I’ve discussed it before, but writer’s block sure is a strange phenomenon. You can know exactly what it is you want to write, point for point, and still be completely incapable of transmuting your thoughts into words. This has been happening to me for weeks on one article, actually the same article that inspired my original post on a lack of inspiration. Since I am currently in a state of absolute exhaustion physically, mentally, and spiritually, I figured I’d post the incomplete version of it now. I’m obviously never going to be able to finish it.
The plan was to compare the structures of two very different games: God of War (2018) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Despite liking the new God of War, I felt that it lacked a central focus in its design. The newest Zelda, on the other hand, is a master-class in centralized design, with every aspect of the game serving a common purpose. I was going to use Zelda’s story and weapon durability mechanics to exemplify this, and then contrast those systems with God of War’s out of place loot and exploration mechanics. I only got as far as Zelda’s story though. Hopefully it’s still entertaining. Without further ado, here is a half-written article that I am inexplicably incapable of finishing.
“Breath of the Wild vs. God of War: An Argument for Centralized Game Design
Even as someone totally new to the series, I found the newest entry in the lauded God of War franchise to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The combat was punchy, the environments were pretty, and the story was wholesome and well-told. My biggest issues with the game came about when those strengths intersected with everything else it attempted to offer. The exploration, the RPG elements, the side quests, the freaking camera angles… all of these things detracted from the core experience because they were not designed to support it. The developers seemed to be too focused on providing more content to consider how all of the game’s systems would interact with each other. The best way to illustrate this point would be to compare God of War to a game that perfectly embodies cohesion in game design: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild is a true masterpiece. It’s the kind of work that only comes around once in a generation. There is plenty to praise about this game, but what was truly staggering to me was how meticulously everything in it was constructed to service a common goal: freedom of exploration. Literally every aspect of BotW’s design either enhances or is enhanced by its exploratory systems. Instead of beginning development with a broad range of goals and intentions, the Zelda team started with one and built everything from there. Allow me to elaborate.
Let’s take a look at two of the more controversial elements of Breath of the Wild, starting with the writing. The story is fairly minimal, unorganized, and inaccessible. None of the characters get all that much development, and the plot is a by-the-books tale of good versus evil. There is no doubt that these aspects of the writing could have used some improvement, but writing’s focus was on something entirely different. Forgoing an opportunity to make the story something unique and special, Nintendo opted to give that treatment to the storytelling.
The game starts out with a simple enough conceit: Link has amnesia, so to understand the events that led to his situation he must recover his memories. He accomplishes this through… wait for it… exploration. Breath of the Wild does not feed you information. If you want to find out how Hyrule became a ravaged wasteland you will have to venture out and discover that knowledge for yourself. Cutscenes are unlocked only by visiting the locations in which they take place, which are often obscure and difficult to track down. They exist to provide a substantial and exciting reward for exploration, and in turn provide context for the world that you explore. Many find this disjointed structure irritating and would rather easily access the story, which is a fair criticism when considering the writing on its own. But the writing wasn’t created to stand on its own. It was created explicitly to be experienced in tandem with the gameplay and elevates the final product as a result.” [end]
…Damn it. I really like what I’ve written so far, but for the life of me I can’t keep writing. Every time I open up the Word document for that article it’s like all of my creativity escapes through my pores, preventing me from progressing any further. It just goes to show how powerful writer’s block can be. Regardless of passion or enthusiasm, sometimes you just can’t keep going. I’m giving up on this one for now (obviously, since I posted its lifeless corpse for all to see), but I bet that I’ll pick it up again in the future. When no one is talking about either of these games anymore, and nobody could possibly be interested in such an article. Then, and only then, I’ll be able to finish it.