Horizon Forbidden West spends a great deal of time showing players that Beta, who is also cloned from Elisabet, is very much not like Aloy. These two clones are vastly different people, both from each other and from Elisabet, and Aloy really struggles with her dismay at the fact that Beta is not more like her or more capable. This is a huge part of the story and serves a very important purpose—to demonstrate that Aloy is not defined solely by her genes. She is a product of her choices and her life experiences—not just her DNA. She is not Elisabet. She is not Beta. She is Aloy. So while I understand why players might want to point to science to substantiate Aloy’s sudden romance with Seyka, I don’t think they should have to in the first place, I think the writers should have done a better job showing it in the actual story.

 

Conclusion

Returning to that same interview with Video Game Chronicles, lead writer Annie Kitain was asked about the challenge of introducing Seyka and giving her such an important role in such a small time. She said:

 

 “We had the story we wanted to tell between Aloy and Seyka, and with the DLC  we wondered if we had enough time to grow that bond between them and to tell the story, but it was always envisioned from the beginning. We saw that as being pretty key to Aloy’s development.”

 

The significant part of this answer is that the writer questioned only if they reasonably could introduce the character and make her such a pivotal part of Aloy’s story and not if they should. In my opinion, they should not have. These writers had a responsibility to Aloy, their fandom, and the LGBTQ+ community to devote a large amount of time and to give this relationship the gravitas it deserved for not only Aloy, but for Seyka, and the series at large. It was not something that should have been squeezed into an optional fifteen hour DLC. Ultimately, the writers simply did not lay a strong enough foundation for Aloy’s relationship with Seyka, and were then surprised by the outcry that resulted from their own poor planning (and granted, a lot of hateful and unwarranted bigotry too, especially when one considers the point that this relationship is an optional player choice). But again, perhaps if the writers had simply done a better job introducing Seyka and writing this very significant part of Aloy’s character development, and hadn’t slapped something so integral to Aloy’s character and her journey into a DLC, they wouldn’t have been met with quite the same level of vitriol (much of which is being directed at the actors and musicians and not even those responsible for writing the DLC). In my opinion, if the writers were dead set on Seyka as being Aloy’s love interest and such a huge part of her life and journey going forward, they should have introduced Seyka in the Burning Shores DLC, hinted at romantic feelings between the two, and brought her back in the next main entry of the game and then took their relationship to the next level.

 

Instead, by cramming the entire introduction of a new character, a reluctant alliance, and then a friendship, and a whole romance into a DLC, Guerilla alienated their own fan base, many of whom, at the end of the second installment in a trilogy, already had their own established beliefs and head canons about Aloy’s optimal romantic partner or sexual orientation. These head canons were, in turn, enforced by the player choice system that was prevalent throughout the entire series. The combination of head canons, the late introduction of Seyka, the inconsistency of character motivations and decisions, and the player choice system, along with the fact that the most pivotal romantic development in the series happened in a DLC, the developer basically set Aloy’s first significant romantic relationship up for failure. 

 

And what’s worse, is that the developer doesn’t double down on this romance, and keeps the ultimate significance of its definition vague, with the women ultimately choosing to go in different directions, even if it means they’ll never see each other again. Though many people are declaring that Aloy is now definitely a lesbian, I’m not sure that she’s not bisexual or pan (especially after we saw Aloy’s feelings for Varl on display earlier in the main game), as Guerilla literally seemingly gives players romantic options with other characters, while also sending the conflicting message that Seyka is the one for Aloy, even featuring the duo in Pride Month posts. Though I want to be supportive, the mixed messages are quite frankly, confusing and do a disservice to the intense bond they are claiming exists between these two women, and I am hoping this is something the developer can give better clarification on in the future. And I hope this stops the fighting in the fandom.

 

Regardless of whether Guerilla decides to throw out the player’s choice and pick their own canon choice with Seyka and Aloy’s romance, I will be very interested to see how the next entry in the series handles Aloy and Seyka’s relationship. Admittedly, I do wish that the series, which might be over with the next installment, would continue to stick with its largely optional choices and wouldn’t force any one pairing into being canon at this late stage of the series. But, if Guerilla moves forward with Aloy and Seyka as canon love interests, or at least the sole fully romanceable option, they need to do their due diligence and give these women the time, attention, respect, and development they deserve. I can only hope that they build off of what they introduced in the future and correct the mistakes that were made in Burning Shores.

 

I want to root for Aloy and Seyka, but the writers simply fumbled so much of their set up that it’s hard for me to feel enthusiastic about the pairing. They did not show players what was so special about Seyka, which was crucial with what the narrative was trying to sell and especially with so many other amazingly capable and strong characters in the Horizon series, like Talanah and Kotallo. And in their quest to make Seyka relatable to Aloy, they basically gave her the same exact character development, leaving the relationship lacking in depth and feeling disappointingly hollow. I want to see Aloy and Seyka shine—I want to see them not just fighting side by side with one another because it’s convenient, or arguing over who has more battle prowess, or commiserating over their shared clan trauma, but faced with difficult decisions when so much is at stake. I am so interested in seeing what kind of potential decisions Aloy would make in order to preserve a relationship while saving the world. Seeing the two meet, fall for each other, and not seeing Aloy struggle with the weight of her responsibility to allow herself to fall for Seyka, only for them both to turn around and easily walk away from one another is just not it.

