Forums - Nintendo Discussion - Breath of the Wild is a great game, but a not-so-great Zelda experience (Mild spoilers)

I've just recently completed Breath of the Wild. With apparently 31:31 total hours (according to the WiiU's daily log, but not sure how much reliable this is), I managed to complete the game with around 60 shrines being done, 35 korok seeds, some sidequests and all the main story sequences done, which include the four divine beasts and every memory log. I saw the credits roll in satisfaction (even if the ending - with the True Ending being unlocked - was kinda meh), and I can safely say this is one of the best games I've played this year.

That being said, there's one issue - one that stands above several of the game's annoyances here and there -, one I couldn't shake by the time I was done with a second Divine Beast. Despite the game being a great experience altogether, it didn't exactly feel...The Legend of Zelda. Taking risks is a bold move. Being experimental, especially with such a longstanding franchise, is something I can truly commend developers for. Breath of the Wild certainly is bold, especially when compared to its predecessors, and it definitively breaks away from many of the franchises' conventions. At the same time, I can only feel I wish some of that predecessor's spirits were here.

To properly explain what I mean, there's several factors here that I wish to bring up:

· Dungeons and bosses. Probably my number one issue with this. The Legend of Zelda, as a franchise, certainly features a myriad of forgettable dungeons and bosses, but it can be said that most of them are rather unique, especially within each individual entry. I can vividly picture King Dodongo, even after so many years. If I were to inquire about a dungeon that you access through a water well, and you require a specific gizmo to see through fake walls, anyone who has played through it would know what I'm talking about.

How many of the main dungeons in Breath of the Wild can be defined as "approach them with a sidekick while you hurt the dungeon's vulnerabilities with arrows, sneak inside to get a map that allows dungeon-manipulation, reactivate 5 servers then interact with the core to fight a boss"? Surprisingly enough, 3/5 of Breath of the Wild's fit that very specific definition; and one of them merely misses it because instead of using arrows you use a goron. Dungeons in Breath of the Wild are repetitive, monotonous and hardly memorable aside from the in-built gimmick. I'd be hard pressed to remember the shape of any of the bosses, and while I get the design and the reason for the similarities, it works in detriment of it. Also the bosses themselves, aside from...two I think? can be easily beaten by merely spamming swords/arrows, without the need to actually use tools. This is a noticeable contrast on how bosses in the franchise generally work.

Hyrule Castle had a chance to be special too, but it just became a meaningless task of climbing and avoiding celestial weapons. It at least hides awesome weaponry if you choose to invest time exploring it, and it breaks the pace up a bit, but it's still kinda weak in comparison to many other dungeons in the franchise.

· Shrines. An extention of what I said previously. I guess in context, it's tradition in Zelda to gather four pieces of heart container to obtain a heart itself. But these felt like padding at times. They offered absolutely zero challenge, and those who did were cut short when things started getting fun. They're a repetitive affair over and over and the dungeon's layout is always the same, almost with the same flavour text and the same ending every single time, just with different challenges ahead. Would have hurt, at least, to reduce them 3/4 in amount, then offer bigger and more substantial shrines that reward you with a heart/stamina container at the end? Padding certainly isn't out of the question with the franchise (let's not forget Tingle ripping us off in Wind Waker and sailing to find all those triforce fragments), but I just felt that the game sometimes dragged way too much into investing time looking for these - and you absolutely need these if you want a chance.

· Optional story. This is a deliberate choice from the game, and it's a quite interesting one. You can basically beat the game neglecting almost the entirety of the story sans the opening part. And while it's great that the game does allow you to explore the story, the fact that you have to view it through flashbacks or repetitive, unsubstantial conversations with the townsfolk's leaders shows quite a detachment from it. I could hardly empathize with Zelda when I had to go and hunt for information about her, and instead of meaningful things I get sequences like her playing with a frog. I can't connect with any of the heroes when they all four keep saying the same information to me in a very repetitive fashion. Even Revali, who treats Link with contempt, goes through the cookie-cutter lines that all the other heroes do. Learning about the history through Nyel's songs or reading books without at least letting me breathe through that time was something that didn't sit all that well with me. It's a shame because you repeatedly interact with a key story character in the prologue of the game and he fills you in with past information as well as giving you insight in real time, and that's kinda what I missed from all the other places. There's a damn great moment, and that's when you retrieve the Master Sword - you not only get a flashback of why it was there in the first place, but you also get a character explaining you the importance of it now and the tribulations of trying to remove it from the pedestal, plus Zelda actually talks to you when you do so. This is a unique moment that, despite being optional, gives you a great story segment. But it's something the game barely pulls again.

