What can PC RPGs learn from Zelda: Breath of the Wild?

Regardless of platform, when you’ve got so many people rushing to call a game ‘possibly the best game ever’, it’s worth taking a look. This week then, what can RPGs learn from the 1994’s Rise of the Robots – the action brawler that combined ugly rendered graphics with ridiculous AI, and a musical score produced by the Queen’s own Brian May sitting uncomfortably on his keyboard for a while.

Hmm. I can’t think of anything. Fine. Let’s talk about the new Zelda instead. In particular, how its devotion to freedom goes well beyond simply giving you a map to play. Inevitably, spoilers follow, though it’s not really a plot game. Neverthless:

WARNING. I’M TALKING ABOUT THE FINAL LOCATION/VILLAIN

THIS IS A THING THAT WILL BE TALKED ABOUT IF YOU READ ON

COMPLAIN ABOUT SPOILERS AND I WILL LAUGH AT YOU

(A LINK TO THE PAST IS STILL THE BEST ONE)

So, yes. There’s a joke going around at the moment, courtesy of Friend of RPS Tom Hatfield. It goes like this, and it is, one might say, really rather Witty and On Point.

If we were to add Zelda on there, it would probably be something like “Zelda: See those mountains? You can sequence break them.” Part of the fun of the series, even at its most structured, has been how malleable it is. Traditionally, the structure is laid down relatively cleanly by using obstacles to gate your passage, and then putting the objects you need to get past those obstacles into the dungeon to provide the basic pattern for the game. You can’t get across a gap without getting the Hookshot, but you can’t get the Hookshot until you’ve got- and so on and so forth.

Players have long twisted this in various ways though, including outright cheating through going ‘out of bounds’ on the map, creating additional challenges like ‘no sword’ or ‘reverse dungeon’ runs, or finishing the time-looping Majora’s Mask on the second cycle. The most recent 3DS Zelda however, A Link Between Worlds, broke the classic structure by taking key items out of dungeons and making them available for cash.

And then there’s Breath Of The Wild…

There’s no getting out of the tutorial, in which you as Link wake up in a strange place without so much a perverted scientist calling for thermal bandages. The game starts on a high plateau that’s lethal to fall off, where the basic gist is to learn the arts of stuff like cooking and surviving the cold and being gently mocked by a giant beard with an old man attached to it, while raiding several shrines for what will turn out to be, basically, most of Link’s abilities – freezing water into ice blocks, time manipulation, creating bombs and so on. All of these are special runes downloaded into his, snnk, ‘Sheikah Slate’, as developed by an ancient yet incredibly advanced culture that mastered the elements but died out before inventing things like anti-aliasing. Anyway. Collect those, and you’re rewarded with a paraglider for conveniently getting down off high things without breaking every bone in your body.

And at this point, you’re ready to start the game. The map is huge. Packed with shrines to discover and recipes to make and weapons to quest for; villages of characters to meet, a whole army trained specifically to kill Link, and four Divine Beasts to harness as part of the final epic battle to to save the day. It’s Zelda, only much, much bigger than we’ve ever seen it before. “Hyrule Field” indeed. Piss off, Ocarina of Time.

Right there though, highlighted from almost the start, is the final location. Hyrule Castle, where the big bad villain Calamity Ganon awaits. Yes, right there, and not as you might have thought, somewhere behind the ice level and the fire level. You know. The Deadwood stage. You’re told that it would be a very bad idea to go there while Ganon, Lord of Malice and Darkness and All That is at full power and you’re a three-heart weakling in your underpants, with the idea being to go on an epic adventure that starts way over thataway in distant Kakariko village. Shocking exactly no Zelda fan.

But here’s the thing. If you want to go to the Castle right away, you can go to the Castle right away. And I don’t mean if you know some special cheat, because I am exactly the kind of asshole player who hears ‘Don’t even think about going to the Castle yet’ and immediately runs to the castle. Not only is this very possible, I promptly got to the end of the castle and got two out of five boss fights down before running out of equipment. There’s no big force-field to keep you out, no locked door you can’t open without the Master Sword. You don’t even have to mix some kind of recipe to survive the heat or cold or radiated evil from the purple slime splattered around literally everywhere.

Just think about that from a designer standpoint. Most games won’t allow you to skip company logos at the start of the game. And here’s Nintendo, openly inviting you to skip the entire game by plonking the villain right in the middle of its world and outright declaring “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!”

Now, I won’t say it went well. The gimmick is that if you haven’t fought one of the Divine Beasts, they show up now as one of Calamity Ganon’s alternate forms, which means four additional boss fights with no chance to save or resupply, and that’s before getting to the main event. I took out two and a half of them though, and felt pretty good about that. Needless to say, looking up speed-runs of the game after that, speedrunners are doing rather better, stocking up on some of the high end equipment in and around the castle that I didn’t know about, as well as taking a short-cut inside that skips basically all of the castle content. Like a sucker, I went in through the front door.

The fact that I was able to get this far on my first try does of course say something about the difficulty of doing it. I’ve talked before about my inability to play Dark Souls, so the fact that I was able to get this close to the Lord of Evil without even finding proper trousers doesn’t say a whole lot for the security systems. Being one hit away from death doesn’t matter too much when nobody knows how to lead a shot, and even with just basic stamina, it’s crazy easy to sneak past everything by climbing walls around obstacles instead of facing them head on like some kind of hero.

Still, I respect the hell out of Nintendo for making it possible, and make no mistake, it’s clearly a deliberate piece of design, unlike, say, Two Worlds, where the developers didn’t think through the problem of putting the villain (even masquerading as a friend) outside the first village, allowing for speed-runs of literally two minutes. Breath of the Wild is a game entirely built on freedom. Do any or all of the shrines in whatever order you want. Get the Master Sword, or don’t. Fly anywhere you like. Climb up and over anything. If there’s a rule, it’s made to be played with, with my favourite example being that if you throw a Cucco at an enemy and they attack it, they get to experience the ferocious chicken-beating that Link To The Past bullies faced way back in the 90s. That playing also extends to the designers, with elements like the weather making vertical surfaces slippery, or the physics providing more comedy than anything in the script.

