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01/17/2019 01:38:40 •••

Great Game, But Not For Everyone

The Zelda franchise has changed a great deal over the years, and as you might imagine, change can be difficult to accept. The latest entry, Breath of the Wild, is well-made, but is it for you? That's a difficult question...

Breath of the W Ild involves Link awakening after 100 years to find Hyrule in ruins, destroyed by Calamity Ganon, whom Link must defeat before he finishes the job. The story is largely told through unlockable flashbacks that reveal more about Link and Zelda's past, and while said flashbacks help players learn more about what happened, the overall story isn't very deep or engaging.

While your goal is clear, after completing the introductory area, you're able to tackle it however you wish, which is the game's greatest strength and weakness. On the one hand, you have a great deal of freedom to decide where to go next, since the four main Divine Beasts (i.e. dungeons) can be completed in any order, and there's no shortage of things to do in Hyrule. On the other hand, this approach hinders the game from telling a story and establishing a good difficulty curve.

The latter is especially important, since Breath of the Wild can be brutally hard in the early game. While having Link start out with three hearts is a series tradition, he's especially frail here, and some foes can one-shot him in the early game. It's possible to purchase additional Heart Containers with Spirit Orbs, earned by completing the Shrines (mini-dungeons), but Link will be quite weak for the first few hours, making exploring too dangerous to be much fun.

Speaking of the Shrines, they present a variety of fun challenges, even if they can be a bit difficult to find in the large, sparsely populated world.

Breath of the Wild also has a heavy emphasis on item crafting, and Rupees are relatively uncommon finds (but you will need a lot of them). The cooking system is well-made, and encourages you to combine ingredients with various effects and potencies to create the dish you want. Unfortunately, upgrading armor takes a lot of difficult-to-find materials, which can be tedious to gather.

The game also is surprisingly realistic. Wooden equipment catches fire, metal equipment draws lightning and your various physics-based abilities can be used in many unconventional ways (for example, freeze a puddle to raise a metal portcullis with an ice pillar). Not only is this good game design, but it also gives many options to players who think outside the box. Your weapons break after enough uses, which forces you to choose weapons wisely, but it's frustrating to lose your best weapons so easily, and fights with weak or unarmed enemies can feel unrewarding.

While Breath of the Wild is an excellent game, it's difficult to recommend to those who don't have much tolerance for frustration (I nearly gave up early on), or who would prefer a more conventional Zelda experience. If you can keep an open mind and are willing to stick with it, though, you'll probably come to enjoy it, as I did.

01/14/2019 00:00:00

Might fix that typo partway through.

I admit, I really liked the first part of the game, with its unconventional set-up to the story, but I sort of liked it less the further I got. Don't get me wrong, I still had fun, but the weapon durability really is quite awful and harmful to the game's fun, and makes all the cool weapons you get from finishing the dungeons Too Awesome To Use. I would have at least made those indestructible.

I don't mind that they're trying a lot of new things, but I do hope we get more traditional Zelda dungeons and storytelling going forward. The lack of those things really dragged the game further and further down the deeper into it I got, and too few of the sidequests evolved beyond fetch-questing and/or grinding.

01/14/2019 00:00:00


Thanks for pointing out the typo. I\'ll fix it if I find a way to do so without putting the review over the character limit. For some reason, even if I just make the I lowercase, it says the review is too long.

I agree that the weapon durability system caused problems, and I also ended up saving up the weapons I got from the dungeons (at the end of the game, I had Revali\'s bow, Daruk\'s sword, and Urbosa\'s scimitar and shield). I\'m not sure they need to be indestructible, since the Master Sword technically serves that purpose, and you can buy replacements for the other weapons, but it would be nice if they had at least enhanced durability.

While I can appreciate the innovation and changes, I share your hope that we get more traditional and/or story-driven Zeldas. As you can tell from my review, there were more than a few things I found frustrating or tedious, enough that I couldn\'t recommend Breath of the Wild to everyone, and Ocarina\'s still my favorite Zelda.

01/14/2019 00:00:00

At the very least, I feel it shouldn\'t cost a diamond to replace them when they are destroyed.

01/14/2019 00:00:00

the weapon durability really is quite awful and harmful to the game's fun

Not if you know what you're doing. There's plenty of ways to kill quickly and efficiently, without sacrificing weapons. I'd recommend checking out the Gamebreaker page for starters.

Also, it's designed that way to prevent everyone from just flocking to the most OP weapons and using them as a crutch. Besides which, weapons are plentiful enough that you can easily find replacements for any that get destroyed. So I never hesitate to use any of mine, though sniping the enemy from long range is my preferred MO.

