Let’s be critical of games okay. Lets talk honestly about how we feel about them. We criticize game sites like IGN, Gamespot or even Destructoid on being too lenient on games. Where just because it is made by a big developer doesn’t make it a 9 out of 10. Look at half of the comments on a Call of Duty title in the last 5 years, its a pretty dim and dark message board. We say they are corrupt and that it’s wrong that anyone would give CoD a great score, but have we ever stopped to think that maybe we do the same thing to other companies?
Sure we love our sequels and whenever one comes out we are typically ecstatic and willing to give it all of our love. At the same time though we are willing to tear them apart. Look at games like Watch_Dogs 2, Dishonored 2 or even Halo Wars 2, we don’t really praise them as gamers, even though critically they do amazing. So what happens when we look at Nintendo? For the most part Nintendo seems to be immune to criticism from gamers. Every new Yoshi game is reviewed like this “Well it’s pretty kiddy, but it’s still Yoshi so that makes it awesome!” or how about Fire Emblem “Well it’s more Fire Emblem! WHICH IS AWESOME!”
Pretty ridiculous right? Especially considering that these are things that other companies in the business would get chastised for. What about innovation in their games? Nintendo is almost always the last ones to ever jump on any modern day bandwagon, but when they do oh boy do we praise them. Remember Splatoon, OH MY GOODNESS BEST MULTIPLAYER EVER!!!! Right…..no…not really. It’s okay. So why do we do this for Nintendo, is our nostalgia hard-on that big that we have to praise them for finally updating to the 21st century. What about the fact that we still don’t have a real online infrastructure Nintendo!?!?!?
(Nintendo really needs to enter the 21st century guys, lets be honest)
So what is this whole thing about, it’s about how Nintendo’s Breath of The Wild is not a perfect 10. It’s a good game to be sure, in fact I think it is almost a great game, but it’s not a perfect 10. I think that we need to sit down and have a real conversation about why Zelda isn’t a perfect 10, and then why some people think it is. So sit down and get your glass ready and fingers ready to give me all the negative comments, as I give you my first ever unpopular opinion.
Part 1- The Story
Now I would never try to sell you on the idea that the Zelda series is a great story. In fact it’s a pretty atypical story. Guy finds out he is the one who can save the world, finds a magical item to help him, some heroine comes along that he has to save, bad guy comes along, you find items to kill said bad guy, and then boom climax something happens. End of the game. It’s not a complex story arc, and in fact it’s almost as old as time in books. Here’s the thing though, Zelda has always sold this idea through its world. Every Zelda game follows a very similar concept, but the world helps bring it more to life. Skyward sword, lets fly on these awesome flying birds in the sky and swing our sword. Twilight Princess, YOUR A DOG, LINK!
Every game has brought something unique to the world and story of Zelda. How about breath of the wild? I don’t know. I mean I guess the open world and flyer are unique, but does it really sell or say Zelda? Sure it looks a little like hyrule and yes it is pretty and there are sights from the world of Zelda. Can we really argue that this is any better than previous entries though? Not really. Link this time around just feels boring in the story. I never felt like the hero of time. In fact most of the problems are because I’m not collecting things to prevent something. I’m activating giant machines to stop a bad guy….It’s not all that exciting.
This brings the story down by a long shot because I no longer care. In fact you could almost say this is on purpose because you are supposed to explore the world, which is another problem I have. There are more supporting characters and they are better developed, but I never attached to them the way I did Darunia or even Navi. These characters aren’t weak. They just don’t have the same characterization from previous entries. This open world also kills it because of a lack of purpose. In Ocarina of Time I knew what I was doing at every moment, In breath of the wild I constantly forget and then I’m foraging for a mushroom to upgrade my shirt…. It’s addictive, but it comes at a loss for story.
(Insert epic music here)
Part 2-The Gameplay
Gameplay has always been king in a Zelda game and let’s be honest, it’s not the sword play, it’s the puzzles. Oh good lord how I love a good Zelda puzzle. Most games try to emulate what a Zelda puzzle is like. Look at games like Darksiders or even God of War. Those games want so badly to do what they can do, but they don’t quite reach it. So my question is…why did we drop this idea? Now I know that this game has more puzzles than you can count, but answer me this, what puzzle stood out to you? There are a few good shrines in the game, I’ll admit. However there are a ton more short 4 minutes shrines that literally don’t challenge you and just feel boring and like they are filler.
In fact most of the gameplay feels like filler content. The big world, well it’s just to make it take longer to get from point A to point B. Sure there are things hidden along the way. Then you have to climb up the side of a cliff for 2 minutes while waiting for a stamina bar to fill up again. Does that sound like fun? Not really right? Sure you can say I am misrepresenting it, but be honest, how many stupid sides of cliffs have you climbed in the game, just to climb another cliff? The biggest slap in the face here is the lack of dungeons, now I know that the Divine beasts are supposed to take the place of that, but do they really get close?
No….Not at all. In fact these are mini-dungeons at best. They are short, interesting at times, but have very little purpose in them. Dungeons before were supposed to hide something that the players wanted, alongside the idea that you are progressing the story. This works and it makes players want to get more invested in the dungeon. These dungeons are just boring. They look cool and the concept is interesting, but I never wanted to explore because of a whole gameplay mechanic that lets be honest just doesn’t work.
