Hyrule Is Safe (for now)
Happy (Long) Weekend TAY!
That’s it. The last weekend of summer vacation for my kid and back to the grind for all of us. Thankfully, it is a long weekend, so we can see the summer off in style. While not technically the end of summer for a few weeks yet, where I live in Canada it is not uncommon to quickly turn cold and damp as soon as school gets back in session.
One of the things my son and I finally crossed off from our summer to-do list was The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
It is almost a year to the date that we started BotW together. It was tough to coordinate our schedules during school and BotW probably doesn’t make for a good game to play in tiny chunks over a long period of time. The other problem was that neither of us was heavily invested in playing the game.
Enough dissection of Breath of the Wild has been done around here and the internet at large that I don’t really need to add my voice, but I will ramble a little [Edit: a lot I guess] with what is likely a dissenting opinion. I realize many people around here absolutely love this game and it makes the top of many lists but to each their own I guess. I had a good time with it, but “best game ever” it definitely is not.
I was never a big fan of previous Zelda games, and while Breath of the Wild is infinitely better than the rest, it still didn’t thrill me as much as I had hoped. There is too much repetition, too much dead land to explore, and I never cottoned to Nintendo’s storytelling. Where others seem to find a sweet and endearing narrative, I find it a little silly and irritating. After we finished BotW, I was surprised to hear my 12-year-old expressing some of the same thoughts that I was having. I was the one who had to press him to play the game, he was ready to give up on it several times...maybe it is simply something in our DNA.
I don’t mean to say that there isn’t some genius to be found in Breath of the Wild. I loved the map system and the way it forces you to explore without holding your hand. This is probably one of the better modern RPGs for a sense of discovery and I hope we see many copycats using Nintendo’s implementation in the future.
The climbing and gliding mechanics made the adventuring feel unrestricted and it was a welcome change from the narrow range of movement in the previous Zelda titles. The combat system didn’t see any meaningful evolution and felt like a step backwards from the motion-controlled sword fighting in Skyward Sword. While I found most of the combat encounters too easy overall, I did enjoy the motion controls with the bow and it was nice to see a wide variety of enemies.
I had a great appreciation for the environmental conditions in BotW, especially early on when you are too broke and too weak to survive in a cold or hot environment for long. This feature was accentuated by the wonderful animations of Link’s physical distress to these harsh conditions; I really believed he was freezing his Deku-nuts off as I summited the highest peaks in the game.
Environmental effects on the player have always been a pet-peeve of mine in video games as they are rarely well-represented. Anyone who lives in Canada knows that swimming in freezing water or running around with little clothing during the deep winter is looking for a swift death. Now if we can only get video game creators to stop letting me swim while decked out in full amour and weaponry.
The aspect of BotW I think I enjoyed the most were the puzzley shrines and devilish Divine Beasts. This was the game at its most challenging and help make up for the lack of difficulty elsewhere. This was the gameplay I enjoyed the most in previous Zelda games, so I was happy to see Nintendo still sticking with the formula.
I think had we started playing with the Master Mode that we would have had a better time. There is an enormous amount of exploration in BotW and without a challenge, it can start to feel like a slog. Plus, playing the game over such a long period of time likely hurt the experience as it felt much longer than our 90+ hour playtime would suggest.
It is a beautiful game though. I long to play it on better hardware with a smoother framerate and some more aggressive anti-aliasing, but there is no denying the artistry on display. It is a stunning looking game and I could see revisiting it years down the road with the eventual port to more powerful hardware. I would like to play it again on my own at some point, I wonder if a more dedicated focus on the game would change some of my feelings towards it.
As is stands, with the evil vanquished from Hyrule, I don’t think either my son or I have the drive to revisit Breath of the Wild to mop up the dangling quests or explore the DLC.
In my solo time, I’ve been playing lots of Spider-Man on PS4 and I’m not sure about this one either. It feels like a lot of style over substance, but I’ll see where it goes and give more thoughts about it next weekend. I’m definitely getting a GTA V vibe from it though; I love the simulation, story, and the physics playground they provide me but I’m not completely enjoying the game they built with it.
I’m hoping to catch up on some sleep this weekend as I am recovering from an all-night gaming marathon with my kid that went well into Friday morning. This is where we finally put BotW to bed and started playing the new ToeJam and Earl: Back In The Groove on PC. I was happy to see the game is structured much like the original Genesis game.
Of course, when I get a moment alone, I’ll see if Spider-Man can make a true believer out of me.
So, what are you playing this weekend?