An Ode to Varl’s Beard in Horizon Forbidden West

Gone too soon.

Aloy does a lot of shooting robots with her bow and whacking people with her spear, but the greatest act of violence she has ever personally committed was against me, specifically, when she told Varl to shave his beard in Horizon Forbidden West’s opening hour.

When I started Horizon Forbidden West, I hadn’t thought much about most of the characters in Horizon Zero Dawn. I hadn’t felt any compulsion to go back to Guerilla Games’ open-world RPG after I finished it in 2017. (I’m happy to say I’ve enjoyed its sequel a great deal more.) As a result, it wasn’t totally surprising that I didn’t remember Varl despite him being pretty prominent in a game I saw through to the end. But my man made an immediate impression when he showed up at the beginning of Horizon Forbidden West to accompany me on my first mission as Aloy. Who was this rugged gentleman here to help me fight robots? What do you mean I met him in Horizon Zero Dawn? Surely I’d remember this scruffy, handsome specimen of a man from a game I’ve barely thought about since?

It wasn’t until Aloy mentioned Varl was sporting “a new look” that I realized why my mind wasn’t filled with thoughts of rubbing this man’s scruff. Varl was clean-shaven in Horizon Zero Dawn, thus his tush tickler wasn’t there to prickle at my heartstrings like in the sequel. And yet, Aloy wasn’t a fan. Varl mentioned he hadn’t had time to shave while chasing our hero down, leading to the new look. And when he said it wasn’t permanent, Aloy, the terrible influence she is, said “good.”

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An Ode to Varl's Beard in Horizon Forbidden West

At first, I figured this was just a gag referencing Varl’s new design. Beards are more in than ever, and making a shift in your character design to appeal to the girls and the gays? That seems like a sound move. A few jokes at his expense to solidify his friendship with Aloy before he is promptly thrown into the action and never actually gets around to shaving? All of that would have worked.

But then he showed up later with a clean-shaven babyface. And my heart broke all over again. It’s fine. It’s not like Horizon Forbidden West has anything that resembles romance. Varl’s a taken man, anyway. But damn, I was enjoying the view. Aloy, be an ally next time and encourage your friend’s new look — at least as a personal favor to me.