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Revisiting Breath of the Wild

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Yeah, I have my issues with it as well. I don't find it to be the "masterpiece" that everyone else says it is. The story isn't as good as previous entries, since it's mostly told through flashbacks. It was fine at first, but then I slowly came to the realization that there's nothing more. The dungeons are lackluster, and there are only four of them in the game. Majora's Mask had four dungeons as well, but at least they were more complex and had their own themes. Just like other open world games, BotW suffers from emptiness. Vast empty fields of grass are scattered throughout Hyrule. Also, the music was pretty disappointing. Every previous mainline Zelda game had plenty of memorable and epic themes, while the only ones in BotW that left an impression on me was the Hyrule Castle theme and Daruk's theme.

Despite my criticisms, I still think the game is fantastic. I spent well over 150 hours during my first playthrough. I just don't think it's the best in the series, or the best game ever made. I don't even think it's the best game on the Switch (I personally prefer Mario Odyssey). Though, it's certainly a breath of fresh air after Nintendo's reliance on the previous formula. I'm really looking forward to the sequel since it has so much potential to be better. I have no doubt it'll be a true masterpiece if it improves upon BotW's issues.



   

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AHYL88 said:
I've been reading through replies on this topic and I'd like to chime in; for those of you, how much of the distaste in Breath of the Wild is down to being so used to the same formula for almost 30 years? Is it (and I really don't like using this word) nostalgia fueling it? Is it the resistance to change? There's valid criticism for sure, but would you still be complaining if it was more of the same thing again?

It's kinda the awkward damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation.

Honestly, I don't find old formula to be that good either. Now, I love big dungeons with puzzle elements in them, they are staple of lot of old cRPGs, but while 3D Zeldas introduced similar concept and I really like them for that, they really lacked in exploration.

Unfortunatelly, Zelda with BotW went too far in opposite direction, with too much exploration (mostly meaningless due to awful reward system), instead of finding middle ground between exploration, narrative and dungeons.

Funnily enough, there's proven path to having balance of all 3, and that's semi-open world approach which allows for quite a bit of exploration while giving designers enough structure for more coherent narrative.



Ultravolt said:

Yeah, I have my issues with it as well. I don't find it to be the "masterpiece" that everyone else says it is. The story isn't as good as previous entries, since it's mostly told through flashbacks. It was fine at first, but then I slowly came to the realization that there's nothing more. The dungeons are lackluster, and there are only four of them in the game. Majora's Mask had four dungeons as well, but at least they were more complex and had their own themes. Just like other open world games, BotW suffers from emptiness. Vast empty fields of grass are scattered throughout Hyrule. Also, the music was pretty disappointing. Every previous mainline Zelda game had plenty of memorable and epic themes, while the only ones in BotW that left an impression on me was the Hyrule Castle theme and Daruk's theme.

I think you should appraise a game by its merits. It seems like you are judging the merits of Breath of the Wild by the expectations of what other types of Zelda games do. It's like appraising an apple by the norms of an orange.

1. When you consider story as only the sort of linear narrative that appears in other Zelda games, sure, there's not much there: but that is also true of other Zelda games, many adventures and RPGs have FAR more involved stories. But this is not the tactic Breath of the Wild uses. What it uses instead is emergent storytelling; the story that your character follows on his adventure is far more engrossing and in-depth than anything the Zelda series has ever done in the past.

2. You're assessing only locations that resemble the arbitrary definition of "dungeon" established by Ocarina of Time. Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, has opted to break up the dungeon-style gameplay across not only the Divine Beasts, but also 120+ Shrines and other locations (like Hyrule Castle, the Yiga Clan Hideout, and a number of ruins across Hyrule). This was done improve pacing, you're not going to find many people that could stomach 100+ hours of Shadow Temple, Water Temple, and Fire Temple style dungeons; Breath of the Wild's on the other hand, no problem!

3. You are saying that wide space equals empty. But this isn't really true, those fields exist because there's very specific applications to them and what Link can do on them (including hunting, battling enemies and guardians, uncovering treasure, foraging, acquiring new mounts, and other things that you would only really be able to do in a field), which I'll point out is a lot more than what Link can do in Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time (which is most of the overworld in that game); but on top of those fields are mountains, jungles, forests, dozens of towns, deserts, snowfields, canyons, etc... The world is vibrant and packed with tons of stuff to do, and quite well-paced, too; it seems that in most of the world you are never far from stumbling upon something interesting, it's a world very masterfully sculpted to that experience. Calling it empty is a huge shame.