 

I want representation in our entertainment. One could even argue that there’s nothing better than feeling seen by a portrayal of a character that resonates with us individually, but I’d argue that there is something even better—meaningful representation with complexity, depth, nuance, and growth. And sadly, that’s just not what Burning Shores gives us. 

 

 

 

Source :

Miller, J. (2023, May 18). INTERVIEW: GUERRILLA GAMES ON THE FUTURE OF HORIZON, BURNING SHORES AND THAT KISS. VGC.

https://www.videogameschronicle.com/features/interviews/interview-guerilla-games-on-the-future-of-horizon-burning-shores-and-that-kiss/

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Aloy in Love : The Problems with Burning Shores

Posted June 9, 2023 in Games

Tags: , , , , , ,

44 responses to “Aloy in Love: The Problem with Burning Shores

  1. I’ll never understand why writers think it’s a good idea to cram a romance arc into a DLC. It’s impossible to give the characters a satisfying amount of development in that limited space. And of course its usually the female characters that suffer from this – your point about Nathan in Uncharted was perfect. It took three entire games for his relationship with Elena to feel earned. Sometimes it feels like writers want these characters to have a romantic partner just because it feels like the thing to do, rather than because it’s an organic development for the story or between the two characters. Queer representation also deserves better writing, and not to be rushed and treated as an afterthought. It’ll be interesting to see how this is handled in the series moving forward!

    • Me either?! I think just the premise alone of putting a romance into a DLC, let alone the protagonist’s first choice to fully romance another character, is just a bad idea. And trying to introduce this new romantic partner on top of it? Forget it. It does really feel like they just throw romance in for the sheer sake of romance a lot of the time.

      It was really such a shame that they decided to rush all of these developments and I hope they can find a way to salvage it in future entries!

  2. Emily

    I do agree with this here. I have not played Forbidden West yet so this whole romance was leaked to me and I was honestly quite surprised because to me, I always saw Aloy as a very independent character who didn’t see herself settling down with anyone at any point in time and I always felt we have needed more female protagonists in video games like this. So when I heard about this thing with Seyka, leaked to me, I thought, umm okay this is not what I expected, that’s not how I saw Aloy.

    I liked it when she was on her own and what made me like her was her strong desire that she didn’t feel like she needed to be close to anyone. I have some friends who ship her with Aloy and I saw right away that Avad appeared to worship her hoping she could replace Ersa, but that’s not the case for Aloy because she is definitely not the type of person to settle down in one place with someone like Meridian, she’s pretty much a nomad to me! And I think that’s also what drove me to start writing a fanfiction centered on Avad because he doesn’t seem to know how love works and I want to write a story where he learns to love after getting over Aloy and Ersa. I have a big crush on Avad so I’m actually glad that Aloy can’t really pursue anything with him because I want him for myself! Hehehe….

    As for Seyka I don’t know what to say because like I said, I haven’t played yet, but I still was quite surprised like the writers were almost forcing it to create a character that was Aloy’s equal and it seems many of these companies are pushing for more LGBTQ things in general in games, which is not a bad thing but sometimes it’s not always well-written. Talanah is cool and all but I still think Aloy is better off having a circle of friends without getting too attached to anyone, in my humble opinion.

    • I definitely thought it was a surprising direction that they chose to go in too, especially with it being added in a DLC of all places. It’ll be interesting to see how they implement this romance going forward. At least we’ll always have fanfiction one way or another!

      • Emily

        On the bright side at least this romance is optional for those who want Aloy to stay solo or go with someone else.

        I gotta get going on my Avad fanfic once I finish HZD!

        • That’s true, but as Seyka is the only fully romanceable love interest for Aloy at this point, it doesn’t feel entirely so optional. It’s like either Aloy ends up alone or with someone she just met that she doesn’t really know. Neither seems ideal. But it’s a relief to know people like you are writing fanfiction!

          • Emily

            There is nothing wrong with being alone. Fanfiction is a great way to give us what we want whrn the canon doesn’t leave us satisfied. I don’t know if Aloy will appear in mine since Avad is the primary focus and his love interest is an OC based off of myself in the Horizon universe but Aloy could make a cameo at some point in it.

          • I am sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that there was something wrong with being alone. But in HFW, Aloy is very sad even in the beginning about always ending up alone, so personally I’d like for her to have someone or hints towards someone, as it seems to be what she wants and won’t let herself have, unless players decide to romance Seyka.

            Happy writing!!

        • fenris

          a little detail there, the romance itself it isn’t truly optional since aloy crushes hard on seyka no matter what the the players want. which is not a bad thing itself, the problem is how forced and jarring it is

          and as OP brilliantly put it, aloy talks about it non stop so the players dont forget it… or even dare to not like seyka

          lets not put all our faith on the third game to allow people to pick their preferred romance, just in case, im certainly having trust issues on their skill to write romantic relationships after the game and dlc

          • Emily

            Let me rephrase that. When I said optional I meant the ending dialogue choice where one leads to them sharing a kiss and the other two do not at least from what I am seeing here.

