Opinion: The Vooks team’s thoughts on Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The team sat down and shared their thoughts! Also check at the bottom of the article for some bonus impressions and upcoming thoughts on the Vookcast.
I’ve been off and on about the Zelda series for a while now. I loved Ocarina of Time and was blown away by the freedom of exploration afforded by The Legend of Zelda on NES, but as time has marched on Zelda games became more and more formulaic, sticking to the structure set by A Link to the Past and affording less freedom in the where you can explore and when in favour of a structured linear progression. To use an apt description from Tevis Thompson’s “Saving Zelda” essay, the worlds of Zelda games were being reduced to a series of bottlenecks, a kiddie theme park rather than the wild and unknown lands of the original.
Breath of the Wind looks like a huge step away from this kind of game design, and back to the wild frontier that I legitimately cannot wait to explore. I have been desperately hoping to have a feeling of trepidation and exhilaration when I slowly peek into an undiscovered area and see monsters that genuinely terrify me. I want to find a cave and be cautious of what might meet me inside. I want to be able to go straight to a scary place and be thoroughly destroyed by monsters I am not prepared for, and then come back later when I’ve sharpened my skills to challenge them again.
It’s hard to say whether Breath of the Wind will take enough risks as far as genuine danger in the world, but what I have seen so far has me confident that the possibilities for exploration will be far greater than in any Zelda we’ve seen in recent years. We’ve seen Nintendo experiment with non-linear dungeon progression and taking away the artificial gating to later game areas in Link Between Worlds, and in some post-show answers Aonuma has confirmed that you can go straight to the final boss if you want to. It really seems like we will have an expansive world, that never dictates when and where you are allowed to go and never stops you from taking on challenges that you feel up to trying.
The world looks gorgeous. I’m incredibly happy that they’ve defined a Zelda style, finding a happy medium between the gritty, realistically proportioned Zeldas and the more vibrant, colourful and stylish aesthetics of The Wind Waker and the handheld titles. Gameplay looks far more fluid than in the past with free-form transitioning between combat, horse-riding and exploration on the fly.
Breath of the Wind makes me excited about Zelda again. Everything I am seeing makes me hopeful that this entry will give me more of what I’ve missed from Zelda’s past while learning from more recent games in both the Zelda series and it’s contemporaries in the medium.
Count me in.
Last night I stayed up much longer then I should have watching Nintendo Treehouse. I just couldn’t look away! Like most people I was blown away by how big the world is and how pretty everything looks.
While Watching I couldn’t help but draw links to Wind Waker. I mean the game is called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Hmm… Breath. Kinda like wind. The game is kind of cel-shaded too. And Koroks are in the game! There also seems to be a heap of look-out towers scattered around the place, that might just poke their heads out of a flooded Hyrule…
I was impressed with the changes in gameplay and the new elements introduced too. I love how the Sheikah Stone is basically Link’s iPad. It looks like it does everything Link needs. At first I didn’t think climbing was a necessary requirement in the game, but after see how vast and mountainous the world is, it tackles the verticality issues quite well.
I like how you can approach situations in different ways. For instance, you could run into battle gun-ho like a traditional Zelda game. Or why not sneak in and defeat your enemies slowly? Perhaps it’s better to snipe them with arrows instead. But them again you can start a wildfire near their camp while they sleep, and hear their screams as they burn!
I’m not sure how I feel about the weapons system. Weapons are degradable and there appear to be a hell of a lot of them. I don’t think I want to be hoarding weapons. Also, it looks like you need to go into menus a fair bit to change weapons. Then again maybe it’s more like Metal Gear Solid, where gameplay stops and you can cycle through them with a single button.
Also, having to eat food to regain hearts or even gain extra life for a short period of time… It’s a good idea, but it was one of the things I thought didn’t have the same natural flow as the rest of the game seems to have. At one point I saw Link get blown up by a bomb, go flying through the air and have a quarter heat left. While mid-air, the player pulled up the menu and ate something to regain life. They left the menu and link hit the ground, for all intensive purposes, uninjured.
During Treehouse Live, Shigeru Miyamoto mentioned that part of his role was “Focused on making sure Link’s movement is natural and his interaction with the environment and with nature is natural, and that it’s all a smooth experience.” I feel that being able to eat food while taking damage is one thing that doesn’t fit with this.
I also really liked the map, menu and UI features. To start, I couldn’t help but notice the minimap is on the right hand side too! Nintendo are really changing things up. The minimap is quite detailed and even has an in-world clock. Also, I thought it was really cool that you can place your own markers and pins on the map and choose what the pin looks like. Found an enemy stronghold that you want to come back to later? Mark it with a skull!
Finally, I really like how clean the HUD and UI look. It’s not too ‘in your face’ and there are some nice inclusions. I’m a big fan of the bow’s new aiming reticule and how it has the arrow count next to it for you to see while you are slaying your enemies!
All in all, I get the impression that while Nintendo showed us heaps… There’s still a heck of a lot more to come.
While I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard fan of The Legend of Zelda, it’s still the franchise that introduced me into gaming, with my mum and I playing Zelda II on the NES when I was a youngling. The sense of adventure, and exploring a world with many secrets and just sheer scale blew my mind away, and I’ve judged a lot of games by comparison since.
For the first time in a long time, that exact same sense of adventure and scale is back, just from watching the trailers and Treehouse footage. The huge vistas and varied environments, the different ways of interacting with the world and inhabitants, and the sense of being totally alone for your adventures… I went from pretty keen on this game, to wanting it right now.
I can see why they took so long before they showed it all off…
I also have no idea what to expect from this game world. It looks ancient and worn down, but also advanced beyond any Hyrule we’ve seen. The tablet, that techno-arrow, with the familiar Sheikah designs. It almost feels like a post-apocalyptic Hyrule in the most traditional sense. No flooding this time, however. In any case, the world looks lived in, with a rich history behind it. I am dying to go explore for days and days.
All that said, I do hope the NX version does add some more detail to the environments. Who knows what features will actually be enhanced by new hardware, but I still feel like the areas felt a little barren, possibly to help the Wii U actually handle that much open space. But with the massive Xenoblade Chronicles X vibe I got from the world, I’m sure there’s a way to fill it out a bit more. It’s also probably unfinished, so I might just be being too picky!
Nintendo have always had a way with capitalising on nostalgia, and Breath of the Wild, for once, feels less like evolution, and more like an homage. This is definitely a big expansion on the ideas of Zelda, don’t get me wrong. But this feels like the first real Zelda game in a long time.
Last week Vook sat down with Mark Serrels from Kotaku Australia to talk about the game. You can see what Daniel thought of the game there as well as Mark’s thought. Can you believe we didn’t talk about climbing at all?
But wait there’s more! Listen for more of our thoughts on the next episode of the Vookcast which will be hitting the site soon.