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Gaming Forums => Nintendo Gaming => Reader Reviews => Topic started by: Evan_B on March 18, 2017, 12:37:51 PM

Title: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Evan_B on March 18, 2017, 12:37:51 PM
   This is a hard review for me to write. I’ve done this sort of thing for many other games, and I have also done reviews for previous Zelda games. But Breath of the Wild is a different beast. It is a game so massive, it requires a massive, sloppy look at it from every angle I can think of. Within this topic, you will find what I consider to be a comprehensive look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you would like to read about a specific perspective of the game, I have them listed here. Simply use your search function to skip right to a specific section by typing in the number listed below:

001: The Social Experiment (Introduction)
002: A Zelda Experience (Key Features)
003: A Game of Logic (Criticisms)
004: Placement (Conclusion)
005: DLC Part 1: Organic vs. Scripted Adventure (Learning Curve)
006: DLC Part 2: Necessary Revisions (Hard Mode)
007: DLC Part 3: The Problem with Open-Air (Adventure/RPG)
008: DLC Part 4: A Return to Hyrule (The Master Trials)
009: DLC Part 5: Reevaluating Combat in the Master Trials (Combat)

010: DLC Part 6: What is a Dungeon? (Dungeon/Overworld Design)
011: DLC Part 7: All this, for a Motorcycle (The Champion's Ballad)
012: DLC Part 8: Courage Need Not Be Remembered (Conclusion)

There will be spoilers.

001: The Social Experiment (Introduction)
   I am a huge Zelda fan. Previously, in ranking my favorite Zelda games, I mentioned the first entry of the series was a “social experiment,” I’d like to explain that claim. The Legend of Zelda is purposely obtuse- there are secrets that are hidden in weird places, and the game has difficulty spikes that can dissuade a player from completing it entirely. While former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata claimed that earlier games were harder because the developers play-tested and refined them, the Legend of Zelda was designed to be purposely obtuse, for a number of reasons. Nintendo published a Fun Club magazine with the American release featuring a slow trickle of tips and tricks, helping players discover new aspects and ultimately work further towards beating it. Ultimately, however, the game was designed so that players would share their experiences with one another, and hopefully combine their efforts in order to complete the experience. For a modern gamer, the original Legend of Zelda is difficult, frustrating, and overly cryptic- but I only wish I had been able to play it when it was first released, to experience this “social experiment” myself. It was an attempt to create a game that generated discussion, and I think it did so very well.
   Breath of the Wild shares many similarities with the first game in the series. Even after playing an absurd amount of the game and reaching 113 Shrines on my own, I did resort to seeking the help of others. If I hadn’t, I likely would have played the game even longer, but I wouldn’t have been enjoying myself. Likewise, a friend revealed the location of a specific item to me long before I would have ever attempted to get it myself, and while I was a bit disappointed with having that knowledge, it did not spoil the game for me, and I was actually thankful for it.
   Video games have been a medium of personal experience for a long time, although many games and many creative people have challenged that idea. However, even the most Massive Multiplayer Online Game depends on the enjoyment of the individual in order to keep a subscription. The games that use this concept in order to encourage discussion are some of the best in the medium, and I think that Breath of the Wild accomplishes that easily because of the number of complex systems and its vast amount of content and literal space. Each player will have a unique experience, and be able to help one another in different ways. However, I think Breath of the Wild is experienced in the same way by those who seek to play all of its content: The opening hours are difficult, trial-and-error gameplay, and not until about 30-40 Shrines in will the players settle into a comfortable rhythm that allows them to explore without fear of death, save for an unexpected or terrifying event. When those do occur, they are the moments that stand out the most, and are most-likely to be shared with others when describing their experience.
   At this point, I think it’s only fair that I detail my own experience with the game: I was committed to completing as much of it as I could without the assistance of anyone else. I started my journey by traveling to the Southeast, making my way up the coast of Hyrule until I reached Death Mountain, at which point I went to the Southwest, exploring Gerudo Desert, and then finished out the Northwest and central parts of the map. Is this how everyone will play? No. I did not obtain the Champion’s Tunic, one of the earlier rewards in the game and a very useful item, until about 100 hours into my own experience. I did, however, learn a number of combat tactics in that time that impressed my friends upon display, stemming from the trial and error process I have gone through in my own personal struggle through the opening hours. That is the beauty of an open-world, non-linear game- everyone’s experience will be different.

002: A Zelda Experience (Key Features)

   Breath of the Wild is not just an open-world (or, in the words of Nintendo, an “open-air”) game, however. It is also a Zelda game. In many ways, Breath of the Wild represents the best and worst elements of 3D Zelda.Combat is much less restrictive, and the amount of variety present in different enemy encounters is impressive. While Skyward Sword primarily focused on sword fighting, bits and pieces of its enemy interactions are present in this game, resulting in a number of interesting situations. The catalogue of enemies, though impressive in concept, is somewhat lacking. The game needs an enemy tier between Chuchu and Bokoblin, as well as one between Moblin and Lynel. It could also use more Lynel-like encounters. I ask for the first of those two for the opening experience, and the second for the endgame experience. What the game lacks, essentially, are Skulltulas and Darknuts. And yes, you are now aware than neither is in the game.
   Dungeon gameplay is separated into two portions: Shrine and Divine Beasts. While the homogenization of aesthetics is present in both forms and might be a point of contention for some, I never really had a problem with it, seeing as the game was aiming for a very specific look and feel from the start. I also think that the Divine Beasts are stellar examples of dungeon design, with some being easier than others to manipulate but always novel. I was consistently impressed with how much variety was present in Shrines, with some regional gimmicks at play but unique experiences as a whole. This element is tied with exploration as one that Breath of the Wild performs with excellence and is one of my favorites in the game. I have little to no complaints.
   In terms of story, Breath of the Wild is both minimalist and non-intrusive, which may come as a surprise to some. As Zelda has developed more and more, it has told a number of interesting stories, and Breath of the Wild’s own is, in concept, quite engaging. But it never reaches a level of great importance, mostly because its key events have taken place in the past. On the other hand, the story segments that unfold as the player progresses through the game are quite good. This is another area where the developers truly succeeded in making an open-world title that is also very much a Zelda game. The path to Zora’s Domain and all the events that unfold in that area are a concentrated narrative that utilizes the unique elements of that region perfectly.
   There is the question of difficulty, however, which has been a diminishing element in Zelda games recently. As I mentioned before, the opening of the game is challenging and forces the player to learn a number of systems: combat, cooking, climbing, environmental manipulation, noise, and weather. However, if a player is attempting to play all of the game, they will find that, around the 30-40 Shrine “timestamp,” some of these systems become easier to exploit and overcome. At the 70-80 Shrine point, the game becomes less about the threat of dying, and more about resource management and utilizing the tools available to you properly. What I am trying to say is that Breath of the Wild’s core gameplay cycles become less taxing as the game goes on, and this results in diminishing difficulty.
   Again, I went into Breath of the Wild hoping to see as much of the game as I possibly could, and I think I have certainly done so with a 120+ hour save file. But towards the end of my experience, I couldn’t help by wonder what would have happened if I had not done certain things in the game. It would have made the experience more challenging and rewarding in a number of ways. Breath of the Wild is a game that demands replaying, but because of its lack of save files, punishes the player for restarting their file by erasing their previous progress. While I would like to try to approach the game from a different perspective, I am fearful of losing all of the gear, weaponry, and shrines that I have taken so long to gather. I sincerely hope that the Hard Mode being introduced this summer will allow for a second save file, but I doubt that will be the case.

