5 reasons I’m delighted with Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The build up to this year’s E3 was a nervous one for Nintendo fans, with the company putting all their eggs in one basket by focusing almost entirely on the new Zelda.
Fortunately, the result was a huge success, with the game winning multiple Game of Show awards and winning over fans and critics alike. Nintendo has clearly taken influence from recent open-world adventure games like The Witcher and Dark Souls, and the results are spectacular.
My piece on what Skyward Sword got wrong is the most read article on this site, and to my relief The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild appears to address everything that let the previous entry down.
Here are the 5 reasons I’m excited for BotW:
Variety and Choice
Games in the series thus far have been very limited in terms of giving the player customisable options and variety. The Big Goron Sword was the only optional extra weapon in OoT for instance, and although SS allowed for some choice between types of shield, the player’s choice was still very limited.
It seems that in BotW Nintendo have gone completely the other way, with weapons scattered across the land, each deteriorating as you use them, forcing you to stay on the lookout for others and make best use of the environment.
The variety on show also expands beyond weapon choice, letting the player decide how to approach different situations. This is something previous entries have never really allowed for – now, different items can be set on fire, with wind direction affecting the flames; ingredients can be combined to make different foods that have different effects on Link (cooking food on an open flame will yield a different result to cooking on a pot over a flame), and chopping down trees and they fall differently depending on the direction you chopped them.
In previous entries, chopping down a tree would trigger a cut scene, with the tree falling in a pre-determined spot, allowing Link to cross a ravine in one way. BotW giving the player complete control over where a tree falls really typifies the variety Nintendo is applying to the game. And it’s a very welcome approach.
Size and world design
There have been various estimations of the size of BotW’s map ever since the first demo of the game was shown, but all agree that it’s the biggest world in a Zelda game yet.
Whilst size is important, for me the most encouraging aspect of the world of BotW isn’t its size, but its open, expansive and above all connected nature. A big problem in previous entries was the disconnected nature of the overworlds – not being able to traverse between areas in Skyward Sword made the world feel disconnected and more a series of levels rather than a living, breathing land, and Twilight Princess’ Hyrule suffered from a similar problem – with each area of Hyrule field divided up and connected by small passages, rather than being one great expanse.
Only the Wind Waker, with its seamless loading between islands, has really nailed the feeling of a world alive – and BotW appears to build on this feeling. Looking across the world with Death mountain in the background is a beautiful moment, and something too many of previous Zelda’s fail to capture.
One thing that really stood out from the demo was the use of silence in a lot of the game. No longer is there a booming Hyrule field theme tune wherever you go, but rather an eerie silence accompanies you during a lot of the wandering.
This really emphasises the fact that the Hyrule you are exploring has been in disarray for years – it’s a mysterious, ominous wild-west of a Hyrule, overgrown and with mystery and danger lurking around each corner. The bets Zelda games strike a balance between seriousness and light-heartedness, and I hope BotW features some ‘down-time’ areas like towns or villages, but the atmosphere of the demo was very effective in evoking a sense of grandeur and foreboding.
BotW achieves what Skyward Sword attempted to do but failed in the graphical department. It possesses an almost hand-painted aesthetic, somewhere between Wind Waker’s super-stylised cel-shading and Twilight Princess’ murky seriousness, taking the best of both styles.
It’s a wise move from Nintendo, as something Skyward Sword was able to do well was to render long distances in a stylized-way, which allowed it to compensate for lack of detail with a lovely soft impressionist blurring, which didn’t detract from the look of the game. BotW has a similar effect, and does it even better.
The major addition to the way Link controls (other than a jump button. A jump button!) is the climbing. Link can now climb anything and everything, and I’m very excited to see how this pans out in the final game and how Nintendo handle the fact that players can now effectively go anywhere.
A feature of previous Zeldas has been the fact that Link cannot go to specific places until he has a certain item or ability – e.g. he can’t move a rock or jump over a gate until he has a power glove or a horse to do so respectively. Now however, Link would be able to simply climb over those things. How will Nintendo keep the game interesting in terms of pacing and progression, now the player has this ability? I’m sure they’ll find a way, but it will be interesting to see how they manage it.