It’s damn hard to bring a brilliant idea to life fully realised. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is evidence of that in spades
I feel like Nintendo are sitting there perfectly aware of what they did wrong with the new ‘Zelda’ game. I doubt they are perfectly happy about themselves either.They knew well before they released it that this isn’t a finished game, that this isn’t even a Zelda game, but they knew that it didn’t matter what they released, as long is had ‘Zelda’ written on it, the world would go crazy for it.
And they have. So what’s left, if a game is financially successful is that all there is too it? Does it matter what I have to say about it? In the big scheme of things, no it doesn’t, not to most. So humour me, if you will.
The team at Nintendo gave up on Breath of the Wild, long ago. I don’t know why and I don’t know exactly when, but this is a game that was abandoned by its creators, and then padded and padded until it felt like a full game — by todays shallow standards — and then released.
I can see the soul in this new game, I certainly can. Albeit what little is left. I can see the Zelda, that is hidden underneath the moniker ‘The Breath of the Wild’, but what is on top of it is everything that is wrong with the gaming industry, fuck it, the world, today.
To cut things short this game is a fucking hodge-podge of conflicting ideas, mechanics and themes taken from any nook and cranny the corporates of Nintendo could possibly get their dirty little fingers into and thrown together into a disgrace that should never have existed. There’s about as much Zelda in this game as there is Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed, Minecraft and bloody Labyrinth. I don’t say this lightly: this game is a chore, packed full of gimmicks.
There’s moments where I feel like I’m playing Zelda and then suddenly, reality hits me and then I don’t know what I’m playing, is it Far Cry? Is it the Witcher? No, apparently this is Zelda. Brave new world. With so many different games this new ‘Zelda’ is obviously trying to draw from it’s hard not to just throw yourself back in disbelief. How can I be immersed in a game that doesn’t even know what it is?
The moment I knew this game was not going to be my cup of tea was then Link woke up in an underground chamber, kept in some sort of cryogenic sleep. The first thing you do is pickup, what can’t be mistaken for anything other than an iPad and suddenly I remembered the abomination that was Skyward Sword. It was at that precise point in time I realised all of the mistakes Nintendo made in that game were coming along for the ride with me in this new ‘Zelda’ experience.
I went into Breath of the Wild thinking of the Nintendo that made Super Mario, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Majora’s Mask, Ocarina of Time. A result of my obvious naivety. That Nintendo is no longer. I came out it, and why I am now writing this, remembering the Nintendo that made Wii Sports, the ‘Wii U’, the DS, Splatoon, and I realised, Nintendo isn’t so sure about what they are doing as a company anymore, let alone with Zelda, and my experience with ‘Breath of the Wild’ concreted that.
Is there someone at the top pulling the strings? A corporate head forcing a team as dedicated as they ever were to make stupid decisions to make the game more accessible or profitable? I don’t know.
Then I realised maybe it’s something else. Nintendo isn’t to blame. All of these recent Zelda games, all games, have started with a really great idea, and I guess Miyamoto is to credit for that. Skyward Sword’s initial videos were fantastic. You couldn’t believe how excited I was for it. So were Breath of the Wild’s. But then what do you do with the idea? It’s hard. I know it is. You might have an idea, but good luck doing something coherent with it. You take one wrong turn and you’re going down a path you can’t back from. And this is game development mind you, you can’t just start over. So what we have is ‘Breath of the Wild’, an experiment. That’s all this is, and I will appreciate it for that. An experiment.
What usually happens with things like this, is you start out with a great idea, a brilliant idea at that, but you soon realise, that whatever you do, should do or can do, can not nearly live up to the potential of the idea that you have got a hold of and so, you pad it, fill it up with meaningless content, a manufactured story, a stupid idea here and there thrown in for the heck of it, just so you can sell the idea of a good game. Sure, if I never got my hands on Breath of the Wild, I would have taken it for face-value, and kept on thinking how brilliant it would be to play it, an open-world, fully 3D Zelda game, with elements of survival and crafting. I’m just frothing thinking of it. The most freedom you’d ever seen in a Zelda game to date. Heck I’d still be looking forward to it to this day. Actually I am looking forward to that game. ‘Breath of the Wild’ is most certainly not it.