003: A Game of Logic (Criticisms)

   Whereas many of the previous 3D Zelda titles have funneled the player from one set piece to the next, Breath of the Wild is truly open-ended. There are a number of ways to approach the game, and those options are staggering. In spite of the game’s flaws, which are few, I have to commend the massive amount of different gameplay styles it juggles and succeeds with. There is stealth in both sight and sound, an expansive cooking mechanic, one of the best archery systems I have ever seen in a video game, and much, much more. However, the game is also constantly challenging the player to use their tools in different ways, both in the world and puzzle design. So, in a game that is very heavily centered around coming up with logical solutions, it hurts to see some very illogical choices made.
   The amount of Great Fairies in the world is excessive, as is the number of fairies. Some side quests require extremely obtuse solutions. Ore is useless for anything other than currency and upgrades, but is not rare enough to be considered valuable. Sheikah Slate abilities are underused in boss fights. The Sheikah Sensor is flawed. The difficulty curve is negatively impacted by each positive step you take. And for goodness’ sake, the inventory management is in desperate need of review.
   These are the most irksome aspects of the game’s design.

004: Placement (Conclusion)

   With all that I have said, you might think that Breath of the Wild is not a good game, but that is not true. Breath of the Wild is one of the best games I have ever played. To say that I had high expectations for this title would be an understatement, but I am not exaggerating in saying that it has exceeded those expectations in a number of ways. I have neglected to mention the soundtrack, which I personally enjoy very much. I think it strikes a fine balance of quietness and bombastic, epic feeling when it needs to do so. It has few memorable tracks, but upon listening to a number of them on their own, I realized how much I actually liked them.What Breath of the Wild does for Zelda is not as revolutionary as Ocarina of Time, but what it does present is a game without borders. I mean, sure, there are borders, but the freedom of choice is so heavily emphasized in this game, it feels as if the possibilities are endless. What Breath of the Wild does do is create a new standard for Zelda titles. Ocarina of Time is a fine game, it is well-made, but its reverence caused developers to continue designing sequels that bowed to the design choices established within it. We finally have a product that is a new golden standard, not only for open-world games, but also for Zelda. I am not finished playing the game, and I intend to replay it many times, to test new ideas and challenge myself further.
   One of the last things I would like to talk about is the final boss. Without spoiling anything, I was disappointed with this fight. Not because of the design of the boss itself, but rather, I was disappointed in the way I chose to play the game in order to confront him. As I said before, each positive step you take negates the impact of this final fight, and I think that’s a very interesting balance to strike. In my experience, it was the journey that was much more important than the final boss, and that reflected in how the game itself played out its closing moments. On the other hand, if a player wants the end to be challenging and rewarding, they have the freedom to change the way the play the game in order to make that fight harder. While this was originally a huge point of discontent for me, I have come to accept and respect this design choice.
   Lastly, I would like to place this title on my list of Zelda games:

17) Oracle of Ages
16) Tri Force Heroes
15) Majora's Mask
14) Phantom Hourglass
13) Spirit Tracks
12) The Wind Waker
11) Adventure of Link
10) Ocarina of Time
9) Oracle of Seasons
8] The Minish Cap
7) Skyward Sword
6) The Legend of Zelda
5) A Link to the Past
4) Twilight Princess
3) A Link Between Worlds
2) Link's Awakening
1) Breath of the Wild

005: DLC Part 1: Organic vs. Scripted Adventure (Learning Curve)

   There are very few games I find myself replaying, but when I do, there are two qualifications that require listing:
   1) Systems and elements that I have either mastered or have a very good understanding of,
   2) Compelling narratives that leave lasting impressions upon me.
   The second of the two is easily explained, as a storyteller. There are some games that use traditional narrative devices, such as cutscenes or dialogue, in order to form their story. However, Breath of the Wild's core strength, as mentioned prior, is the freedom of choice- its scripted narrative is nothing particularly special. This is because, at its heart, Breath of the Wild is a game about organic adventure and not scripted adventure, which brings me back to the first qualification. Some of my favorite and most-replayed titles are those that have exploitable systems, and to me, Breath of the Wild is no exception. I am thoroughly satisfied with the adventure I had upon my first playthrough, but I have also mentioned restarting the game and specifically avoiding certain elements. This is partially because I have explored, and enjoyed, the majority of its systems. Even so, there are some things I was not particularly aware of, such as the inability to receive a one-hit-kill when at full health (always surviving with at least a quarter heart), the choice of turning off the specific gifts of the champions, and some methods of discovering Korok Seeds. But there are many systems, such as equipment upgrades, the difficulty- or at least, complexity- of the final boss, the tower mapping, and the infamous Sheikah Sensor, that I would purposefully avoid exploiting in another playthrough. Is it because I would like to challenge myself? Well, yes, certainly. But it also thrills me to imagine what sort of adventure I'd have to deal with because of those limitations. Where would I go first? What sort of difficulties would I find to be the most aggravating? That's the fun of revisiting a game.
   I spoke earlier in the review about my personal experience with Breath of the Wild, and I think it's important that this is the only way to discuss the game. Unless using a guide or following the advice of the non-playable characters very closely, no two players will experience the game in the same way. The reason the story is non-intrusive in Breath of the Wild is because Nintendo trusts the player to craft an organic adventure of their own. The amount of interactive elements can be staggering, but only until the player feels they no longer have anything new to discover.
   It may seems surprising, then, that there does seem to be a heavily implied path through the game. I argue this for two reasons that I believe are quite evident, although some might disagree. The Divine Beasts are meant to be tackled in this order: Vah Medoh, Vah Rudania, Vah Ruta, and Vah Naboris, based not only on the complexity of the tasks surrounding them, but also their placement within the timeline of memories. It's rather obvious that there is a structure to the Divine Beast encounters, but that structure is slowly expanded upon with the intricacies presented by each Beast's respective race. Likewise, the boss of each Divine Beast revolves around specific aspects of combat, although some have more interesting gimmicks than others. Outside of this, Nintendo has designed the narrative to be as open-ended as exploration itself, and while the scripted adventure is never the most engaging element in the game, it is merely a framing device for a primary objective: finding more things, cataloging them, and knowing all there is to know about the world.
   Many would argue that the scripted adventure should be just as satisfying as the organic adventure, but this is simply not the case in Breath of the Wild. In fact, I don't believe the series has ever been this imbalanced except when the original Legend of Zelda was released (again, contributing to the idea of a social experiment), and maybe Zelda II. But Breath of the Wild's reliance on organic adventure is essentially spent after the player catalogs all elements of the game world either mentally or literally and finds all of the shrines. While the scripted adventure content introduces some specific gameplay sequences and enemy types, they are negligible in comparison to the bulk of the game, and the side quests, with a few exceptions, are mainly about gathering and rarely present gameplay twists. Without organic discovery, the game becomes a bit tedious. That aspect is its primary flaw, at least, in the eyes of most of its serious critics. While I understand this, it is also a 100-115 hour game in terms of content, and I would argue about 60-70 hours of that content is organic adventure. What I ask is, does the gaming community at large find this ratio acceptable?

