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Hungry for a knuckle sandwich?

So can I talk about Breath of the Wild for a hot minute? Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything that hasn’t been seen countless times in the trailers (I’m probably 35% through the story as of this writing). So I love Zelda games, sure, who doesn’t? I’d call myself a fairly big fan. I’ve played all the console entries from SNES onward, most of them more than once, and I’ve played most of the handheld games outside of those Oracle ones and that Four Swords multiplayer stuff. So when I say that BotW is hands down the best Zelda game without peer, I just want you all to know that this is based on a very solid helping of Zelda experience.

Why is BotW so great? Well, it’s really pretty. But even more important, it respects your intelligence. The ‘tutorial’ of the game is just as open and experimental as the rest of the world, just capped off in a smaller area until you complete a set number of objectives. Much like in a Dark Souls game, the only indication that you probably shouldn’t go somewhere is if the enemies one shot you to death with impunity. Luckily, unlike the infuriating Souls mechanic where you have to make your way back to your corpse to recover your XP lest you lose it all, the stakes for death in BotW are to just reset to the previous save, nothing lost but a short amount of time. This encourages you to explore to your heart’s content without concern for trapping yourself in an un-winnable situation. See something cool in the distance? Just go for it, no consequences! You can always fast travel back to the nearest discovered shrine if there’s some business left unfinished. You can even fast travel in the middle of combat, if, let’s say, you accidentally run into a giant cyclops and you’re armed with only a stick and pot lid.

I’ve played a lot of open world games; Assassin’s Creed, Phantom Pain, GTA, Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and plenty more I can’t immediately recall. BotW’s world reminds me a lot of Xenoblade X’s, in that there is so much layered verticality, and perhaps too much to find and collect in every corner and crevasse. I’ve rarely found that exploring an interesting looking land formation revealed nothing of interest, so the desire to go off the beaten path and just poke around at every little thing that catches your eye is extraordinarily compelling. The game never demands you stick to a route or play a specific way. Considering the past several console Zelda games’ penchant for hand holding through their entire campaigns, it’s incredibly refreshing to just be given a Hyrule with no regulations attached. Having said that, I do have some problems that could be addressed…

Why, oh, why is there no option to re-map the button configuration? Only the camera can be inverted and the run and jump buttons flipped. I would love to be able to switch the ‘accept/action’ button with the ‘run’ button. I would love to flip the items L button with the shield LZ button. I would love to be able to Z-Target with a press instead of a hold. I have gotten used to the game’s control mapping, but they are awkward and far from what I’d prefer. I can’t think of any logical reason why they wouldn’t let the player change this, considering it’s a single player game and a standardized experience between players is not necessary.

There’s a weird balance with the weapon durability. Every sword, shield, and spear I’ve encountered so far will shatter after a variable amount of use. This seems to encourage you to hold on to your best weapons for big fights, but the thing is that, unless you’re actively going out of your way to engage every enemy, which is not particularly practical, you’ll end up with more great weapons than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll inevitably have to make some tough choices about which weapons you want to hold onto for ‘the next big fight’. I’ve found these choices among the most stressful in the game! You are eventually given a method to save some weapons outside of your inventory, but unless this option expands greatly as I play further, it is definitely not enough to compensate for the glut of sweet loot I’m forced to toss aside to pick up slightly better stuff. Being given the option to sell weapons at stores would greatly solve this problem, especially since gaining rupees in the game is mostly done through selling gathered materials anyway.

The difficulty in this game is all over the place. That’s pretty normal for open world games, though, so I don’t fault it too much. Still, I’ve found the first two main dungeons hilariously easy, while some of the trials I’ve faced and some of the random enemy  I’ve encountered in the open plains have been significantly tougher than the main quest (I’m looking at you, centaur dudes). I guess that’s fine, it’s much like how there are always optional super bosses in Final Fantasy games. Still, the main dungeon bosses in the game have been pushovers, and the dungeons themselves have been possibly some of the fastest and easiest in the franchise. That may change as I continue, but since you can go to the main dungeons in any order after the first one, I’m guessing they’re all roughly the same level of difficulty.

Although the open world is a real stunner and wildly varied, the many dozens of puzzle shrines you’ll play, and the main dungeons as well, all have the same aesthetic. It’s not a huge deal, barely even worth mentioning, really, but it would’ve been nice to see shrines’ interior decoration vary based on the region they’re located.

