Aloy Develops “Commander Shepard Syndrome” in Forbidden West

Aloy’s Potential Greatness is Clear

Guerilla Games has done a great job of giving us our first big female protagonist to play as since we had Lara Croft in newest reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Aloy is a great character to live through as well due to her witty sass and sarcasm when she’s interacting with other characters. More importantly though, her voice acting is excellent thanks to Ashly Burch’s performance, which believe it or not is the area where the main protagonists for games seem to fall short more often than not.

A good example of a protagonist holding back a game would be Jin Sakai in Ghost of Tsushima. Jin’s voice acting was lackluster at best, and as great of a game as I believe Ghost of Tsushima to be, this lone pitfall held the game back at times from really grabbing ahold of you while playing. Luckily, the game had an unbelievably gorgeous world, and an excellent combat system to fall back on. However, if Sucker Punch was able to get a better performance from their main protagonist, or even the supporting characters in the game for that matter, I think we’re taking about Ghost of Tsushima as one of the greatest games ever, and that’s no overstatement.

Characters, especially the lead, can make or break a game very easily. In Horizon: Zero Dawn I think the development of Aloy’s character from outcast to savior helped to carry that game to be one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. Sure it was mechanically sound, as well as having a refreshing, uniquely designed world and plot, but Aloy’s performance truly put it over the top.

Aloy Takes a Backseat

After having just played Horizon: Forbidden West, Aloy’s impact in the sequel game is noticeably less impressive. The game benefits more from the wealth of things to do and more crowded world thanks to the technological advancements made with the PS5. Even the supporting characters in Forbidden West find themselves to be much more relevant than the odd couple throw away side quests like we saw in Zero Dawn. Their stories actually feel like they matter now, and help to shape the main story along the way. This is where I start to see Aloy falling victim to what I like to call “Commader Shepard Syndrome”.

Just like Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series Aloy is turning into a faceless vessel in which we picture ourselves saving the world from threats unknown. Right now Aloy’s path nearly mirrors Shepard’s perfectly through the first two games of each series. First we see them take center stage growing from nobodies, fighting the establishment along the way to then becoming the only thing standing in the way of huge threats. Then, in the second game Shepard and Aloy almost take a backseat to their friends/allies and the development of their importance to the overall narrative. Not necessarily becoming background characters in their own story, but both absolutely lose their prestige. Yes Aloy and Shepard are the ones standing over the great enemy in the end, but their character development definitely stalls to make way for growing the importance of their allies during the second installment of each series.

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In my opinion, in both cases the supporting characters definitely needed the boost that they received to help add to the narrative, but there has to be a way to do it that doesn’t sacrifice development of the main characters. Obviously, Aloy has the far superior voice actor behind her when compared to Commander Shepard. Because of this it helps to prop up her performance, and mask over the narrative neglect we find her in throughout Forbidden West. In regards to Commander Shepard it was a glaringly obvious issue due to such a stale voice acting performance at times throughout the Mass Effect series. Just because the problem is harder to see with Aloy though, doesn’t mean we get to refuse to acknowledge that it’s there.

Change is Needed

In Aloy’s case the situation is still salvageable depending on how Guerrilla Games choose to further develop her character in the next game. I personally would love to see a deeper dive into her grief after having lost Rost, and please finally allow her to acknowledge her emotions with depth rather than shutting it all down to deal with the current threat in front of her. I get that’s part of her character design, but I need to see real vulnerability from Aloy next time like what we saw briefly in the moments spent with Beta, otherwise she’ll surely fall victim to the aforementioned “Commander Shepard Syndrome”. What a shameful waste of a potential top five all time video game character that would be.

No nonsense foresight into the future of gaming, tech, and entertainment, even a dash of my own personal mindset from any given day.
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