006: DLC Part 2: Necessary Revisions (Hard Mode)

   Nintendo has chosen to make the impetus for this sense of adventure the world itself, rather than its inhabitants. As many reviewers, as well as myself, have been quick to note, the enemy variety is lacking, but the geography surrounding these enemies is immensely diverse. While there are quite a number of skull-shaped hideouts, there are also craggy mountains, suspended platforms, tall outposts, sandy beaches, floating encampments, open fields, and densely forested paths. While the topography is consistently surprising, the fact that the enemy variety is so low means that these backgrounds do little more than lose focus as you target the usual Bokoblin. At first, the changing color and increased damage of certain enemies, as well as their continually upgrading gear might put the player on edge, but that doesn't change the fact that really, there are three enemy types that appear in high frequency and, while the mini-bosses are interesting enough, they are never intermingled with other enemy types with the exception of the Guardians roaming central Hyrule.
   This and the aforementioned sense of organic discovery has caused me to consider what Nintendo could do to improve the game in future DLC. We are aware that there will be a Cave of Trials and Hard Mode, followed by new story content culminating in a new dungeon, as well as "other challenges." In this section, I'd like to quickly list some aspects of the Cave of Trials and Hard Mode that I feel need to be applied, as well as some ideas for "additional challenges":

Hard Mode: Should rid the game of the flurry rush mechanic as well as the full-health-one-hit-survival. Flurry rush is an absurdly broken mechanic that trivializes many encounters in the game as well as what is arguably a better mechanic, the shield bash or perfect block. The high durability of shields in general means that they are largely a wasted resource. Either flurry rush needs to be better balanced (i.e. the rush lasting a full weapon combo worth at lower enemy health and much shorter otherwise), or players should be forced to navigate the perfect block mechanic more efficiently. In addition, the amount of food carried should be far lower, maxing out at one page, and that uncooked food should also have a stack cap, or lack healing effects. Of course, double damage is a given.

Cave of Trials: Should utilize the same concepts found in topography design throughout the overworld as well as present interesting combinations of enemies. Even the best-equipped player should have to juggle multiple conflicting elements in these challenges. Suspended platforms, enemies at different range and elevation, as well as varying elemental types, and in an ideal world, the mixture of mini-bosses and standard enemies would be sublime. Of course, it is important that food plays a factor here, and perhaps the Cave of Trials should present players with a limited amount of healing options, even when not on hard mode.

"Additional Challenges": I am also going to address the new dungeon here, in hopes that it will not simply be another Divine Beast, but something similar to Hyrule Castle or one of the more familiar dungeon designs in the series. However, if it were another Divine Beast, I would hope that it would either rival or surpass Vah Naboris in complexity. However, Naboris utilized the regional gimmick of the neighboring shrines in an interesting way, and a new dungeon could present an interesting twist or a new gimmick entirely. As for "additional challenges," I still strongly support the inclusion of two new enemy types, perhaps occupying the place of Skulltulas, Dodongos, Poes, or perhaps Darknuts, that could be distributed throughout the world. With the current size and state of the world, I cannot imagine any particular environmental challenges that could be implemented to diversify the content of the game further.

007: DLC Part 3: The Problem with Open-Air (Adventure/RPG)

   Is Breath of the Wild a role-playing game? No, and many would agree that some of the best-developed open-world titles are not, either. One only needs to look at Rockstar Games' immensely popular Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead series as evidence of this. Others might argue that open-ended role-playing games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and The Witcher are more engaging because of their freedom in character building. But Zelda's conventions, however rooted in high fantasy with a Japanese twist, are still reliant on the player inheriting a specific role- the bearer of the Master Sword and the Triforce of Courage.
   The peculiar aspect of Breath of the Wild, then, is that the Master Sword need not be reclaimed in order to vanquish Calamity Ganon, and that Link seems to have taken on an additional role as the resident archer. While the bow and arrow have been a series' staple for some time, more recent games have had Zelda using the bow of light in order to assist in the final battle. But let's be honest: when you craft such a fantastic archery system, it would feel a bit anticlimactic to strip Link of the weapon in the finale. Where most open-world games tend to succeed, however, is in the amount of variety present in tasks and side content. Different vehicles, mini-games, and alternate scenarios allow players to take time and enjoy the reality of the world they exist within. While Link has a variety of tools at his disposal and an endless amount of approaches her can take in engaging enemies, however, the truth of Hyrule is that it is lacking variety for two very problematic ways that hearken back to why this game is not an open-world game, but rather an open-air adventure.
   First of all, the civilization, while thriving despite the "calamity" of one-hundred years prior, is not fully-fleshed out enough to offer variety outside of the traditional Zelda side quests. While there are a few exceptions in which a side quest is comprised of a lengthy series of events, many are tired tropes of the series, like collecting Cuckoos, completing a race (without any substantial challenge, might I add), or collecting Rupees. The vast majority of them actually boil down to exercises in documentation and collection, and that isn't even factoring in the exhaustive material grind that goes into maxing out equipment. Simply put, the tasks offered by the denizens of Hyrule offer little more than slight distractions rather than immersive world building. There are several moments in which a moment of organic discovery tricks the player into believing the world is much more alive than it actually is, but the disappointment sets in once you realize that these traveling encounters reset after each Blood Moon- sometimes even more frequently than that. In addition, with the exception of Hateno village, I would argue that most of the towns in the game feel artificial and sparsely-populated. There are several great character designs in these places, but most characters end up feeling generic and lifeless, unless they have a quest attached to them, in which they get one or two defining traits.
   Second, because of the locked progression of the game, its simplistic travel mechanics, and somewhat irrelevant economy, the reason to continue returning to the world quickly diminishes once the player has seen all of the Shrines. Enemy encounters lack substantial variety, and while Link's tools give him many options, the enemies present little variation in how and why they attack. There were thrilling stealth sequences in prior games that limited the way players could engage enemies, as well as scenarios where the player could only use specific tools to defeat enemies, of which there were a higher variety. The world, while feeling massive and substantial, is simply too wild, and even its harshest natural impediments are easily circumvented- or worse, its minor details are too easily ignored.
   Take wolves, for example: they have unique AI that causes them to spawn in packs and circle the player with quick movements, but they die extremely easy despite Link's inability to target them. While they add to the organic nature of the world, these enemies could have easily been given a health boost and become Wolfos, a preexisting fantastic species. Likewise, there are many squirrels, ducks, herons, and foxes to be found, but too few animals are aggressive and don't demand your attention. You know what does demand my attention? The moose that ram me whenever I get too close to them. The freaking woolly rhinoceroses that threaten to bowl me over (but are in fact disappointingly docile). In making something breathtaking, Nintendo also dialed down the harshness of its game world and left me feeling cold.
   I hate to make the comparison, but there is a world that exists within Nintendo's IP that evokes the danger and thrill of exploration in its ecosystem and geography, but lacks Zelda's meaningful freedom of traversal. It is an open-world RPG, and while it does have its fair share of problems, it also nails down some great ideas regarding the design of engaging worlds. That game is Xenoblade Chronicles X, and the two things it accomplishes better than Zelda are side quests and enemy aggression. But rather than bore you with the details of why this is so, I would like to conclude this section with a final statement.
   Zelda is not an RPG, and it is not an open-world game, though I think it borrows elements from both and misuses them. If the next installment in the franchise intends to use the same open-air philosophy, however, I think they have a very solid foundation in regards to meaningful traversal, but they need to dial back in some places (fast travel and the number of Shrines) and put more thought into others (side-quests and variety in enemy encounters). I don't think it's fair to equate Zelda to an open-world RPG, nor do I think it can be considered a great open-world game. But it is a fine open-air adventure.