01/15/2019 00:00:00

...I kind of conclusively disagree with you on every point, so I\'m going to go into pedantic detail, even though science says that doing that only makes people disagree harder out of spite.

First, I find your premise that this system is the result of good design very dubious when you open by admitting that the system is not well-designed and contains many exploits that let players game it above and beyond what the developers intended.

Second, it feels awful to be having fun in a fight and having the weapon you were using slapped out of your hands. And it means that a vast majority of players never want to \"waste\" the good dungeon treasure items on any fights short of the final boss. Making every weapon disposable and easy-come-easy-go in practice just means no weapon is special. You can\'t get attached to any of your gear, because all of it, even the rare and story locked stuff, is meant to be chewed up and thrown away like a pack of gum. It also means you don\'t enjoy finding cool weapons in treasure chests as much as you should, because it\'s the equivalent of finding a power-up. There\'s not even a real repair system, and spending a diamond to restore the Champion gear after spending the time to teleport over there and talk to the relevant person is just not worth it when it\'s every bit as disposable as the rest.

Third, even if I granted your premise that this extreme durability-degradation system were good design that enhances the combat (I do not), it would still be a clumsy and ham-fisted way of forcing the player to make use of the three different types of weapon. Basic behaviorist game design theory shows that reinforcement, positive or negative, works better than punishment.

For instance, here is something the weapon system does right: reinforcement. Whether it\'s positive reinforcement (using the right elemental weapons or arrows to instantly defeat enemies charged with opposing elements) or negative reinforcement (removing certain penalties associated with certain environments when using the right weapon, such as wood in a lightning storm, or keeping yourself warm with a fire-charged melee weapon) the weapon system does do a good job of rewarding specific strategies in traditional Zelda fashion.

However, because of the utter paucity of enemy variety (something I felt all the more keenly because I went to the Gerudo Desert first, and thought there were going to be a lot more unique types of wandering boss monsters than there were), this isn\'t part of the weapon type system as a whole. For instance, I didn\'t find that certain kinds of enemies were easier to fight with spears vs. swords vs. greatswords. And I can\'t help but feel that\'s probably at least in part because the incredibly small durability of every weapon meant the developers felt every enemy needed to be engageable with every weapon type.

Which brings me to my final point: no, I don\'t think the weapon durability problems made the game too hard. I always had plenty of weapons, and I never felt like I was in danger of running out unless I\'d just committed to a very-tough fight. But I do feel like they made the game considerably less fun and rewarding. I\'m here for a Zelda title, after all, not a Final Fight or Smash Brothers game where every item is meant to be used ten or twelve times and then thrown away.

01/15/2019 00:00:00

When did I say the weapon durability system wasn't well designed? It's meant to keep players from coasting through the game by relying on the same ones.

For example: In Xenoblade Chronicles X, once everyone heard how OP the Ares was, almost everyone rushed through the game so they could get it. And, once they had the Ares, it was all they ever used. Then they complained that the game had become too easy.

Breath of the Wild's weapon system is designed to prevent players from doing that. Sure, you'll gain powerful weapons, but you can't rely on them indefinitely. So you'll have to decide when using any weapon is necessary, or when it's worth the risk of losing it. But the game also allows you to easily replace them. You just have to know which enemies have the weapons you want and where to find them. Which is why it helps to catalogue them by taking photos of them.

All of that is part of the game's design, which works extremely well. So does its open ended approach to combat. Gone are the days when you needed specific weapons and items for dispatching mooks and bosses. Aonuma decided to leave that up to the players and it's worked extremely well, given all the vids that have been posted by different people showing creative ways to deal with enemy mobs.

That type of freedom and versatility is what I'd call excellent game design.

01/15/2019 00:00:00

That\'s a blatantly false equivalency. First, because there are only three melee weapon movesets in the entire game, meaning that not only are later-game weapons pure linear improvements over earlier ones, but that it would take an impressive failure for any weapon to be \"overpowered\" per se. You are comparing an apple to a bowl of spaghetti, two things alike only in their color scheme and edibility.

Second, you are fixated on this very minor point, and I don\'t get it. If someone wants to get a late-game weapon early via some kind of exploit and use it all game, why shouldn\'t they be able to? Who are you, or Nintendo for that matter, to tell them they can\'t? There are well-designed ways of dealing with this: increased enemy variety, such that different weapons are useful in different situations, so the player enjoys interacting with the weapon system, something they do do well with the elemental weapons. This isn\'t that.

