I'm about 15 hours into BotW, and as a long time Zelda fan I've been getting a lot of excited "so what do you think?!" questions about how I feel about the game. While I still have plenty of game left to play, at the moment I give it a resounding...
Yeah it's not really doing it for me. Before you grab the pitchforks, let me explain myself:
The game is gorgeous, and it has some really cool things going for it. I like the idea that by the time you complete the first area (which is required by virtue of the geography), you can technically go straight to the end game. Do I think that's a good idea? Hell no, and the game does a good job of making it clear that while it's a possibility it certainly isn't smart. But you can do it, and I think that open-endedness of "you can finish this whenever you feel like you're ready" gives a neat, much-needed element of real control to the player. Not only has the linearity of the Zelda formula been stripped away, but so has the strict requirement of what you need to accomplish in order to finish the game. It can be as "finished" as you want it to be, and that is a breath of fresh air.
One of my favorite things about Zelda games used to be the puzzle elements. In more recent titles the puzzles have been less puzzley and more unnecessary busy work just for the sake of having it. The shrine system (and the two "dungeons" I've completed) utilize logic and problem solving in a way that feels genuine for the first time in a long time. They are legitimate puzzles that require real thought, problem solving, and (in my experience so far) don't have a "wrong" way to complete them. For example, the Myahm Agana shrine? I got frustrated trying to solve it the "right" way and figured out that you can actually completely flip the platform over and complete the maze unobstructed.
I liked the addition of crafting and item durability in Skyward Sword, so I was glad to see that carry over and taken to a new level. In SS it was a bit of a novelty, whereas now they are actually a key component to the game and a major part of strategy. I do wish there was either some sort of recipe log that filled in as you made things or cookbooks you could buy. I've accidentally made epic things that I'd love to recreate, and I've made things I'd like to never waste ingredients on again. I could start my own written log, but considering the number of combinations and how long it takes to craft something (it's not really that long, but when you're doing a bunch of things it isn't insignificant) that just isn't realistic. Still, the fact that I can collect materials to create custom buffs for myself is fantastic.
There is a lot of silence in the game, but when there is music it reminds you that one of the most iconic bits of Zelda games is the soundtrack to which it is laid. I love the way that music has been utilized in the game, and while I'm sad I don't get to hear it more often I can appreciate what the silence does to the experience.
You know what else adds to the experience? The environment. For the first time in Zelda you really have an interactive environment. Temperatures, weather, wildlife, all of these are great elements to have included and bring a more immersive feel to the game.
Here's something I never thought I'd say about Zelda: the world is too massive. Yes it's impressive and pretty and honestly probably more realistic in terms of believing this could actually exist somewhere, but without a quicker means to travel it takes way too long to get from region to region initially. Yes there are horses, but you can't call one to you wherever you are like you could in the past and wild horses don't exist in all areas. This relegates you to long, slow bouts of travel to get from point A to point B. Again, this is more realistic, but it's so god damn slow and the scenery is only so beautiful. It is nice that there are so many quick travel points that you can activate, but you still have to get there first.
God forbid you find something and then have a need to return to it later. Gone are the days of "hey I remember there was a dude that was by a tree in that one region let's go that general direction until I find him." Good fucking luck with that. If it didn't occur to you to use one of those stamps on your map at the time and it's not a current direct objective, I'm pretty sure you're going to have to leave finding it to your grandchildren unless you Google it. Need to find something new? HAHAHA yeah that will likely not happen on purpose. Those memories you're supposed to track down with no direction as to what, well, direction to head? What the hell. Some of them do have a landmark so you can at least identify a rough area, but many of them don't and you just have to cross your fingers you stumble that direction.
My other issue with the size of the world is that the game hinges on exploration and discovery of small details (*cough*Korok seeds*cough*) and it is simply too large to realistically be able to do it. Yes it's possible, but you shouldn't have to spend hours upon hours doing nothing but canvassing the world in order to find all of its secrets without looking up a guide.
Short version? In the normal course of completing the game you should discover at least half of what the world has to offer. The size of the world, especially compared to the sparse number of main quest objectives, is too massive. Even with a "reasonable" amount of exploration you barely scratch the surface (example: a friend has reported they are 100+ shrines and 100+ Korok seeds in, having completed the main quest line and progress shows as only 28% complete).
Like SS, while it can be annoying to have your equipment break I agree it is a good feature that forces the player to really consider the risks and rewards of a battle and to choose weaponry with purpose. Knowing your equipment is going to break and knowing there are places you don't want to take certain items (metal in electricity-filled areas, wooden items in fiery places, etc), it's a tragedy that there isn't a storage solution for your extra items. Even the SS system of having to check your items with someone at a set location would be preferable over nothing.
On that same note, the frequency at which weapons break is RIDICULOUS. Yes there are weapons everywhere, but there aren't good weapons everywhere and there's the rub. You can know exactly what you need to be effective against an enemy but if yours broke and you haven't found a new one, tough cookies. Trying to complete a challenge or a boss fight that needs a bow? Better hope you've got some fresh ones with you, because you're incredibly unlikely to be able to pick up a new one in the middle of the task and if you break them all you're going to be in a bind.