008: DLC Part 4: A Return to Hyrule (The Master Trials)
   So, the Master Trials were revealed this evening, and I've heard some groaning. I would like to look back at my previous section regarding necessary changes in order to weigh in on this first pack of DLC. Let me also state that I fully intend to restart my save file when this update finally drops, and you'll likely receive additional DLC thoughts after that.

Hard Mode:

Should rid the game of the flurry rush mechanic as well as the full-health-one-hit-survival.
   Status: Not happening. Disappointing, but not surprising. However, there has been a rather interesting subversion of the one-hit-survival concept that I am very much looking forward to experiencing. The press release has stated that there will be floating planks that the player will have to reach in order to challenge the enemies upon them. If there is one element of the game that continues to delight me, it is the rag doll physics that can occur when struck by a particularly devastating attack. If combined with high altitude and interesting floating plank architecture, this could result in instant kills upon being knocked off. However, the examples provided by Nintendo seem extremely basic, as well as supported by Octo Balloons, which means they'll likely be easily exploited.

In addition, the amount of food carried should be far lower, maxing out at one page, and that uncooked food should also have a stack cap, or lack healing effects.
   Status: Not happening.

Of course, double damage is a given.
   Status: Not happening. However, the base enemy rank is being raised from the start of the game, stealth will be more difficult, and there will be regenerating enemy health, which simply equates to higher aggression as the focus of this mode. On one hand, I think there is something to be said about this idea- players will have to focus on specific enemies when confronted by groups, and stealth strikes will be a less-likely option. However, I imagine aerial strikes will retain usefulness as a means of surprising enemies, and the Shiekah outfit will simply result in the normal level of stealth that Link possessed in regards to enemies in the basic game. There are teases of hard-mode exclusive enemies, but these are simply higher ranked enemies. Either way, I can only wonder how exhaustive Lynel battles will become in the future...

Cave of Trials:
Should utilize the same concepts found in topography design throughout the overworld as well as present interesting combinations of enemies.
   Status: Happening...? The example provided shows a familiar type of setting, but the amount of rooms and the number of enemies within them could be what I'm looking for.

Even the best-equipped player should have to juggle multiple conflicting elements in these challenges. Of course, it is important that food plays a factor here, and perhaps the Cave of Trials
should present players with a limited amount of healing options, even when not on hard mode.
   Status: HAPPENING OH DEAR LORD YES. This is exactly the sort of challenge this needed to be, and as a massive fan of Eventide Island, you can count me as very, very, VERY excited for it.

   As something I was not anticipating from this update, I would assume that this will be obtainable through specific Amiibo scans or within the floating treasure platforms found throughout hard mode. If not, I could imagine them being purchasable in Tarrey Town. Either way, I would hope that all of them would offer unique features, but I cannot imagine what they might be. Phantom Armor would be a great disguise for all enemies as a reference to Spirit Tracks, and I could see some sort of interaction with wolves or Wolf Link working for the Midna helmet. The others make little sense to me.

Additional Features:
   Path of the Hero is interesting, I guess? I haven't clocked over 200 hours in my first file so I'd be interested to at least give it a spin, and I suppose it will be useful for gathering Korok Seeds. Otherwise, I don't see it as something substantial, or even something I would want to buy. The Travel Medallion is absolutely useless save for those who refuse to complete or even register Shrines, or for marking a specific spot for grinding materials. Either way, it feels superfluous.

   Do these inclusions seem worth it? Well, considering many of the 3D Zelda games have had hard modes from the start, I don't think so. The Trial of the Sword looks to be the most substantial and engaging bit of content from this entire update, though it will require a playthrough in order to gauge its execution. The floating planks will likely be a nice diversion set in some hard-to-reach places and discovering their location should be fun. However, this first DLC pack does not feel close to being worth half of its $20 asking price, and to be honest, I don't consider the first "bonus" from purchasing the pack to be worth any money at all. Here's hoping that holiday update offers something truly mind-blowing.

009: Re-evaluating Combat in The Master Trials (Combat)

