Some thoughts on: Breath of the Wild
April 11, 2017

I’ve had the thought for a while that many gamers, reviewers and journalists these days are frequently cynical, dismissal and seldom share any real surprise or joy in the gaming field unless they’re paid to specifically have such feelings - Barring that, they only have temporary joy in one product before the magic wears off and they’re back to being crabby. I’ll be the first and last to admit that I’m a beacon of constant negativity, but Breath of the Wild (BotW) has delivered something that I feel many gamers are in dire need of that the Legend of Zelda games have succeeded in delivering time and time again - An honest to goodness adventure. Not a campaign found in a shooter or an indie game that’s over in three hours and tries to hamfist a moral lesson down your throat, but a grand adventure that satiates wanderlust and the urge to explore - In every nook and cranny if you’re the completionist type.

My earliest memory of playing a game that felt like a grand adventure was with Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon on the Nintendo 64, which had been compared to Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time in terms of environments to traverse and puzzles to tackle respectively. It was also my first real experience of Japanese game design that could be wildly colorful and comedic - Nevermind that it was a telling of what was essentially Japanese Robin Hood, but also featured a battle with a mind-controlling robot on the back of a dragon, had you getting giant batteries for your robo-ninja companion, revealing ghosts using a feudal camera and, above all else, being able to summon a giant robot named Impact to battle other giant boss robots, complete with his own theme song that’d make any anime blush. The game was certainly ridiculous but to my young brain, this was the stuff of impossible imagination and sparked a kindling of interest that made me seek out the weird, different and just plain wonderful in gaming - Bonus points abound if there was a world to explore along with it.

This probably sounds like the portfolio to any fedora-wearing games journalist full of starry-eyes and pixie dust, but this ‘magic’ to older action/adventure games has been relatively lost in today's game design - This isn’t me slapping on nostalgia goggles and raising my nose in the air, but there’s been fewer cases these days about games that people can positively rant and rave about without looking like a lunatic or being accused of taking bribes. For everything bad I can say about BotW and criticism I can throw at it, there’s no escaping that a giant, massive adventure full of things to find and stuff to learn is before me - Same for everyone else who’s enjoying it as much as I am. Once you hop off of the starter area in BotW and hit the first region, all bets are off regarding hand holding or hallway-based tutorials; it’s you, a map to fill and dozens of directions to go. I’ve lost track from the number of times I’ve scaled a tall structure and looked across the vista before me, on one hand taking in the sight with splendour but on the other hand wondering how the hell I was going to finish this game before 2020.

You may ask why I haven’t felt the same about other open world games with so much to do, see and experience; Grand Theft Auto? Elder Scrolls? Fallout? I’ll be honest with you, I’ll credit this to a definite bias I had regarding those old games that were so whimsical and bright. Maybe I’d be singing a different tune if these experiences in my youth were credited to JRPGs like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to go on an adventure full of color, good ideas and just stuff to do for hours on end. Nintendo hasn’t reinvented the wheel with BotW by any stretch in terms of open world gaming, but first party Nintendo games have been proven forces to be reckoned with. So for them to tackle the genre, especially with the Legend of Zelda IP, was bound to be a massive success along with copious amounts of sales. For me, for something to be ‘genre defining’ is when a game takes all the good things about the genre and dumps the bad to the curb… BotW mostly gets it right. Maybe not genre defining, but it certainly has set a new bar for future open world games to come.

Despite the joy and praise the game has bestowed and received, I can’t help but feel like the title of ‘masterpiece’ is ill-placed. Campy voice-acting, consistent frame rate issues, hit detection with Stasis puzzles not wanting to play nice, stealth being ruined by enemies having too perfect of timing looking your way at the last second… For my money, a masterpiece must be flawless; by that metric, BotW is no masterpiece. We could sit here and argue to the point of exhaustion whether or not it deserves the slew of perfect scores awarded by reviewers, but the biggest thing to take away from BotW is how we’ve been needing a proper, fulfilling adventure for a mighty long time - At least, one that -I’ve- been needing for a mighty long time. Perhaps you’ve found your source of brain-tickling joy in other games or genres as of late, but I can say with good confidence that BotW brings that ‘magic’ back that I, and likely many others, have been looking for.

