How many times have you played an ‘Open World Game’ (or ‘Open Air’, if you want to be specific for Zelda) and you see a little icon, be it an exclamation mark, question mark, or another type of symbol telling you exactly where to go? My guess is that it’s every single OWG you have ever played.
Don’t get me wrong, I need to have some form of idea of where to go; Breath of the Wild still gives you gold circles to tell you your next step in a quest. I don’t need to be told, however: “This is the exact spot where you’ll find a treasure, even though you have never ventured into this place before and you actually have no way of knowing this information, but I’ll give you it anyway by putting a little treasure icon on your map the moment you start the game.” I paraphrase.
Even The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which is an amazing game, was guilty of this. Below is a map of Novigrad and its area; this is only a small fraction of the Witcher world, but it offers you a glimpse of the amount of icons you’re given.
Why can’t we find these things on our own? Are we not trusted to do it without someone holding our hand?
One of the main things I love about games, especially those with an open world, is coming across secrets, Easter eggs and surprises. Some of the best and most memorable moments I have had in a game is when I have found something so unexpected:
Grand Theft Auto V, driving down a track and coming across loads of dead gang members on the ground and their cars parked up with the lights still on. I remember saying out loud, “Sh*t, it’s No Country for Old Men!” This was not on my map, it didn’t have a big bright light zooming down on the area, I just stumbled across it, and the memory will always stay with me.
I’ve only played about 30 hours of Zelda, and already I’ve come across dozens of interesting sides quests, stories, characters and events that I have discovered on my own. No icons in sight. I have explored, dying a lot in the process, and found so many weird and wonderful things. The thrill of not knowing what’s around the next corner incentivises you to continue.
Enemies are another factor to consider, they make you think “Can I take it on?” There isn’t a big skull above their head or ‘level 28’ etc., to tell you if you’ve got a chance of killing them. No, you have to find out the hard way. If you see a big Lynel bastard in the distance, you don’t need the game saying: “He’s going to kill you, run!” Being dead 5 seconds after he’s spotted Link brings me, countless times, to the same conclusion.
Breath of the Wild is a very clever game, and it knows you’re clever too. It gives you the bare minimum of information but provides you with the tools to do what you want.
“Can I cut down this tree to make a bridge to the other side?” Yes.
“Can I disarm this powerful enemy and then drop a shit weapon on the floor for them to pick it up and use?” Yes.
To find a new recipe, you’ll have to be vigilant of your surroundings. You won’t be able to buy ample from a merchant, instead you’ll have to read someone’s journal and figure out the missing ingredient, look on the wall inside a building and see one displayed on a poster, etc. You can even have a go yourself, think what ingredients go together and give it a go on a stove. Make an omelette from milk, egg and butter; make a meat and fish stew with crab, bass and raw meat.
The motto when playing this game is always: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Even after 30 hours in, I could go on and on about other things I have found out and discovered, it’s that good. Breath of the Wild lets you have the freedom to do what you want and explore how you want without the hand holding. I have never experienced a game like this, it has revolutionised the way we see open world games and has set the mark for how future games should be made.
Gamers are intelligent, and they want to be wowed; Breath of the Wild has brought back the sense of wonder and discovery that we have missed for so long, it gives us a completely bespoke experience. In life we will fail, make wrong decisions, but ultimately our goal is to succeed; the game gives you exactly this, with just a few more deaths and dancing plants along the way.