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The Finest Of Meaningless Virtual Worlds Has Arrived

Following an oddly-dreary-but-quick week of work, I very nearly upgraded my desktop computer.  But I resisted the temptation because my current life circumstances won't let me enjoy a new rig anyway.  Might as well stick with an AMD FX-8120 chip that is about five years old and half as powerful as what I was going to upgrade to.

Instead, I bought Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild for the Wii U.  I was not able to get my hands on a Nintendo Switch, and frankly it's tough to justify the expense with its current library anyway.  Fortunately, the Wii U version offers a functionally identical experience.

I don't buy a lot of full price games these days, but this one is heralded by some professional reviewers as literally the best game ever made for any electronic platform.  The logic seems simple enough: if Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time is the #1 game of all time, and Breath Of The Wild is obviously better than that, then surely it is the new #1 game of all time, right? 
These guys need better hobbies.

Probably not, but one thing is for sure: Breath Of The Wild is a damn good game.  
  • It bucks the old Zelda trope of making you earn your primary tools of puzzle solving by beating dungeons, instead handing them to you before you're off the first continent.  New tools make use of a robust physics engine that is simulated remarkably realistically.
  • Tools in hand, you have complete freedom to explore a HUGE landmass.  Well, sort of.  Naturally, there's certain places you have to go to progress the main quest.  Also, there is progression in the form of needing to earn armor upgrades, craft consumables, and defeat increasingly hard monsters to trade up to better weaponry (all of which breaks on use).  Nevertheless, Breath Of The Wild is still a lot more open-ended than any Zelda game that came before.
  • The environment is more interactive than ever.  Everything in the game reacts pretty much how you logically think it would.  Boulders can be rolled.  Trees can be cut down or set alight.  About the only thing you can't do is deform most of the terrain, and everything you can do adds greatly to the immersion. 
  • At times, Breath Of The Wild is very much a survival game.  Bitter cold or blistering heat can be deadly without something to help raise the right resistances.  The day and night cycle is joined by a weather cycle that has gameplay ramifications ranging from rain making rocks too slick to climb to lightning storms being a dangerous place to wave around a metal weapon.  Even the stealth is a factor, right down to a sine wave icon that constantly displays how much noise Link is making.
Make no mistake, this is very much a game you could schedule a couple weeks off to play and regret not the wasted time but rather that the game is over.

Breath Of The Wild's Zelda is more
emotional and attractive than the past.
She's had a rough century.
To some extent, the only thing Breath Of The Wild doesn't do is the same thing I've been trying to get myself to work on lately.  It has to do with the narrow scope of the game. 

Throughout play, Link is mostly interacting with the environment and monsters.  Players are treated to only brief, if well-detailed, interactions with people in a kingdom nearly obliterated a century ago.  The near-apocalyptic setting underscores the loneliness of the world, but also makes a subtle point about the game design: it focuses on man vs environment because that was the easier game to make.

I think back to the settler mechanic of Fallout 4, and also what it was not.  Fallout 4 was very nearly a game where your adventures could make a lasting, good difference to the NPCs around you in the present.  But it beat around the bush too much; there was a certain cognitive disconnect where the settlers were not quite alive enough to matter.  Nevertheless, I feel that it has raised the bar even it did not quite reach the next peg to rest it.

Because of Breath Of The Wild lacks meaningful changes and impact between the denizens of the world, their environment, and the hero, I feel it has not picked up that bar.  The glorious sights and massive open world is ultimately a sorely finite adventure where Link is off to defeat Ganon again.  

It is nothing new for the series, which has always been focused on an Link being the lone hero to stand against Ganon.  However, staying that course has made this only the latest and greatest Zelda game, no mean feat, but that's all it is, and it's not the game I have been dreaming off.

Maybe I am just too jaded.  Perhaps I have been forever influenced by what the ambitious MMORPGs of the 90s tried to accomplish, and won't settle for less.  I guess if I am that particular about the game I want to play, I just need to make it myself.  But Breath Of The Wild is very good in all other respects, and I will likely finish it.

My Boring Real Life / Development:

My personal game development efforts are finding little purchase in my daily routine.  I would do something about that, but even when I have days off I am not particularly good at staying on task.  I am considering my options and the future but, just like the unexpected arrival of Calamity Ganon, the tricky thing about the future is you never know how much of it you have left.

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