We assess the rampant “perfect” scores Zelda BoTW has received as well as its numerous Game of the Year awards. Does the fact it’s Zelda give it a pass to the top of the pile even with its issues?
Before We Jump In
As with most of my articles, I would like to start by saying that this isn’t, nor is it intended to be a smear piece against the game. Zelda BoTW has many good points to it and is by no stretch of the imagination a bad game.
I must also note that I am entirely opposed to the Game Awards opting for an overall “Best Game” of the year. It’s this reason I will not be participating in the soon to be published Coin-Drop GOTY article. The reason is that by default, the “Best Game” is highly subjective no matter how you spin it. It’s why many websites, as you will see in our own, choose to let the individual’s within their teams name their own personal GOTY.
I would, however, like to say that individual categories are fine, such as a “Best Racing Game”, or “Best RPG”. As these can be shuffled out, sorted, and ranked against each other from the year’s entrees. As a suggestion, I do feel that a “Worst Game of the Year” could be a viable alternative to “Best” GOTY. Maybe if we, as gamers as a community were to drag out the freak to the town square a hurl a few ripe tomatoes its way developers might not pump out garbage year after year. And instead, put a little bit of extra time into R&D, focus testing, and most importantly, bug testing.
So with all that out of the way. Let’s get the ball rolling.
The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of Nintendo’s most beloved and profitable franchises. Boasting 9 main games on their major platforms, with at least as many spin-offs. Not to mention cameos in other games, and then that crossbow training abomination.
Each of the five major games: The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess has always stood out among competitors. Be it time the first game with a save feature and thus a longer game with greater possibilities, time control mechanics, metaplot analysis and character growth, or even sailing that puts some games to shame to this day. They all stand out with fun and interesting story, gameplay, and theme.
For these reasons, I find Breath of the Wild disappointing. It’s simply too much of an industry standard to fill out the place of Game of the Year. Or it’s place as a Zelda game honestly. In fact, if I was a gambling man…which I am, I would say it was a fear of Fanboys that won BoTW the award.
Why It’s Not Game of the Year Material
But, I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s roll out the reasons primarily that BoTW let us down. I feel those sensible gamers here can all agree the game had little innovation, a padded story, gameplay that looked to satiate rather than satisfy, and lastly, that it simply was an empty world with little to do, not to mention its severe lack of variety of things to do.
Simply put, there is nothing in Zelda BoTW that hits you with that “Wow” moment all great games do at least once. Hell, the game itself even set itself up for the same, old, tired story. With Link being asleep for X number of years, in this case, 100… someone, in this game Zelda, looking quite childish for being a 116 year old woman with ZERO explanation. Gannon has taken over and his influence ruining a once great world, and all hope lost save for a “Hero” to emerge. I get that the overall story of the games are supposed to be the same, but at least give us SOME differences. There are great examples of how to tell the same story over and over in a good way. Such as Castlevania, WWII, Sherlock Holmes, and so on. Especially on the Silver Screen.
And don’t get me started on that “Hylians don’t age like humans” bullshit. Other Hylians in the game aged normally and they recognize that Link hasn’t. It would have been very easy to explain if the writing had been competent.
The game is called Zelda Breath of the Wild, yet we see little in terms of the animus that comes with that. The world is quite tame even though it’s supposed to be overrun. Perhaps that’s because it’s so empty or filled with non-hostile creatures over most threats. Hell, a game about Link leading a tribe of jungle ferals before being pulled out of retirement to stop a cult that idolizes Ganondorf would have been a better set up. But no, the game merely runs the same tired story as the others. Name me one moment that stood out amongst Breath of the Wild that’s worthy of attention that isn’t Link in a belly dancers outfit…
It’s the first game on the new system for a new generation, and it sure is different in comparison to the other games. But instead of something innovative, we just get open world 101 from 2012 with Link, Zelda, and Gannon thrown in. Link burst into the open world scene to just run through the motions. Even the combat, which was supposed to be more unforgiving, was merely a baby’s first dark souls. If it wasn’t for the awful weapon degradation system it wouldn’t have been challenging, nor any different from past games.