Next to all this, of course you can just walk to the boss. Anything else would be a self-betrayal. And if some players decide to skip the entire game in favour of just throwing themselves against Calamity Ganon, then not only is that treated as “Well, it’s your £60”, but Nintendo even quietly helps by filling the castle with stuff like frost swords and the top quality gear. Calamity Ganon himself remains more annoying than being repeatedly smacked on the back by Doris Day while just trying to drive your fucking carriage from Illinois, and yeah, ideally you want to be ready for that fight, but Nintendo clearly made a choice to make it doable by the average mortal rather than cranking things up in the name of making a point to the casual rushy-roos.

Now, I do think it could have been done a little better, to reinforce the importance of actually playing the game and not make the rest of the game feel so unnecessary. In case you’re wondering, speed-runners are currently down to around 50 minutes, which consists of roughly 20-30 minutes getting the skills on the Great Plateau, then about 20 making a beeline for the Castle and kicking Ganon’s balls so hard that they create yet another new split-timeline. I’ve yet to beat Ganon this way personally, but I was making good progress when my Wii U pad – sorry, my Sheikah Slate – ran out of power. I’m pretty sure one more go would have done it, but I couldn’t face fighting his previous forms again. I’ll get round to it some time, maybe after playing some of the actual game.

Certainly, it’s not just for the elite players, but speaking as a very much not elite player, I… actually kinda wanted it to be. Or at least, a good deal less obviously doable.

In the ‘odd how things come to mind’ category, I’m reminded of Punch-Out! on NES, where just about every magazine would print the code to skip straight to the final, basically impossible fight with Mike Tyson. I always suspected that this was a deliberate ruse so that players would get both the satisfaction of actually seeing the star of the game, and see just how good they’d have to be to meet it. Going back to the start to play properly then became less a case of just racing through to see Tyson. Ganon and Hyrule Castle I feel should have been similar – not the closed door of impossibility, but certainly a harsher form of ‘haha, no, come back when you’re ready’. Even though the boss rush can initially provide that, the castle itself isn’t particularly scary when you know you can get around it in complete safety.

Again though, that’s execution. I’d love to see more games experiment with this kind of concept though – the player deciding when they’re ready. It’s obviously been done to some extent before, though I do think there’s a big gulf between something like Fallout where you can use player-knowledge to run straight to the ending and Breath of the Wild, where the goal is so openly There. In most other cases, you might technically know where everything’s going to go down, but it’s not feasible to get there, like Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission that only becomes available at a certain point, or the thing/person you’re after doesn’t actually exist until it’s time. Far Cry 2 for instance could have been a fascinating cat-and-mouse game between yourself and the man you’re there to kill, but you can kick down every door in the open world and you’ll never find the Jackal sitting there going “Wow, wasn’t expecting you.”

The closest I can think of to the Zelda example is Chrono Trigger, where you can fight the final boss whenever you like. Unlike Zelda though, you really don’t want to try that without some serious level grinding or a New Game Plus under your belt.

It’s of course very unlikely that this will happen. Not only is expecting the player to, y’know, play the game the kind of wish that most designers have deep within their core, I’m sure even now there are people complaining that the new Zelda is only five hours long. That other hundred hours of beautiful scenery and characters and the entire childlike joy of discovery? Pffft. That’s just ‘optional content’. Though on the plus side, at least anyone complaining about that probably not isn’t also bitching about the Nintendo Switch’s battery life. So, a definite win there. But to have tasted the kind of freedom that the new Zelda offers, on both a micro and macro scale, makes for the kind of experience that everything that comes after it can’t help but be shadowed by. When Plato came up with his allegory of the Cave, he probably never envisioned the shadows suddenly putting on green tunics and going “Excuuuuse me, Princess!”

Too pretentious? Too pretentious. Still, ‘freedom’ just got a whole lot freer.

Except for the part about costing sixty ****ing pounds.

From this site

101 Comments

  1. NotGodot says:

    Well, from all trustworthy accounts it’s a vacuous game that lazily implements trendy survival mechanics that began on PC, so, I’m guessing that PC games can learn nothing from this pile of shit.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      ‘From all trsutworthy accounts’

      So you fall into the ‘some random dickhead who hasn’t even bothered to play it yet still has an opinion’ category, then? Somehow I think your analysis of the situation is a lot more vacuous than the game of which you speak.

      • lemonhug says:

        I assume “by all trustworthy accounts” he means “anything that doesn’t reaffirm my preconception is untrustworthy”.

        Even with the performance faults it has been received almost unanimously well, I actually can’t remember the last time a game had such positive reception.

        But of course, everyone that likes it is a Nintendo/Zelda fanboy and if it’s not on PC, it’s trash. Don’t these people know the the PC invented video games? How can something that isn’t a completely original concept be considered in any way “good”? Anyway, back to League of Legends for me.

        • gpown says:

          I agree with your comment in general, but can anyone explain why League of Legends seems to be the whipping boy on RPS? It’s a very good game, just with an immature (inevitably because of its size) community I think.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            Like you say, it’s popularity. If you remember, when CoD was massive the vogue was to make fun of the neckbeard dudebros that thought they were God’s Gift to headsets.

            League is the most played online game in the world right now, sharing a massive 20% of the online gaming population. Mainly because it is good, but partly because it’s free ajd has a good f2p model. So while you get the cool people who play the game because they love it, as is sadly always the case they are drowned out by the far more vocal assholes.