(All Beasts are dull brown’s and aren’t as interesting as past dungeons in the series)
That mechanic is the weapon durability. Now first think of a game with weapon durability, here are some examples, Fallout, Dark Souls or even Minecraft. Do any of them do it right, well maybe fallout, but for the most part is just simply a meter that you are watching until your weapon or item disappears into nothingness. Now as a concept it sounds cool, as it is actually used it never really works. In Breath of the Wild, it is the crux of the entire game. You no longer are limited to just the master sword, and in fact you don’t even find it super early in the game, great!
The problem. Your weapons break after fighting just 2-3 enemies and as a result it discourages combat. Wait….discourages combat? Yes it does completely. You find a cool sword and you want to use it, but then you realize that if you do you are going to lose it and then be stuck with a bunch of crappy weapons. Is that a fun game idea? Here’s a camp of enemies, clear them out and we will give you a chest…Okay you clear them out, break 1 or two weapons in the process. The enemies drop a few weapons, usually much worse than what you currently have. The chest pops up. HERE IS 100 RUPEES!
Why? Why is that a thing? If it was at least an item worth the time then maybe I would be encouraged to get in combat. I stopped fighting all together at a certain point unless I literally had to fight them because I couldn’t progress because of where they were. This makes combat a complete bore and absolutely unnecessary. For the most part the other gameplay is okay though. Exploring is fun at times and discovering everything can be an absolute blast. The problems I pointed out though are problems and ones that need to be discussed for future iterations if this is the way Nintendo want’s Zelda to go.
(Cool Stuff, would be too bad if someone came by and….broke it)
Part 3- The Zelda Formula
Now I know that this is going to seem like I’m just taking a big ol’ dump on Breath of the Wild, and honestly, I’m not. I just want you to see why maybe this isn’t the perfect game that most are making it out to be. In fact one of my biggest issues is just how many of the Zelda Tropes have really been dropped out of existence. Take for example the characterization of the world. The Hyrule in this game could really be any place. Nothing in it really screams this is Zelda. The Zora domain is probably the closest area to making it feel like a Zelda game, but I still find it a bit lacking.
In fact one of the biggest changes here is the move to a more serious style of game. Sure there are still goofy things going on in the world, like the Korok’s or even some of the enemies. The problem here is that the mood has severely changed though. Zelda games in the past were willing to embrace the goofy aspect of being a game. Twilight princess you can Sumo Wrestle giant blue ox (oxen? I dunno) or even a goron while link wears a ridiculous outfit and even cheats to win. You can wear a masks in Majora’s mask that allow you to blow yourself up, dance or even attract faries to yourself. Each game knows that it’s goofy.
This is further pushed by the characters and the way that they interact with each other. Darunia tries to hug link, link runs, we all laugh. Princess Ruto tries to marry link, Dog link grunts when Midna rides him, every little part of the game has some humor or character brought to life in it. Breath of the Wild has none of that. Most characters will say something goofy, but link stays stalwart and kind of a blank slate. It’s boring and non-inventive. Give me my….link from the past (eh?!)
(Probably the best character in Breath of the Wild, by far)
Now lets talk about some things that are missing though. Dungeons obviously. Why are they so important though? Honestly starting with a Link to the Past we really see why dungeons become a staple of the series. First the items contained within. Every dungeon had the promise of some unique item to use, whether it be a hookshot, a cane that shoots out red blocks or even a magical item that would cause the earth to shake. Every dungeon held the mystique that something wonderful was going to be contained within. This meant that as a player you wanted to discover and explore until you found that item, and usually the boss fight involved that item so it meant you could see the different ways that the item could be used.
Breath of the Wild has unique items in the Shekiah slate, but they don’t even get close to making up for the lack of real “items” in the game. I felt bored by them, sure stasis and bombs are cool ideas, but they don’t even start to compare to something like the mirror shield or even a bunny hood. Think about it and you will realize that you miss that level of real level design. The world being open is great, but it comes at the expense of innovative puzzles, levels and really just a better designed game.
One other missing key game design element from past Zelda games is also the Soundtrack. Zelda music is iconic. Looking at screenshots of certain places from past entries gets people nostalgic for the sounds and music of those areas. Think of the Goron area in Ocarina of Time, it’s a classic right? Think of the Goron are in Breath of the Wild….can’t remember can you? It’s not iconic at all. In fact most of the game is silent winds and bugs which is great for an atmospheric game, not so great for an adventure game that wants me to explore every nook and cranny.
(Can still hear the intro music to Hyrule field, can’t you?)
Look, I feel like I’m attacking a game that is pretty good. I just think that we are giving Nintendo too big a wide berth with this game. Sure it’s the first Zelda title since Skyward Sword, I get it. We are all excited and happy with the game. Why don’t we be realistic though and realize that maybe it’s not the best game of all time, or even the best Zelda game of all time. My personal favorite will always be Majora’s mask, which I will talk about eventually on this blog. Until then though remember this is just my opinion, I don’t think this is a bad game, I just don’t think it’s perfect. It has its fair share of problems and I think we should be willing to ask Nintendo why all the changes and that maybe we want some of the old Zelda back as well.
Regardless here is the first ever, unpopular opinion….