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Breath of the Wild
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xtal
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March 7, 2017 - 12:56 am
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I bought a used Wii U off someone two weekends ago and am glad I did. That meant I get to play Breath of the Wild. I have never really cared about the Legend of Zelda series; I remember watching friends and cousins play Ocarina of Time, and I quit somewhere in the never-ending tutorial of Twilight Princess. That's as far as my experience goes.

But this game....This game is incredible. Every second spent playing it is enjoyable. I highly recommend it to anyone who is able to play it.

 

This game is going to be full of stories.

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

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Dix
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March 7, 2017 - 10:38 am
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It is pretty phenomenal. I've already spent a ridiculous amount of time in it, and I feel like I've barely scratched the surface (though I am finally heading for a part of the main quest). It reminds me in a lot of ways of Metal Gear Solid V, actually, which is a game I dumped 120 hours into.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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geggis
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March 7, 2017 - 10:57 am
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I ordered it on Sunday and it was dispatched yesterday so I'm hoping it'll be here today. I'll be holding off playing it though until I'm back from my trip to Florida. Last thing I need is some sort of Zelda withdrawal on holiday. It gives me time to ride out Endless Legend some more though, so there's that.

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xtal
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March 7, 2017 - 12:25 pm
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Good call, Gregg. You don't want to get a taste and then be pulled away.

Florida, eh? Enjoy! Whereabouts are you going?

You know, Canada gets pretty nice and warm in the summer months. You should come spend your valuable British pounds in our lovely country some time. You know, instead of giving it to Russia's top ally, the United States (burnnn (but also hold me I'm scared)).

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

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geggis
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March 7, 2017 - 2:08 pm
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We're going to Orlando with Hailey's family so we've got Disney World and Universal Studios and all that jazz lined up. We're not as excited as everyone else is about that stuff but 'when in Rome' etc.!

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Synonamess Botch
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March 7, 2017 - 3:53 pm
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Well that is encouraging.  I don't have a Wii U and won't have a Switch, but it's nice to hear Zelda has made improvements.  Skyward Sword pissed me off so badly I never finished it.  My Zelda history begins with Wind Waker, which I really liked.  Twilight Princess I found hugely disappointing.

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xtal
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March 7, 2017 - 4:44 pm
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The best thing I've seen written about this game was in Jason Schreier's review (at Kotaku) where he said:

"For decades now, Zelda games have been about what you can’t do as much as they are about what you can. [...] The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in contrast, is all about what you can do. This is a game that says “yes” to anything you ask of it. From the very beginning, you can swim in any lake, pick up any boulder, and cross any pit. When you try some crazy experiment, the game will oblige."

 

This statement is true in my experience so far. My first two nights playing the game, every time I thought I wonder if I can... it turned out that yes, I could.

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

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Dix
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March 7, 2017 - 4:47 pm
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Of course, that quote omits a rather notable point about this state of being. When you try some crazy experiment, the game will oblige...and then murder the fuck out of you with an optional mini boss you did not expect to meet.

Which is great. I love it.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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March 7, 2017 - 5:50 pm
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Remember that essay by Tevis Thompson a while back in which he envisions a Zelda with the sensibilities of (sorry to keep repeating it) Dark Souls?  Would you guys consider this at least a step in that direction?

Also, beyond the mechanics, does it feel like an actual Epic And Meaningful Quest as opposed to a series of walled playgrounds?  Sorry if that question is wrapped up in too many assumptions you may disagree with.  Feel free to modify as desired.

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Dix
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March 7, 2017 - 6:05 pm
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It definitely has some Dark Souls in it, whether that's on purpose or not. The game gives you some general objectives so that if you want to forge ahead in the main story you at least know what direction to walk in, but you can go in any direction and just see what's there. Very, very little is forbidden after the first hour or two (during which the game keeps you to a more limited, but still pretty large, area while it lets you get the hang of the rules).

Enemies are also arranged in such a way that, often, you have to be smart about your approach and prepared accordingly, although the combat itself is in some ways more forgiving than the Souls games. Link is more agile than most Souls characters and can swing his sword indefinitely, for instance, but many, many enemies you face in the game can kill Link in one hit if he isn't guarding.

I think the regions are reasonably well distinguished by virtue of their terrain and nature, but there are very few walls of any kind to keep you restricted to a given area. This is also similar to Dark Souls: there's a lot of interconnectedness, but you recognize the region you're in because of what's in it, not because the game has drawn barriers for you.

Of course, all of this is arguably true of the original Zelda, so maybe it's more accurate to say that Dark Souls was made with the sensibilities of the original Zelda...sensibilities that the Zelda series itself had mostly left behind.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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geggis
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March 7, 2017 - 6:41 pm
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I think that was Tevis' original point actually; that Zelda used to be like what Dark Souls is.

