Hold your horses. Talking badly about Breath of the Wild? Are you out of your mind, Brandon? This is how you get harassed.
Here’s the thing, guys. Breath of the Wild is a good game. It’s an excellent one, I must add, and goes within the category of best games that I have ever played. It’s even cooler knowing that I could play this on the go. Sure, the story fell a little bit flat by the end and went a bit anticlimactic with some banal levels of voice acting, but everything else is just absolutely wonderful. Oh yes, did I mention just how much I loved this game? It’s just so good, and now I’m positively gushing. You should have heard me on the podcast pilot.
So good, in fact, that it’s ruined open-world gaming for me. I can’t look at them the same ever again after having played Breath of the Wild. That’s saying something, considering we just came off the burning heels of Horizon: Zero Dawn, Final Fantasy XV, or the way too acclaimed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Fine, it deserves all its accolades, grumbles). What was it about Breath of the Wild that did me in? The idea of the world being literally “open.”
You see, most of these games have these artificial barriers in place. Just because you see something incredible-looking in the distance doesn’t quite correlate to being able to interact with it. A big mountain in the distance? Sorry, you have to find the path going up the mountain or go around it if you want to get places. In a better example, those irritating ledges in Pokémon work one way – you jump down, you will not jump back up going the other way, unless you go around it.
Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, takes that all way. With the combination of some absolutely incredible physics at work, some fantasy levels of endurance, and some brutally frequent rainfall, the game really does let you go at it, and climb anything you can get your grubby little mitts on. You can get literally anywhere, after you leave the Great Plateau, and pursue your own journey as you head towards Calamity Ganon… or beeline straight for him, stark naked, and proceed to kill him with naught but a frying pan lid and a wooden spoon, taking absolutely no damage. If you’re that guy, we can’t be friends.
Going back to the topic at hand, Nintendo’s decision to create this wonderful, enormous Hyrulean sandbox changes the very foundations of exploration for other titles that call themselves open-world. Having to walk around mountains or obstacles feels incredibly trite. A tree that blocks your path in Final Fantasy XV can be blown up with a magic bomb in Breath of the Wild. Sure, these other open-world titles have a nice vista or two to enjoy, but this is compounded and rewarded in Breath of the Wild with these little things called Korok seeds. They’re seriously everywhere – a total of 900 of them that encapsulate for more than 70% of the game’s content.
I’ve never been much of a sandbox gamer, but Breath of the Wild enraptured me in its newest reimagining of Hyrule. While my older sibling proceeded to beat through numerous shrines and get his Master Sword fairly quickly, I recall spending plenty of hours scaling mountains or falling off high precipices. Exploring felt fun – not just because you used a Sheikah Slate to open up new parts of the map and climb towers, but because it had a real sense of reward that no other game could come close to matching. Korok seeds, great views, all in a portable form factor, it’s impossible to hate.
Recently, I took it upon myself to revisit Final Fantasy XV and play a bit of the new DLC, Episode Gladiolus (Music rating: A+ by the way). As I was heading out towards that content’s boss in Gilgamesh, I found myself looking at some of the landscapes that surrounded Eos, and realized that there was no way to interact with some of these landscapes. I kind of wish that it was possible, because there were some actually incredible places. Like, for example, those towering landscapes on the way to the battle against Titan, or up and down those buildings in the ruins of Insomnia. They certainly had the implementation down in the form of the Warp Strike, but it just felt half-baked now after playing Breath of the Wild. Why can’t I climb all the way up the walls of that tall building over there?
I’m not writing this as a condescending way to talk badly about these aforementioned games, by the way. I love every single one of them because they all take a similar formula and add their own flair to it. It’s just that Breath of the Wild is just one of those games that’s once in a generation, a game that’s so damn good that nothing else can even hold a candle to it.