            Though I will say this: I’ve been playing the game since 2009 (i will always suck but i dont care), and I still love it. It’s a great game and Riot are doing a great job of at least trying to keep the experience fresh. And as of the present day, the community is better than it’s ever been. Yes, there are still plenty of douchebags that get way too prissy when you’re losing, but the instant feeback system has been working really well for the most part, so most of the asshats don’t last very long.

          • lemonhug says:

            Just taking a dig at the need for something to be totally original to warrant being objectively “good”, when League is a clone and would be considered the best, or alternatively 2nd best MOBA at the moment by most. My last paragraph is just sarcasm & satire.

      • Aldehyde says:

        I played a few hours of it when a friend brought it over to my place a couple of weeks ago.

        It was good. An open world fits the Zelda franchise really well. I just wish it felt less like an icon squasher a la Ubisoft.

        Granted, I didn’t get to play too much of it but I wasn’t as impressed as much of the rest of the world.

        And between the awful frames in the docked mode and a few minor annoyances here and there, it’s not the game I’d buy a Switch for.

        • CriticalMammal says:

          Had a difference experience playing it with a group. Didn’t have that icon squasher vibe at all. We turned off the minimap (there’s a ‘pro’ controls mode) and ran around and goofed off in the first sandbox area for hours admiring it. It wasn’t until later that we ran through some of the first temples to get your base powers. The structure of the game is really interesting. It allows for a really pleasant experience running around even before you go to the first objective.

        • LukeW says:

          “I just wish it felt less like an icon squasher a la Ubisoft.”

          That’s a weird comment to make about a game that doesn’t put any icons on a map until after you’ve visited them ingame.

    • barelyhomosapien says:

      Another cheerful internet soul!

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        Ghostbird says:

        “A fan doesn’t enjoy a thing on its own merits. They seek to form a consensus opinion about things independent of the merits. Fans seek other fans to reinforce their fandom, fostering extremism as they attempt to outdo one another. They create rigid systems for the things they love, putting them in carefully labelled boxes and worshipping, exalting, preserving them, as if in amber… For a fan… there is only the combative enforcement of custom that proves Siddharta’s words: ‘The root of suffering is attachment’.”

        – Stu Horvath, The Tyranny of the Fan

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      subdog says:

      Oh come on.

    • stringerdell says:

      You’re guessing wrong, and coming across as a bit of a fool I’m afraid.

  2. ColonelFlanders says:

    You could have warned us about the spoilers Richard, I mean come on: three paragraphs at the head of the article just isn’t enough!!

    • Ghostwise says:

      If the warnings blinked and changed colours, it’d be safer.

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        Don Reba says:

        As long as there is a prominent seizure warning preceding those.

      • April March says:

        As a curious aside, my boss asked the TI guys to put some important information in a blinking box, and is dumbfolded when people still miss it. I haven’t had the heart to tell him that a blinking box happens to be invisible half the time.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    “Except for the part about costing sixty ****ing pounds.”

    That, plus the cost of the Switch, which currently has nothing else going for it. Might as well be a Zelda machine at the moment.

    But the game does look good, and I agree with having the goal plainly in sight, even when the protagonist isn’t likely to be able to tackle it right away.

    I ran straight for The Darkest Dungeon as soon as it opened in that game, and got my ass handed to me. Still a right laugh though.

    • Kasjer says:

      Well, Darkest Dungeon is quite the opposite of freedom for me. Not only it requires a lot of grind to tackle on final quest, it also locks out you from using more experienced heroes to go against lower end bosses, requiring to uptake certain quests when you have characters at correct level. It also locks out characters that entered DD once from going in again. I like this game but at the same time I’m irritated of barriers put in place just to make game harder, like level restrictions and economy in which I’m always too poor to upgrade my heroes or give them enough gear etc. Eventually I’ve got bored of constant grind and stopped playing. Waiting for radiant update to arrive on Vita as I own the game on this platform.

      As for Switch, Fast RMX is another game worth picking up at the moment apart from Zelda. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s great game if you like antigrav racing genre, easily comparable to Redout and Wipeout 2048 (Vita one) in my book. And it focuses on strongest point of such games, namely: racing. No weapons or pickups, just pure skill to stay on track, with added twist of color coded acceleration strips. So far I have played it only briefly on friends machine, but game looks spectacular, handling is spot on and tracks are challenging. Reviews (not much of them yet, unfortunately) say this is worthy of at least strong 8/10 mark. Sure, it is a remaster of Fast Racing Neo from Wii U (Zelda is also in kind of the same category) with all DLC included and updated visuals, but value is exceptional here.

      It made me realize how much I’ve missed the genre. I’ve dusted off my PS3 just to play Wipeout HD/Fury and I’m trying to elite pass all events in 2048 on Vita. No Switch for me until next year, way too much expenses this year connected to personal life changes, but Fast RMX will be 1st game I’ll buy for the system (along with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for family and friends who have inferior reflexes ;))

  4. Plank says:

    Why are pc gaming websites publishing articles about ZeldaBOTW?

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      One, it’s something the writer is enjoying and I guess he wanted to write about it.

      Secondly, they make their money on ad revenue, and traffic increases that. Zelda reviews/articles get traffic at the moment.

      Shocker.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I don’t give a crap about ad revenue and traffic. I write an RPG column, and while it’s not a PC RPG, it’s a game that does something interesting enough in comparison to the rest of the genre that I thought made it worth taking a bit of time to explore.

        • Plank says:

          “I don’t give a crap about ad revenue and traffic.” Well that explains why RPS has an article up on the new Nintendo Switch Zelda game and also why the site is full of ads.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Not really. I’m a freelancer. I neither know nor care what the rest of the site is doing at any time. Right now though, there’s an advert up for a game called ‘The Hunter’ and the only other Zelda piece is a Supporter only thing where Alec talks in not crazy flattering terms about the Switch. So if this is some way of somehow getting that sweet Nintendo money, the site’s not doing it very well.

