Long gone are the days when the phrase “others do what Ninten-don’t” would typically muster up feelings of disappointment with regards to the storied Japanese video game company. Usually followed by a contagious sigh of frustration and contempt, since the release of the Zelda Breath of the Wild, nobody can disagree that when needed most, a riskier Nintendo at last paid off to result in one of the best video games ever released.
By going against the grain, with the Zelda franchise Nintendo hasn’t just re-written the open world genre rulebook, but rather thrown it out the window entirely and lit it on fire to instead set a better benchmark in which other game developers can strive towards. There is unfortunately a danger here, and this time it’s not just Hyrule that need be concerned, but us all.
For all of Breath of the Wild’s strengths and innovations, history tells us that whenever a notable game breaks new ground, it will no doubt be copied and iterated upon. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The most obvious example being the Arkham franchise’s silky-smooth counter combat gameplay, which has since been wedged into every melee-based brawler that isn’t called Devil May Cry.
Though Nintendo’s most-celebrated Zelda title excels in providing an inherently enjoyable and fulfilling open world experience, here are 3 elements we hope devs don’t carry forward from Breath of the Wild.
A spaced-out world
For all the beauty and discovery waiting for you to explore in Breath of the Wild’s iteration of Hyrule, there’s a danger going forward that game developers could interpret this devout openness incorrectly. While there is plenty to do throughout the land in between tackling shrines and taming the almost god-like Divine beasts, I’m pretty sure travelling from area to area in Breath of the Wild is the most running I’ve seen a protagonist do in a AAA game.
Breath of the Wild compensates for these vast moments of silence and travel where not much is happening by actually having the destination outweigh the journey. Open world games from the likes of Avalanche and Ubisoft don’t seemed to have nailed this quite yet. Whereas venturing off-path in Breath of the Wild might see you besting a dragon upon scaling a mountain, pretty much any Far Cry game will simply have you clearing out enemy camps. It’s unfulfilling tasks like this that while thrilling, can quickly become tedious if required to traverse an unnecessary spaced-out setting.
A minimalist narrative
To a certain extent tying into the previous point, Breath of the Wild’s much more minimalist approach to narrative and story in general is almost Dark Souls-like. Rather than spoon-feeding you a grand, overarching tale that gives your actions meaning, players are required to dig a little deeper if they’re to discover and learn of the events that came before Link’s reawakening into Hyrule. This allows Breath of the Wild’s world to, well, breath, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for other game developers to rely so heavily on the same degree of player curiosity to relay their game’s stories.
Zelda Breath of the Wild is environmental storytelling on a massive scale, but that doesn’t mean that singular narratives aren’t just as effective. Using the Uncharted series as an example, I care just as much (if not more) about Nate and Elena’s relationship as I do Zelda and Link’s despite having almost all of the information and details about them offered up to me on a plate. Granted players have had over 30 years to see the hero of time’s relationships bloom and develop, perhaps another reason why Breath of the Wild‘s minimalist approach works so well.
Well you all knew this was coming! No matter what side of the debate you settle on, one of Breath of the Wild’s biggest changes is for some, one of the game’s biggest drawbacks. I’m of the mind that it’s not necessarily the fact that the game’s weapons break at all is the issue, but rather the rate in which they do so. It simply feels cruel to lose a weapon so soon once having acquired it, especially after working so hard to acquire the very item you need.
While I concede that breakable weapons are far less likely to crop up in future open world games than say, the ability to scale anything, out of all of Breath of the Wild’s new gameplay quirks, I’m very excited to see if this one sticks around in future instalments of the series.