Synonamess Botch said
My Zelda history begins with Wind Waker, which I really liked. 

Yeah, same here, only, mine began and ended there! Always wanted to play Majora's Mask though.

I've heard some great things about Breath of the Wild but a few stuck out to me.

Firstly, it has motion aiming which is a big plus after Splatoon. I still can't abide by thumbsticks for that. Secondly, it understands the importance of the quieter moments and negative space between all the action. I fondly remember the ambiance of Wind Waker at times. It was often so calming and serene. No barking at me to do this and do that. Thirdly, and this ties in with the previous point, Nintendo are thankfully avoiding the 'UbiSnot' approach of sneezing quest markers all over your map.

It just strikes me as insecure. It's like they're so terrified of gamers losing interest that they have to dangle one hundred carrots in front of them to keep them plodding on. It's like some form of ADHD design. Look here! Go there! Do that! Get this! Oh, hey, new quests! More stuff! Keep playing! Please! Give me STALKER and Miasmata's quiet open world confidence any day.

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Dix
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March 7, 2017 - 6:47 pm
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Wind Waker is the most comparable console Zelda in the 3D era, though the scale of Breath of the Wild is, of course, much more massive. The size of Wind Waker's world at the time was helped partially by it being on the ocean; there weren't a lot of minute details all over the place. Breath of the Wild is almost entirely terrain; very little is flat, much of it has some ruined bits of civilization or old shrines or whatnot. There's things everywhere.

The questing is similarly Wind Waker-esque. Although there is a quest log (and I'm still not used to a Zelda game giving me a quest log or telling me when a certain quest is completed!), only the main story quests seem to give you persistent markers for where to go next, I suppose so you don't just get hopelessly lost trying to progress through the game. Everything else gives you hints, but you have to make use of those yourself.

The game does let you put stamps on the map to help remember where you've found or left things, but those are completely there for your use, not the game's. Also - this is so smart I can't believe I never really thought about it - you can mark up to five separate waypoints at a time, each with a different color. Really handy for marking something you spot in the distance but don't want to detour for yet.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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March 7, 2017 - 7:55 pm
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geggis said
I think that was Tevis' original point actually; that Zelda used to be like what Dark Souls is.

Yes exactly.

geggis said
It just strikes me as insecure. It's like they're so terrified of gamers losing interest that they have to dangle one hundred carrots in front of them to keep them plodding on. It's like some form of ADHD design. Look here! Go there! Do that! Get this! Oh, hey, new quests! More stuff! Keep playing! Please! Give me STALKER and Miasmata's quiet open world confidence any day.  

And this.  This so flipping hard.  A thousand times this.

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Steerpike
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March 8, 2017 - 9:03 am
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I've been really curious about Breath of the Wild. The way people talk about it is tantalizing, and some of the little things I've heard described (like the impact of weather) just sound awesome. 

The last Zelda game I played was The Adventure of Link in 1987, so this would likely be a step forward in the experience. 

I wish I could figure out a way to have it and play it without actually buying a console.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 8, 2017 - 1:37 pm
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Dix and Xtal, is there a lot of front-loading with the story, or is it left more vague at the start?

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Dix
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March 8, 2017 - 1:43 pm
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I think Nintendo realized that the more recent Zelda games (at least on consoles) started really, really slow, so Breath of the Wild feels almost absurdly minimal: Link wakes up, meets an old guy, old guy says, "Hey, you're probably important, go do these four things. That'll let you spend the next few hours learning the game by running into obstacles and challenges nobody has told you about, and then come back and I'll give you the exposition dump."

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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xtal
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March 8, 2017 - 2:04 pm
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Everything in Dix's last two posts, I second.

If I was playing this game in a vacuum, some of my early thoughts about it would be that it seemed so up my alley, was I missing something before? But I don't live in a vacuum and so I can see what other people think, and clearly it's quite a bit different than most of its predecessors. Like Dix said, I've heard it compared to the original Legend of Zelda the most. A bit to The Wind Waker, and a bit more to Ocarina of Time for its same sense of wonder. I've also heard Zelda fans say that Breath of the Wild's development probably acquired some boldness based on the positive fan response to A Link Between Worlds. Specifically, the ability to tackle dungeons in that game in any order, because all of the required items were available from one vendor.

And Breath of the Wild can certainly be tackled in any order. There are so many smart things about this game, I don't know where to begin. The first thing I would say is that I think Nintendo has made an impressively deep yet accessible game. To me, this game has depth (in its own ways) that compares to some bona fide classics, like the original Deus Ex, System Shock 2, or Fallout. Open-ended problem solving and opportunity for creativity is abundant.

