My Favorite Video Game Villain

“I’ve spent a lifetime trying to uncover the secrets of this world. Where the machines came from. How the Old Ones achieved such marvels, only to fall into silence and death. A lifetime of failure, as year, by year, decade by decade, I hit walls I could never break, doors I could never breach. Until a Nora huntress marched out of the Savage East and…voila! For her, all the deepest secrets of the earth were laid bare.”

“For years I tried to get through this hatch. I drilled, I burned, I blasted. But we both know that you won’t have any trouble getting through…it never occurred to me that the way through would not be with force, but with a key. A key in human form. The failure of imagination was mine, not yours.” 

Horizon Zero Dawn concludes with a cliffhanger, its ambiguity unsettling. Hades’ essence escapes from its husk and flies off into the sky. Sylens is its destination, and he welcomes the  AI, entrapping it with a lantern-like apparatus. Despite this being an ending cutscene, there is much to process. Remember: Sylens reveals to Aloy that it is he who rallies the fractured Shadow Carja under a new banner, the Eclipse, the bane of her existence, per HADES’ bidding. In exchange, HADES would bestow upon Sylens the post-apocalyptic equivalent of epistemological omniscience.

This means that Sylens is culpable for the following atrocities: the slaughter of Nora braves during their Proving; Helis murdering Aloy’s foster father, Rost; the bounty HADES places on Aloy’s head; widesrpead acts of violence and terrorism the Eclipse inflicts up the general population.

Sylens: “That’s your reaction to everything you just learned? To whine like a spoiled child?”
Aloy: “You should really try talking that way to me, face to face!”
S: “As you wish…I expected more of you.”

HADES would teach Sylens lost subjects like physics and calculus, which he would use to facilitate Hades’ prime directive to destroy all life on earth. Its ulterior motive was unbeknownst to Sylens who unwittingly helped it. HADES withheld the humanities-driven topics from Sylens—history, sociology, political science—that would have betrayed HADES’ plans. Only after Aloy reassembles her Alpha Registry to unlock ELEUTHIA-9 at Mother’s Cradle do we learn about Ted Faro purging APOLLO, which would have brought humanity’s descendants up to speed.

 

Despite HADES’ attempt on Sylen’s life after the Eclipse had gained enough power such that he was no longer useful to the entity, and the fact that he had enabled it to ruin Aloy’s life, Sylens says to her face that he would do it all over again. Only self-preservation drives him to thwart HADES since the AI will not discriminate in its programming as it tries to undo all that GAIA had cultivated, by reawakening the Faro Swarm.

Consistent with his character, acquiring knowledge motivates Sylens above all things. I can appreciate, if not empathize with his character. Ironically, he is a character who lacks empathy, as seen in the scene where Aloy pleads with him to stop calculating and to feel. Whenever I am asked “If you could have a mutant power, what would it be,” I always choose Professor X’s, because I want to know everything. Similarly, Sylens wants to know everything.

Aloy: (seething) “I’m past trusting you with secrets!”

Sylens: “Good. That means you’re wising up. Trust is for fools. It shifts and crumbles like sand– a poor foundation for any partnership. But mutual self-interest—now that is a solid bedrock, upon which you and I might build a new science of understanding.”

I even envy the way that Sylens condescends towards Aloy, scolding her for her whining, using sarcasm as a rebuttal to her negativity. He reminds me of a younger version of myself, how I once was in my know-it-all 20’s. He is how I wish I could be in the present, yet still have a successful career, a happy marriage, and kids who do not hate me. However, none of these characteristics align with the teachings of Jesus Christ, either. In reality, Sylen’s antipathy toward anything but knowledge makes him more nefarious than the Eclipse, who are inspired by faith, or HADES, which simply follows its programming.

“How tragic to learn you are a person of towering importance! It seems that you have a destiny to fulfill, so when you’re done feeling sorry for yourself, go to the Bitter Climb. I’ll be waiting above, in GAIA Prime’s ruins.”

For those reasons, Horizon Forbidden West is a hotly-anticipated game. I would like to know why Sylens is interested in the signal that activated HADES, and what he plans to do after he learns.

“While her people bickered, she was the one who took responsibility. The one who could.”

“She was better than them.”

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