          • You’re not wrong that one option leads to a kiss. However, the other options don’t really provide a way to outright reject Seyka and her feelings. The closest a player can come to a rejection is saying Aloy isn’t ready for a romantic relationship, even though by this point, players have already seen that she has caught feelings for Seyka. Aloy never dismisses the idea of a romantic relationship (like she does with other characters), with Seyka after she has saved the world.

  3. Foibs

    Hi there!!! I’m the one whose post you linked re: Talanah and Aloy’s relationship, and I’ve gotta say, you NAILED all of my thoughts on the DLC. I’ll be sharing this post widely and with enthusiasm. Thanks for taking the time to write this up with such clarity and strength of opinion!

    • Oh my gosh, hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my massive post and for sharing it with others too! It’s so nice to hear that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I really enjoyed reading your original post on Talanah and Aloy and I’m still disappointed the developers didn’t go in that direction!

  4. fogsblue

    Followed foibs tweet here, and just want to say thank you for writing this out. It covers so so much of what bothered me about the DLC, and specifically the way they handled Aloy’s romance arc and the character of Seyka in general.

    I went into the DLC excited and trying to be open-minded (spoiled for the ending within hours), but by the end was just frustrated with how flat the entire DLC felt, and disappointed with this Aloy who didn’t actually feel much like Aloy to me. This needed time, not just for Aloy’s feelings, but to show us who Seyka is, to give us (as a few Kotallo shippers have said) the seashell moments. Show us why Aloy could love her beyond “she’s strong and capable” which is fantastic, but…. Well, so is every one of Aloy’s friends?

    But anyway, thank you for your well thought out words, it’s nice to see it stated so clearly.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read this incredibly long post and for leaving a comment too! I was hesitating on whether or not to actually post this piece for a long time, but now I am glad I did.

      I am sorry that you found the DLC disappointing as well, but I also am relieved to know that I was not the only one who felt this way. It’s a uniquely difficult experience to want to be wholly supportive of Aloy, as well as Aloy and Seyka, (even if one has other preferred ships), but not being given the tools in order to do so by the writers. I sincerely wish they had given this romance more time to develop and to feel earned. I hope they can find a way to rectify all of this going forward, but I’m not really sure how they’ll do that.

    • fenris

      /Show us why Aloy could love her beyond “she’s strong and capable” which is fantastic, but…. Well, so is every one of Aloy’s friends?/

      according to writers it seems seyka is the very first strong and capable person aloy has ever met in her life.

      it requires a reasonable talent to pull such a dull character as her while shi*tting hard on the other friend characters that were introduced better and developed better, i have to applaud them for that and for actually fooling anybody into believing seyka is a good character or a character at all

      • Exactly! I just couldn’t buy what they were selling. And it was definitely loke adding insult to injury to try and pull this off in DLC

  5. fenris

    /It is almost as if Aloy basically manages to fall in love with a variation of herself and I wondered at the attraction and appeal of dating someone who is, for all intents and purposes, the same person./

    /which would not be an essential for her character if not for the fact that the writers push so hard that with Seyka, Aloy has finally met her match and constantly beat us over the head with telling us how capable and special she is/

    ^^^ thiiiiiisss!! those were my main issues with everything, the former was worse because i went hard against their strong attempts to make me love seyka no matter what when in reality i didnt feel she was special at all on her own because there are already characters like kotallo and zo from the same game who exactly has the same traits being capable fighters and someway outcast status, but still are different enough from aloy. what seyka does is make aloy have a crush on herself

    i’d prefer balance on pairings, and the first to make a difference from the warrior type like kotallo and talanah is actually alva, who could match aloy in an intellectual way, curiosity and geekiness, but she already has a significant other… or the cute guy from the greatest showmen too, they were a joy to watch the three seconds they talk about machine parts

    well beta too but for natural reasons let’s not consider her

    • I completely agree. I just felt like there were so many other potential candidates for Aloy’s love life that were more developed and made more sense for her character. I felt it was unfair to both Aloy and Seyka to have them shoved together in such a short amount of time

    • andy

      I’m the only one out here like “but BETA” *extends arms in supplication* while reading this entire piece (which I very much agree with, except for Varl’s take) and I agree she’s not in any way a viable romantic option BUT BETA you know?? Much more interesting and complex and nuanced than Seyka who’s a clone of Aloy in everything but LOOKS (oh the irony)

      *Cries in a fetal position*

      • To be fair, I think most everyone in this game is more complex and nuanced than poor Seyka (and her relationship with Aloy.) She really didn’t get the time or development she deserved.

