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Breath of the Wild

I finished playing BotW a few weeks ago, and I was very impressed by it. I think it's the first open world game I've played that actually feels open and actually encourages and requires genuine exploration.

The movement mechanics are for the most part, really solid, especially the paraglider and shield surfing. I do have 2 complaints about it though. The first is that traversing any kind of long flat terrain is just annoying no matter what way you approach it. If you're in the gerudo region, you either have to spend ages tracking down a seal, or go to gerudo town to rent one, both of which take a lot of time, and by the end you've used so much time that you could have probably run to your destination in about the same time. Outside of the desert, you can either run, which is just a matter of repeatedly watching your stamina meter drain and then fill up again, or you have to travel to a stable and retrieve a horse, or find a mountable animal in the wild if you don't want to deal with the stamina meter, and again by the time you do that, you could have probably made it to your destination a lot faster. The other complaint is that the rain makes climbing impossible beyond a few meters. I understand that they tried to make a realistic environment, but there's a difference between making climbing in the rain inefficient and difficult, and making it literally impossible. If you're climbing something tall and it starts raining, you're faced with the choice of either putting the controller down and waiting for the rain to pass once you're able to find a ledge, or you abandon whatever progress you've made to go do something else. Both of these options are bad. This could be fixed by making the climbing gear or zora armour give you some sort of climbing boost that makes the the rain an inconvenience and not a total roadblock.

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The combat is really interesting, and probably the first time I've found combat actually engaging in a 3D zelda. In most of the other ones, you can just hold your shield up, wait for an opening to attack, and then immediately put your shield back up and basically never take any damage. In this one, the durability mechanic forces you to fight with a variety of different weapon types, and the flurry rush and parry are really satisfying to pull off once you get the hang of them. I only learned about these very late in the game though, so I think they could have done a better job of tutorialising these mechanics early on since a lot of encounters (e.g. lynels or guardians) are basically impossible without them. I know that the durability in this game is controversial, but I think it really works well. The game drops weapons often enough that you're unlikely to ever be completely unarmed against an enemy, and it encourages you to get into fights so that you can stock up on weapons.

Where this game really falls flat though is the story. It barely gets told at all, and it's really boring. The excellent gameplay makes up for it, but I didn't know that this game mainly focused on the gameplay and I was expecting a bit more from the narrative going into it. The voice acting is also just really awful. It feels like a low-budget anime fandub, and the fact that voice acting is only used in a handful of cutscenes makes the game feel like

at times. Zelda's voice is especially bad. The accent occasionally slips, and it feels very overacted and unnatural. Maybe the original Japanese version of the game has better acting, but the English version could honestly do with just taking the voice acting out altogether and just sticking with text boxes.

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The dungeons are also a major disappointment if you're a fan of classic zelda dungeons. Since the game allows you to do basically anything at any moment, including allowing you to just immediately fight ganon once you leave the great plateau, they can't structure the dungeons in the same way as in previous games. In older games, you'd often have to hunt for keys to get to various doors, and you'd eventually get an item that lets you access areas of the dungeon that were inaccessible before, and that item would then also be usable in combat, or to reach new areas outside of the dungeon as well. Some even had puzzles where parts of the dungeon would move or change to allow access to new areas while cutting off access to others. I like that each of the divine beasts has some way in which you can move part of it around to solve internal puzzles, but the puzzles are so simple and so small and disconnected from each other. They feel like dumbed down versions of things like the water temples in OoT and TP or the stone tower in MM. The shrines are also nothing more than simple individual puzzle rooms, and the majority of them just don't take much effort to understand and solve. Some of the shrine quests have good puzzles in them, but it still feels like this element that I associate so strongly with the Zelda franchise is mostly missing in this game.

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My complaints aren't to say that this is a bad game. It's basically a masterclass in open-world game design, and it has this sense of exploration that many games claim to have but just don't because of their reliance on waypoints, or the fact that they just have a linear story that takes you around different parts of one map. It's a genuinely innovative, impressive and enjoyable experience and if you haven't played it yet, then I definitely recommend it.

As an aside, I played it on CEmu, and it ran absolutely beautifully. You can upscale it, get rid of the 30fps cap, increase the draw distance, and so on. There are so many other enhancements that it ends up running so much better than on the WiiU or the Switch. Even if you own the game on console, if you have a PC capable of running it, then doing it through emulation is a much better way to play the game.


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