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Sunday, March 12, 2017

What I Want from Breath of the Wild

Originally published on February 27th, 2017

Hey folks! With the release of the Switch being just a week away, hype is in overdrive all around. What excites me most about next week isn't the Switch, however, but the release of Breath of the Wild.

Yes, after years of waiting, speculation, and anticipation, the 3rd of March will finally be the day we get our hands on one of the most ambitious titles in the Legend of Zelda franchise yet, and I'm very ready to sink my teeth into the massive open world of Hyrule for myself.

Being the last week until the game's release, previews have started to pour out of the press. Though I've been avoiding these write-ups and videos with the aim of immersing myself entirely in the game without knowledge of anything that'd be pleasant to discover on my own, that hasn't stopped me from having my own hopes for what it'll be like to play.

Today, I've decided to gather up all of the things I'd love to see Breath of the Wild do to highlight what I personally think would be an amazing experience.

Here's what I want from the game.


Starting with gameplay, there are some things in particular that I'd like to see in this release.

The folks at Nintendo always seem to love hiding secrets in their games, whether they be references to other franchises like the animal masks in Majora's Mask or mechanical obscurities like getting in a Koopa shell in Super Mario 3D World, these oddities never fail to make me feel like there's more to a game than meets the eye and that I'm in on something special. I'd love to see more of these in Breath of the Wild. I Know that it's pretty much a guarantee that we'll get to see these warm little touches regardless considering the precedent, but the fact that Breath of the Wild has such a massive world only excites me so much more about the possibility of find numerous things that I'd never expect to see, whether in a Zelda game or otherwise.

Another thing I really want is challenge. Because this game has an open world in the truest sense, I don't want to be held back from progressing by artificial walls of any sort. Within reason, I want my successes to reflect my skill more than they do the quality of my inventory: I want to be a better player, not have a better character. I love the idea of doing something that seems restrictively difficult and knowing that I can overcome it instead of being forced to turn around and take a different path until Link is somehow numerically more capable. Things like this would mean that I can make my own challenges by approaching dire situations on my own terms. The pinnacle of that sort of design would be defeating Ganon right from the get go, and I fully intend to give it a try to satisfy my own curiosity before really delving into the rest of what the game has to offer. Knowing that this is technically possible already has me wondering what incredible things a skilled player could pull off on their adventure, and I look forward to becoming that player myself.

Just imagine beating down Bokoblin by flailing around a piece of meat with Magnesis!

On the other end of things, I want the simple, obvious things to be entirely in my hands to figure out. I'd love to get a fuller sense of satisfaction from recognizing what's necessary through my own observations and experimentation. Essentially, if the game is put together in a way that respects my intelligence instead of telegraphing what needs to be done before I get the opportunity to engage with the situation, I'll be a very happy camper. I'm not actually too worried about things on this front, as it seems very clear that most situations are designed to be open ended with regards to how players approach them. It's even been said that there isn't a typical companion character in the game because they want to grant players the complete freedom to forge their own path, and that is very encouraging to know.


Though I know that the freedom of Breath of the Wild is also established in a way that allows players to have their own personal stories to tell at the end of their experience, I'd really like the primary narrative of this Zelda game to be as fully featured as the ones we've seen in previous entries of the franchise. I recognize and appreciate that we can defeat Ganon without contextualizing our play-throughs with the cutscenes in the game, but I hope that those of us that do pursue them get a rich background to paint the picture of what happened leading up to our adventure.

I also would really love smaller plot threads being explored through side-quests. These could be especially memorable if Nintendo approached them with the kind of depth and variety we've seen in Majora's Mask.

Something else I've really been wanting from a Zelda game, though not necessarily this one, is an exploration of the "Era Without a Hero". This is a part of the Adult timeline that takes place after Ocarina of Time but before Wind Waker and is the period in which the flooding of Hyrule occurred. I think it'd be compelling to experience that Era, especially if things weren't necessarily as simple as we might think.

What if the Legend only says that the hero was nowhere to be found because he failed?

Though the Link from Ocarina of Time disappeared from this timeline, the Link in Wind Waker still had the Spirit of the Hero. Why would it simply be gone in the intermediary time, especially when the royal bloodline still continued and Ganon broke his seal? What if this doesn't mean that there wasn't a hero, but that he failed? After all, failure isn't unprecedented in the Zelda universe continuity, as the Decline timeline is dedicated to a scenario in which Link does not succeed in defeating Ganon.  In that case, it would make sense that the legend of his time would ignore him as the chosen hero destined to save Hyrule. In their eyes, if he fails, how could he be? I think it'd be incredibly interesting to see a game like this that, ultimately, would be more of a tragedy: justifying the need to call upon the Goddesses to flood Hyrule.


Relevant to the story front, I'd love to see more strong world-building in Breath of the Wild. The immense size of the game lends itself to an enormous amount of potential with regards to painting a richer picture of Hyrule than we've ever seen before.

I want to learn about past tragedies through the rubble of architecture and the remains of civilization. I want to enter ruins and be able to trace the path a guardian might have taken as it left destruction in its wake. I want geography to show me why certain groups live in certain places and how that reflects on their way of life.

Translating Hylian glyphs or running through tapestries like this would be a great way to flesh out the world.

Even side-quests could build on this front, indirectly helping expand our understanding of the world. Just imagine learning about the various cultures of Hyrule, whether through the remains of what was or through the new villages and communities that exist in the present.

Going back to respecting player intelligence, I'd also love to have much of this done in a way that indicates thoughtful design as opposed to directly feeding the player through optional exposition. There's nothing wrong with doing things in that way, but I think that primarily presenting the lore through deliberate choices with the geography, ecology, architecture, enemies, and NPCs would be all the more enriching to those of us who want to put a careful eye forward, thus making the experience feel all the more cohesive and the world more alive.

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