And lastly, it’s ANOTHER HUGE OPEN WORLD GAME, GAAAHHHHH!!!! Now this is also a positive, because it’s an EXCELLENT open world game, but there has just been a glut of these things as of late. Also, for those few people that have played Xenoblade Chronicles X, BotW has a similar obsession with encouraging you to collect every little thing in sight because upgrading your gear will inevitably require x10 Common Items, x5 Rare Items, x2 Obnoxiously Rare Items for each piece of gear. There will be scavenger hunts and your enjoyment of them will vary. BotW is also a NOTORIOUS time sink. I got the game on March 3rd. I immediately went on vacation, where I had very little internet access and spent a copious amount of time playing the game. It’s been 10 days and I’m 35% through the story (I’m guessing), and likely no where near what would amount to a 100% completion.

In many ways, Zelda games before BotW were like comfort food. They were a bastion of linearity, with clear goals and objectives so you didn’t have to think too hard on how to get from one dungeon to the next, barring the original NES game, which is where BotW draws a good deal of inspiration, and Link Between Worlds, which was kind of a tradition breaking precursor to BotW. I’m reminded of Metal Gear’s move away from it’s rigid linear based structure to the more open experimentation of Phantom Pain. On one hand, it was thrilling and new and gave you so much more to do in your favorite game franchise, on the other hand it was full of pacing problems and lack of focus (oh, and it was unfinished, but that’s un-related). Truth is, I LIKE linear games. I like a game I can beat in 12 hours or less, that are strung together with dramatic story moments and set pieces; video games based around movie style narratives, if you will. As much as I enjoyed The Phantom Pain, sinking over 100 hours into it, I’ll likely never play it again, while I could pick up and beat any of the other numbered MGS game in a week or even a weekend. It’s the whole reason I’ve beaten so many Zelda games multiple times, while I’ve never replayed an open world game from beginning to end. Luckily, if you stick strictly with the narrative threads, BotW is about a 20-25 hour game. which is generally in line with most Zelda games. But, damn, is it hard to just follow the plot when that weird rock in the distance looks like it holds some tantalizing secrets…



Final thought on BotW and Zelda in general. Ever since Wind Waker, there’s been this inexorable push toward post apocalyptic scifi stuff in the franchise. In Wind Waker there was a dungeon boss made up of a floating robot head and hands, in Twilight Princess there was the very scifi Twilight Realm, and in Skyward Sword there was a straight up AI companion and a mechanoid dungeon with time portals. Now I’m running around in BotW armed with a lightsaber and energy shield, fighting robot spiders for energy cores and co-opting giant animal mechs to fight Ganon. Nice.

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  • charles81

    Zats VUN! vist ov voory
    Zats TWO! vists ov voory
    ha ha ha
    *crack of thunder*

    • Bree

      On a Count of saving time, after the first few we usually skip to the end.

  • Leandro Toniut

    As someone whose’s month-old ankle sprain still hurts, I think you might want to reconsider your future actions, brother Wu

    • Bree

      Well, what can you expect? He thinks he can go toe-to-Cho with his opponent.

  • Bree

    Well, I suppose Wu got the general fist of Cho’s meaning…

    • IDPounder

      Boo, hiss.

      • Bree

        I’d say the fury’s still out in that regard.

  • Flaming Squirrel

    Dude, why even carry that huge, heavy case around when your ultimate weapon is obviously those bandages? You should conserve your energy for One Thousand Fists of Furying.

    As for BotW, I really want it. You know that’s impressive, seeing as how I just bought a PS4 less than two weeks ago, and suddenly my most wanted game is on a console I’ve owned for a year. Question for you, sir! I bought The Witcher 3 because everyone said it was, without exaggeration, the greatest open world game ever. After playing a few hours of it, though, I’ve found myself underwhelmed to the point of boredom, and I’m already considering trading it in again. I don’t know if you’ve ever played Witcher 3, but how would you say BotW compares? (This question also goes out to anyone else who’s played it)

    • suburban_samurai

      To be fair, there’s a high level of risk when using the thousand fists!

      I got Witcher 3 on PC and started playing it late last year. I turned off the soundtrack pretty early because it was extremely oppressive, and playing without the music improved my enjoyment of the game. I wish I’d gotten it for PS4, though, since I’d probably enjoy it more lounging on the couch than sitting in front of my computer. The problem I have with Witcher 3, and BotW, and basically all open world games, is that they all kind of compel you to wander around for many many many hours just getting the lay of the land, collecting stuff, unlocking the map and fast travel points, and once that’s all revealed then to jump into the main campaign. I feel like that’s how most people who play open world games play them, and it ruins the pacing and piles on a fair amount of open world fatigue before really enjoying the meat of the story.