          • Plank says:

            So RPS paid you to write an article on a console game?

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Go away, boring person.

          • Plank says:

            :)

          • Mordaedil says:

            Welp, by that logic, might as well just turn off all computers.

          • NailBombed says:

            You wear your username well indeed… you utter Plank.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Richard, I love how active you are in the comments, but this time I can’t shake the feeling you’re wasting your time and throwing pearls in front of swine.

            Is that a thing? In English I mean?

          • Darloth says:

            Yes, it is, typically phrased as “pearls before swine”, which then confuses some people who think it’s time based not locational. Apparently it comes from the bible, but until I looked it up, I thought it was because pigs would eat them. That said, pigs will eat a great many things.

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          Drib says:

          I did put the fact that you seemed to be enjoying yourself and wanted to write about it first.

          Didn’t mean to go pissing you off or anything.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Oh, I’m not pissed off. I’m just juggling several things at the moment, so was replying off the cuff. You’re fine. Not as boring as Captain Conspiracy there.

          • Plank says:

            “About Rock, Paper, Shotgun

            RPS is about PC gaming – all of PC gaming, rather than just one of the weird and wonderful niches most other PC-centric sites confine themselves to.”

          • Sian says:

            @Plank: Why are you so bothered by this? It’s one article about a console game in, what, thousands? And this article is about one single aspect of that game to show what Richard would like to see more of in PC games.

            Heck, if you’re worried about Nintendo giving them money for this, rest assured that they wouldn’t waste it here. This is, as you say, a PC gaming website and money spent here to advertise for a console game would not be money spent well.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            @Plank

            “What can PC RPGs learn from Zelda…”

            This article is talking about PC Gaming and how we could stand to learn from Nintendo. It’s PC-Centric news on a PC-Centric site, so stop being such a bellend. It’s clear that Richard can’t give you the same courtesy as I can since he has to behave for RPS so: Stop being such an unbearable pedant, since you can’t even do it right. Go away. Begone. Piss off.

    • popej says:

      Hey everyone, check this guy out……

    • mascarpwn says:

      How about you start by reading the title, then proceed to actually read the thread.

      This might help you being less of a retard, though I won’t count on it.

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      MajorLag says:

      Because it’s basically an over-hyped kitchen-sink early-access PC game with a kickstarter.

      Except for the fact that it was made by Nintendo and the likes of living legend Shigeru Miyamoto, so it’s actually really great, already finished, costs $60 and isn’t on PC. Details.

  5. barelyhomosapien says:

    Knowing the final fight isn’t elite twitch reflexes only actually makes me really happy.

    I’ve spent half my time wandering, discovering, feeling slightly lost and slightly exasperated along with it.

    I’ve now taken out two of the divine beasts and should have number 3 done after work.

    I know where the master sword is too​.

    While no doubt a great game, i definitely prefer a more guided experience and now i know i don’t have to worry about running around gathering materials for upgrades once the beasts are done!

  6. kerndaddy says:

    I so want this game but I just can’t bring myself to buy a system because of it. Now if it gets a new Animal Crossing too I’ll buy me a Switch.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Wii U is rather cheap second-hand now and you can play all the older Nintendo games too if you missed out on them. If you already owned a Wii it’s probably not so rewarding.

  7. djvecchitto says:

    Owning a PC + Nintendo console is the best combination.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I almost agree. I only really missed out on Shadow of the Colossus and Bloodbourne.

      • Sleepy Will says:

        Oh, but Horizon ZD – for me, it’s easily in my top 10 all times game, the only non-Morrowind open world game in there.

    • Kasjer says:

      I’d say owning all major gaming devices is best combination. Sony does have some great exclusive franchises/games, like Wipeout, God of War, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Killzone and Horizon: Zero Dawn among others. I think many of those are as essential as Nintendo games. Same applies to Xbox exclusives like Forza series – at least those are now released also on to UWP/Win10 (but honestly, seeing how many problems are with Windows 10 store I’d rather play them on a console). Going for PC+Nintendo would rob me from many great gaming experiences. Still, as I’m not rich enough to buy all systems, I have to choose which platforms are of better value for me. Last gen, PS3 won for me and I’ve also bought Vita, while of course owning a gaming PC. This gen, games to really win me over are yet to come (Horizon is first PS4 exclusive so far which I really want to play) but Switch already scored high in my book with Zelda and Fast RMX.

      • April March says:

        If you can afford it…

        I have a 360 and I mostly use it to watch Netflix, even though I have Dead Red Redemption on it. I agree with the OP; a PC and a Nintendo console is the way to have the widest range of experiences with the least overlap, because Nintendo games are often very different from PC games and rarely released for it.

        That said, I’ll stick with PC only for now, as I am incredibly cheap. ✊️✊️✊️✊️

    • lilJoshu says:

      I agree. PC + Nintendo is the best combination.
      Nintendo has the best and most nostalgia inducing exclusives and Steam has everything else and mod support

      But before naysayers say “but mah mah… netflix” A steam link is waaaay cheaper than an xbox or playstation, and you get not only netflix, but everything else on the internet too.

      And dudes… porn. Seriously. Playstation and Xbox despite being “the edgy adult things” are actually too family friendly with their app lineup to allow that. Steam-link gets you everything by just giving you straight up PC access with full internet and related browsers. And I can *never* justifiy the cost of a Playstation or Xbox for their exclusives, I *can* justify the cheaper Nintendo for its exclusives. Everything else goes on PC and modding rules all.

      And you know what I can get for the price of a Playstation or Xbox? More PC games I actually care about. And I don’t have to pay for the internet connection.

      So it even beats the “have them all” combinations, because I still get to play more games I want to play with the PC + Nintendo combination.

  8. dethtoll says:

    No Metroid, no money. And I mean real Metroid, not this Federation Force shit, or the travesty that was Other M.

