Here’s a couple things I’m noticing with my first couple of hours in Breath. Most of the analysis will be positive, but this isn’t really a review. I just like documenting deviations in design. (Alliteration, ho!)
The Arms Race
…Isn’t the same as other games. In standard open worlds, the only delineation between weapons is their strength. BotW successfully adds value to junk weapons with the durability system in the early game and leads to a rather exciting possibility of an invincible Master Sword. Conceptually, there has been a disconnect between the function of legendary weapons and its corresponding lore. This isn’t the case in Breath, much to the credit of its development team.
Breath starts out quiet and stays quiet for a very long time. Zelda has been a musical series, so I have a sneaking suspicion that the musical vacancy is one of the reasons why some people aren’t taking to Breath of the Wild. It certainly makes the game feel different. More desolate and alone, if anything. It is, of course, expertly done. There’s a sort of Samurai Jack feel to the way Link moves into a rustling soundscape. Patient, eerie, calming. It’s different than the perky melodies and roaring exploration themes we are used to from the series. Part of me deeply hopes that the music starts flowing in once the drama heightens as a metaphor for the hero awakening.
Survival games are close to Breath of the Wild, but I think there’s a couple improvements that future survival developers might look towards. Basically, survival games force chores on players to emulate survival, whereas Breath simply incorporates those chores into the recovery process. For Breath of the Wild, uninterrupted exploration is ideal, so the flow of the game is dictated by the number of hazards that are encountered instead of a static clock.
These hazards are varied, of course. The most obvious tax on the health bar are monsters. Fall damage also functions as a tax as well as a risk-reward mechanic for exploration shortcuts. Environmental damage and its mitigation helps round out the whole experience as a proper survival experience because you’re looking for specific ingredients to tackle specific challenges. It’s more than just foraging for the most efficient edible and it really works.