We Need to Talk About That Character in ‘Horizon Forbidden West’


Or, more accurately, it’s yet another clone of Elizabet Sobeck, the scientist from pre-apocalypse Earth that Aloy was also cloned from. It’s the kind of reveal that comes across as a bit of a “duh” moment. Most of the tech from the previous game, including GAIA, is locked behind Elizabet’s biometrics. If anyone wants to access it, another clone of Elizabet would be the easiest way to get it.

However, Beta is only like Aloy in appearance. In demeanor, she’s a meek, quiet woman who follows orders. She seems perpetually frightened, dragged along by the Zeniths, instead of fighting them. Where Aloy is defiant, capable, and takes no shit, Beta seems so devoid of independence that, at first, I genuinely assumed she was being controlled somehow—chemicals, genome editing, something to make her more pliable.

Instead, it’s just old-fashioned psychological conditioning. She’s been with the Zeniths her whole life and is even physically addicted to the simulations they forced her to exist within. She’s known nothing but captivity and isolation. She’s smart because the Zeniths forced her to learn many of the scientific subjects Elizabet learned, but she seems pathologically incapable of defying anyone.

This sets up a much more interesting contrast with Aloy than is apparent at first glance. Plenty of sci-fi stories have dealt with the dichotomy between two sides of the same character. Franchises from Star Trek to Animorphs have had a good-and-evil-twin story, where one version is aggressive, hasty, and confident while the other is cautious, timid, and calculating. The moral of the story is almost always that you need both, in some measure.

But this story is different. Aloy isn’t some exaggerated half of herself. She’s a whole, complete person who made it through the first game and saved Meridian. Moreover, she’s frequently compared positively to Elizabet, who also fought for what she believed in, defied people more powerful than her, and cared about saving the world more than just saving herself.

So … what makes Beta different?

Genetically, all three characters are identical. Aloy and Elizabet lived very different lives, but they came at them with the same tenacity. Characters who know anything about the two of them frequently remark on how similar they seem. Prior to Beta’s existence in the story, the idea that genes are what make a person who they are would’ve been a reasonable read, given the scenarios we’re presented with.

Forbidden West throws that theory in the garbage. No, having the same genetic code as a confident person doesn’t make you confident. In one particularly emotionally charged scene, the game even goes further to point out (with more characteristic bluntness) that Aloy and Beta were both “shunned and isolated,” so it’s not like Aloy came from some bastion of privilege. So, again, what’s the difference?

There’s such an obvious answer here that the game has been practically screaming it since the intro: friends! Friends make you strong! Other people! Community! Support! It’s what Varl and Erend and every other NPC with above-average detail on their character models have been drilling into Aloy since the intro.


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