Not to mention the game traded in what fans most love about the games, the dungeons, for mini ones called Shrines. There are over 100 Shrines in the game, and 95% of them take less than a couple of minutes. Not to mention that the real dungeons in the game were a letdown. There are only 4 in total, and all of them were smaller than what we’re used to and were far easier to complete. You don’t even get unique items to help you throughout your journey that unlock hidden or previously unreachable areas in the game. It’s… disappointing to say the least.
What About the Story?
Who needs massive onset features and amazing set pieces if the game tells a good story right? I will admit Spec Ops: The line, and Binary Domain may have both ripped off Uncharted and Gears of War, but at least they told a good story. Sadly, again, Zelda’s story is so timid that it makes Duke Nukem look like Nathaniel Hawthorne. For those who aren’t on the up and up: Link wakes up, Zelda needs help, he has to get stronger, find the master sword, then defeat Ganon, well, Calamity Ganon… Yup, they could shoehorn the fucking pig into existing but couldn’t explain why Zelda isn’t old… It’s just another missed opportunity. Imagine an old Zelda desperately seeking out Link to help lead the resistance against Ganon, and Link, newly woken finds out his Princess and charge is an old crone.
So in the end, the story is just as bland as the gameplay. You can speed run the game inside an hour. I do mean a speedrun mind you, and when you consider that not hunting down 900 seeds to get a magical golden shit pile cuts the game’s length into a fraction. This is the kind of shit that games pick up from the factory floor: Wild, empty sandbox worlds, pointless collect-a-thon mechanics that last for hours on end, and effortlessly rehashed simple plots…
Say what you will about Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or other critically acclaimed open world games. At least there was shit worth doing besides golden shit trophy hunting. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo admitted that Ubisoft had their hands in the making of this game. It reeks of Assassin’s Creed Unity’s ridiculously clutter map.
Okay, so the story is basic, the gameplay is… there, and nothing stands out other than a massive, empty world. As I said, this isn’t a smear piece, and while that last bit may have seemed like one, let’s move to the positive.
So, what are the things I liked about Zelda? Well, the color palette was nice, and even though the world was mostly empty, it was quite nice to look at. I must note that I am Tritanomaly Colorblind, and even I could see that the game was a lush and colorful world. The semi-cell shading was a great choice for both the hardware of the switch/Wii U. The character design was also very well done, but that’s an expectation from a Zelda game, isn’t it? Some creatures stood out and gave fans new challanges, and even returning ones got nice makeovers that fit the bill of the world.
It’s also nice to see the game is a true open world. Meaning that if you wanted to, as soon as you’re off the tutorial island you can go straight to Ganon. Many games call themselves open-world with “true” freedom, yet still lock you behind a linear path within that open world.
The music speaks for itself, and enhances the experience in an optimal way. Beautifully orchestrated, and expertly implemented at the right moments for maximum impact.
Conclusion and Wrap-up
This is the ultimate end though, isn’t it? This is how we know a game has run its course. When the biggest release of the year is a factory standard model. When the game wins by name association. When it’s massive overfed girth has simply done everything it can feasibly do. As I said, Zelda BoTW wasn’t a bad game, and it’s certainly a fan favorite. But it’s not necessarily GOTY material. Then again, that’s not why games win Game of the Year is it? No, this move, as always, was political.
It’s Zelda, it’s Nintendo, of course it’s going to win. Because publications can’t incite the wrath of the fanboys by voting otherwise. I believe he Fanboys of Nintendo are easily the worst of the gaming community, as I wrote about in my article some time back. Most Nintendo Fanboys buy outdated consoles and outdated games for the nostalgia factor alone. They are not rational or understanding individuals… but then again, that’s why their fanboys.
So before the trolls butt in. I’m not angry and I don’t wish Nintendo or Zelda any ire. I don’t think Zelda should have lost to Horizon: Zero Dawn, or CupHead, or Nier: Automata… or several others for that matter. I’ll remind you that I said earlier than I don’t think the award should exist as an Overall GOTY at all. I’m just disappointed that once again another aspect of gaming has fallen to AAA games marketing. Once again, our votes don’t count because it’s a dog and pony show. Where it’s all about lip servicing the fan favorites.
This opinion piece is written by Park Robinson and doesn’t necessarily represent those at Coin-Drop.com