Hyperbole AND Listicles?
So I really liked The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I don't really like listicles like this one, usually. But because I'm low on time this week, yet still want to make a post, I'm breaking my rule and distilling this information to give you some reasons why I think Breath of the Wild changed the way open-world games will be looked at from here on out, much the same way Ocarina of Time set the tone for third-person adventure games. Let's do this.
1. It encourages exploration through topography
Open world games tend to use markers to lead you from objective to objecting. The world itself is pretty enough, but besides the usual tall landmark, there's not much in the way of reasoning in leading you in a particular direction other than "a quest marker is here."
Breath of the Wild solves that problem by using topography to encourage exploration. The in-game map is riddled with landmarks that naturally look interesting, and you use the map to find a way to get to those interesting landmarks. In this way, the game gives you a reason to run around in its beautiful world.
2. It lets you climb and fly anywhere
This is such a small but important thing. By simply running into a verticle surface, Link will start climbing. Link can also jump and paraglide his way off of any surface. Both of these things can go on for as long as you have stamina. You can fill up the stamina bar or extend it by cooking meals or upgrading your stamina meter by completing shrines. You have access to every area in the game because of this - assuming you prepare and avoid climbing while it rains. With this mechanic, the game feels "open" in a way that most open-world games don't, to the point that other 3D games that I've played after Breath of the Wild feel almost claustrophobic in comparison.
3. Every system works in tandem
One of my favorite features in Breath of the Wild is the fact that every individual mechanic works in a way you expect. Fire catches and blows around. Items and enemies have physics attached to them, and heat and cold have the impact you would anticipate on Link and his environment.
What takes this to the next level is that these individual mechanics then work together in amusing and creative ways. You can tie bombs to balloons and then blow them away to drop into an enemy encampment. You can drop food on the ground and have it heat up to be edible then and there. You can freeze food in a cold area and use it cool you down in a hot area. And of course, you could be foolish enough to wear metal armor in a thunderstorm.
It's this almost chemistry-set-like approach to game design that makes Breath of the Wild feel like a living world, as opposed to one with a constrained set of rules. Of course these interactions are limited to a point...but that point is so far off that you almost never reach it, and are instead awed by the way you can continue to push the game's limits, and see what you're given in return.
And that's it! I think this simple combination of 3 things has really blown the lid off of what's possible when it comes to open world games. Breath of the Wild feels natural in a way I didn't expect. Every aspect of its game design comes together to deliver an organic experience, and I think that's part of why it feels so engaging to so many people.
Do you feel like other aspects of open world games have been changed by Breath of the Wild? Or hey, maybe you don't! Either way, leave a comment with your thoughts so we can discuss.