    Also Ocarina of Time is clearly the best Zelda, though I have a special place in my heart for Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask. Didn’t like LttP very much — its soundtrack is tinny on the SNES and the gameplay is rather a chore.

  9. RedViv says:

    What I enjoy most about BOTW is the lack of bothersome geocache dispenser NPCs (as far as I got in, 20 hours of exploration and story, anyway). The ones that are just sat in the tavern to guide you to Location X to fight Enemy Y to retrieve Item Z. Just so the devs can send you around for a while in an area they feared you might not otherwise explore.
    And in so many cases this, to me, only broadcasts a need for Content™ that is entirely counter to just feeling those beautiful worlds.

    Skyrim is a big offender in that regard, but also has a lot of beautiful examples of how you could do it – like uncovering the use for all those dragon priest masks.

    • Qazi says:

      Aw, Viv. They are in there though.
      Still doesn’t diminish that the player doesn’t really need them. Even if they are serving purpose, putting people into the world.
      And they’re mostly phrased in terms of word and geography/cartography riddles so one still needs to manually discover X; or as possibiliies in the general local history of an area; rather than an explicit map dot waymarker.

      • RedViv says:

        That much is acceptable.

        Bethesda never found a good way to do it. Not for the majority of their post Morrowind games. All we would have needed is *better instructions*, not markers EVERYWHERE!

  10. Dogshevik says:

    Actually leaving such decisions to the player is a gutsy move, especially considering the target audience.

    I am not sure what made freedom to a kind of an lost artform, when it comes to RPGs. It is easy to say this is just the lowest common denominator zeitgeist and the fault of the filthy casuals that developers cater to, but I am not totally convinced by that.

    All I know is, that back in the days of yore (you know when you had to carry your Amiga uphill through the snow to the desolate plateau where the byte mines were located, constantly haunted by the shrill shrieks of the 56k birds of prey) games just made it very clear that you weren´t ready to wander beyond those mountains of monstrous madness/into that desert of deserved desolation yet by sending mob after mob of superior critters your way. I kind of liked that.

    Actually it was no different than force fields or master key mechanics, but simply by giving you the option to at least -try- made it seem way less lazy from a design point of view.

    And it certainly beats that “scaling” stupidity. (Which I won´t even go into detail about, because an incessant string of random profanities would lead us nowhere.)

  11. dashausdiefrau says:

    Probably Dragon’s Dogma comes close from a few year’s prior, and it had better combat probably thank this game.

    That game had some very frank ideas, I would rate it higher than Witcher 2 for example. No level scaling, fight with the monsters was truly unique, and companions were fun.

    Also, action games should have customizable UIs. That saved the Assassin’s Creed series for me. You can turn off UI elements one by one, so everyone can use as many aids as needed.

    Also, something that would be useful: scalable worlds. An option to make cities further or closer away. The small distances were the worst in AC4, and install time generation of some extra landscape for games like Skyrim could be fun.

    Also, a Skyrim meets Mount and Blade. I want to ride my company of a hundred horses and make a camp at the edge of a city, handle resources, raid trade routes. I don’t care if graphics look 10 year old, but the scale of units should be massive.

    • Sian says:

      “Also, something that would be useful: scalable worlds. An option to make cities further or closer away. The small distances were the worst in AC4, and install time generation of some extra landscape for games like Skyrim could be fun.”

      That’s not really feasible. The devs would have to put in much more time to generate seperate maps for every setting. It’s not like you can just make the largest map, then simply cut out bits here and there to shorten distances. Even scaling down the size wouldn’t work well as objects would have to retain their size. Just think of trees – can’t just squish those together willy-nilly and you can’t just shrink them, either.

      • Premium User Badge

        Jekadu says:

        This isn’t as unfeasible as you make it out to be. You could conceivably use the streaming technology that a lot of games use for seamless transitions to create something like this. Whatever seams appear can probably be filled in with proc gen terrain.

        In games that already use fully procedurally generated world maps it’s as simple as tweaking hotspot density and map size variables to your liking.

        • Darloth says:

          You could go further, and make it part of the plot.

          Perhaps the cities/main locations are bubbles of stability in an otherwise semi-random ocean of chaos, which forms and under certain rules reforms depending on who’s travelling it. There, I just also explained away level scaling!

          Do that RIGHT, and it could work really well.

      • giovanni says:

        You could sprinkle maps with magic teleporters/gates/fast travel options too.

  12. wodin says:

    I have no issues at all RPS talking about a Nintendo game in relation to PC games. Also I quiet like the look of the switch. I think the crossover between indoor console and portable handheld is genius and I hope it’s a winner for them. I always hate to hear about game companies no matter what format getting into financial trouble. I want gaming and great companies to be around for a long time to come. If I come into any money this year I shall be buying a switch for my daughter.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jekadu says:

      I’ve been using the Switch primarily as a portable console. In that aspect the dimensions feel a bit off, but I don’t see how you would use any other portable console after this one.

  13. Tuor says:

    I thought I’d just throw in that you could beat Far Cry 3 even more quickly than this Zelda thing. It was pretty neat, and sorta funny, too.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Pretty sure, you meant Far Cry 4… but that really cool feature doesn’t change the fact that the game was harmed by typical Ubi open world shenanigans, so Ubisoft could learn a lot from this Zelda game.

  14. syndrome says:

    I’d love to see more games experiment with this kind of concept though – the player deciding when they’re ready.

    You didn’t specify what kind of games, so I’m hoping it’s generally accepted that Minecraft is one of them?

    You know, that blocky game that kinda resembles the RPG (the “role-playing game” >.>), doesn’t hold your hand, and constantly let’s you decide when you’re ready, with plenty of goals to pursue at all times, though you can go straight for the end-goal — everything else is just a distraction, think of it as if it were a gratuitous mechanic that emerges from the way the game world is assembled, I’d say.