Do you know how many times I've accidentally jumped to my death because I was trying to, say, stand on an edge I wanted to climb down and instead I JUMP CLEAR OFF THE EDGE and either end up somewhere I can't climb out of or catch the attention of a large enemy encampment? Enough that I don't even feel bad about that ridiculously long sentence.
The horses. The horses. At first I was like "yeah this is so cool that you can just catch a horse in the wild and make it yours!" And then I was on a freshly caught one when I accidentally encountered a Guardian and he refused to run away from the bastard. So we both exploded and caught on fire. Cool element, terrible damn execution. At the very least give the horses some kind of sense of self-preservation so when an ancient technology is firing lasers at you it doesn't insist on running towards it.
Another cool idea gone wrong: whistling to get the horse/other characters' attention and have them come towards you. The AI that governs entities' response to this stimulus is so dumb I wouldn't trust it to babysit a rock. No, you aren't stuck. You're not too far away I can literally almost touch you. Why did you stop following me? DON'T RUN OFF THE CLIFF.
I'm not saying it's a bad game. On the contrary I would agree it's a good game, but I'm going to stop at good for the time being. I would argue against anyone who claims this is the best Zelda title. It has some great elements to it, but they're greatly overshadowed by fundamental issues. I am hoping that through continued play the good will start to outweigh the bad, but for now I'm just hoping I can get through it and feel like it was worth the 5 year wait.
Breath of the Wild is coming out soon and OH MY GOD I cannot wait. I love me some Zelda, and I have been waiting for a new console title for a while. Skyward Sword was great and all (yeah that’s right I said it was great, fight me bro) but we pretty much skipped an entire system generation for a new console release. The handheld titles haven’t been doing it for me for years (a soapbox for another time). I have been waiting for this title for way too long and the fact that the release date is so close is magical.
I’ve been nervous because what we’ve seen so far makes it look like Nintendo realized they were losing touch with the core gaming audience and they all sat in a meeting and went “how do I reach these kids?” and someone said “well those Dark Souls and Skyrim games have been pretty popular, maybe we should so something like that?” and everyone went “holy shit that’s brilliant.” The map for Breath of the Wild is MASSIVE. It breaks from the Zelda formula by being open world and not following a linear path, and it takes a cue from Dark Souls in that you can finish the game while still missing a large chunk of the story. Maybe I’m a little crazy, but I’m pretty sure story is the driving force in, like, the entire Zelda universe, and you’re telling me I could finish this game without actually seeing most of it? That’s like watching the Lord of the Rings series, but skipping The Two Towers.
Alright, that’s not the end of the world. I’m wary of changing up what we’ve come to expect from console Zelda titles, but change isn’t always a bad thing. After the lukewarm reception to Skyward Sword, they need to jazz things up a bit and it will be neat to go into a world that is familiar but not for a change.
Then the announcement about the DLC came out.
Some people are excited about it and are all “woohoo Nintendo is finally getting on the DLC train that the rest of the triple A game creators have been riding for fucking ever” and, you know, DLC itself isn’t bad UNLESS the DLC is straight up “hey you know that thing we’ve been including in games since 2 thousand fucking 2 when Wind Waker came out? Yeah it’s not in this game unless you pay an extra 20 bucks.”
Fuck. That. Noise.
Some form of the Cave of Trials has become such a staple of Zelda games that they added one to Ocarina of Time when they did its rerelease. This is no longer an extra. This is an expected feature of the game. In some cases it has even been required in order to finish the game. Hard mode? You mean literally the thing that unlocks in nearly every Zelda game like a new game plus mode? What the shit Nintendo.
I have zero problem with the second DLC pack. No issues at all. I’m not sure how it’s going to work considering how a Zelda game is typically constructed, but it's not my job to figure that out. If you tell me that later this year I’m going to have more Zelda to play, hell yes I’m going to be excited for it. My problem with the first pack is that we’re not getting more Zelda. We’re getting less Zelda up front so they can make us pay for it later and then act like they’re doing us a favor.
If it were up to me, I'd give the first DLC a giant middle finger and skip it entirely, but you can't do that. No, it's all or nothing. Because fuck us, right? You can either pay $20 to get both packs, or nothing at all. Perhaps because they know the first one is bullshit? Now I"m faced with a dilemma, because honestly I want what's in the first one because it should be in the god damn game already, but on principle I don't want to pay for it. I want the second pack, which I am totally okay paying for, but I don't think it on its own is worth $20. This is probably going to be a lot like buying tampons; I don't want to do it, but I'm gonna do it anyway because I know life is just going to be easier if I do.
It has been a crazy couple of weeks since arriving in Austin, and today it took another step into ridiculous. I've been working as a production assistant on the second season of a web series called Day 5 since getting into town, and today is our first day of filming!
While I've worked with some of these people before in other capacities, this is my first time actually being on a production crew. it's been crazy, but I love the team I'm on and I've been learning a lot about this new world. It's definitely a very different experience than anything else I've worked on!
Seeing the last few weeks of prep lead to actual shooting today has been cool, and I can't wait to see the next several weeks all come together. As someone who likes to see how things work, this has been a fascinating adventure so far.
More proof I never want to move to Alaska. Or New York City. Actually I'm just going to never leave my bed.