    With the release of what I would consider to be the first true installment in Breath of the Wild's DLC package, we have a new lens through which we can view the combat in the title, which is a particular point of interest for a number of reviewers and players because of its seemingly obtuse fundamentals. Before we take a look at what makes The Master Trials' approach to combat unique from the base game, we first need to take a look at what makes Breath of the Wild's combat different from any other Zelda title, which means delving a bit deeper into the numbers of the game.
   Video game analyst Joseph Anderson has already contributed a rather exhaustive look at the equipment systems in Breath of the Wild, but I would like to restate the mechanics he identified more briefly. Each one point of power on a weapon equates to a quarter of a heart, therefore, a two-point tree branch deals half a heart to link, and... you know, two damage to a Bokoblin. However, equipment negates the damage dealt equal to the cumulative point amount Link is wearing- a set of Hyrulean Gear grants nine-points of defense, so if that Bokoblin attempts to attack you with that stick, the entirety of the damage is negated- sort of. You are still dealt a single point of damage because Nintendo does not want players to be completely unstoppable. If an enemy will kill Link in a single hit, he is able to endure the attack with a quarter heart remaining.
   While many see this equipment negation concept as a major flaw in the game's design, I cannot agree with that sentiment, as the ability to severely negate damage is only accessible through spending 11,600 Rupees, which are not necessarily hard to come by, but do require a great deal of effort and gathering in order to obtain. Likewise, as I have stated previously in my review, I do not view Zelda as an RPG- it is an action adventure title focused largely on exploration and puzzle-solving, much more so than combat. Some might argue that combat mechanics have seen far greater focus in the last three 3D Zelda titles, but my rebuttal would be that combat has always been about clearing obstacles, and that the methods offered in these three titles are simply variants on classic and rather simplistic mechanics. What I will not argue, however, is that Breath of the Wild's combat system is inherently flawed, as it does little to add to the overall experience and rarely encourages the survivalist themes that the game leans so heavily upon. Before I explain why, I would like to talk about the changes to combat seen in The Master Trials.
   Within the Trial of the Sword, combat remains unchanged, but the prime objective is to clear out each floor of enemies before moving on. This turns the normally very avoidance-prone characteristics of the base game on their head and promotes aggression, resource management, and substantial knowledge of the game's mechanics. Because food, weapon, and equipment are much more limited in the Trial of the Sword, there is a heightened sense of difficulty and awareness regarding the distinctive features of each room, such as enemy placement, geography, and climate. Some of the most enjoyable moments in these forty-five floors of combat are when the developers have thrown multiple variables at the player that they must attempt to overcome. I think it's important to highlight how these trials are structured:
   The first set are a rather straightforward introduction to the concept, stripping down the player's tool set and providing them with a pair of environmental tools- trees and rocks. Specifically, trees offer a great amount of stealth and invulnerability, while rocks enable height for both aerial bow strikes and jump strikes. Trees feature more heavily in the first portion of the trial, while rocks appear more in the second half. It is important to note that these functions do not take center stage, but are certainly the most present elements.
   The second set of trials involves two much more dynamic and difficult environmental tools- in fact, the tools on display here are almost never present in the normal gameplay, which is something I very much appreciated. The first is perpetual updraft, which means a lack of flooring and continual aerial strikes are constantly on display, while the second is complete darkness, a mechanic that is only used for a specific shrine quest and in the opening portion of a Divine Beast. The third portion, on the other hand, returns to the classic shrine aesthetic and challenges the player with combat-oriented trials involving enemies found within those shrines. While the first portion of the trial feels extremely free because of movement options, the second is extremely tense, as the player must battle a variety of enemy types in environments that are unfamiliar and barely visible. That the aesthetics of these trials are very different may also be an additional point of unfamiliarity or a potential benefit to the player- realizing that the aerial segment is largely free of any cover means that the player must constantly factor in range or aggression, and the dark segment taking place in the criminally underused ruins layout means there is plenty of cover and points where enemies can become caught or separated from each other and the player. The final segment of this intermediate trial feels bittersweet, as many of the scenarios established would be more than welcome as actual “minor/modest/major” scenarios rather than what we actually received. The segment where the player must challenge two of the modest enemies is genuinely difficult, perhaps even more than the final floor in which a major enemy is your only obstacle.
   The final set of trials is the most enjoyable in a number of ways, as it tasks the player with confronting the most difficult environmental hazards as well as the toughest enemies in the game. However, the developers have sort of missed the boat with the second quarter of these, as they gift the player with fireproof equipment before allowing them into the trial. On one hand, managing equipment (the majority of the gathered equipment from the first quarter being wooden), temperature, and resources in this segment might have been too challenging from Nintendo's perspective- and it's important to note that some of the enemy encounters in this second quarter are markedly stronger than the enemies in the first quarter. Another harsh blow to the difficulty in these final trials is the Stalnox that drops three elemental weapons at the end of the first quarter, it trivializes the encounters between the two elemental Taluses that appear later in the trial, as well as the Wizzrobes that appear. In defense of this choice, the final quarter of this trial is immensely difficult and may even require additional weaponry to complete, so this boon of weaponry- and elemental, at that- is welcome. What I appreciate about this trial is that each portion focuses in on a specific type of encounter on a much broader scale than what is often seen in the game. Constant lightning storms, high heat and wind vents, movement negation and resistance timers, and finally the battle against guardians and some of the other more difficult enemies in the game is a great and varied approach to combat, which is why this first part of the Master Trials made me honestly fall in love with combat in Breath of the Wild once again. With limited resources and equipment, the game feels so much more tense, and each choice, as well as environmental awareness and knowledge of how enemies react to certain abilities and attacks, seems to matter so much more.
   This is why Master Mode is so disappointing to me.
   First, let's look at the differences. Link no longer endures killing blows, which means that accruing hearts and substantial equipment is absolutely crucial in the early game portions of Master Mode. Enemies are a tier higher than they used to be, which means instead of red Bokoblins on the Great Plateau and the rare blue commander, you have blue and black. There is an additional gold tier of enemies at the top of the chain, effectively evening out the imbalance that occurs when equipment is maxed out in the endgame. Not only that, but enemies will regain health if left unattended, meaning that resources are essentially wasted if you are attempting to separate enemies with splash damage. There are new floating platforms positioned by bodies of water and in the sky. Equipment rewards and drops, such as those received from Bokoblin encampments, remain the same, which drives home a simple idea of Master Mode that I would like to emphasize- combat is discouraged from the very start of the game.
   That you can consistently pick up tree branches and beat enemies over the head with them means that, yes, you cannot really run out of weapons. As stated before, any sort of area-of-effect attacks are discouraged because of the health regeneration, and while the logical answer to this would be “bombs,” the better answer would be, “let's not waste time.” While I went out of my way to challenge five of the encampments on the Great Plateau, the rewards were not substantial and did little more than perpetuate the struggle to acquire more weaponry. What WAS worth going for were the floating platform rewards, which were markedly higher and made enemy encounters easier. But because enemy encounters can be more easily avoided than overcome, the former strategy becomes more appealing, especially once off the Great Plateau and on the way to gather more resources for survival. This truly highlights one of the fatal flaws of combat in Breath of the Wild in general, which is what I would like to focus on for the remainder of this installment.
   When factoring in mandatory combat sequences in Breath of the Wild, there are approximately six instances in which the player needs to directly combat an opponent- each of the four bosses found in the Divine Beasts, the Yiga Clan Leader, and Ganon himself. Now, if attempting to clear all 120 Shrines, there are 20 mandatory Tests of Strength that you'll have to complete, which might also require weapon farming in order to overcome, as well as several Shrines that have combat situations around them, like the total darkness Shrine in the North of the map, the trio of labyrinths, and the spiral peninsula in Akkala. But for the most part, a player could utilize resource gathering to circumvent a vast majority of combat issues in Breath of the Wild, to the point where combat and the other mechanics of the game feel almost unrelated.
   This is partially a flaw in the design of the open-world (open-air, whatever) concept, in which enemies can rarely serve as a direct obstacle unless the action is deliberately scripted or constrained in specific ways. Enemies and combat were meaningful in previous Zelda titles because they locked rooms and were placed in smaller arenas. Not only are enemy encampments extremely telegraphed with only a few exceptions throughout Breath of the Wild, they are extremely easy to avoid, and it takes a player who is dedicated to directly encountering enemies to actually experiment with combat and figure out its odd personality. Excluding of the Trial of the Sword and those mandatory story and shrine encounters, however, combat can be completely circumvented in Breath of the Wild's Hyrule, which makes one wonder why it has so many odd mechanics in the first place. Combat exists within its own sort of detached state, serving only as a means to perpetuate the equipment boosting aspect of the game in order to face stronger foes later, maybe also as a means of boosting your net amount of Rupees.
   What I am attempting to get at, basically, is that Breath of the Wild has these lovely systems. Heat, rain, fire, water, climbing, physics, cooking, combat, equipment, and more- and all of them have the potential to interact with each other, but they exist within a game in which it is the player's choice in order to make this so. The player must feel combat, or cooking, or archery, is necessary, in order to truly learn the ins-and-outs of the mechanics and how they interlock. Some might see this as a fascinating concept, as it promotes player choice, but in terms of giving the player meaningful objectives, this philosophy falls short. Money is so easily obtained in Breath of the Wild that killing enemies cannot simply be for monetary gain, it has to be for equipment, but by investing in equipment, the player is also trivializing the boss fights of the game, which are disappointingly easy. Collecting great amounts of resources and using them to make tons of food that boosts your combat abilities and heart meter turns fights into easy affairs, and the abundance of food means that the player can continuously exploit this mechanic safely. Those are systems at conflict, rather than those that work in harmony. Ultimately, they simply make Breath of the Wild an easy game, even on Hard Mode. And that's fine, because I don't think Nintendo ever set out to make a game that had a Dark Souls-level of punishment and challenge- they made a game that anyone could excel in if they grew tired of beating their head against the wall, or simply invested enough time in so that they would be able to take on enemy encounters more easily. While games should provide challenge, Breath of the Wild's challenge is most evident in its exploration- combat CAN be a challenge depending on what limitations the player imposes upon themselves, but it is the spirit of adventure and exploration that thrives at the heart of this game, which is why Master Mode is ultimately superfluous. This is why I would only recommend it for the player who is willing to go to such extremes in order to make the game fun for themselves, because if you aren't, you will see the cracks in between Breath of the Wild's gameplay sooner and perhaps grow disappointed with it.