    While everyone seems to have seen it as a sandbox game with lots of mining & crafting, and even EXPLORING, what I saw is a loosely formed RPG that gives you a more malleable and more atomic substrate to play with.

    You know, like “See those mountains? Yep, mountains.”

    Why this couldn’t be expanded to become a more traditional RPG “sit down and I’ll tell you a story”, which would at the same time provide an opportunity to incrementally improve on the “substrate logic”, is beyond me…

    Instead we are bathing in the endless stream of survival bullshittery.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      There are excellent quest-based modpacks which consist of a mix of tutorials and story progression.
      You have a set of goals like get a flask of gas from the bottom of the ocean or produce a witchery broom yet can still do anything you want like build a base anywhere, set up a quarry, make a garden.

    • jeppic says:

      That first quoted line, is the line from the article that got me thinking too. I like the idea of it, but it’s hard to think of how it could be implemented.

      Magika is sort of like this, but for abilities, in that they are all available at the start, but hidden behind a skill/learning curve.

      I’ve been playing Divinity lately, and it takes the access approach in the rather standard way in that you can access tougher areas, but are warned you might not be ready. Usually this just ends up with you being killed, if you don’t heed the advice, which isn’t a fantastic experience.

      I also recently picked up the Mouse Guard RPG, which has a GM mechanic that encourages you to give the players what they wanted, but with a twist, when they encounter failure. I’m not sure how you could translate that directly to a coded game, but maybe something along the lines of you can challenge the end game objective immediately, but failure spawns additional challenges/events elsewhere in the world. This could create a balance for play styles where risk averse players would be rewarded for taking the time to prepare and level, whereas players that are tempted to push their luck could, and on failure would be rewarded with even more challenges elsewhere.

    • lilJoshu says:

      My one complaint about mincraft was the NPCs… way too flat. I kept hoping that they’d take a page from Storytron (now defunct and unfindable, with work on its follow-up replacement Siboot in progress being slowly funded on Patreon) and make in-depth procedurally generated NPCs with complex personalities, interactions, and dialogue interactions (actually being able to say whatever you want to them instead of choosing from a short list)… but instead we got testificates. Oh well.

  15. GAmbrose says:

    I’ll preface this with my PC Master race credentials:

    Had PC’s since 1994, currently have i7 5930k, Titan X SLI (Maxwell), 100Hz Ultra widescreen Gsync monitor.

    Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best game I’ve played for some time, and I’m not one of these “Games are no fun anymore” people either, I enjoyed Resident Evil 7 in January.

    The game is basically a mashup of all the best games from the last 20 years going back to Ocarina of time. The shrines feel Portal-esque, the open world is one of the best (if not THE best) world ever created.

    Here’s an example of two completely random things I came cross yesterday

    1) You can surf down mountains on a shield!
    2) I was paragliding and accidentally landed on a deer, and it gave me the same prompts you get when you capture a horse to soothe it! It got away, i’s not sure you can capture them or not but how cool is that? I could potentially have a deer to ride around on. Something I never would have even thought possible.

    I was up ’til gone 4:00 a.m Saturday in to Sunday, I’ve not done that with a game for what seems like years. Though I certainly had some late nights on XCOM 2.

    It’s great to have stunning ultra wide 100hz PC games. However, a 900p game with a framerate of 30fps that occasionally drops down to 20fps has proven to me that all those things we PC gamers fixate on, really don’t matter when you are playing (experiencing?) such an amazing game.

    I am a 34 year old man.

    • udat says:

      Comments like this are destined to cost me about £350 in the very near future.

    • simontifik says:

      Very much agree with you there. Except for the PC Master Race, I surrendered my membership, plugged my PC into my TV, use auto graphics settings and only play games with controller support (KB + M sucks).

      Everyone is raving about the open world, which is amazing but I love the physics based puzzling of the shrines. Nintendo have created a games worth of content in those. There a nice wide variety of puzzles all of which can be completed with the 4 powers Link obtains in the tutorial. I even find the motion control based puzzles enjoyable.

      • Premium User Badge

        Tartrazine says:

        I’m fine with talk of what consoles might be doing better or different than PC at any one time, but slagging of the K + M is a step too far begods.

        Consider washing your mouth out with soap and water.

        • April March says:

          I’ll say it again and again: No one actually likes keyboard+mouse.

          Mice are an excellent controller. They are the best tool for pointing at things. If you are playing a game which includes pointing at things, a mouse is the best controller.

          But keyboards are for typing, and have been forcefully repurposed for gaming. They are awful controllers. There are way too many keys, they are too similar and too close, and the different ones are uncomfortably placed. They are only considered half of a good controller because people think about them in conjunction with the mouse.

          The best controller would be a joystick/mouse combination. Search your heart; you know it to be true.

          • CartonofMilk says:

            aside from keyboard not being analog i have no problems with them as a controller device.

            i fail to see how one could design a mouse and gamepad hybrid anyway. What i can see is a special smaller gaming keyboard meant for gaming and not typing that has the “right distance” between keys (and not so many superfluous ones), but then again, the right distance also varies depending on the size of your hand. Mind you I’ve always been left handed when it comes to playing pc games (a habit i started with the first wolfenstein) and use the mouse with my left hand (i’m right handed otherwise) and i like that the arrow keys are separated from the other keys. I think i’d find it a clusterfuck to play with wasd with all these keys in close proximity. but as it is, with my thumb and index i can easily access the ctrl/shift/enter keys and with my little finger and ringfinger, the closest numpad keys (0147). Then for functions like inventory and maps, things you don’t need to access that quickly, i use the neatly positioned insert/home/page up/etc keys. They all seems well situated for my right hand.

            And in defense of the keyboard, there’s also genres like flight/space sims that pretty much require you have a assload of keys/buttons on your keyboard anyway. Oh well yeah i know, not if you can afford one of them fancy thrustmaster type controller, but i’m a gamer on a budget myself.

