Guerrilla Games’ latest offering, Horizon Forbidden West, has been praised for many reasons. Critics have highlighted how the game has zoned in on the best elements from its predecessor, such as mounting machines and exploration, and improved them. Others have also applauded how Horizon Forbidden West has been daring enough to introduce plenty of new features, including a Shieldwing Glider that lets players descend from great heights. However, despite the lush environments and impressive gameplay improvements, it is the game’s protagonist, Aloy, that still steals the show.
When admiring Aloy’s increasing fame and impact in gaming, it is impossible to not notice that she has followed a similar trajectory to Lara Croft, a heroine that has also become a monumental figure not just in gaming, but in pop culture, too. Whether it comes to breaking stereotypes or enjoying a global reach, Aloy and Lara have trodden similar ground.
Aloy and Lara Are Two Trailblazers
Lara first hit the gaming scene when she appeared as the star of 1996’s Tomb Raider. In that game and every subsequent entry she has appeared in, she proves herself to be a daredevil adventurer willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find the most valuable treasures. Not only is she a sharpshooter, but she is also intelligent enough to solve traps and puzzles created by wise civilizations centuries ago. Typically, Lara can be spotted wielding two pistols and wearing her hair in a ponytail or a single plait.
Lara is an important character in gaming because she does not conform to the typical way women are often depicted in games. Rather than being a damsel in need of saving from a male action hero, Lara instead takes things into her own hands and manages to fight her way out of trouble and out-think her foes. Furthermore, Lara proved that the role of the brave adventurer capable of overcoming all obstacles is not one that has to be limited to male characters alone. The positive reception to the Tomb Raider series proved that Lara provided something that gamers had been craving for a long time.
Aloy’s appearance in gaming came in 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn. The game was an unexpected offering from Guerrilla Games, a studio that was then known for the FPS franchise Killzone. Like Lara, Aloy is fiercely independent and is willing to dive headfirst into all adventures. She has changed the way female characters can be depicted in video games by shunning all romantic inclinations.
Unlike most female characters who inevitably find themselves in someone’s arms, Aloy maintains her independence, shunning any romantic interests that come her way. Because of this, Aloy’s story is quite a refreshing one, as it is not bogged down by the awkwardness and heartbreaks that come with romance plots.
Aloy and Lara Court Controversy
Although Lara is a beloved character in gaming, she has not survived without having quite a bit of controversy surrounding her. While many gamers celebrate Lara’s braveness, intelligence, and skills, others argue that Lara has not broken as many barriers as some claim, and her popularity is due to her status as a sex symbol. Lara has not entirely shied away from her sex symbol reputation, and she has appeared in Playboy magazine. For some gamers, this side of Lara makes her a bad role model for young girls. However, for others, Lara’s sex symbol status is simply another element that makes her powerful.
While Lara inspires controversy for being too titillating, controversy surrounds Aloy for the opposite reason. In the lead-up to the release of Horizon Forbidden West, a lot of the discourse surrounding the game was focused on Aloy’s appearance. There were claims that Aloy had “gained weight,” and that her character design lacks femininity. Given the game’s setting, it is understandable that Aloy does not look like a supermodel, considering there’s not much make-up to be found in a post-apocalyptic world.
Interestingly, the common thread between both Aloy and Lara is that controversy surrounding them can be traced back to their character design. Whether female characters are depicted as flawless sex symbols, or whether they are given a more realistic look, it seems that their appearance is intensely scrutinized in ways that male characters do not deal with.
Two Women With a Global Reach
It is hard to overstate Tomb Raider‘s influence on pop culture and how much of a celebrity Lara has become. The video game series has spawned at least a dozen titles and has sold over 80 million copies. Her latest game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, was a big-budget affair that took Lara to the treacherous jungles of South America, and the game managed to sell over four million copies in its first year alone, illustrating that gamers love Lara just as much as they did when she first appeared decades ago.
Of course, Lara has not restricted herself to the world of video games, and she has managed to turn herself into a household name in part thanks to a successful line of movies where she has been played by superstar actresses like Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander. The big-screen series is not over yet, and the next entry will serve as the sequel to 2018’s Tomb Raider film.
Despite being around for a far shorter time than Lara, Aloy’s impact has also been staggering. Horizon Zero Dawn managed to sell over 20 million copies on PS4 and PC. Although Horizon Forbidden West has only been around for a few days, critical reception has been stellar, and it will likely be yet another commercial success for Guerrilla Games. In a few years, Aloy has become one of PlayStation’s most prominent characters, and the company has even commissioned a statue of the heroine in Italy. Although she has yet to make a film appearance, PlayStation’s increasing drive to bring its franchises to the movies feels like it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
In many ways, Aloy and Lara are very different. Lara is an English treasure hunter, while Aloy is a red-haired machine hunter from the future who makes use of bows and slingshots instead of guns. However, their impact on gaming has been similar, as both characters have proven that when designed cleverly, heroines can bring just as much fun and excitement as their male counterparts.
Horizon Forbidden West is available now on PS4 and PS5.
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About The Author
Smangaliso Simelane (148 Articles Published)
Smangaliso Simelane spends most of his time writing. When he isn’t working on his imaginary worlds, he is writing about video games.