      I’d like to recommend just following Witcher 3’s main story line and seeing if that’s more enjoyable in any significant way, just ignoring all the repetitive side stuff, but everyone praises the side quests in Witcher 3. I dunno, I’m honestly a little underwhelmed with it also. I’m struggling to feel invested. It’s also a game that apparently gets better and better as you play, but when the game is 200 hours long and you have to get through the first 20 before it gets good, that’s a problem! There are also a lot of stats to keep track of, which is not my favorite thing to do in games.

      Maybe another issue is that I’m not that blown away with the aesthetic of Witcher 3. I mean it DOES look great, but it’s so realistic, at least what I’ve seen of it. I feel like I’ve wandered around all these medieval fantasy worlds before, and I’m just not seeing anything that makes me go ‘WOW!’. I think BotW has a more pleasing visual and aural aesthetic, but that’s totally subjective (as are all opinions).

      • Flaming Squirrel

        I think one of the things that bugged me the most was the combat. I mean, Geralt is supposed to be some legendary, immortal bad@$$, but here I’m getting my butt kicked by stray dogs and common bandits. I get the point of leveling up in an RPG, but come on! As for the fighting itself, everyone praised it as being flawless and smooth as butter, but I just don’t like it. Geralt’s attacks feel weightless, like he’s swinging a cardboard tube. Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning has way better combat, IMO.

        • suburban_samurai

          I never played Amalur! I like the combat in the Witcher well enough. It’s a little floaty, but I like the concept of preparing for combat by oiling the blades and such, even if I don’t think I’ve played it enough to really see that flesh out. I want to eventually pick the game up again, but in terms of open world games, Gravity Rush 2, Neir Automata, and Horizon Zero Dawn are all higher priorities. And BotW, of course. And I want to finish Nioh! HOLY CRAP 2017 IS INCREDIBLE (in terms of games).

          • Flaming Squirrel

            YES! I couldn’t have picked a worse time to get a PS4! So many awesome games already out, and so many getting released. How’s a guy to keep any money in his wallet? Nier is one of my favorite games, so its sequel is a really high priority. I’ve never played Gravity Rush, but I want to. Is it weird for me to say that its main draw for me is that I wrote a book about a guy who can control gravity, and I want to compare them? I hear HZD plays a lot like Witcher 3, but the giant robot monsters will probably prove to make that world a lot more interesting than W3’s (at least to me). That doesn’t even cover the games that I still need to get caught up on. I’m switching back and forth between Bloodborne and Final Fantasy XV so often that I haven’t made hardly any progress on either, haha. I also just bought Shadow of Mordor (I love the Batman: Arkham games, and this is basically that with a Lord of the Rings skin AND IT’S AWESOME) and Tales of Zestiria. I’m a huge Tales fan so I’ve been looking forward to this one too, but I haven’t tried it out yet so I can’t weigh in on it.

            As for Amalur, it’s a great game, but still really flawed. It gets by because it has the best combat of any open world RPG I’ve ever played (perhaps rivaled by Dragon’s Dogma), and the story was written by R.A. Salvatore.

          • suburban_samurai

            You’re more of an RPG player than me. I generally don’t like to invest in time sink games, but it seems more and more like every game is an RPG or action RPG now, so it will inevitably take me 60+ hours to beat! I was so happy when Last Guardian was a nice linear campaign that I could beat in a couple days. FF15 is kind of a sloppy mess of an RPG from what I can see, so it’s lower on my interest level, but I would like to get to it eventually. Shadow of Mordor was more fun than I expect, but, geez, I wish it wasn’t so grim-dark. Like, if it had more of the jauntiness of the films, with that sense of epic adventure, instead of being ‘Dark Knight in Mordor’, I’d love the game to death. Unfortunately, Shadow of War looks like it’ll be grim-dark to the tenth power. Dunno if I’ll get to that sequel unless I somehow run out of more jubilant games to play, which is UNLIKELY. It bums me out, too, that I’ve kind of unplugged my WiiU and I have literally half a dozen games for it that I never even started playing or barely touched. There are too many good games out there!!

          • Flaming Squirrel

            I’m enjoying FF15 so far. True, I would have preferred they implement the entire Kingdom Hearts fighting system instead of just “hold down the circle button and watch Noctis fight,” but it’s not bad. I’m only a couple hours into it though so I can’t weigh in on the game as a whole.