          • haradaya says:

            I’ve always thought stuff like Logitech’s G13 gameboard was a great evolution for PC games. Used it for a long time with great success. My thumb took over WASD and gave me analog movement. And in turn I had 3 other fingers ready to do other stuff.
            But it got killed by the influx of xbox controller only games. They simply don’t allow simultaneous input from kb/m and a controller, it’s either or.
            In my perfect world the norm would be G13-likes and mouse. Added bonus of such a world is it would rid multiplayer FPS games of the ridiculous sidestepping spam.

          • Darloth says:

            Keyboards are great for when you need a large number of buttons.

            The alternative is single-purpose instead of multi-function controllers, and when they have enough buttons they still end up LIKE keyboards, except you can’t type with them and typically will only play one game well.

  16. PiiSmith says:

    I would play it but buying a Switch or Wii U just do so, is asking too much. This exclusive titles are really the worst and don’t push me to buy new hardware, but ignore interesting titles.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jekadu says:

      You can get a used Wii U for cheap these days. Owning one gives you access to both the Wii and the Wii U library.

      Just saying.

  17. Chaoslord AJ says:

    (minor spoilers)
    Love it. They really nailed open-world. If only Skyrim had the same climbing and (vanilla) cold survival.
    It’s surpirising to shake up a tried and true formula and come up with something not only not disgusting but really good, most don’t make it.
    The music is rather dull but fits the art concept of a lonely wild world (goes exactly like the minecraft soundtrack).
    Ubisoft can learn how games don’t need to hold your hand and to make exploring fun again. While roaming in Zelda I could find (unmarked) a long shipwreck sidequest, a hidden cinematic with the princess, a rare horse, a unique merchant, a labyrinth, dragons, riddles, armor, fairy fountains, boss monsters, simply a beautiful vista etc. instead of oh look another useless templar relic, another blue glitch thing doing nothing, another shanty icon on my map.
    And Nintendo even learned from Dark Souls: the gothic crumbling ruins, the sad serene world etc.
    They are still a force in gaming besides not knowing how to make an account based store work, not having achievements, cloud save etc.

    • lilJoshu says:

      I’ve generally disliked achievements; it encourages lazy game design. If you need something breaking your immersion to tell you, “Excuse me, sir, you have achieved a thing.” Then they didn’t D@%^ well didn’t make the in-game sense of achievement good enough.

      When in survival mode Minecraft I built an inverted pyramid down to bedrock starting in the middle of the ocean (a Herculean task), I felt an amazing sense of achievement and no popup. When I made a stone pickaxe, I got an achievement and felt no sense of achievement.

      “Achievements” steal the glory of it. Because…
      1. It breaks the immersion. It robs the glory. Instead of standing back and basking in the “look at what I did”, it says, “Hey, in case you forgot this is a game, it’s a game.. didn’t we do a great job designing a game so you could do this?”
      2. It robs the feeling of uniqueness. If you get an achievement, you know other people have also gotten the achievement. It turns the adventure into a “ho hum, people have been here before.”
      3. They feel tacked on. You can have the most boring event in the world, but the game devs will convince people to do it “for the achievement.” It’s a poor substitute for content actually being there. If BOTW was an xbox game, I’d have a single achievement “Mountain climber – Climbing to the top of mountains – you have gotten 20/35.” However, with Zelda, I climb the things, I then I start hunting for rocks and find Korok seeds and interesting patterns to play fill in. And I think, “Yay, I found a thing here, I’m totally glad I climbed this mountain.” And there’s a few mountains that didn’t have any on it… and it builds a drive to discover and actually enjoy the surroundings, despite the amount of coding probably being very similar.
      4. Many achievements are grindy. They’re pointless wastes of time with literally no payoff. “Kill 200 enemy monsters.” kind of obnoxious. It’s even less fun than a “Go find 66 enemy monster pelts (1/3 drop) and we’ll give you a +1 bonus to your exotic dancing.” Zelda, on the other hand, I’ll hunt down 200 enemy monsters because I noticed that occasionally one has a nice sword they’re attacking with, and I WANT THAT SWORD, even if (or maybe especially if) I have to fight against it to get it.
      5. It robs existing content. If I see an acheivement “Climb Wakfoo mountain and get the green gem.” Guess what I’m not going to be surprised by getting when I climb Wakfoo mountain?

  18. Gordon Shock says:

    So your chief (and mostly lone) argument for the lessons the new Zelda can teach to PC games is that it gives you access to the final boss from the get go?

    In my book this is more of a gimmick than an argument. Every trailer and gameplay videos I’ve seen has led me to believe that the gameplay hasn’t really evolved since Ocarina of Time.

    What’s with the bold spoiler warning? Link fights Ganon to save Hyrule, gee where have I seen that before…

    The art style sure looks nice though.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      No, as it says in the intro: “In particular, how its devotion to freedom goes well beyond simply giving you a map to play.”

      You want other stuff, I’ve got it, but I wanted to focus. And spoiler warnings can refer to mechanical spoilers, not just plot. Hence the bit about ‘it’s not really a plot game’ in that very paragraph. It’s one thing to know ‘the villain is Ganon’, but another to be told specifically how that fight shakes out, etc.

      • Sugga999 says:

        Zelda 1 had what this new zelda had from the start. THe reality is the two first nes games had more fun direction even if the games were barebones then the open world crap you claim “PC games can learn from”. You really haven’t played a lot of PC games or have a shit memory. There are plenty of PC games miles better than most console games, you’ve just never played them obviously if you think BoTW is something special.

        BoTW is nintendo chasing the ‘open world’ trend and being stupid about it. It’s still got that screwed up huge open world with not much to do in it that most zelda’s have had, like in wind waker with the huge dead time with sea travelling was fucking awful.