4. As for music, I think what you are referring to is opting to go with ambient and natural sound effects while using music dynamically (like as a cue when approaching certain areas of interest or battles). From a design perspective, this makes a lot more sense than having a looping track (which can get very annoying). Most open-world games use ambient audio for this exact reason; in GTA games, for example, the music only kicks in when playing a radio inside a vehicle, or during certain cutscenes - this is largely due to the far longer play sessions and the fact that 150-250 hours of looping theme music gets annoying (see Xenoblade Chronicles X which opted for looping music instead of the ambience most open-world games use). But when considering the 244 tracks in the game I wholeheartedly disagree that it is any way bad, many of my favourite songs ever from Nintendo games are contained. Here's a few examples:

In my opinion, the Zelda franchise stagnated after the N64, it lacked the vast changes that characterized the series until Ocarina of Time. Things were always vastly different than what came before: Link's Awakening and Majora's Mask were the only two that felt in any way derivative. Breath of the Wild broke nearly 20 years of stagnation and did it in a big and beautiful way. The dream of Zelda in 3D was to stand atop a peak in the world, like Death Mountain, and look out over the vastness of Hyrule: While Ocarina of Time didn't live up to this expectation, what it did was still so good that it was hard not to be impressed. Breath of the Wild is the game that lived up to the dream.



I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.

Jumpin said:

I think you should appraise a game by its merits. It seems like you are judging the merits of Breath of the Wild by the expectations of what other types of Zelda games do. It's like appraising an apple by the norms of an orange.

I appreciate the response, and you've made some good points, but I think I need to reiterate. I'm comparing it to other Zelda games because BotW just so happens to be... a Zelda game. In that regard, I don't think i'm comparing apples to oranges. Sure, BotW's different in terms of gameplay and progression, but it still happens to share aspects that are staples of the franchise. There's nothing wrong with questioning if these aspects live up to the standards set by previous entries. In my opinion, there are many things that previous Zelda games do better. As an entry in a critically acclaimed franchise, it's going to be compared to previous games. At the end of the day, it's all subjective, and everyone will have a different opinion on what they consider a flaw.



   

Ultravolt said:
Jumpin said:

I think you should appraise a game by its merits. It seems like you are judging the merits of Breath of the Wild by the expectations of what other types of Zelda games do. It's like appraising an apple by the norms of an orange.

I appreciate the response, and you've made some good points, but I think I need to reiterate. I'm comparing it to other Zelda games because BotW just so happens to be... a Zelda game. In that regard, I don't think i'm comparing apples to oranges. Sure, BotW's different in terms of gameplay and progression, but it still happens to share aspects that are staples of the franchise. There's nothing wrong with questioning if these aspects live up to the standards set by previous entries. In my opinion, there are many things that previous Zelda games do better. As an entry in a critically acclaimed franchise, it's going to be compared to previous games. At the end of the day, it's all subjective, and everyone will have a different opinion on what they consider a flaw.

Apples and Oranges are both fruit, that doesn't mean they should be compared the same way. What you are presenting here is typically called the "No True Scotsman" fallacy; that is, you're not assessing Breath of the Wild for its own merits, but rather criticizing it for its differences from older Zelda games - even if by its own merits it is a far greater game.

To show why the No True Scotsman argument doesn't work:

Rather than holding Ocarina of Time as the standard, you can hold the original Legend of Zelda game as the standard, or the newest and most successful game in the franchise as the objective standard: so the older 3D Zelda games are found to be: plagued with lacklustre and rigid linear stories, too few dungeons that are all terribly paced dungeons filled with vague and monotonous puzzles, unimaginatively small and empty worlds with no purpose other than linking up towns and dungeons, and overplayed music tracks often lacking in originality and whose midi-quality fails utterly against the orchestral quality of BotW.

The fact that Ocarina of Time was done the way it was isn't because it was the ideal formula, but because the technology and resources to create Breath of the Wild was unattainable before Breath of the Wild, and certainly way back in the mid-1990s for Nintendo.



I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.

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Jumpin said:

Apples and Oranges are both fruit, that doesn't mean they should be compared the same way. What you are presenting here is typically called the "No True Scotsman" fallacy; that is, you're not assessing Breath of the Wild for its own merits, but rather criticizing it for its differences from older Zelda games - even if by its own merits it is a far greater game.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate BotW as its own thing, and for the innovations it brought to the series. However, whenever I come across a disappointing aspect, i'm reminded that it's been done better in the past. It's hard to shake that feeling when BotW happens to be a game in a long-running franchise, as opposed to a new IP. Is it true that many of the flaws I find in the game are shaped because of my experiences with previous Zelda games? Absolutely. But I don't think that should make my opinion wrong or invalid. Even if I judged the game purely by its merits, there are still noticeable flaws (voice acting, lack of diversity in shrine and dungeon aesthetics, disappointing bosses, no way to repair broken weapons/shields, etc). 

I'm not trying to put the game down, because it doesn't deserve it. I already said that BotW is a fantastic game. This is just one guy's opinion.