  6. raymond

    I really love everything you’ve written. when I first played the DLC on the day of release, I felt the rushed pace but mistook it for my own excitement/furious playing pace. the ending (heart option all the way) was only satisfying for a moment because, like you’ve said, it wasn’t earned or built up. I disliked Seyka’s character for the reasons you brought up, but the dialogue between her and Aloy often felt too cliché. the moments in the cave when she required the harpoon handholds were great! but the “you’re just like a Diviner! keeping secrets!” and the introductory cutscene with Seyka really rubbed me the wrong way. two steps forward (Aloy, environment, the Quen) and one step back (Seyka’s dialogue/character, rushed aspects like you said). I really loved the bit about Naruto. I’ve never seen the show or read the manga, but if only Guerilla took a page from their book! your solution is much, much more compelling than the in-game progression. I hope that Horizon 3: Third Time’s the Charm brings Aloy and Talanah back together. Foibles has been gunning for it since the beginning. at first I was happy with Seyka and Aloy, but Talanah and Aloy have so much more real, developed chemistry and interesting parallels (kudos to Foibles for making all their theses available on their blog). and I completely agree that the end (or beginning, if you’d like) of Seyka and Aloy’s relationship was super super rushed. it pissed me off!!! I guess they’re bringing back kiss-n’-fly 1000 years later—or Aloy is playing hard to get (/s). this was a great read! I enjoyed it :^)

    • Thank you, that means a lot! I agree. I just could never quite learn to like Seyka, as she seemed like more of a role than a character. They seemed so desperate to have her fit the role of Aloy’s girlfriend that she didn’t get a lot of her own defining characteristics or unique charms.

      I 100% agree with you and Foibles, Talanah and Aloy have so much more authentic chemistry. And as both you and Foibles pointed out, their dynamic and parallels were really interesting. It seems like such a no-brainer for those two to turn into something more.

      Here’s to hoping Horizon 3 surprises us in a good way!

      • raymond

        it seems like even the lore doesn’t try flesh Seyka out very much. I, personally, had no idea that Admiral Gerrit favored Seyka until I saw it in one or two datapoints I picked up after I finished the story. I hate to say it, but I think Kina is given a better background than Seyka. Kina is a successful navigator (is she the chief navigator in this half of the fleet? doubt it) and therefore important to the voyage. Seyka is a petty officer—a role that is completely unexplored—and, uh. Gerrit likes her and she has a sister (but you have to search for the former and be told that the latter is told, blatantly, by Seyka that her sister Kina is “all-I-have-left and “my-little-sister”).
        also, completely left this out in my first comment—I loved the bit about Aloy going along with the Quen culture and its troubling “theocratic empire.” it was a fact that I hadn’t realized! you could maybe make the case that Aloy plays along with most other cultural practices (except for Studious and his pastoral bitchin’) and doesn’t directly stir the pot regarding cultural changes.
        I also felt my mind expanding when you mentioned Aloy’s quick acceptance of the Quen’s worship of the Ancestors, as well as “Seyka’s open-mindedness to the fact that her entire belief system was outdated” (paraphrasing)—now that you’ve talked about, it I feel even less moved by her lackluster character.
        I was even watching a video about the Quen’s lore today at work, and the creator spent more time talking about Kina than Seyka. and yes, here’s hoping that 3 Horizon 3 Furious will be stronger!

        • I definitely didn’t realize that the Admiral and Seyka had any kind of special bond or anything until you told me (clearly I didn’t do a good job with reading those data points ?). In fact, I never understood why Seyka was constantly dropping everything to go back to report to him immediately. Most of the time, the situation had already been handled and there was no emergency, just a report on the events and their next course of action. So I find it hard to believe that Seyka ouldn’t stay and camp out with Aloy even once? No opting for late night gazing at the stars with the woman she supposedly likes or flirtatiously saying, “I don’t think the Admiral will expect my report until tomorrow” excuses. It’s choices like these that really made their romance feel unconvincing to me.

          Ah, thank you! I definitely felt like the difference in culture or religions would realistically have to cause friction or misunderstandings between Aloy and Seyka. But somehow, it’s never an issue with these two, even though it is at some point with almost every other member of the Quen Aloy has ever encountered. I thought it would have been much more compelling to see this kind of difference of belief systems coming in between the two or at least being a formidable obstacle. Though admittedly, I would think most things better than the “you won’t tell me everything,” and “no, YOU won’t tell me anything,” conflict these two literal strangers were constantly having for some reason.

          I agree with you on Kina as well. There seemed like a lot of unexplored territory with her character. I also thought it might have been more interesting to have the love interest getting swindled by Landra, rather than just trying to save her sister from him. But truly almost anything would’ve been more exciting to me than having Seyka simultaneously presented as both an Aloy 2.0 and being “unlike anyone else.”

          I really am not too optimistic at this point about how well Horizon 3 will do with Aloy’s relationships, but hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

          • fenris

            /No opting for late night gazing at the stars with the woman she supposedly likes or flirtatiously saying, “I don’t think the Admiral will expect my report until tomorrow” excuses. It’s choices like these that really made their romance feel unconvincing to me./

            okay, okay, OKAY?! that would improve everything so much?!
            such a simple gesture and adds a lot, but no, seyka has to go away and report just to tell the players that her tribe wants to vanish her
            even when we dont really see the pain she goes through with the hate

          • Yes, the little things really do go a long way. And I think it would have been so much better if scenes like that had happened to demonstrate their supposed closeness rather than just telling us how close they were or how much they actually liked each other. Though it still wouldn’t have been great from mere fact that it was relegated to DLC, I think it would have been better with more moments like those.

