Nintendo has made it abundantly clear how big The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be. 12 times the size of Twilight Princess, apparently, with the E3 demo representing just 1% of the entire game. Impressive numbers, to be sure, but worrying too. From the many gameplay videos streamed on Nintendo Treehouse, there seems to be a whole lot of empty space in Breath of the Wild’s world. While there are pockets of enemies and crafting resources scattered around, Link spends a whole lot of time just running from place to place.
All these claims of map size reminded me of the approach Rockstar took to GTA IV. Although Liberty City was geographically smaller than predecessor San Andreas, it felt so much larger due to the detail each nook and cranny received. Instead of copy-pasting half a dozen buildings and NPCs to fill space, Rockstar focused on making every square foot of the city distinct, incorporating building interiors, sight gags, unmarked missions, and other secrets into the world. By trading scale for density, GTA IV set a new standard for open-world games.
Breath of the Wild, however, seems to be taking the opposite approach. Massive open spaces exude a wonderful sense of scale, but they appear barren and, frankly, a little lifeless. The same fields, hills, and cliffs stretch to the horizon, hiding visual diversity behind minutes of stamina-restricted running. It brings back memories of late-game sailing in Wind Waker and the flying segments in Skyward Sword: padding that you push through to get to the fun stuff.
Obviously - and hopefully - my apprehension could prove unfounded when the game releases. Perhaps there’s more to do while running around than has currently been shown. Maybe you get access to Epona or another mode of transport early on, and crossing great distances becomes trivial. Then again, maybe this new Minecraft-era Zelda just isn’t for me. For now, I’m holding out hope - but I’m carrying a little caution, too.
Matt Sayer is 50% gamer, 50% writer, 50% programmer, and 100% terrible at maths. You can read more of his articles over at Unwinnable as well as right here, friend him on Steam here or tweet him cat photos at @sezonguitar