010: What is a Dungeon? (Dungeon/Overworld Design)
    In more critical reviews of Breath of the Wild, I often see a lack of dungeons highlighted as a problem, in addition to the aesthetic qualities of the shrines and Divine Beasts. While I won't argue that the game is largely without experiences that could be defined as dungeons in the traditional sense, there is a counter-argument that I believe holds water. In an initial interview following the first footage of the new Zelda project, Eiji Aonuma stated the following regarding puzzles:
   “...I feel like making those logical choices and taking information that you received previously and making decisions based on that can also be a sort of puzzle-solving.”
   Aonuma would also go on to say that part of the puzzle solving in Breath of the Wild would be getting from place to place, factoring in the options and freedom that the player has available to them. This largely factors into travel, but it can also apply to a number of different kinds of circumstances. In designing Breath of the Wild, the Zelda team has essentially reversed the design philosophy established in Skyward Sword and allowed for extremely organic “dungeon” design- so organic, in fact, that some players would argue their existence in the game at all. In identifying how this design philosophy trickles down, however, it is important to start with the core, and perhaps most traditional elements of the game- Divine Beasts and shrines- before moving into the environment-integrated dungeons. This is a relatively straightforward process.
   Many would say that the Divine Beasts are the closest Breath of the Wild gets to a traditional dungeon, and the addition of a fifth and the DLC toting it as such, the acknowledgment from the developers solidifies this notion. Mark Brown's excellent Boss Keys series has highlighted two kinds of dungeon-structures: “find the path” and “follow the path” formats, in which a player must complete a series of objectives of their own accord in order to reach the critical path, or where they must complete a series of trials along said critical path. While Divine Beasts do not seem to follow either of these formats particularly well, it is best to label them as “find the path” style dungeons, as the player is left to their own devices upon discovering the dungeon map. While the path to the dungeon map is often rather straightforward, the terminals that must be unlocked in order to combat the boss are scattered throughout the structure of the Beast and can be reached in any order one chooses. This is not to say that reaching them is equally straightforward- some of them require more complex manipulation of the Beast in order to obtain and present higher risk, seeing as the player is atop a structure surrounded by what is essentially a bottomless pit. Each Beast also presents a new mechanic, and while they can be universally lumped into “Beast manipulation,” they add a unique flavor to the dungeon that sets each apart from one another. While some, like Vah Medo and Vah Rudania, shift the entire Beast in order to open new paths, others like Vah Ruta and Vah Naboris allow you to move elements in precise formations. Each is crucial to opening the critical path, but the nature of the individual terminals means the Beast manipulations are mechanics that must be experimented with and learned in order to reach the end of the dungeon. I would be remiss to mention the number of chests featured throughout the Divine Beasts, which possess weaponry that is tiered to the respective area. Yet, another aspect of these Divine Beasts that is quite different from dungeons in the series are the “taming” segments that precede them, in which the player must engage in a rather cinematic scuffle in order to gain access to the Beast. I would argue that this gameplay is very much a part of the dungeon experience, especially in the case of the stealthy climb to Vah Rudania. All of the elements of traditional dungeon design are there, just in a way that is a bit different from what long time Zelda fans are accustomed with.
   Shrines are, for the most part, gimmick-centered rooms. I say this without an ounce of venom, as I have written about the nature of gimmicks and motifs in adventure and RPG titles a number of times and have come to appreciate the gimmick, when used properly. They are themed in extremely specific ways and usually center around the usage of one or two of the basic runes gifted to the player on the Great Plateau. The tools are presented to the player from the very start of the game, and each shrine utilizes the systems that comprise the experience to create folds upon the core gameplay. While some are as simple as using Stasis to launch a projectile, others mix movement and archery, climbing and descending, and even the photography functions of the Switch (and the Camera rune, of course). Even the Tests of Strength shrines are puzzles in themselves, as players must adapt to the alien movement and mechanics of the guardians within and can, with the proper equipment and common sense, subvert attack patterns in beneficial ways. These shrines either present a single challenge that requires a logical, step-by-step process, or a series of two or three challenges centered around the same theme. The latter of the two options feels more like traditional dungeon design, as it introduces and builds upon a theme by adding layers of complexity. However, there are a number of shrines with straightforward solutions that require knowledge and traversal of the overworld. The two shrines located on the Dueling Peaks, for example, are less focused on the puzzle within and more concerned with how the player will move from one “half” of the mountain to the other, and all that this traversal will entail. If the player wishes to complete these shrines early, what equipment or elixirs will they need equipped? At other times, a shrine may be directly tied to an overworld sequence, such as the three trials within the Lost Woods, or several of the shrines surrounding Rito village. These require environmental awareness and usage of the systems in a more “natural” sense, in comparison with the artificial setups found within other shrines. There are shrine quests, as well, but some of these can be subverted by simply discovering the location of a shrine before speaking with the accompanying NPC. More than often, however, they also possess a challenge within. Lastly, there are shrines that are hidden within the overworld in difficult places, which can disorient the player thanks to the sometimes-helpful Sheikah Sensor, and test the ability to notice environmental cues.
   Factoring in these designs, there are several complex shrine sequences that, in my opinion, function as “dungeons” in two ways: more complex, building sequence shrines, and those that are integrated with the overworld, requiring environmental traversal and an understanding of the game's systems. The most obvious examples would be the three Labyrinths, Typhlo Ruins, The Trial of Thunder, Korok Woods, and Eventide Island. There are several other examples of integrated overworld shrines that I could mention, such as the Gee Ha'rah, Mozo Shenno, and Tawa Jinn shrines, but they may not be as convincing examples of the overworld integrated dungeon design, seeing as they are centered around specific puzzles or situations. However, the obvious examples are extended sequences with much more payoff than the usual shrine, which is why I would submit them as strong candidates for additional or mini-dungeon experiences atop the four Divine Beasts in the base game. The first sequence in the Champion's Ballad quest, as well as the concluding dungeon, are two further examples of great dungeon-like sequences. With all of this in mind, I would argue that Breath of the Wild features around nine dungeon-like sequences, ten if factoring in the Champion's Ballad.
   What gives me any sort of say regard what can and cannot be considered a dungeon in Breath of the Wild, though? Well, as someone who has spent an exorbitant amount of time with both this game and the Zelda series as a whole, I would submit two pieces of evidence: one is that, in terms of series traditions, Breath of the Wild has no particular sequence that is entirely reminiscent of a traditional dungeon, especially those designed for the three dimensional space. Second would be that the development team and Aonuma were determined to shake up the conventions of Zelda, especially in regards to puzzle solving, which means the dungeon design was modified to fit into the “logic-based” format Aonuma mentioned, and that those examples are the most extended sequences of logic-based puzzle-solving found in the game. This may mean that Breath of the Wild ends up with some cries of “not my Zelda,” but I strongly feel that this new approach is a step in the right direction, feeling more organic and natural within the confines of a genre described as “open-air adventure.” The only critique I would give is simply that these sequences are great, but could stand to have a bit more length. If that means sacrificing a handful of shrines in the overworld and integrating their gimmicks into a dungeon structure, it would be worthwhile. However, as it stands, there are still a whopping 120 shrines in Hyrule (136 with the Champion's Ballad), and the playtime of those shrines is still being enjoyed whether integrated into a Divine Beast or not.
011: All this, for a Motorcycle (The Champion's Ballad)
   The Champion's Ballad is a worthy supplement to the base package that is Breath of the Wild. There are a number of new and different challenges, but it's all still rather familiar. In fact, it's so familiar that it still manages to fall flat in a few places, but, we'll get to that in a bit.
   In between the release of the Master Trials and the Champion's Ballad, I will admit I haven't returned to Hyrule very much. While I played a decent amount of Master Mode, a number of other releases appeared and dominated my time. Yet, with the release of the Champion's Ballad, I picked up my Switch for what might be the last trek through Hyrule for a long time. As it turns out, the Champion's Ballad is something of a highlight reel of Breath of the Wild's systems, locations, and elements, in all of the best ways, and a few of the worst. In covering this extensive quest line, I'd like to plot out the new content in order to address each segment.
   The quest starts with a low-health, high-damage set of challenges on the Great Plateau, where the player must defeat four groups of enemies and complete four new shrines with one point of health. It's a sentimental return to where Link got his start, only this time, the player should have much more stamina, as well as other tricks in the form of equipment to bolster their arsenal. While defense won't really be the main reason for equipment swaps, outfit bonuses can come in handy here, specifically a bit of stealth and cold resistance. The enemy encampments are in areas previously unused, so scoping out and utilizing the terrain is helpful in order to get your bearings straight. The shrines that accompany this trial are the most “new” feeling- well-designed and unique, with the exception being the rather bland but aesthetically pleasing “Path of Light.” The added pressure of low health means that a more careful approach is wise, despite the pressure the game attempts to force upon the player. As for the combat segments, I found none of them to be particularly difficult, although it did take a concentrated effort to get used to Link's fragile state. After a few moments of trial-and-error, I adjusted to the necessary play style and completed this challenge with relative ease. The player is then tasked with finding additional challenges and shrines themed after the four champions, which is the most time-consuming part of the quest. What I found most satisfying about these trials was the presentation, as you are given bird's eye views of their locations and must deduce their placement on your own. After completing each set of three, the player must battle the Blight boss from each Divine Beast with limited resources and equipment, which is not the most original idea, but effective nonetheless.