        • fenris

          that seems to be part of the point of them, they bump into each without know anything about the other so
          for seyka, aloy isnt the outcast, the annointed, the savior and whatever. and for aloy, seyka isn’t kina’s little sister. maybe its just me but there are other characters like this as well so its, again, nothing new. like talanah, erend or the freckless girl from the first dlc
          and let’s not forget that aloy is the clone of a respected figure among the quen, so for other characters her whole existence isnt going to be a culture shock itself either

          • Yeah, it was honestly such an odd choice to push the narrative that Seyka was unlike anyone Aloy had ever met, when Aloy’s met SO many other capable people and when Seyka is also so much like Aloy herself. I think they should have just picked one of these two narrative choices–kindred spirits or completely original/unlike anyone else. Neither one of these choices was implemented well, let alone together. They even seem contradictory.

  7. JSR

    So the choice is a gay relationship or none at all? Just plain wrong. Serious question: what percentage of characters in HFW are gay versus straight, and is that percentage reflective of society?

  8. Gregory

    I read the article and there’s a take about the relationship that isn’t really looked at: everyone is writing critiquing rollout and storyline and the truth of people is, sometimes they just…fall. Sometimes you meet someone you’re instantly comfortable with. For Aloy, Seyka makes sense because she’s carrying a burden like Aloy – torn between the duty she feels she owes the Quen people while understanding that so much of her society is based on lies and misdeeds. For Aloy, this is the Nora going from exiling to revering her, the same with the Carja considering her a barbarian and a lowly woman then her becoming the savior of Meridian. She’s a fighter, she’s intelligent and willing to use forbidden tech (just like Aloy when she found her focus – it was TAKEN, not given) and maybe she’s just plain cute. For all the talk about Aloy being this messianic hero, this makes it clear that she’s still very much human, which comes just in time in her character development when she’s now offing Zenith members. She DID need the help from Seyka to take down the Horus. And they feel strongly but they DON’T know when they’ll see each other again, but they say “it’s good enough to know how you feel”. They’re not married and mated for life yet. I felt genuinely happy for Aloy as I watched the story of Burning Shores play out.

    I don’t realize the history of rolling out romances in DLCs but to the way I approach it, it’s just another chapter of the story. It seems like we’ll definitely see Seyka again and I’m here for it. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t between them. But I bet she’ll be vital in dealing with Nemesis and hunting down the rest of the sub functions.

    • Personally, if a romance has to be explained away by saying, “sometimes people just fall for each other,” or something similar, that implies to me that it wasn’t well-written or shown and requires further explanation that wasn’t demonstrated initially.

      And as I said on my post, I didn’t buy what the DLC was selling–that Seyka could do things that no one else could. I find Aloy to be the necessary component to saving the world and that any of her already established friends, such as Kotallo, Eren, or Talanah, more than able to support her in doing so. I didn’t feel Seyka was that special, which the game clearly wanted her to be, when there already so many powerful supporting characters many of whom have a deeper, already established bond with Aloy.

      But to each their own. I am also looking forward to seeing the role Seyka will play in the future.

      • Sarosna

        Thank you for this article. I can’t help but agree. Granted, I’m one of the people that has been rooting for Erend as it would make for a lovely and emotional story since he has been there since the very beginning. But for some unexplainable reason they completely gutted the character in HFW. The HZD Erend could’ve easily become the most potential LI when introduced to the focus and GAIA in HFW. Bringing him closer to Aloy’s level.

        Instead they decreased his IQ by at least 50 and made him abandon the Vanguard and follow Aloy like a loyal puppy so he can just sit around the Base with the other handful of people. He has also forgotten how to use a bow and lost any shred of confidence that he gained by the end of HZD.

        This brings me to the other point: ambigious “hints” being thrown around in both games and the confusion that came along with it. The endless flirting and romantic undertones in both games.

        Especially with Erend things are utterly bizarre. He hits on her at the beginning of HZD, later apologizes while they’re saying goodbye and having the whole “two minutes” lines. Before the final battle, the Vanguards tease Erend about kissing her.

        Come HFW and the Daunt, Erend is PISSED. All this juicy tension that was never utilized further. And more teasing from a Vanguard about “interrupting the romance”. Erend is depressed and drunk after their little spat. Then…nothing? And then at the end, Erend and Aloy wrap their arms around each other. Oh and let’s not forget the drinks scene.

        Then comes Seyka in a few hour DLC and kiss-face action.

        Why do they do this?? Why do they portray stuff like this for it to mean nothing in the end? The haters keep saying that shippers just see what they want to see. But the lines of dialogue and the little subleties are right there in the games. Like in the scene where Aloy and Erend have a drink. Why is Erend being so flabbergasted that he even forgets to get the drinks? And why does Aloy just smile and shake her head at it instead of having a talk with him about her not feeling the same way? And it’s not just Erend. There are TWO flashpoints for Avad. Hell, even Talanah’s story arc could be turned into a romance with Aloy. Instead they dance around this stuff just to introduce a DLC love interest. And quite frankly, forcing her on the player through endless amounts of monologues.

