You know that scene at the end of Zoolander, where Mugatu is talking about Derek Zoolander only having one pose, not understanding why he’s so hyped and that he feels like he’s taking “crazy pills”? That’s how I feel watching people talk about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s been lauded as one of the best games of the generation, but it just didn’t click for me.
I can certainly see why it’s been as loved as it has, don’t get me wrong. Its approach to open world game design is incredibly liberating, allowing players to explore the world at their own pace. If you can see it, you can go there, with no barriers to get in your way, and that’s impressive for a genre that often likes to handhold players during the opening few hours. Here’s the kicker though: maybe I like the handholding.
It’s not like I need the game to tell me where to go or what to do for the entirety of my playthrough. Obviously, for the type of game this is, that’d be annoying, but after the initial opening of Breath of the Wild, the game gives you a couple of quests then sort of just throws its hands up and says “figure it out for yourself, pal”. Of course I tried to make an honest go of it on my own, but, for the most part, any decision I seemed to make was the wrong one.
The few hours I spent with Breath of the Wild gave me the same feeling that Fallout 3 did, a game that I dropped for the same reason. Despite being an open world game that championed freedom, I’d get brutally murdered by anything I encountered. I’m used to attacks in Zelda games only removing half a heart at most in the early going, but here I was getting one-shotted by pretty much every enemy, all the time, and it sucked.
I’m assuming that what I should have done is followed the quest marker to some of the nearby towns, instead of trying to go on a murderous rampage right out of the gate, but for a game that’s all about player choice, my choices were seemingly punished. Clearly, discretion was the better part of valour, and more progression was made through the map when I opted to run away instead of fight.
After some trial and error, mostly error, and some time exploring the various shrines, which were honestly some of my more enjoyable moments in the game, despite the fact that the physics weren’t my friend at times, I’d reached Hateno Village to take on the Locked Mementos quest. Finally, I thought, this is where the game would finally make sense, and I’d lose the next 100 hours of my life to this Hyrule adventure. Nope. It was here where I almost threw my Nintendo Switch against a wall.
The premise of the quest is simple enough: take a blue flame and light various lanterns in order to power the village’s ancient tech lab. It’s certainly nothing in comparison to the likes of GTA: Vice City’s Demolition Man mission (remember that RC helicopter?) in terms of difficulty, so how did it draw my considerable ire?
It started raining.
Like any self-respecting open world game, Breath of the Wild features a day/night cycle with dynamic weather events, all of which can occur while you’re in the middle of a quest, including the quest in question that sees you taking fire across open ground. Naturally, fire doesn’t do so well when the heavens decide to open and dump aquatic vengeance on your quest.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it was already raining before taking on this part of the quest. I’d get it, just wait for a better moment and move on with my life. No big deal. It’s the fact that it started raining during the quest that really annoyed me. After dealing with constant deaths, brutal enemies and shrines that took more time to complete than I care to admit, this downpour was the final nail in the coffin. It felt like Breath of the Wild was actively working against me. It’s irrational, I know, but after a long day where you’re just looking to unwind, it’s the last feeling you want when playing a game.
A lot of people often make the comparison to Skyrim when talking about Breath of the Wild, but Skyrim managed to draw me in where BotW didn’t, the only barrier being those dreaded Frostbite Spiders. I’ve had to pause writing this to think about why I like one and not the other, and my best guesses are twofold.
Firstly, it seems like Skyrim levels up with you, so enemies grow stronger as the game progresses. Sure, giants will mess your day up in the early stages, but for the most part, the enemies you’re fighting will be level appropriate, meaning you’re more at liberty to explore where you want to, knowing there won’t be a huge difficulty spike. Plus, Skyrim lets you adjust your difficulty settings while Breath of the Wild doesn’t, which is a big help as far as I’m concerned.
The other point I considered is that Skyrim is much more populated than Breath of the Wild, which makes sense as BotW is almost post-apocalyptic in nature. In Skyrim, settlements and NPCs felt much more frequent, and they often provided quests and insight into points of interest and where to go next. Breath of the Wild didn’t really offer that for me, not in the same way Skyrim does early on. Maybe that’s something that comes into play later on though, which brings me to my conundrum in the first place.
After “RainGate”, I was resolved to never play Breath of the Wild again, but I’m wondering if this was a mistake. After hearing so many people talk about how much of a generation-defining experience the game is, I’m wondering if I’m in the wrong on this one. It’s entirely possible, considering I’ve also said in the past that I wasn’t that keen on God of War, but that’s another battle entirely.
Consider this to be my own personal Am I The Asshole post, the question being “AITA for dropping the ‘best game of this generation’?” I want to like Breath of the Wild, because it’s an ambitious game that does something completely new with an established franchise. I want to support endeavours like that within the gaming industry, but is it worth my time to go back to something I already bounced so hard off initially?
I’m interested to hear if other players found more success with the game once they returned for a second or even third try. It’s entirely possible that Breath of the Wild isn’t for me, but I’d like to eliminate any doubt. That said, with so many other games coming out and new consoles to save up for, along with an already enormous pile of shame, the time and money investment might be better placed elsewhere.
What are your thoughts on Breath of the Wild? Any tips to make Ash’s potential second try more enjoyable, or is this take of his too reprehensible? Let us know in the comments.
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