   I don't believe I've ever mentioned which of the four champions is my particular favorite, but it happens to be Urbosa, for a number of reasons: the base game quest line is by far the most varied and satisfying, her ability is handy and powerful, she has incredible abs, and the shrines that surround the Gerudo region have some of the best elements. Once again, her trials shine, mixing sand seal travel, Molduga battling, and stealth tightly and serve as a lovely summary of her “greatest hits.” She and Daruk are the Champions to receive unique boss encounters within their trials, and while they are more or less bigger damage sponges, they do offer something new and satisfying to the mix. Overall, these trials come together as a very mixed bag, with Urbosa's feeling the most satisfying if only because they present the most variety and challenge. Daruk has the better boss fight, but the difficulty of two of his Shrines is undercut by the (necessary) possession of fire-proof gear. Mipha has the best environmental puzzle of the bunch, but it is followed by the worst shrine in “The Melting Point,” and her trials lack real challenge or even character. (she's not all bad, she has a great shrine in “A Hidden Stairway”) Revali's race trial is definitely the most satisfying, but the others feel like a retread of tasks already performed- his shrines are decent enough, however. While the limited-set fights with each Blight may sound particularly bland and offensive, it is important to remember that they attempt to negate the player's organic progression through the main quest, and in that sense, they are somewhat satisfying. Each completed set grants a bolstered version of its champion's respective gift- nothing more than a faster recharge time. Otherwise known as “the more Revali's Gales, the better.”
   All of this culminates in what Nintendo has toted as “a new dungeon,” and, well, yes. It is a new dungeon. Aesthetically similar to the shrines and Divine Beasts but lacking an animal theme, this new dungeon is a non-linear, clockwork contraption with mostly unique but very straightforward design. The puzzles that exist utilize the same runes and mechanics you've seen before, so figuring them out only requires a sense of familiarity. However, this dungeon feels more like four shrines put together because of its segmented nature, and while its clockwork nature is neat, it opens each “room” separately, which allows the structure to be non-linear, but requires no deep coordination of elements. It is straightforward, but not disappointing, offering up the same standard of quality as the other Divine Beasts, barring their animal themes. All of this culminates in an unconventional, but not terribly difficult boss battle that manages to utilize familiar elements and mechanics in a different way.
   Before getting into the specifics of the final reward, I would like to place some emphasis on that last statement, because it is a central theme of the DLC as a whole. Barring the Master Cycle Zero, One-Hit Obliterator, the reward room in the Trial of the Sword, and some aesthetic differences with the new enemy types from Master Mode and the Champion's Ballad, there is nothing “new” about them. A specific type of champion trial requires timing that is different, but utilizes no new mechanics. The boss of the final dungeon reuses attack animations from preexisting enemies. The most different encounter in all of the DLC is a unique boss found in Daruk's trials. Many games use DLC as an excuse to utilize new art assets and introduce different enemy types, but this is not the case with Breath of the Wild. While one camp may argue that the fundamentals of the game are solid enough to warrant their reuse in multiple areas, there are moments where the champion's trials feel extremely similar to previous encounters, and one or two of the champion shrines have very similar mechanics to those present in the base game. (This is one or two out of twelve, however, and I can confidently say that the others are quite unique) This is why, as I mentioned at the start of this segment, I feel that the Champion's Ballad is a worthy addition to the base game. It enhances what the game has established without adding anything particularly new or special. While the additions to the story help add context, they fill in blanks and add a level of investment that was lacking from the base-game. But all of the additions made in these DLC packs feel like worthy late- or end-game content. If a player did not complete all the shrines before defeating each Divine Beast, these trials might be welcome. Even the Master Cycle Zero, a lovely little artifact in its own right, adds little to the game, especially as post-game content. As it stands, the enhancements to the Champion's gifts don't really offer all that much to a late-game player, either, so it is somewhat disappointing that all the Divine Beasts must be conquered to access these challenges- although, they could not fit easily anywhere else.
   But, the release of the Champion's Ballad feels “right,” in a strange sense. It felt satisfying to return to Hyrule in a way that encourages exploration while also recapping the major moments and elements of the game. It was rewarding to open the cutscene theater and see each piece of the story fit together chronologically. It is a satisfying six-to-eight hours of content that puts a succinct period on the experience. I do not believe that the Zelda team will add any additional content to this title, but I do not particularly mind. I will say that, should Nintendo re-release this title down the line with all of this content packaged together at a base-game pricing, I would be hard-pressed to argue against calling it an astoundingly full-featured title. The base game was impressive in its own right, but this content feels like a natural extension- it does little to push the boundaries of the game's established formula, yet still adds substantial, satisfying content. Likewise, when looking at this DLC within the context of Master Mode, I could see these trials and challenges as some of the most intense and aggressive in the history of the series, and I look forward to giving it a proper chance when my memories of the title begin to fade, or when I start feeling particularly nostalgic about this Wii U/Switch title. As it stands, the Champion's Ballad is a proper sendoff to Breath of the Wild, and I think that requires a proper sendoff for this review, as well.
012: Courage Need Not Be Remembered (Conclusion)
   When I sat down to write my first round of final impressions regarding Breath of the Wild, I never imagined I would be looking this in-depth at the game's systems and design eight months later. Then again, there has never been a Zelda title that has inspired this much thought and critique from me. There is so much new here to analyze, to appreciate, and yes, to scrutinize. Yet, here we are, the length of that review essentially tripled, sitting at sixteen pages in a word document and a whopping twelve-thousand words. I am sort of in awe of that, myself. Sure, it could be formatted a bit better, and some areas could use some more detail as well as others some trimming, but I think it is time to let sleeping Bokoblins lie, unless you would like to creep up and sneak strike them.
   Okay, sorry for that joke.
   In that original, four-part review, there were some points that I highlighted as particularly irksome. Looking back on that segment now, I find it amusing to see that the variety and depth I could not help but gush over now feels thoroughly covered by the game, itself, to the point where I feel that there is little else to say. However, I did touch on a few cryptic notes that I would like to summarize here. In regards to the amount of Great Fairies, this is a statement I will vehemently argue- to preserve the difficulty and danger of the world, having only three would have been acceptable, lowering the defensive capabilities by all equipment by one tier. While I have yet to reach the end of Master Mode where such equipment investment is actually necessary, I still think a better balance could have been attained in this regard. I also think having four fairies in addition to Mipha's Grace is a bit foolish, especially with a health and inventory system as forgiving as the one that is in place. (It does baffle me that Skyward Sword has better inventory systems than this title) The Sheikah Sensor should have been refined for some of the shrine quest elements that require specific placement in order to work, and a few quest hints and solutions are too obscure for their own good. Lastly, I love that there is a quick-select system for the weapon inventory and I love the large inventory in itself, but I think some organization options would have been welcome, despite the rather prompt scrolling that exists. These are some criticisms that I stand by, however, I am fully aware that at least half of them can be disabled or circumvented by player choice, which brings me back to the core elements of this title.
   Organic discovery. Exploration. Adaptation. Curiosity. Observation. While many still argue that this Hyrule is empty, there is still so much present, ripe for discovery. While I do not imagine myself going back to find much more costume DLC or Korok Seeds, I will likely break out my Master Cycle or fully-armored horse to take a trot through Hyrule sometimes, if only to appreciate what is there. We often praise games for having a great deal of things to find and missions to complete, and at times, Breath of the Wild may seem tame in comparison. But the sheer amount of interactivity in this open world is impressive and commendable, especially for a first attempt. While it certainly is not the first game of its type, neither was the original Legend of Zelda. Yet, both games sought to capture an atmosphere of discovery and wonder, of vastness and danger, and set the standard for their time. Much like the first entry in the series, and much like the first attempt at 3D gameplay, this will be the standard of this series moving forward, and I respect it for its traditions, its bravery in stepping away from convention, its quiet, subdued beauty, and the memories it created. Not those scripted ones- the moment I climbed a mountain and ran into a Talus and three skeletons, fighting them off and defeating the boss monster for the first time. The surprise and anxiety of dropping into a room of Guardians all primed to destroy me. The moment I learned my first tried-and-true cooking recipe, or when I finally unlocked a piece of equipment with a bonus effect. Dyeing my wardrobe to make my Link look like my Link. The feeling of empowerment as I took out my first Guardian, fired my first ancient arrow, overcame a Lynel, and powered through the weather with nothing but my own wits.
    When thinking of this game in retrospect, I am reminded of one of Princess Zelda's last lines: “Courage need not be remembered.” Indeed, Breath of the Wild is a game about developing courage and confidence in its systems. No matter the path that led the player to this specific moment, this specific line, there is courage present. You may have gone for a completionist run and stand against Ganon in a green tunic, or you may have gone for a speed-run and don't even know the horse you are about to ride into battle. You may be riding a fabled horse named Epona, or you may not even have the Master Sword in your possession. No matter the circumstance, you have reached the final moments with confidence in your ability to play Breath of the Wild, with the memories you have organically experienced just as much as those the developers have scripted through shrines, quests, and cutscenes. In a series that I enjoy so much, Breath of the Wild gave me so many new elements and aspects to love, and made me believe that, no matter where the Legend of Zelda is headed next, it is onward and upward from this point. I cannot wait to discover what the next land might be.
Last updated 12/31/2017. Updated Formatting. Fixed several examples of awkward sentences and missed punctuation. Thanks for reading! I might put this in audio form at some point.
Title: Re: The Journey Is More Important Than the End: A Review of Breath of the Wild
Post by: Mop it up on March 18, 2017, 01:14:13 PM
You can start a new game by creating a new user. Not the most elegant solution I know, but at least it would allow you to play a new game without erasing your completed file.