· Lack of use for your tools. Not to be confused with "you shouldn't use your tools", as creative strategical use of your Sheikah stone tools on your own can lead to funny/interesting results. It's more like dungeons/shrines barely ever made clever use of these, and some puzzles were copy/pasted across several dungeon/shrines, making the classic "aha!" moment much less meaningful. On the bright side, Divine Beasts themselves also added the "manipulate the dungeon" gimmick, which gives an extra layer, but still...I never got the same feeling of clever tool usage than in other Zelda games. I wanna add here that "small keys" make such an unsubstantial return in this game. Unlike finding a small key in any other Zelda game, here it felt like a chore just to unlock the door next to you in a shrine.

There are a few other small problems in relation of being a Zelda game, but I think these cover pretty much my feelings toward this issue.

tl;dr: I feel it's not as good as a Zelda game because of weak and repetitive main dungeons, filler-padding shrines all across the map, story implementation feeling detached and no clever use of your Sheikah tools.

Thoughts on this?



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Glad you enjoyed it!

Yes, it's unlike Zelda 1992-2013. No, I don't think that's a bad thing per se.

I mean, I adore A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and The Wind Waker. I love that modern Zelda formula where you get a particular item in a themed dungeon, and with that item defeat the dungeon boss. It's a great formula that's made The Legend of Zelda the best video series of all time.

But a Zelda game doesn't need to conform to that standard to be great. The strength of BotW comes from its emergent gameplay, and from the way it encourages players to experiment with tool sets, enemy AI, and the game's physics and chemistry engines. It's all about freedom: freedom to experience a story or skip it; freedom to finish the dungeons; freedom to explore optional shrines; freedom to cook, or hunt, or collect, or ride a horse into the sunset.

BotW's dungeons and boss fights are on the weak side -- minus Hyrule Castle, which is spectacular -- but it makes up for those flaws in so many other ways.



It's definitely not as flawless as the initial hype led people to believe. The dungeons and bosses are really disappointing and the game does become somewhat repetitive once you start getting into the rhythm of things, but the exploration is so amazing it almost makes up for everything.

I hope the next installment can find a balance between the exploration of BotW and the classic dungeon design the series has become famous for.



My FFVI analysis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSO6n8kNCwk

My Shadow of the Colossus analysis: https://youtu.be/9kDBFGw6SXQ

Really all that's needed is for them to add a handful of unique, classic-style dungeons and you basically have the perfect game.



Veknoid_Outcast said:
Glad you enjoyed it!

Yes, it's unlike Zelda 1992-2013. No, I don't think that's a bad thing per se.

I mean, I adore A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and The Wind Waker. I love that modern Zelda formula where you get a particular item in a themed dungeon, and with that item defeat the dungeon boss. It's a great formula that's made The Legend of Zelda the best video series of all time.

But a Zelda game doesn't need to conform to that standard to be great. The strength of BotW comes from its emergent gameplay, and from the way it encourages players to experiment with tool sets, enemy AI, and the game's physics and chemistry engines. It's all about freedom: freedom to experience a story or skip it; freedom to finish the dungeons; freedom to explore optional shrines; freedom to cook, or hunt, or collect, or ride a horse into the sunset.

BotW's dungeons and boss fights are on the weak side -- minus Hyrule Castle, which is spectacular -- but it makes up for those flaws in so many other ways.

I totally agree with ignoring the standard to achieve a new, unique experience. My only complain with Breath of the Wild is that it neglects the standards way too much, becoming greater but abandoning elements that not only would have given it more identity, but more variety as well. It reminds me of Resident Evil 4, a fantastic game that ignored the standards of the franchise whose name it carried. It broke conventions to achieve a superlative experience, but one that felt way too detached from Resident Evil itself, almost feeling like a totally different game.