        Just to give Aloy an option to turn her down in the end. Then proceed to give ambigious interviews to claim that Aloy’s feelings for Seyka are canon…while NOT clearly stating that she is the one and only LI for he and there will be NO other romance.

        Also, wasn’t there an old interview where GG stated that they actually planned love interests for HZD?

        If they are not going to commit to anything, why even put this stuff in the game? Just let us kill robots and save the world WITHOUT a DLC girlfriend. Or just keep leaving everything ambigious and let the shippers write their fanfics once the story is over.

        Now that they’ve done what they’ve done, they can no longer erase it. And I can’t help but be a little bit concerned. The magic of HZD is gone forever. I will definitely buy H3 to see how the story ends but I am no longer hyped about it.

        They just don’t seem to know what to do with the story anymore. Or the characters for that matter. HFW was already limping on that department and now Burning Shores made it even worse. There really was no reason to take the story into this direction. The way too lighthearted tone even during the Horus fight certainly didn’t help.

        I also hate that they took the “met her match” route. I thought the whole point of the story has been that Aloy is not alone in this. That she is not superior to everyone. Or am I the only one who remembers the holo convo of Travis and Lis while doing the quest Death’s Door in early HFW?

        • Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful analysis. I was very hesitant to write this post in the first place, but the comments I’ve gotten, like yours, have been truly delightful.

          I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember the events of Horizon Zero Dawn as well as I would like, as it’s been years since I have played it. However, I do remember feeling that there was something there/potential for romance between Aloy and Erend, (as well as with other characters like Varl and Avad), but I kind of assumed it would just be left ambiguous forever, as Aloy was always too focused on saving the world. I agree with you that there appeared to be some subtle hints, at least on Erend’s part, for romantic tension between the two in HFW. I also felt like Aloy was truly disappointed when Varl and Zo got together, but that was never dealt with either. When I saw Aloy and Erend hug at the end of HFW, I was like, “huh. I guess they’re going in that direction,” and thought maybe losing Varl (both romantically and as a friend), taught Aloy that life is too short not to act on one’s feelings. But then the DLC to completely paired Aloy off with someone brand new, which I said in my post, I felt didn’t fit for a character as reserved and socially inexperienced/awkward as Aloy.

          I was really disappointed that the developers didn’t choose to pick a character with whom Aloy had an already established relationship–even if Erend wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice as Aloy’s end game partner, (I personally lean towards Kotallo and Talanah), I would have been have been far happier if they had gone with Erend over a brand new character like Seyka, who sadly, felt very forced. I agree that it seems like GG doesn’t really seem to know where they are taking the story anymore, but I can only hope we are both wrong about that.

          Like you, I’m also very confused on whether or not the romance with Seyka is actually canon or not from the interview I cited and from their twitter account, so I will be very interested in how they handle all of the romance in the third game. It seems like no matter what direction they go in, they are going to disappoint a significant portion of their fans, who already had ships and ideas after two whole games in the series.

          • Sarosna

            Yes, exactly. They’ve put themselves in a situation that will be difficult to handle either way. Aside from all the gay – propaganda, the criticism aimed at Seyka is perfectly valid. They did not do a good job with Burning Shores. It bugs me that in their interviews they seem to praise themselves for doing a good job while honestly, they really didn’t.

            And any criticism is received as homophobia. That is not true.

            They make up these amazing characters. Erend, Varl, Zo, Kotallo, Talanah, Alva etc. And pretty much the only characters who got developed properly, were the ones who had an existing relationship or who joined up in HFW.

            Varl and Zo are awesome. Varl went through a HUGE growth from HZD to HFW. But it still felt like the Varl we already knew. And even if his death was tragic, it made sense and created a beautiful story, especially when Zo revealed she was pregnant. I actually shed some tears when watching the cinematic. That was good writing.

            Kotallo also goes through a beautiful and meaningful arc. He fits into the crew immediately.

            Alva is also very interesting. You can immediately tell how smart and clever she is and yet she has this bubbly, awkward personality. It’s funny and it makes her interesting. Human. And if you actually bother to talk to her, she reveals she has a girlfriend back home.

            That leaves Erend and Talanah….oh boy. Talanah does seem like the Talanah we already knew. And I guess the quest with Amadis kind of makes sense and I’m glad that they chose for her to stick to her guns and flat out tell Amadis that he needs to sort his shit out.

            But after that….she just goes back to the Lodge instead of joining Aloy? Granted, she is the Sunhawk but what is preventing her from choosing someone to take her place? We’re talking about saving the world after all. Imagine how Talanah would react to facing a swarm of Specters?

            But apparently, there were time conflicts with the actress so who knows what was supposed to happen.

            That brings us to Erend again who is now all over the damn place. It’s like they don’t even know what to do with the character. You can’t help but wonder if Covid messed everything up OR if they had other plans from which they copped out of. Or is there some problem with John Hopkins?