After the first few hours, I didn't get killed any more. The food system is easy to exploit. This is still an easy Zelda game, though it requires a little more effort to make it easy by gathering materials and cooking the food.
Title: Re: The Journey Is More Important Than the End: A Review of Breath of the Wild
Post by: Stratos on March 18, 2017, 04:03:53 PM
Interesting analysis, and I am intrigued by your game rankings, but how dare you place Majora's Mask so low! Though more seriously, I have drawn a comparison between BotW's open and living world with that of Majora's Clock Town. Do you see this the same way, or at least feel Clock Town was a great concept, just not executed as well as it was in BotW?

You can start a new game by creating a new user. Not the most elegant solution I know, but at least it would allow you to play a new game without erasing your completed file.

thanks for the idea, I already have an alternate file for my Japanese eShop account so I can probably use that, or make a third if I want to restart the game.
Title: Re: The Journey Is More Important Than the End: A Review of Breath of the Wild
Post by: Evan_B on March 18, 2017, 04:53:42 PM
Ranking Zelda titles is tough, and don't get me wrong, there's really only one game on that list that I genuinely dislike. The series is really high quality and it's hard to split hairs on certain titles, but that's the best ranking I've got.

Clock Town is one of the best towns in Zelda, period. It's NPC schedules and density are amazing. The main problem I have with Majora's Mask actually has to do with Clock Town, though, which is that the best parts of the game's content are centralized there, and its really the only area that takes advantage of the three-day time limit as a mechanic. It also feels a bit too rigid, if you get my drift, and in being as complex and interwoven as it is, it fails to end up appearing organic.

Breath of the Wild's open landscapes feel organic, and the events that unfold in it do. The second you add in the NPC element, however, the game stumbles a bit. The first time you rescue a pair of soldiers from monsters is extremely satisfying, but when you realize those same soldiers are going to fight those same enemies when a Blood Moon rises, it blows the wind out of your sails. The behavior of the animals and enemies in this game is where it shines, and luckily, that's where you spend most of your time. I'm not too turned off by NPC's not being more active or unpredictable, though, because I've seen the flip-side of things: Xenoblade Chronicles X, where NPC's move around like Michigan J Frog at a music festival.
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Evan_B on April 25, 2017, 12:56:14 AM
I just wanted to let you all know that, having digested my playing experience for a bit, I have decided to release DLC for this review. The third installment should be coming shortly, but I also wanted to say that I'll likely be adding even more DLC with the release and completion of Nintendo's own planned updates for Breath of the Wild.

In addition, if you would like to to read the reasons behind my ranking of the Zelda titles, you can find them here:
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Order.RSS on April 25, 2017, 11:17:50 AM
Haha nice, DLC for a review, there's a novel idea. Will read everyone's thoughts here on the game at some point, but I've yet to get it so tryna swerve around some spoilers.

Your best-of Zelda list is interesting, I'd have Wind Waker much higher for example, although I've not played a lot of them to be honest. So it'd be high up by default haha.
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Evan_B on July 15, 2017, 11:39:46 AM
Hey all,

Having completed the Trial of the Sword in normal mode and sunk about 20 or so hours into the Master Mode, I wanted to update this increasingly sour overview of Breath of the Wild with a pretty verbose segment on combat. You can find it in the original post.
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Evan_B on December 11, 2017, 05:00:04 AM
Hi there! I've just finished my final three segments of analysis on Breath of the Wild. I hope you enjoy reading this titan as much as I've enjoyed writing it, and please let me know if you'd like an audio version for your convenience.
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Khushrenada on December 12, 2017, 08:28:56 PM
Does it come in braille?
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Evan_B on December 13, 2017, 02:16:53 PM
Sure does. (
Title: Re: A Review of Breath of the Wild: DLC RELEASED!
Post by: Caterkiller on December 22, 2017, 10:15:22 PM
Loved your review. But will read all the DLC portions when I actually play them and finish them myself.