        The reality is Zelda should have went in a more darksiders direction, trying to Ape open world style like Saints row 3 mixed in with a tiny bit of Dark souls /w a mostly typical zelda combat system is gay.

        Zelda is supposed to be about a real hero not some grandpa game where people just fart around. Zelda has been a snoozer and other games have surpassed it long ago. BoTW is Nintendo’s old guard and Japan’s tendency to build slow “relaxed atmosphere” type of entertainment when we in the west wish Zelda played more like a true action game along the lines of darksiders 1, combo’s, itneresting weapons. God of war, the first game of the castlevania reboot and darksiders 1 are all better games than BoTW by miles.

        BotW takes open world, brings back things we had in zelda 1 and doesn’t really improve on it. It’s still a kiddie game for small children or reflexed challenged grandparents.

        It’s really not a game for gamers and hasn’t been for a while. The people attracted to the zelda franchise are piss poor gamers with piss poor taste.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    You know what Zelda could learn from PC RPGs? Coming out on PC.

    • Premium User Badge

      Tartrazine says:

      Ha . It’s off the cuff remarks like this that makes scrolling though the comments worthwhile

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      If only. Thankfully, because PCs are so great, the less scrupulous among us will still be able to play it thanks to CEMU, if not now then probably soon.

      • Munchkinpuncher says:

        Yeah just saw this today. Apparently the framerate isn’t where it needs to be yet. But hopefully soon.

  20. the artful dodger says:

    Super glad you decided to write a piece on this game – I’ve been enjoying the first few hours of this (really reminds me a lot of the first one and Link Between Worlds, super excited to have something like that in a 3D Zelda game), and your take is a bit more nuanced than some of the console review sites.

    Not sure what’s up with the haters in the comments here; I’d love to see something like this on PC as well, but I’ve pretty much always done the Nintendo console/PC combo since they complement each other pretty well. No reason why PC devs can’t learn something from a console game (and someone likely will).

  21. Moraven says:

    The design talks have been interesting to watch/read about. This type of gameplay has been the big thing the past 10 years and to see Nintendo’s take on it helps move game design forward.

    Horizon Zero Dawn is a great game but has a little to much of the Ubi stuff for my liking. Zelda’s visual design in the world attracts the users to various places to explore and try something, which might discover some treasure of sort. Old MMOs had this feel, even WoW, until now everything is follow the quest marker on your map/compass.

    Thanks for mentioning Link Between Worlds more open ended choice of route. Most reviewers seem to forgot about it or never played it.

    • welverin says:

      Being a handheld only game is probably what hurts A Link Between Worlds the most, though most people are so busy calling Ocarina of Time the best Zelda game they fail to think of anything else.

  22. Nouser says:

    I’m not going to spoil myself, but I have to say it. LINK’S AWAKENING IS THE REAL BEST ONE.

    Also, Phantom Hourglass was pretty good.

  23. UncleLou says:

    I can’t read the article because I am playing it currently, but yes, it’s firmly in the “best game ever” category. Pretty much the first Zelda game I play, mind, I am not much of Nintendo Gamer.

    It’s like Nintendo sat on the sidelines for one or two decades, and then showed everybody how it’s done. One of those extremely rare games that raises the bar, and I can already see how it will ruin many other games for me.

    It’s like being in the ultimate epic adventure sandbox, like playing books like The Brothers Lionheart I loved 30 years ago. Full of things to explore and try out, in a wonderfully interactive world, without Ubisoft’s suffocating theme park game design.

  24. The Lambton Worm says:

    I feel obliged to mention Wizardry 8. It was the first CRPG I ever played and the facts that you could wander everywhere if you wanted to, areas were never really gated except through the things that hung out there killing you, you could attack and kill all the NPCs including the plot-vital ones, and if you were hardcore enough you could drag your under-levelled party through basically anything was one of the things I really loved about it and have been perennially frustrated by in other CRPGs. This kind of freedom has always been an option. I’m glad people are talking about it with excitement: I hope it catches on.

  25. thekelvingreen says:

    Wind Waker is the best one.

    • welverin says:

      No, Richard is correct.

      p.s. Ocarina of Time is over rated.

      • lilJoshu says:

        Breath of the Wild is the best one. And I’ve been playing since the first one.

        BOTW returned to the promise of the very first Zelda game, and delivered where every other Zelda game fell short… the ideal of the joy and freedom of discovery.

  26. CartonofMilk says:

    I just want to say that my childhood’s best friend could beat Mike Tyson pretty much any time (in Punch-Out i mean, i wouldn’t know if he could in real life) and i wouldn’t believe it if i didn’t see him do it in front of my eyes. Now he did win by decision the time i saw him do it but other friends confirmed that in a while he could TKO him in the third round.

    Also, my brother once finished Contra without dying once.

    Yeah, i wish i had some such amazing claim to fame from my childhood video gaming days but alas it seems i was really rubbish compared to everyone else i knew. Oh well, what’s new. I’m the guy who once finished an Assassin’s creed: Brotherhood playtest at ubisoft 2 hours after everyone else because that’s how much longer it took me to clear the parts they had us playtest. Shameful.

  27. mactier says:

    Seriously, you write an article with that title and ambition, on an almost exclusive PC gaming site, and can’t in any way manage to get around spoiling the ending, at all, for just a second, all the seconds? Every sentence is about spoiling the ending, this was the only way to talk about this whole game and the topic?
    You may not laugh about complaints about spoilers but should be laughed at for this.

  28. lilJoshu says:

    The only thing that would make Breath of the Wild better is Mod support.

    Speaking as a long time Bethsheda fan (and avid Bethsheda modder, mind you), Breath of the Wild in all regards other than modding, out-Bethsheda’d Bethsheda.

    Imagaine a Bethsheda game, with a bigger map, a freeer and more open world, and less number crunching replaced by more insuitive upgrading/leveling that doesn’t -feel- as arbitrary as leveling.