What you actually have is a game with an attractive premise — but absolutely overdone: open world adventure survival, something everyone has wanted a piece of since Minecraft — but is dulled down and padded to the gills with gimmicks and chores, just to see it through to its ‘completion’, that is, a product to be sold. Another recent example of this (fairly recently) is Diablo III, a game that starts out with much of the soul and mystery of the first two games in the series intact but quickly becomes a boring and uninspired grind.
The reason I care so much Zelda is it is about the only mainstream game with any soul left. It is one of the only games outside of indies that have any substances at all left. Skyrim? Disgusting. Assassin’s Creed? Vomit worthy. Dark Souls, II, III? No way. Uncharted? Who are you kidding? Far Cry 2, 3, 4!? Do. Not. Get. Me. Started. Money making, money grabbing atrocities, with no character, no substance, nothing. Empty shells for the system to guzzle up and shit out. And Zelda has been taken down exactly the same route.
So where are the the good games? Braid. Yes. LIMBO? Yes. Half-Life 2? Yes. Dark Souls? Yes. Crysis? Yes. Bloody Runescape. Fuck yes. Vanilla WoW? Heck yea. Even Fallout 3 had a distinct amount of soul still left in it.
Fallout 4 didn’t keep me past the intro.
Ideas don’t normally last for this long. Miyamoto was obviously on something (not drugs) when we got Ocarina of Time, when we got Majora’s Mask, when we got Wind Waker. An idea had swept him up, and we were all to benefit from it. Greatly. But now I think that’s over. And now all we are doing is sticking a cherished and beloved title onto everything that is wrong with gaming, and pretending this is somehow a good game. 10/10.
But why bother make a good game? All you need to is build up the hype, have a good enough title, team up with places like IGN to say your game is brilliant when its released and you can churn out game after game after game and make billion after billion after billion. It works, so why do anything different?
Well let’s look at Runescape as a prime example. After changing and changing the game; its fundamental mechanics, the graphics, the interface, even the themes, to become more and more modern, and probably what they were hoping to be more profitable, the game is nearly unrecognisable from its original form. And guess what? The game dropped from over one hundred thousand concurrent players to less than forty (thousand). Then Jagex re-releases the game exactly as it was 10 years ago in a separate version called ‘Old School’. Before long at all, half of the current player-base moves to the old version of the game, and tens of thousands of new players return. Today Runescape ‘Old School’ has more than double the players of the newer game. Can 40000 players be wrong?
Next? Minecraft. Minecraft is basically the major inspiration for Breath of the Wild. Minecraft did survival and crafting, and immersion, better than anything before it or to date. And guess what? It was a fucking mega financial success. How? It started out small, it didn’t have an end goal, it was a natural manifestation of itself. Minecraft is most certainly a better, richer experience than Breath of the Wild. Without a doubt in my mind. Minecraft grew from the ground up. It knew what it was, and Notch stayed true to that. He didn’t bend its stem and try and go off on a tangent. Notch kept it real. And today it’s bigger than ever.
We stupid gamers might not know why we like some games and hate others, but I’m telling you why. Games with soul are what we want. Subconsiously, unintentionally, however you want to put it. Experiences with soul will come out on top. What is real will separate itself from the fakes. In ten years time, when the hype dies down, when the dust settles, when the 10/10 scores become just numbers, which is all they were in the first place, games like ‘Breath of the Wild’, games like the last sixteen Assassin’s Creeds, will sink to the bottom, with the games that stood on their own, the liquid gold, will rise to the top.
We remember Ocarina of Time. We remember Wind Waker. We remember Morrowind, Half-Life, Minecraft. Diablo II. And of all games, we remember bloody Runescape. We will come back to these games time and time again.
These are games with soul. No matter what we had to say about them when they came out, no matter what we have to say about them now, despite whatever shortcomings they had, no matter the question of innovation, of gameplay, of graphics. These were most certainly games that brought something new into the universe, that made us experience something we otherwise wouldn’t have, and that’s why we remember them.
So this is my message to the gaming world. To the entertainment world. Boycott these soulless soul-sucking games! And to the creators of games — yes that’s right creators, not developers, not programmers; creators — you know better than anyone, if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, make it known, stand up for your f*cking selves.
Lets see a future full of games with soul!