            There’s just such an obvious disconnect with certain characters especially during the middle part of the game. So many people have pointed that out. And then Burning Shores and Seyka came along.

            They go on about how Aloy has never met anyone like Seyka and all that. That is not true. They already had a strong cast of characters but they nerfed them all. Hard. I can easily see someone like Kotallo go through the story of Burning Shores with Aloy, especially with his new arm. Talanah could easily replace Seyka but in a better way because we already know her. We have history, an emotional connection. Even Erend could’ve easily been there instead of Seyka if he hadn’t been nerfed to the ground level.

            I’m ranting very long again but I just don’t understand why they do this stuff. It’s literally like they just changed their mind. There’s also the fact that they jumped in heavily on all the Pride – stuff after Burning Shores. I don’t want to call out for trying to push an agenda but it’s hard not to. Again, I have nothing against that stuff, everyone can do whatever they want. But turning a video game into some sort of statement is just not necessary. Just let people play. And if you’re going to make the main character gay, at least do it in a way that actually makes even a semblance of sense.

            The way they did the Seyka thing and all the Aloy monologues was like watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the 90’s. Although the series was miles better than anything on Burning Shores. Basically it’s like watching a teenager drama. I’m over 20 years past that. Pushing 40. I did not want stuff like that in the game. I’m fully aware that Aloy is around 20 years old. But did they really have to make her behave like one for a DLC? It was just plain jarring.

            Time will tell I suppose. But they’ll have to make some pretty hard-ass writing to salvage this. Either just leave all the romance stuff out of H3 and go back to being ambiguous or then give Aloy the choice between Seyka and maybe another, pre-existing character. Preferably male. Although that would still cause a stir.

            Or maybe they’ve just been distracting us this whole time and they make Erend end-game after all :o)

            I just want to kill robots with a bow.

          • Yes, I agree–they really shouldn’t be putting Aloy’s only possible actual romanceable partner behind a paywall in a DLC. That was just a weird choice, especially when there were plenty of hints for other characters becoming romanceable in the future spread throughout two whole other games. Why bother with scenes like Avad’s proposal if the player’s choice wasn’t really an actual choice?

            I don’t know if you’re interested in this, but I just saw on Twitter today that they announced a fan-made CYOA visual novel called “Focus on the Heart,” which features eight characters for Aloy to romance (according to player choice.) You’ll be happy to know that Erend is one of the options! And Talanah is another. I know it’s not quite the same as having it in the actual game series, but may be fun to see it all actually play out!

            Here’s the link: https://twitter.com/focusontheheart/status/1734981510090916285

  9. Honestly, my largest objection to Seyka has nothing to do with the idea of Aloy being in a relationship with another woman (there was enough of a vibe between Aloy and a couple of different women throughout Zero Dawn and Forbidden West that I generally took her for being bi, which seems pretty reasonable in a world where heteronormativity got lost in the reboot), and more with the fact that if you actually pay attention to the politics of the Quen as a tribe, and Seyka as a member of that tribe… she actually comes off as coding fascist. She was a willing enforcer of a brutal dictatorial police state who only stopped serving in that role because they kicked her out of it. Her people worship business leaders, adhere to a rigid system of information control and propaganda distribution… and maintain a system of agents that ‘disappear’ anyone that goes against the tribe’s behavior codes by executing them without trial in secret.

    It’s a deeply screwed up social structure that Alva recognizes for what it is the instant she can get clear of its control mechanisms, but Seyka’s never anything less than enthusiastic to be a part of it.

    • I agree with you! I think the developers tried to push the angle that Seyka was not like the other Quen, just like Aloy wasn’t like the Nora, but it still remains very concerning. It’s especially worrisome that Seyka chose to stay with them as well.

      • If they were trying to push that Seyka wasn’t like the other Quen, they didn’t push terribly hard. Alva did a better job of bucking the trend of Quen society in realizing that she couldn’t live up to the ideals of being a Quen Diviner in pursuit of the unvarnished truth because her superiors actively feared and suppressed truth that didn’t serve their political agenda.

        Consequently, Seyka’s quality of ‘not being like other Quen’ became an informed trait rather than actual characterization, just like the claim that she was a compassionate person who fought in defense of the helpless (and yet the only helpless people we ever actually SEE her helping are wayward members of her own tribe).

        Who Guerilla WANTED Seyka to be seen as is drastically out of synch with who they actually show her to be, I think we can pretty well agree.

        • Sarosna

          This is a very good point. One that I didn’t even think about as I kind of cringed my way through Burning Shores. Even with the discovery of Apollo and Aloy’s own journey and upcoming battle against Nemesis, the world of Horizon has remained unchanged as a whole. The societies and cultures of the different tribes. A tribe like the Quen aren’t going to just suddenly abandon their social structure and beliefs and customs due to Aloy’s exploits.

          So Seyka staying with the Quen feels like an odd choice as a whole. Bohai barely let Aloy leave Thebes alive after her reasoning with him. And even if the Quen are being warned about Nemesis and a plead for aid has been sent to the Emperor, who is to say that they will just drop everything and help Aloy? The Quen are dangerous and unpredictable.

