Who would have thought that it was the massive open world 3D zelda game that got you. How did that happen?
Who knew, right!
I had a cautiously optimistic feeling when people whose tastes tend to sync with mine started talking about how Breath of the Wild recalled original Zelda (versus I don’t think -nobody- whose tastes fall with mine said Resident Evil 7 was like Resident Evil 1). Everything after the first few 2D Zeldas ain’t may favorite, so that perked my ear up.
Turns out it’s a pretty good game. For my take on it: it systems are intuitive, discrete, and fun. There’s statistical variance, but it’s in a small enough band to be immediately apparent, no spreadsheets required. “Blue goblins are harder than red goblins” and “This spread does 13 damage and swings fast, this sword does 26 damage and swings slow,” versus “Level 47 Elite Goblin Crusher With Fire Resistance, Might Aura, Headshot Immunity” and “This spear is a Level 59 Spear of Striking with +20% mp regend on kill, +137 attack power, and +20% roll speed, this sword is a Level 59 Greater Broadsword of Maiming With +5 mp/second, +137 strength, +20% roll distance.”
It’s a game made out of discrete micro-experiences instead of bulk grinding: solving a tiny logic puzzle to get a korok seed with the knowledge that six more will get you another weapon slot (which is a big deal when you have like, eight weapon slots!) vs. killing enough Night Ogres that your “0/100 Night Ogres Killed” bar is filled and you now have the +10% Night Ogre Damage trait.
That being said, it needed just a touch more depth. For example: cooking is fun! The jingle is cute, all the little food icons are adorable, it is totally rad how there are recipe posters all over the world–in our usual fashion, we wrote down every one we saw in our little notebook. Any game that has me writing stuff down is an okay game by me!
…but none of the food does anything interesting!
Like why the hell am I going to go out of my way to cook Salmon Meuniere, where I have to sit there and remember what the ingredients are, when I could just throw anything with the world “Hearty” in front of it into a pot with anything else and get literally the same result. I like that there are a billion crafting ingredients because one of my primary weaknesses is nice menu icons&this got a ton of ‘em, but it’s a total letdown that it all amounts to nothing, because there are really only about six traits recipes can have (Attack Up, Fire Resist, etc) and the only difference otherwise is how many hearts they give back.
The dearth of permanent rewards–outside of armor sets–is a colossal bummer, and turns weapon durability into an annoying chore when otherwise it’s a perfectly fine system. Shrines are fun, I would do all the shrines for NO reward, but paradoxically that makes it all the more frustrating when you kick open a chest at the end and it’s like some “Knight’s Halberd” that’s half as strong as everything you’re carrying and even if it weren’t it’d break in two seconds, so who cares. I’m a Path of Least Resistance kind of game player, so the joy a rare ultra-strong chest weapon produces in me is completely lost in the brain suck of inventory management of all the other crap I had to shuffle around. This is also why I don’t like crafting systems pretty much ever: I’m not going to waste mental energy and time scrolling through menus to make a Sword +45 if it feels like my Sword +30 that I picked up a random barrel I broke will do the job until I find a Sword +50 in the next hour or two worth of barrels.
Zelda is not THAT, but it’s still kind of a mess, bequeathing you these anti-nega-prizes as like, some kinda taunt or something. In lack of actual, substantive rewards I would’ve rathered 90% of the weapon chests in shrines be replaced with cash or gems.
I can’t say exactly what these permanent rewards should’ve been, but it’s ridiculous that the best you can hope for at the end of any quest is money, and money is irrelevant almost immediately upon starting the game (especially if you don’t care about upgrading the few, mostly redundant, armor pieces that require precious gems). But I can’t believe we’re at the end of the game and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a way to upgrade the master sword, which even in its temporary buffed state is barely stronger than many of the random trash weapons you can get in two seconds from fighting any mini-boss. I guess it’s the strongest one-handed sword by a wide margin, but there’s a huge dearth of good one-handed weapons in that game and that super sucks, and that feels really super weird to me, coming from a series that popularized circle-strafing around a target with your shield out.
Even though Link to the Past is not my all-time fave (pieces of heaaaaartts 😦), one of my favorite things about that game is doing the sidequests to upgrade the master sword and watching the sprite change as it was tempered, and getting the little 1>2>3>4 numerals next it.
