Bigger isn’t always Better

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was one of the highlights, if not one of the best games shown at this year’s E3 press conference. They seem to be doing all the right things and taking the series in the right direction. The art style is simply gorgeous, matching that of gouache painted landscape. The exclusion of a hand holding tutorial and an open world in which I can explore is something I’ve longed for in ages.

There were so many positive additions to the game – forging, cooking, climbing, various weapons and armour, just to name a few. The new gameplay mechanics that saw Link having to consume food to stay alive, whether that be gathered through foraging or hunting. The temperature gauge, that saw him losing hearts if he was stationed in a cold area for too long, meaning Link would have to acquire warmer clothes to stay alive. It was brilliant, finally, Nintendo seemed to be getting everything right.

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A screenshot taken from the 2014 trailer when the game was set for a 2015 launch and was known as The Legend of Zelda Wii U. This is the game that I was looking forward too.

Then the exploration was shown, I managed to watch the whole Nintendo Treehouse event and throughout I couldn’t help but feel that the Map was a little sparse and empty. Now I know that towns and storyline related NPC’s were stripped from the demo due to Nintendo not wanting to show too much at E3. The map was also restricted to just 1% of the final size, in order to not reveal too much.

All that aside, I felt as though the map lacked any real density. They mentioned how Breath of the Wild’s open world is 12 times bigger than that of Twilight Princess, as if bigger is always better? Personally, I’d rather have a map half the size but densely packed full of life, something that thrives and feels lived in, where the deep forests feel overgrown and uncharted and the valleys are bursting with personality.

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Screenshots taken from the 2016 trailer. Set for a 2017 launch. The difference is all most polar oppisite compared to the screenshot above, where as this should be the better version. It’s a dreary set of images when stacked up against that of the 2014 trailer screenshot.

After playing the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 last year, the bar was set higher than ever for open world games. Traversing through those worlds made me want to explore every nook and cranny and leave no stone unturned. Both worlds were packed full of places to explore. Even walking through a small wood in The Witcher 3 proved to be an exciting experience. The grass was long and overgrown, the trees shadowing over you, danger arose greatly as bears and beasts roamed in the area, you’d feel a real sense of Adventure and exploration from the map design alone. Whereas I just didn’t get that from Breath of the Wild.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn, another open world game set for 2017. This game features a densley packed world that looks deep and condensed, similar to that of the Legend of Zelda screenshot from the 2014 trailer, but a million miles away from the most recent 2016 ones. Not a good sign.

What we’d seen in the first trailer didn’t seem to represent the full game. The trailer seemed to be rich in life and dense in nature where the game demo lacked any real personality as if the game was bare beforehand and a few trees and camps were plonked within it to give an effect of a stocked landscape. Eiji Aonuma recently spoke about the games density.

“We talked a little bit about the idea of density, how dense to make this big world” Aonuma explained. The team realised that filling the vast landscape with things to do and explore would be a lot of work.

As the team experienced moving around on horseback or climbing up to a high place to paraglide down, they realised that their desire to see what’s ahead of the next horizon grew. At the same time, the team realised some moments should be subtle as you explore. “We realised that it’s OK if there’s pocket of emptiness”

– Interview source: IGN.com

I don’t want pockets of emptiness, what good is a huge world if that’s the case? why not a world half the size that isn’t as sparse? The encampments and shrines seem to be quite similar too. I’m aware each shrine will feature different puzzles and treasures but the game seems to resemble Far Cry in a way where you traverse to different outposts in order to overcome them, something that got boring quite quickly. A similar resemblance was shown many times in the demo with Bokoblin camps and each one seemed to be a similar setup. If this is representative of how each camp in the game is going to be, it’ll grow tiresome quite quickly.

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A Bokoblin camp, again the texture and setting of the world fail to resemble that of the 2014 trailer screenshot toward the top of this article.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the Zelda game I’ve always wanted, but in terms of exploration I’m a little worried. I don’t know if it’s the lack of power on the Wii U, the stripped back demo or just bad examples used throughout their official game trailer and demos. I want this game to succeed on all levels but seeing something like the examples above gets me a little worried. This is a detrimental time for Nintendo and all I want to see is them return to form.

I hope I’m proved wrong, I hope this is just due to parts of the game being stripped back for the purpose of the demo. I’m curious to see what awaits over the horizon within the game. I don’t voice these opinions because I want to put Nintendo down or because I’m not fond of the game, I do it because I genuinely care and I want the game to be as best as it possibly can be. If the game is slated for its sparse appearance or lack of density it’ll be a blow, not just to Nintendo, but to myself and those of us that love the series.

It seems that the nature of the games industry is that “bigger is always better”, that the bigger a map can be made the better it will be, as if it’s some kind of achievement, regardless of what lies within it. In general, I’d rather have a map that was half the size and full of personality, rich and alive, as opposed to something huge, barren and boring. Let’s hope as more of the game is unveiled my worries for its lack of density disappear.

/ CR

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