Which, brings me to my third and final point: you did not address either of my larger points about the problems it causes with the game design as a whole. Since every weapon is utterly disposable, you can\'t enjoy any of your cool gear, and it\'s always a letdown when you get it because you know if you actually use it, the game will tear it out of your hands and make you watch as it dumps it in the shredder in front of you. You\'re right that there\'s plenty of random trash weapons lying around; I even said as much. But the problem isn\'t \"running out of weapons,\" it\'s that this system actively works to undermine having fun with any of them because every weapon is, to repeat a turn of phrase I\'m indecently proud of, disposable as a stick of gum. You chew it up and throw it away like trash after a few enemies, or you never use it at all. Making every weapon disposable like this actively undermines any sense of fun or reward for finding them.

Why would you ever want to actually use your dearly departed friends\' ancestral weapons when they\'ll just shatter? Better grab one of those bone clubs you don\'t care about instead.

Those are my points. That weapon durability actively disincentivizes any sense of personal attachment to gear, that the problem it\'s supposedly trying to solve isn\'t a problem and shouldn\'t matter because of the way the rest of the combat works, and that even if it were and did, it\'s still a ham-fisted and intrusive way of \"fixing\" it compared to presenting specific scenarios that reward specific weapon types.

There are better ways of making someone try out pets besides cats than slapping the cat out of their hands when I\'ve decided they\'ve had too much fun with it, making them watch as I drop it into a meat grinder, then leaving them to scavenge around through a pound for a random stray mutt.

01/15/2019 00:00:00

If someone wants to get a late-game weapon early via some kind of exploit and use it all game, why shouldn't they be able to?

Because it cheapens the game...? Hence, all the complaints about how having the Ares made Xenoblade Chronicle X laughably easy, since you could literally fly around and 1-shot practically everything that moved; including all but two of the bonus bosses.

If someone wants to grab late-game gear early and they're able to pull it off, fine. I've done it myself, even in Breath of the Wild. The difference is, BotW balances things by treating weapons as temporary items. Which is an approach that keeps the player from being OP indefinitely and one that I appreciate.

Since every weapon is utterly disposable, you can't enjoy any of your cool gear

If they were irreplaceable, I'd agree, but they're not. You can replace every weapon in the game and there are better weapons than the Champios' gear. So, once those were gone, I didn't miss 'em. The only exceptions were Urbosa's, which I left on display at Link's house, and only because I liked her character. The weapons themselves were gaudy.

weapon durability actively disincentivizes any sense of personal attachment to gear

I've never heard of anyone getting attached to their gear. Weapons, armor, items, etc. are tools that are often interchangeable and disposable once they've served their purpose. Breath of the Wild is no different in that regard.

I can understand growing attached to a character, since the player is usually meant to empathize with them. But the only time getting attached to a weapon makes sense is if it's something you've personally crafted - like the skells in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and even those can be destroyed and replaced.

01/16/2019 00:00:00

...See, I really want to keep this argument going, because I still feel you\'re wrong, but that last comment at least reveals the vast gulf in the compatibility of our mindsets. And I\'ve also been cluttering up the comments section of a friend\'s review with all this.

So I\'mma give you the satisfaction of the last word and leave it at that.

01/16/2019 00:00:00

Everyone\'s here talking about the weapon durability system, while I\'m here wondering why anyone would think that having rain exist was a good idea

01/16/2019 00:00:00

The worst part about rain is, I can kind of see you in a vacuum why they thought it would work? But, yeah. In practice, the ways in which it is useful are only mildly useful and almost never line up with the times it is useful, while the ways in which it is awful are not only commonly encountered, but very awful.

01/16/2019 00:00:00

I'm here wondering why anyone would think that having rain exist was a good idea.

I can think of a few: Immersion, for starters. Having changing weather patterns adds to the sense of realism.

Rain can also be exploited once you have shock arrows, which gain massive AoE and amplified damage during rain, and when fired in water. It's a handy way to kill even elite mobs of silver and gold enemies quickly. If you check the edit history for the Gamebreaker page, you'll see that I added that specific example (and a few others) several months ago.

And if you're worried about climbing during rain, you can do that too. The climbing gear and the infinite stamina trick both render rain moot. GameXplain even posted a video that shows how to do it.

01/16/2019 00:00:00

Ah, yes, it\'s not a problem because you can exploit a glitch that\'s (obviously) not taught to you by the game, and doesn\'t work in all scenarios

01/17/2019 00:00:00

@Hylarn: You can still climb during rain without the infinite stamina trick. That's why I mentioned the climbing gear first.

Once you have the full set, rain can't stop you anymore. All you have to do is follow this simple climb pattern: count Link's hand movements 3 times (i.e. right, left, right), then tap A. Link will leap then slide back down a short distance, but the climbing gear's enhanced speed easily makes up the lost ground. Once you master the timing, you'll stop caring when it rains.

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