The strength of BoTW works better the more you ignore Zelda's standarized elements. This is not even a Link Between World's case scenario, where at least you're required to do clever usage of the same item/2D gimmick within unique dungeons, and approach every dungeon in your own fashion. This is a case of a game that never really knows the player's position and thus repeats every single thing because of the freedom given to the player, which causes as a result dungeons that are almost the same, bosses that looks and perform almost the same, and commentary from the heroes that are almost the same. I love how Zelda asks "remember me?", because it's completely possible to forget that Zelda is somewhere in this world, entirely. There's not the same sense of urgency to save her as there was in Ocarina of Time after Sheik's revelation.

Not to mention, freedom is heavily limited when tackling the game's main scenarios sans Hyrule Castle. The game indeed works the best when you're on your own, exploring the land and trying to ignore dungeons, which is something weird to say about a Zelda game.



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Zelda moving away from dungeons and all is what people have been asking for for ages and that's what BOTW delivers a template for the series to not be reliant on that structure as the games started becoming about how good are the dungeons.

BOTW gladly sorted that problem out as now the series is open to a host of new mechanics and approaches that it can benefit from as opposed to being dictated by dungeons even many of the incarnations of Hyrule were wasted as it was just a train ride for the next dungeon stop. The dungeons always felt separate from the world of Hyrule were as in BOTW the dungeons and shrines feel a very much part of it, the world of Hyrule became the focus for the adventure now and not the dungeons and that imo makes BOTW a far better Zelda game than any other.



I disagree wholly.

The game is back to form as far as I'm concerned. Very much Zelda 1 inspired. The previous Zelda games were getting very predictable. You get an item, and you use that item for the entire dungeon. In the final dungeon you use all the items you found. That's the basic dungeon concept of previous Zelda's. BotW, like Zelda 1, is untethered from that formula.




Curious, but have you ever played the original zelda?

I feel as though it was inspired by it. The open nature really fits this IP. With 31 hours, you still have so much left to explore as well.



Wyrdness said:
Zelda moving away from dungeons and all is what people have been asking for for ages and that's what BOTW delivers a template for the series to not be reliant on that structure as the games started becoming about how good are the dungeons.

BOTW gladly sorted that problem out as now the series is open to a host of new mechanics and approaches that it can benefit from as opposed to being dictated by dungeons even many of the incarnations of Hyrule were wasted as it was just a train ride for the next dungeon stop. The dungeons always felt separate from the world of Hyrule were as in BOTW the dungeons and shrines feel a very much part of it, the world of Hyrule became the focus for the adventure now and not the dungeons and that imo makes BOTW a far better Zelda game than any other.

Really? I felt the dungeons and shrines very detaching in BoTW. That's not to say I disagree with your notion of other Zelda games being looked upon their dungeons rather than the world, the later being something that BoTW does in a fantastic way, always full of life. But the Divine Beasts acted the very same and the approach was constrained by the linearity of the gimmick arrow/goron battle, and basic, unavoidable puzzles to activate the core and spawn the boss. And shrines were always halved by a loading screen and the very same room with variations; sometimes offering a 10 second challenge and some others requiring more time, but never escaping the mantra of repetitiveness. A Link Between Worlds allowed for freedom within the world and approaching its challenges, but it maintained the spirit of the franchise itself much better, I'd say.

Precisely because BoTW chooses the different path - the world - is what makes it a very strikingly different Zelda game. If this becomes the norm now, then I guess most of what I'm saying will be meaningless when more Zelda games keep coming, but as for now it seems for me like the odd game, similar (but miles better) to what Link's Adventure was.

 

OTBWY said:
I disagree wholly.

The game is back to form as far as I'm concerned. Very much Zelda 1 inspired.

As I told Wyrdness, the way you approach the world, its inhabitants and its dungeons reminds me much more of Link's Adventure, rather than the original one, which was pretty much dungeon-oriented for the main part (unless you're alluding to shrines here).



monocle_layton said:
Curious, but have you ever played the original zelda?

I feel as though it was inspired by it. The open nature really fits this IP. With 31 hours, you still have so much left to explore as well.

Briefly, only. I speak of it from limited experience and things I've seen here and there, but I have no meaningful experience in it.