Foreword: This is a bit of a personal post – I am currently on vacation and wanted to do some lighter, candid personal posts for this week. If this isn’t quite your thing and you’re looking for the usual virtual reality banter and gamedev, carry on and check back next week!
To Switch, or not to Switch?
To queue, or not to queue, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
A lack of outrageous #NintendoSwitch fortune.
While sleeping and waiting endlessly, what games may come?
With a only a lawnchair, who would this endure,
But for a hope of a neon joy-con after pre-order death?
– (written over Twitter with the help of @chaostheorem)
And so I turned to Twitter in a last minute decision: should I buy a Nintendo Switch? Should I just get Zelda? What shall I do, Internets?
When I was growing up, Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of those magical milestone memories I have as a gamer. I am lucky to have parents who humoured my hobby and got me the game for Christmas and playing Zelda titles (or Donkey Kong Country titles) became a holiday tradition. Now that these games are either not being made as frequently (or not being made at all), a part of that gaming equivalent to somewhat of an intense wanderlust has been lost… Until now, in the year 2017, when I reluctantly got my hands on a copy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Wii U.
Before I dive into my experience with Breath of the Wild, there were already so many memories in the purchasing process:
- I was contemplating buying a Nintendo Switch and standing in line at midnight. However, I decided not to due to the hardware failure reports.
- I kid you not, my partner and I drove around director James Wootton for 2 hours frantically looking around for a copy of Breath of the Wild so he could play with his kids on the weekend.
- After finding out that Amiibos had an interesting role in Breath of the Wild, I searched far and wide for Amiibos – things that I swore against buying due to my KonMari process.
Driving around the entirety of the Lower Mainland made me wonder if my parents had to do the same when getting me my gift of Ocarina of Time and boy oh boy, as a non-parent, I absolutely lived vicariously through “the hunt”, knowing that the joy I felt as a kid would be passed onto his children.
In either case, I bought a Wii U shortly after I returned from Ireland in the year 2013, anticipating for a new Zelda game. The Wind Waker HD was released. Then Twilight Princess HD. But after waiting and waiting, a new Zelda title never happened, and my Wii U wasn’t being used at all, in favour of more interesting happenings on PC. What better way to say farewell to my Wii U than to get the latest and greatest Zelda, and also the last Wii U title? With Amazon Prime’s 20% off, next day shipping, I couldn’t resist: Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Wii U it is.
My vacation in Breath of the Wild‘s Hyrule
Playing Breath of the Wild was a vacation. A literal vacation for me because I literally had to take time off of work to finish it.
That’s right: 94 hours and 23 minutes, and not even half of the game was complete at 47.09%.
But it was also a vacation because it was a complete escape, and regardless of what some people might think, a lot of memories in my personal gaming experience.
Over the years, I’ve lost my finesse as a console gamer shortly after the release of Nintendo 64. I admit it, I’m too dense to follow 3D worlds like Super Mario 64, and Ocarina of Time is the last game that I could play without getting completely lost. My dexterity with newer controllers just isn’t the same as it is on a SNES. I traded in my intense console focus for APM in StarCraft and economy management. The reason why I am mentioning this is that my time and experience with Breath of the Wild wasn’t a solo one – it was an experience I shared with my brother, and my partner.
What I mean by all this is that I wasn’t able to do most of the driving – I found myself struggling with the combat, I found the damage to be very intense, I found some (okay, only some!) shrine puzzles to be difficult… Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not an easy game. It’s challenging, not for beginners, not for the faint hearted. Remember the first time you encountered the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time? It was like that for me, but for the entire game. With that said, there was so many zen-like experiences, exploring Hyrule by climbing (when it wasn’t raining), picking up ingredients, experimenting with food combinations, and generally screwing around:
- Talking to random people without your clothes on
- Setting things on fire
- Finding out that your weapons conduct electricity
- Experimenting with different approaches to literally everything
This game is whatever you make it to be, and it seems like everyone has a different play style that works for them, which is one of the beauties of the game.
With that said, I don’t find Breath of the Wild to be a perfect game: the menu UI is a nuisance, the weapon durability is over the top (see: not durable at all), the world is too big at times, there’s no easy way to store your recipes, the fetch quests are too travel intensive, and this game is probably a working completionist’s nightmare (see: 900 Korok seeds vs 100 Golden Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time).
So, how am I supposed to score Breath of the Wild?
Interestingly enough, the recent mob mentality that Zelda: Breath of the Wild should be a 10/10 and nothing less was a bit terrifying to me. I understand undying passion – I practise it myself, but I don’t think other people should be ridiculed for having a different opinion. This is one of the problems we are experiencing in the current, political climate as well: “you’re either with us, or against us”. There is no grey – only black and white – and I think this is a very dangerous way of thinking.
Saying that a game is absolutely perfect, flawless, is saying that there is no room for improvement. There is no need to explore any further, which to me means that we won’t see improvements in future games, future titles. In general, I believe it’s important to be critical – I personally strive to better my work, learn as much as I can, find ways to improve – and I apply this to games as well.
If anything less than 10/10 is considered to be “bad”, then why don’t we scrap the entire system of numbers, and use the YouTube rating system: thumbs up, or thumbs down?
We don’t use this system because it’s not flexible – it’s one extreme to the next and doesn’t allow for any meaningful critique. It’s just fast, and lazy.
I really appreciate my brother’s rating system because although it’s not conventional, it makes a lot of sense to me:
- Very rarely is a something 0/10 or 10/10
- Every game starts at a 5
- The first 2 points (either negative or positive) is based on how far would you go to recommend it
- The expanded points are given based on the efforts, and enjoyments
So, based on this rating system, is Zelda: Breath of the Wild a 10/10?
No. It’s an 8/10 for me, which is a really, really good score:
- I would wholly recommend this game to people
- I found the combat to be very experimental, refreshing, fun
- This game is a legitimate feat by the team – the world creation is huge
- The English voice acting leaves something to be desired, and often knocked me out of immersion
- The scope of the game required more quality of life changes with cooking as the game relies so much on it
- Oh man, I REALLY wanted a roll action for snappier movements
- I was wanting something a little more with the final battle
HOWEVER… Did I have fun? Will this go down as one of those archetypal great moments and memories for gaming for me personally? So. Much. Yes. I had 10/10 fun: all the irresponsible late nights staying up, the running around finding Amiibos and a copy for our friend Wootie, all the little moments of joy in small discoveries, thinking about the game all day at work and looking forward to playing with my two favourite people in the world… As a working adult who rarely has time for video games… This brought me back to my childhood, and for that, I’m so, so thankful for Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
For further viewing, check out The Making Of: Breath of the Wild on Youtube: