Horizon Forbidden West’s worst failure was omitting [SPOILER]

Horizon II: Forbidden West‘s failures are greatly outnumbered by its achievements, earning it ‘epic sequel’ status among many Horizon: Zero Dawn fans (including myself). Improvements and additions to game play are [by and large] positive and met with fan satisfaction. However, one story line – critical to both games – falls far too short by omitting what should probably have been a, rather literal, boss fight.

Whether you are familiar with Zero Dawn before playing Forbidden West does not affect one pivotal fact. Ted Faro, creator of the world ending Faro Plague, is the biggest antagonist of the Horizon franchise. Through data points and story quests in both games, Ted’s megalomania and wickedness become well-known. From extinction-causing oversights to premeditated murder, Ted is at the root of many errors that continue to alter history. Aloy, and the player, must right these errors and in doing so develop intense hatred for Ted along the way.

Ted Faro: the man we love to hate

Guerrilla’s writing team do an excellent job of depicting Ted in the worst possible light. His excessive wealth and unfathomable arrogance remind us too well of real world billionaire CEOs and politicians who lack empathy. Did you know there is an entire subReddit dedicated to hating on Ted? Players despise him and crave the gratification of beating him in big ways. Yet instead of giving players that fulfillment, Guerrilla chickens out when the perfect opportunity arrives in the Faro’s Tomb quest.

Aloy takes in the strangeness of Thebes, Ted's underground bunker. (Horizon Forbidden West)
Aloy takes in the strangeness of Thebes, Ted’s underground bunker. (Horizon Forbidden West)

Players who have completed the quest will already know Ted’s grotesque fate. Mutated by failed procedures meant to grant him immortality, Ted is still alive after more than 1000 years. Sort of. Kept alive through various technologies, he is nothing more than a huge amorphous growth and inhuman in all respects. Aloy briefly sees a vague holograph with “Ted’s” vitals and outline, but nothing more.

The only person to see his final form, though, is Ceo of the Quen. Disgusted by the sight of his revered Ancestor, Ceo orders “Ted” destroyed by fire. Thebes erupts into flame, taking Ceo and, we assume, “Ted” with it. While this grizzly fate is insult to injury for the once proud Ted Faro, it is insult of another kind to Horizon players.

A missed opportunity for closure

As mentioned earlier, Guerrilla crafted Ted in the image of many real world obstacles and people. Perhaps too well. Trump, Putin, climate change, weapons of mass destruction, greed, wrath… Ted Faro is every headache we currently face in one individual. These very real dilemmas are mostly ones we, as regular people, cannot control or even influence. We feel helpless in the face of them and seek outlets to feel empowered, even if it is artificial.

Video games often provide that outlet and Aloy’s combined heroism and ability are, without doubt, core reason for the franchise’s popularity. Aloy is able to take control and make change just as we, in the real world, so desperately want to do. In both games, we witness Aloy bring justice to those who do great wrongs. She makes people see what they have done and take responsibility, one way or another. Yet Guerrilla strips Aloy of that ability right when you want her to act on it most: finding Ted.

Aloy finds the door to Ted Faro's Thebes bunker. (Horizon Forbidden West)
Aloy finds the door to Ted Faro’s Thebes bunker. (Horizon Forbidden West)

By omitting a confrontation of any kind with Ted, players feel the familiar wash of frustration generated by real world helplessness. Feelings we are trying to escape from by playing empowering video games, no less. We are yet again unable to address those who hurt us and incapable of obtaining closure for all that was done to a world we love. Ted Faro dies, probably unaware of anything going on, not even knowing the full extent of his actions in the past. It is fitting that Ted dies in a powerless, despicable way. He gets what he deserves. But it would have been fitting – and appropriate – for us to get what we deserve, too: the final word to Ted himself.

All roads pointed to a confrontation

Guerrilla Games has stated that they omitted an encounter with Ted for two reasons. Firstly, Forbidden West “isn’t a horror game”, rendering Tumor-Ted too gruesome. Secondly, they felt that player’s imagination was stronger than any in-game depiction. While I can see where they’re coming from, it feels more like Guerrilla had to accept their own unfortunate fate. They had built up Ted’s story too far and were unable to give fans a truly satisfying ending.

My fellow Game of Thrones fans might liken Ted’s demise to that of Cersei Lannister. Instead of facing justice by those she wronged and allowing her victims closure, Cersei is crushed by stone. Held in the arms of the one who loves her most, Cersei dies in an almost kind manner. She loses her life, but never has to bear the weight of all she’s done. Like most of the final GOT season, it was a huge disappointment and met harsh critique.

Unsurprisingly, many Horizon players feel the same way I do about Ted. While the specifics of what a confrontation with Ted should look like vary, the fact remains a confrontation of some sort was in order. Many (me included) thought the story line was clearly leading to a physical battle. Most every other issue is solved through a fight in the Horizon games. So why should facing Ted Faro be any different?

Maybe all we needed to do was chat

Fighting Tumor-Ted isn’t the only viable option for a satisfying confrontation with the ultimate baddie of the franchise. Many players were assuming a moral choice might come up, like that between Yarra and Drakka. These choices were much more frequent in Zero Dawn, but are a popular storytelling mechanic in games in general. These are mostly dropped in Forbidden West in favour of battles: a somewhat ironic move given Aloy’s previously established morality.

Aloy must choose between two Tenakth leaders earlier in the game knowing that only one will survive. (Horizon Forbidden West)
Aloy must choose between two Tenakth leaders earlier in the game knowing that only one will survive. (Horizon Forbidden West)

I personally love the idea of a conversation with Tumor-Ted, stuck in suspension and suffering. He is able to communicate, his consciousness still intact. Aloy is able to confront him, question him, and tell him of his failures before a choice comes up. Many choices in the Horizon games offer three options: compassion (heart), strategy (brain), or aggression (fist). In this instance, a conversation with Tumor-Ted could allow the same. Aloy can be compassionate, ending Ted’s misery by “pulling the plug” at his request. She can also be strategic, offering Ceo and the Quen the final decision. Lastly, she can be aggressive and sentence Ted to eternal misery by leaving him as-is.

Players don’t need to see Tumor-Ted in full form, either. Flashes or reflections, similar to the vague hologram shown in-game, alongside a good voice over would be highly effective. The mystery and imagination of what is really happening to him can stay intact while avoiding gruesome imagery. What matters is getting to address him, regardless of the outcome.

Have we seen the last of Ted Faro?

Some players speculate another reason for omitting an encounter with Ted Faro is that something else is in the works. His death in the fires of Thebes is only assumed, meaning there is still room for a future appearance. Furthermore, many fans find it hard to believe Ted didn’t create a cloning protocol of his own like Elisabet Sobeck did for herself within GAIA.

Considering Ted made OMEGA clearance without even Elisabet knowing, who knows what else could happen? Ted may have engineered his own AI or other program to bring himself “back to life” in the form of a clone. This sounds far more likely than Tumor-Ted somehow surviving Thebes and Aloy is already proof that such technology can occur.

A new DLC, Burning Shores, is due out in April of 2023. But will it contain a face off with some form of Ted Faro? Considering the DLC is exclusively for PlayStation 5, I sure hope not. Denying many players who don’t own a PS5 the opportunity again would be pretty cruel. Perhaps a third Horizon installment will address Ted once and for all. But even if it does, it won’t remedy the disappointment felt by plenty of players during Forbidden West.

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