Things Breath of the Wild Does, Part 2

The Master Pen is Mightier than the Master Sword.

With the discovery that Mass Effect: Andromeda has bad facial animations (Not surprised given its scope), it makes sense to talk about how Breath of the Wild, and by proxy all modern Zelda games, are emotive and immersive despite having substantially less voice acting.

While the overall plot is not as great, Breath of the Wild is often complimented as living, breathing and animated. Part of this, of course, is the characters, but the characters aren’t companions. You don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, yet many of them have distinct and memorable personalities. It seems like witchcraft, but the solution is quite clever.

Grunts

Grunts are critical with the way Breath handles emotions. They are auditory cues that precisely emphasize what text often leaves forgotten. In a way, it works better. If you look at how Andromeda works, the voice actors are tasked with getting the lines right across a great number of lines. The budgeted approach that Breath takes allows for greater consistency with, potentially, less room for error. This is a little apples to oranges, naturally. The difference between full oration and grunt-assisted text are worlds apart, but I think in terms of sticking in the brain, Breath of the Wild manages to do a lot with very little.

Textual Pacing (Or why subtitles aren’t really that great)

Textual pacing is not a unique attribute to Breath of the Wild by any means, but it is critical to immersive storytelling. Dramatic pauses, color-coding, prominent use of the paragraph tags, prominent shifts in text-speed. All of these are utilized to give character to places where there otherwise would not. A rather standard example of this is the flower shrine, which is guarded by a rather protective woman. If this were subtitled, the drama and humor wouldn’t have worked at all, but pacing helps fill it out.

Ditch the single angle

Interacting with characters with a fixed angle might be a necessary evil when you game is played primarily in first person, but I feel the compromise of losing one of the most powerful forms of storytelling is a dangerous one. Angles are used and it helps highlight the characters rather than subject them to wooden puppet theater.

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