I think they also made a great main quest/side quest system. Neither one fills your map with garbage or glowing signposts. You'll have these goals in your journal, but they're not pointing you in a direction. You have to talk with characters, take verbal directions, and make good use of your map markers (as Dix mentioned), and a pen and notepad with this game is a thing from which you'll probably benefit. And most of the side quests I've acquired are also not "stop to do this thing now" types. They've been simple so far: gather some fruits, take out these monsters in this area. It's all been organic stuff that you can just get to when you feel like going to an area, or when you happen upon certain items.

The only thing that feels like a slight burden so far is the camera related stuff, taking pictures, simply because it's hard to remember what I've captured and what I haven't without looking at the compendium.

Overall I think this game has struck an incredible balance. Like I said, deep and at the same time accessible. I'm by no means a Nintendo die-hard; I missed out on the SNES years, the Gamecube years and the Wii U years (until now). But I've still played my fair share of their classics, and for my tastes, Breath of the Wild is already my favourite Nintendo game. You had a good run, Super Mario Bros. 3.

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

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xtal
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March 8, 2017 - 2:05 pm
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Dix said
I think Nintendo realized that the more recent Zelda games (at least on consoles) started really, really slow, so Breath of the Wild feels almost absurdly minimal: Link wakes up, meets an old guy, old guy says, "Hey, you're probably important, go do these four things. That'll let you spend the next few hours learning the game by running into obstacles and challenges nobody has told you about, and then come back and I'll give you the exposition dump."  

Yep, this.

I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!

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Dix
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March 8, 2017 - 5:13 pm
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xtal said
The only thing that feels like a slight burden so far is the camera related stuff, taking pictures, simply because it's hard to remember what I've captured and what I haven't without looking at the compendium.

This bit does feel a little clumsy, though you don't have to actually check your compendium to see if something is in it or not; when using the camera, the brackets around the object are orange/gold if it's not in your compendium, blue if it is. Still requires you to pull out your camera, but you can learn to do that pretty fluidly.

My only complaints in a broad sense are that there are clearly a few features that were removed from the WiiU version (which I'm playing) because the Switch can't replicate those features. The game does require you to pop open your inventory with some frequency, and while it runs pretty fluidly and isn't a big deal, this was clearly built with the intent that you'd be able to use the WiiU tablet to simultaneously access your inventory while leaving the action on your TV. I think the camera may be one of these things, too; I wonder if you weren't originally supposed to point your WiiU tablet at the TV to use its ACTUAL camera.

xtal said
I've also heard Zelda fans say that Breath of the Wild's development probably acquired some boldness based on the positive fan response to A Link Between Worlds. Specifically, the ability to tackle dungeons in that game in any order, because all of the required items were available from one vendor.

I think for all the comparisons to classic Zelda, Breath of the Wild probably owes the most to A Link Between Worlds. Philosophically speaking they feel exceptionally similar: both offer a large map which you an explore mostly unhindered by any sort of plot gates, both are predicated on the premise you can tackle the main quest in any order, and both are very intent on playing on your nostalgia for great things from the Zelda games you remember most fondly. A Link Between Worlds was very specifically a sequel to A Link to the Past, while Breath of the Wild calls back frequently to Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker.

Nintendo is a little more adventurous than other big developer/publishers, but they are still vulnerable to the same concern that, if they're going to put years and years of development into a game (such as Zelda), they need to play it safe. They get so many Mario games out that some of them being crazy (like Super Mario Galaxy) is okay, because if they don't work out then there is a really safe Mario coming soon. Zelda gets far fewer releases, so the last several console Zeldas played things pretty safe.

What Nintendo has that your, say, EAs and Ubisofts and so on don't is their handheld market. Nintendo still tries to give their handhelds a great deal of attention, and they demonstrate a greater willingness to experiment in that format, probably because of the lower development cost of a game people will accept. All of the DS/3DS Zeldas (excluding ports) try aggressive gameplay mechanics that don't always work very well. I think A Link Between Worlds was a very intentional test of a more "open world" Zelda game, and one with a lot less handholding. (A Link Between Worlds didn't spend much time tutorialing you, either, though it did have characters in the game who were essentially an optional hint system if you got lost.)

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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March 9, 2017 - 5:07 am
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Got my Switch yesterday evening, played BotW on the telly then in bed then this morning in the office. It's too early for me to write something detailed and thoughtful, but god damnit, it's such a liberating game. I literally just went in search of trouble, ignoring the markers and the story, and the trouble found me in different and amusing ways. It really gets what open world should be about in my opinion - adventure that feels organic in a world that exists independently of your existence but responds to your actions in amusing and exploitable ways. So far it's Zelda by way of Far Cry and Metal Gear Solid for me. Can't wait for lunch break.

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