          If you look at other characters like Zo, Erend and Alva. They all question the social structure of their respective tribes rather openly. With Seyka I didn’t really figure out where she stands.

          This kind of brings me back to my point of how Seyka feels like a character who was made for the DLC for the sake of being a female love interest for Aloy. Why couldn’t it just be Talanah if it had to be female? And why make her go back to the Quen at the ending whatever you chose? Why not just commit….

  10. Lydia

    Great article! This romance felt rushed and unnecessary. You didn’t point it out but with this being in the DLC is now faces several problems with the third game: People who liked it, people who didn’t like it, and people who didn’t play the DLC. For me, I didn’t care for this DLC and is a downgrade from the Frozen Wilds DLC.

    For people who liked it, they will now expect it or another one in the sequel. Aloy is her own person. Yes, she is a clone of Elisabet Sobeck but so is Beta and neither had a romantic tie with Tilda, they didn’t seem interested in her. I didn’t feel the romance between Aloy and Seyka and it wasn’t well written at all. I already am not a fan of when characters join you in fights because most of the time they don’t do jack and I do all the work in the end, even when they are accomplished warriors but that’s beside the point. There are people who will love it and they will expect Seyka or another romantic love interest to return in the sequel.

    There are people who didn’t like and they own’t want it in the sequel. I have read the majority of the comments and other reddit trends about this and there are several people who didn’t care for Seyka and don’t want a romantic love interest for Aloy. Not that she doesn’t deserve it but she never seemed interested. There are plenty of characters who have shown an interest in her but Aloy never returned it. She seemed Aroace or asexual to me. People have already mentioned it but Aloy has a hard time trusting people, so for her to instantly trust Seyka makes no sense. Aloy has shown herself to be completely independent and has so much weight on her shoulders because she wants to help her home, despite being an outcast.

    Finally, people who never picked up the DLC. Let’s be honest, not everyone is going to play the DLC. Some people just play the game and that’s it. Some people probably didn’t care for the base game and decided to not pick it back up or they returned it to the store they bought it from. Or they played it, like it, but don’t have the money to purchase the DLC. If they introduce Seyka and there are going to be people who forget her or people who never knew who she was and if she and Aloy kiss, people would be livid because it would feel as though it came out of nowhere.

    To conclude, while it’s okay for games themselves to be mixed between fans, especially since TLoU 2 had mixed reviews. It’s worse when DLC’s are mixed. What makes this worse is that they introduced a major character in Aloy’s life that people may expect a return for which will once again, have mixed reviews whether or not they include her. A major part of DLC is that it’s just that, DLC. Nothing from it is suppose to return. I know that Scorchers, Fire Claws, Frost Claws, and Apex machines made a return but no major characters from the Frozen Wilds made a return nor were they mentioned. That’s the point of a DLC, I expect the machines from the Burning Shores DLC to return but not characters.

  11. Timarie

    Just finished main game quest line, and getting ready to buy Burning Shores. I keep hearing that Aloy has met her match – someone as capable as her – thus gets all giddy. Does this mean I (Aloy) can just pick medicinal berries the entire DLC while Seyka defeats all the machines and opponents?

    Aloy is the figurative, reluctant, then determined messiah. She is the only one that can save the world because of why she was created. Why is a forced romance necessary? I feel like “lone wolf” is one of her defining character traits. Sure, let her get begrudgingly close to others. I really like some of the relationships she’s formed by the end of HFW (can’t forgive GG for killing Varl!).

    When Aloy’s story of saving Earth is over, even if with the help of those she has learned to trust and care for, then she can have the option to seek romantic companionship, if that is what she desires (and I have no reason to believe that is a given), with a woman, man, human, alien, machine, AI, or another clone.

  12. Lauren

    I just finished FW and BS the other week but was spoiled on this Seyka romance before I even started it. And I agree with almost everything you stated here. It felt so rushed, there was no romantic connection, and is just a huge disservice to Aloy and her heart.

    I ship Kotallo personally, and it feels like a slap to the face. The developers did so well building a natural, growing relationship and intimacy with him and then just slapped this Seyka nonsense at us and said it’s canon. I hate it.

    And unfortunately there’s not many options to express your love and feedback on your ships as like Reddit, those who oppose your ship for another will go after you. I posted on Reddit and already have some people not being respectful to me.

    I sincerely hope they squash this “romance” and give Kotallo a chance for H3.

    • You’re not alone–I really liked Kotallo and Aloy together. It was so nice to see their relationship develop from distrust, to mutual respect, friendship, and possibly something more! I truly wanted to support Aloy and like her with Seyka, but I just felt like they didn’t give me the time or the tools to warm up to the idea of her as a romantic interest for Aloy. I also just think it’s so unfair that this important of a relationship to Aloy was relegated to DLC as well. I think it really did a disservice to the characters and the story.

      I know shipping can get incredibly opinionated, I am sorry you didn’t have a good experience trying to have a discussion about it on reddit.

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