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honestgamer honestgamer - April 11, 2017 (12:32 PM)
I share your love for the game, and I am sufficiently immune to framerate issues that a phrase like "consistent frame rate issues" boggles my mind when I hear it applied to BotW. I guess if one believes that anything other than 60fps fits the definition, I can see the basis, but I honestly can't tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps. It makes not one iota of difference in how a game plays to me. And BotW dipped below 30fps in a way that impacted my gameplay approximately twice in 120 hours of play (and in those isolated cases, only very briefly). So it's just not a flaw that means a thing to me.

The voice acting didn't come across to me as remotely campy, either. I had no major issues with stasis puzzles. The stealth segments were very predictable, once I got used to them (and unlike frame rate dips, I am extremely sensitive to bad stealth segments), and there were only a couple of brief instances throughout a huge campaign where stealth was even necessary in the first place. So those other game critics who (like me) awarded the game the highest score on the scale--which doesn't mean "perfect" by any stretch of the imagination--were probably like me: unable to see as noteworthy flaws those things that other gamers were convinced made a dramatic difference.
Dinoracha Dinoracha - April 11, 2017 (12:40 PM)
Guessing my point about there being a greater calling for adventure games didn't matter then.
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - April 12, 2017 (12:37 AM)
Frame rate is more about gameplay than graphics, although a high and consistent frame rate does make for better presentation. 60 FPS is ideal if you want responsive controls, especially for parts of the game that require a split-second reaction or input. To say that BoTW doesn't have frame rate issues is highly disingenuous. I've literally seen the game freeze for a second so that the engine can figure out what's going to happen to the Moblin that I just sent flying, and this has happened multiple times over the course of my game. Hell, it has happened multiple times during the same battle. It doesn't make the game completely unplayable, but I can understand someone finding this annoying. It's also a step backward from a lot of recent Nintendo games that have had very stable high frame rates, including the much superior Link Between Worlds on 3DS.

Even if a 10/10 doesn't mean perfect, I don't think Breath of the Wild deserves one. I would describe it as either an over-stuffed Zelda or a watered-down Elder Scrolls. For the next Zelda, I hope Nintendo makes the map smaller and cuts down on filler. Real dungeons and Zelda items would also be nice. Now that they've cut their teeth on the open world format, I hope Nintendo can make a truly great Zelda in this style.
honestgamer honestgamer - April 12, 2017 (01:38 AM)
Joseph, the (literally) two times I had framerate issues, guess what I was fighting? Moblins, in an area with TONS of particles flying around me (the Eldin region). Unless you're going to spend all of your time fighting black moblins, which most people wouldn't have much reason to do, disruptive framerate issues are isolated. They exist, but aren't nearly common enough to warrant the label "consistent frame rate issues." That was my chief point. Also, I liked A Link Between Worlds a lot. I wouldn't consider it nearly as good as BotW, but it's the most fun I'd had with a Zelda game for the better part of 20 years, prior to BotW.

Dinoracha, your point of a greater calling for adventure games mattered and I agree with large parts of what you said. That's why I noted that I share your love for the game, which I could tell is genuine. But your post made lots of points, and I responded only to those for which I had a response besides "nice blog post" in that moment. If I responded to everything, I would have been rambling on for quite a few more paragraphs, and that wouldn't have been fair to your initial post. It sounds like in my attempt to be brief, I may have offended you. If that's the case, I'm sorry.
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - April 12, 2017 (02:32 AM)
Maybe I do want to spend all my time fighting Moblins? It's an open world game! What I pointed out was the worst of the frame rate issues, and it's just common enough to make it a gripe for most people. There are other points in the game where the frame rate dips, though not to the level of freezing it. The problem is consistent enough that it's addressed by Nintendo through patches.

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