I guess you could count the faux pieces of heart (spirit peeps) you get from shrines as your permanent reward. Through the stamina (and the callback to Zelda 1 of needing X amount of hearts to get the master sword), I found upgrading my bars to be more interesting than any game SINCE Zelda 1. But that’s also a passive, expected reward from any Zelda game–basically: don’t you got anything new to show me? Really, I’m just saying: I shit a brick every time we opened a shrine chest and found a Climber’s Bandana. It would’ve been nice if the rest of the shrine chests were, like, the mild positive of more rupees (so we don’t have to more of our gems) versus the active negative of a pain-in-the-ass hit of inventory management where I waste thirty seconds throwing some random sword I was using, but might be almost broken, on the ground so I can pick up this NEW random sword I didn’t want in the first place out of this chest.
Considerably offended that you can’t board anything at stables but horses. Which is bullshit, and 50% because you can work up some p. good Ashitaka cosplay if you wanna. As a result, I have boycotted stables (but also because going out of your way to get a horse from the stables is just enough of a pain that I’d rather walk)
🎉You can ride a moose🎉
(ED NOTE: WAIT NO YOU CAN’T DUMMY, YOU WERE CONFUSED BECAUSE OF THAT TIME GRAZ *EXPLODED* A MOOSE RUNNING INTO IT WITH A HORSE)
(thats a bear tho)
I do wish there were more dungeons. Having gone to Hyrule Castle for the first time last night, I was impressed at how they made this giant building with a bunch of different sub-challenges in it (I like “final exam” video game levels) but I was also disappointed that there was nothing else like it in the game. The four other dungeons were okay, but I liked their themeing much more than the actual puzzle solving (outside of the map manipulation, to a certain extent). Entering Hyrule Castle and feeling like you’re in an open world WITHIN the open world– where you have a ton of intersecting paths and shortcuts to unlock, and about a million different entrance points (lift a dungeon portcullis with an ice block, sneaking mission by swimming in through the underground port, full frontal assault on the gate)–I’m not sure I can think of a comparison. Maybe how the castle successively unlocked in Devil May Cry?
But really, it’s like you’ve been dropped into someone’s living Dungeons and Dragons module, or how a fantasy novel or a manga present dungeon exploring, where everything seems impossibly expansive and dungeons are truly cavernous and intricate, and nothing at all like Dragon Age’s (or anything else) “go right for monsters, go left for treasure (and then go right because it’s the way forward).” In a way, it’s one of the main things I’ve craved from games in a long time–this ersatz D&D dungeon crawl experience that doesn’t require eight hours on a Sunday every month and someone to suffer being your DM.
What really tied the whole thing together for me (and seemingly everyone else, tbqh) was the traversal. My major complaint about open world games is how much of your time they waste on brainlessly parkouring through essentially featureless environments, it’s not really that much of a surprise that this Zelda worked for me, because you actually have to involve yourself in the getting around. Managing your stamina bar to go up mountains, wearing the right armor for the climate, all these things force you to consider what you’re about to do for five seconds before you actually do it. It’s not hard or brain taxing, but it does invest you in the process. “Okay it’s cold now, I should put on my winter gear” or “this mountain’s tall as hell, but there’s a ledge ¾ths of the way up I’m pretty sure I can take a break on” instead of Shadow of Mordor’s “hold the direction and a sprint button until you arrive at your destination” or Skyrim’s “I’m just going to shove myself against this hill and hope the physics engine doesn’t arbitrarily decide I’m not allowed to climb anymore.” It’s still an open game world game, which means you spend more of your time getting around than you do anything else; but what a surprise–getting around is actually a lot of the fun part???
It also just has a good art style. We probably generally understate/spend too little talk acknowledging how that works on you in ways that don’t factor into a score tally, or whatever. Aesthetic pleasure can be both substantive and difficult to quantify. For a long time I’ve been like “they should make an anime borderlands.” Because even if they left everything else about Borderland’s sorta-crappy mechanics the same, I crave that sort of co-op shooting experience enough that I’d be more willing to give it a shot if I didn’t feel like I was being constantly needled by its trash aesthetic and bad meme jokes. Well, they did that here with open world games. Instead of being dropped in some humdrum brown & gray world, things are actually super colorful and vivacious. That affects you almost on a subconscious level, makes trucking around the world less like a chore because it’s a pleasant world to truck around in.
Good game! I’m always happy to have my expectations defied! 😮👌😮👌😮👌😮👌