Breath of the Wild is the Best Zelda Game

Breath of the Wild shook up the classic conventions of The Legend of Zelda series by changing a lot of what we know about the series. It left behind the classic dungeon structure, equipment, and the linear nature of the game. But what really makes this game special is how it expanded on and changed (for the better, imo) the core design tenets of the older games. When you think of Zelda, what do you think of? For most it is the puzzle solving, among other things that are fairly important such as exploration and a metroidvania-like progression. I will use Ocarina of Time as the main comparison because 1) it is the basis of all 3D Zelda games, and 2) it is my favorite Zelda game.

In the Zelda series, puzzles have taken form in many ways, in the largest way however, it is the dungeons. Think of the water temple in Ocarina of Time, changing the water level to get to different levels of the dungeon to open doors to get items to get to the boss. All of this is one giant, interlaced puzzle and while Breath of the Wild may not have the same dungeon system as the old games, the puzzles in them take form in the Shrines. Shrines are puzzle rooms with a gimmick to get to the end and acquire the all-precious Spirit Orbs (used to upgrade Stamina and Hearts). There are 120 of them in the game, each containing at least 1 puzzle, as some have more to get the optional chest, not to mention the actual dungeons having puzzles, and the 300 Korok puzzles. I think there is plenty of puzzle solving in Breath of the Wild.

The Kingdom of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time is a sprawling open world and is made up of Hyrule Field, Hyrule Castle Town, Death Mountain, Zora’s Domain, The Lost Woods, Kokiri Forest, Lake Hylia, Lon Lon Ranch, and Gerudo Valley. Each of these areas having significant secrets, things to do, and usually houses a Temple or Dungeon (there is no dungeon in Hyrule Field). Breath of the Wild, while obviously much larger, shares a similar design, without all the loading screens. Breath of the Wild is separated into 8 distinct regions, Gerudo, Hebra, Akkala, Eldin, Lanayru, Necluda, Faron, and Central Hyrule. Again, each of the areas having their own secrets and things to do, except here, there is a lot more substance to each of these areas (more = better, right?).

A lot of the progression of the old games are lost on Breath of the Wild, as it ditched a lot of the items we were used to (the Clawshot, Iron Boots, and, of course, a Musical Instrument, among others) for a more simplified method with the Sheika Slate. Most of the equipment in Ocarina was a set of 3; 3 swords, 3 shields, and 3 tunic, in Breath of the Wild, bows, swords, and shields are all in abundance, and there are 15 different armor sets. Breath of the Wild, again, expanded on the design of the old games. Despite the weapon durability system being kind of take-it-or-leave-it, is still an improvement, adding variety to the combat.

Ocarina of Time is my favorite Zelda game, but I think Breath of the Wild is the best one. The changes Breath of the Wild makes to these core tenets has definitely revolutionized the series and I really can’t think of a closing statement other than man this game is fucking great, my second favorite game of all time (behind Ocarina of Time) so that’s cool.

 

What Happened With Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls 2, by most accounts, is a decent game. While its faults were apparent and many fans of the series don’t like it as much as Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls, it still met favorable reviews and currently sits at an 91 on Metacritic; the re-release sits at an 87But why don’t people like it as much as the original Dark Souls?

Dark Souls 2, on a fundamental level is the same game as Dark Souls, but a few core mechanics changing makes all the difference. Basically, Dark Souls 2 is a good game, but a bad sequel. Changing the bonfire system, level up system, and Estus (healing) system all in one game is quite the shock. Not that the changes are bad, elements of all of them have persisted into Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, but from Dark Souls, it makes a huge difference. Not to mention the simplified layout of the world of Drangleic.

Exploration is a core mechanic of the souls games and I think it was kind of lost on Dark Souls 2, in Dark Souls, bonfires were placed sparingly, but strategically to keep tensity up and make you choose whether or not to risk your souls or to sit down and spend the little you have. You also couldn’t fast travel until the latter half of the game, making you explore every aspect of the map, looking for shortcuts, killing every enemy, and eventually finding the next bonfire. In Dark Souls 2, the ability to fast travel to any bonfire removed both the feeling of urgency and suspense, while eliminating some of the exploration involved in having to walk from each bonfire.

Dark Souls level up experience was much more streamlined than Dark Souls 2 and its successors. No loading screens, no dialog to get through; just sit down, spend your souls, and be more powerful. In Dark Souls 2, however, you had to get to a bonfire, sit through a loading screen, mash through some dialog, level up, and sit through another loading screen just to get back to where you were. Not inherently a bad thing, but definitely takes something away from the feel of the game. Not to mention the bloated stats compared to the first game. Dark Souls had 8 stats to level up and spend souls on each one making you powerful in more than 1 way (i.e Endurance increasing both your stamina bar and your equipment load) while Dark Souls 2 had 9 stats to level up, and most of them had been split (i.e having to level both Endurance and Vitality to accomplish essentially the same thing as just Endurance in Dark Souls). And, it goes without saying, Adaptability is a shit stat.

Dark Souls 1 is considered to have some of the best 3D level design in gaming, and Dark Souls 2 just didn’t capture that same feeling, the levels look and feel uninspired, (minus Drangleic Castle, it had a feeling of verticality that is unrivaled by anything else the base game offers) and when compared to Dark Souls 1 or even 3, the game just doesn’t hold up. Too many bonfires, boring level layouts and looks, and most glaringly, bad enemy placement. I’ve stressed this plenty in the past about this game, but more enemies is not more fun. Enemies placed haphazardly throughout the levels and there are way too many, one area in particular stands out in my mind, right on the lead up to Velstadt, there are like 7 armored enemies right before the boss fight that are hard to fight, and hard to skip. This is not good, put 1 or 2 harder enemies there, make me think about the encounters and strategize rather than be bombarded and forced to flee or panic. Also fuck Shrine of Amana in every way.

Okay, I have something to admit, I love Dark Souls 2. Having missed the boat on Dark Souls 1, Dark Souls 2 was the first souls game I played when the community was alive and engaging in PVP or Jolly Cooperation. I put 100+ hours into perfecting different builds and I ended up playing through the whole game 7 times. But, looking back, and when comparing to Dark Souls 1 and especially Bloodborne, Dark Souls 2 just pails in comparison, level design is lacking, there are some unwelcome changes, and it just doesn’t feel like the Dark Souls we know and love.

 

Introduction

Hi, hello, yes I’ve decided to bring the blog back. This time though, it’s got a different skew, I’m leaning far away from the slog that is news and shit like that, I just don’t like that. This time around I’m leaning towards the design aspects of games.

I’m going to rant on about how I don’t like the way things are in some games, how I think they should be, and why they are that way. It’s going to be pretty cool