Words About Video Games

41 Games: The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild

This is the best Skyrim I've played since Skyrim. It's a great "go off in one direction and discover something wondrous" simulator. But like Skyrim, the places you arrive are just as likely to look the same as someplace you've already been as they are to reveal something new and thrilling.

Combat in Breath of the Wild is better. Inventory management is different, but equally bad. Some will prefer Kass to any character in Skyrim, but I think story-wise, between them, it's a wash.

I'm not trying to insult Breath of the Wild with this comparison. A lot of open world games looked at Skyrim's success and tried to replicate it. Breath of the Wild comes by far the closest, and adds that Nintendo spark and polish.

But this comparison also highlights for me what ultimately didn't work about Breath of the Wild. I couldn't ever slip past its series of tight compulsion loops into the feeling of entering a place. Every horse stable looks alike. That one painter is in every town (both great game design choices, to be sure, but not great worldbuilding ones.)

The shrines, largely, feel as if they could have been designed in a vacuum and stamped around the world. Breath of the Wild may have improved on the exploration elements of games like Assassin's Creed or Far Cry, but when it comes to cookie-cutter content, its soul is very much of a piece with those games.

But even for all of that, it can surprise and delight. Evertide Island is probably level-of-the-year. And the tools you have to traverse the landscape should be studied, stolen, and improved upon by every open world game started from here forward.

But writing this, I'm overcome less with a desire to go back to Breath of the Wild than I am to play Skyrim again. I hear it's out on Switch now ...