  • Dorje

    What I find interesting about BotW is that it captures the spirit of a “boy exploring the woods” that was the original inspiration for the Legend of Zelda. The relaxed attitude and non-linearity of its open world lets players do exactly that, just wander and explore.

    The difficulty and scaling is interesting, and seems to be very much related to how far off the “main” story path you go. It absolutely possible to wander off the “linear” and into a fight that is both harder and completely optional. Lionel enemies are great example. Almost every NPC who has dialog about them in the “main” story areas will tell you how dangerous they are, and so far I haven’t found anything that requires the player to kill one. They also tend to be away from “main” story areas. Completely optional enemies, that you only really encounter by “wandering in the woods”. Sometimes doing that alone is dangerous, and you should take a sword and shield ;P

    • suburban_samurai

      I’ve taken down a couple of those centaur guys at great expense, and it was probably the most thrilling time I’ve had in the game thus far!

      • leavescat

        The highest level Lionel bows are stupidly powerful.

        • TekServer

          Ah, but are they more powerful than the Lionel Trains? 😁

          Why, yes; I do think that joke was worth posting 5 years after the fact. Why do you ask? 😜

  • IDPounder

    You should never bring a stick and a pot lid to a cyclops fight, sir. Them cyclopeans, they fight dirty.

  • Xinef

    I wonder how they’re planning to surprise Cho… maybe this time they’ll do 9001 fists of fury?

    • suburban_samurai

      That’s a lotta fists!

      • Xinef

        They’ve been collecting them for years!

        • Bree

          Yeah, they really went out of their way, saving every knuckle and dime.

      • Thomas

        It’s over 9000!

    • Bree

      No, that’s *Cho’s* secret technique. The brothers, in their arrogance, forgot to train.

      • Xinef

        Authentic dialogue:
        Wu: Hey Cho, can you perform the 1000 fists of fury technique?
        Cho: No, I cannot.
        Tang: What a relief! I was worried for a moment…
        Cho: No, once I get a few hundred punches, I can’t stop myself. I just keep going into thousands upon thousands. I tried stopping at 1000, but I just can’t!

        • Bree

          I gotta hand it to you, you really have a good grip on things.

  • Thomas

    Easy prediction — I would guess that this time will NOT go like the last time they tried the thousand fists of fury. Undoubtedly Cho anticipated and prepared for this moment. I expect the interesting part will be the reveal of what/how he has prepared.

    • Bree

      Cho doesn’t anticipate, Cho just follows what the will of the tao tells him to do. The BROTHERS on the other hand…well, they’re anticipating things going similarly as to last time.

  • leavescat

    BotW is basically “Oh hey over there looks cool” the game.

    • Primarch Lazarus

      BotW is basically the new Skyrim.

      • Kid Chaos

        You mean it has a lot of scantily-clad women? 😍

  • Nos Rin aka CTCO

    so, wait, you’ve never played either of the original NES titles? (maybe I read your statement wrong) or the oracles which may be the best zelda games ever? (personal opinion, I just have a lot of love for them.)
    Although console wise, Link to The Past and Twilight Princess are my two favorites next to the Oracle games.

    • suburban_samurai

      I’ve played the NES games, and I’m plenty familiar with them, I just haven’t personally beaten them, nor do I have any desire to subject myself to them! Joe’s beaten the original countless times and I’ve watched playthroughs of both. I never had an original NES or SNES, so the Zelda games before Ocarina don’t hold a strong nostalgic place in my heart. I was interested in the Oracle games back in the day because I’d enjoyed Link’s Awakening DX quite a bit, but at the time they were kind of hard to track down, and now there are just so many other great games coming out that I don’t have enough of a hype engine driving me toward the oracle titles, even if they can be purchased on WiiU/3DS (I think).

      • Nos Rin aka CTCO

        ya…… i only ever beat the oirginal when i found the emulator my brother had on PC and he had godmode on for a speed run but i fogort to go back and beat the second half.
        second game i couldn’t even get through the dark tunnel.
        The oracle games can indeed be purchased on the 3DS and while I highly suggest them its your money and your decision at the end of the day.
        my brother had seasons and I always wanted to get ages, but I was never able to find ages and after I beat seasons my brother had most of his stuff stolen in school one day.
        Link’s awakening was amazing but I hate ending so much.

        Anyway I actually did eventually buy the oracle games but they’re sitting at my mom’s house so when I move in a few months I’ll try and beat them. I do have a GBC to play them on.

  • Insane Disciple

    Oh, Ken. Shut up and watch

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