Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Breath of the Wild, Fresh Air

Open-world games and I kind of have a rocky relationship. I ignore them, and they ignore me. I have avoided, among other franchises, Fable and The Elder Scrolls (I tried Skyrim once, on an Xbox 360, and I simply failed to stay interested), largely because the open-world nature of those games leaves me in a sort of choice-paralysis.

Even with The Legend of Zelda, one of my favorite franchises, there are games I have not completed because of how little they hold your hand. I have a copy of the original game for the NES, as a real cartridge, and on my 3DS as a Virtual Console title. The former, I've never actually played, and the latter, I've owned for over a year and a half, and I still have three dungeons left to do. Every time I pick up that game, I get frustrated with something and leave it alone again before I can accomplish anything. Everything I have accomplished was done with the aid of a detailed map and a textual walkthrough; the latter was used to find some items to reduce frustration (White Ring, more Hearts, etc.), and the former was used to give me a sense of direction. Without both at hand, I don't feel free - I feel lost. The freedom to aimlessly wander without being told about a specific, immediate goal almost always leaves me feeling like I'm wandering around without purpose, wasting time, when I could be getting something done in the game. Even in Zelda games I otherwise love, there are occasionally parts where, if I don't have them memorized, I become frustrated so easily from a lack of direction that I turn to a walkthrough (big example: the Triforce Shard quest in Wind Waker; also, the mandatory trading subquest in Link's Awakening). It's weird, because if I know what my goal is, and how to do it, then I don't mind taking a little detour from time to time (example: hunting for Maiamais in A Link Between Worlds between dungeons), because I know what I have to do and I'm free to break off my distraction to go do it and move on.

And yet, somehow, I am incredibly excited for Breath of the Wild.

I don't know what it is.

I know that I got excited watching much of the footage during E3. It looked like great fun to wander upon a bunch of Bokoblins with naught but a stick, and come out victorious with a club and a bow. The whole way the weapon breakage worked, combined with the system for switching weapons, got me a bit giddy at the challenge it should offer. Just the prospect of exploring the world, and the footage showing off some of that, yet still having at least a few people point me in the direction the player should go for answers, special items, and the like - giving purpose to the wandering beyond resource gathering, one the player is free to follow at their leisure.

So many open-world games have done these things already, and yet I've not wanted to give them a chance. Why is this Zelda game different to me? Why is it different for anyone?

I don't know. Maybe it's just that Nintendo touch.