So recently I finally acquired The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I bet you expect me to be writing some review of it here.
Review: It’s really fun, but the rain mechanic is frustrating.
For as much hype as I put into it before it came out, I guess that review is anticlimactic. I honestly have a lot more to say about it, but nothing that hasn’t been already said. If you want a good review, just watch the videos I put in that other post I did about the game. In fact, I’m currently doing my first run-through of the game in Master mode. As in I decided to play the game for my very first time on the hardest difficulty setting. So I have some stories from that that I guess I can write about.
But not here. This game got me thinking about the appeal of the kind of game it is.
Collect, Craft, Survive
Normally I would classify any Zelda game as a linear adventure game. And while this game has many of the elements of traditional Zelda games, such as dungeons, special equipment, and puzzle solving, Breath of the Wild introduces new mechanics that drastically change how the game is played. Mechanics such as weapon durability, cooking, and material collecting. These mechanics shift the play style from adventure to survival since you constantly have to be searching for new weapons and new materials to aid you on your quest. It’s still undoubtedly an adventure, but one that requires a lot more thought and planning than other Zelda titles have.
So the game has survival mechanics. Neat. But why is that neat? Why are survival mechanics found in Breath of the Wild or even Minecraft so appealing to players? I’m not talking about the mechanics in the game and how they work, but what is psychologically appealing in these games.
Choose Your Path
Every Zelda game before Breath of the Wild gave you goals to achieve. The main one is always something like “defeat Ganon” or whoever the main villain is, but in order to do that the game will give you the goals of first clearing the forest dungeon, then the fire dungeon, then the water dungeon, then the desert dungeon, and then maybe a few others, and THEN you can beat Ganon. Which is fine, so long as it’s a fun experience. There’s nothing wrong with a linear game.
Breath of the Wild does the same thing to a certain extent. At the beginning of the game you are given the main objective of defeating Ganon. Then the game gives you some quests that can help you do so, such as going to the dungeons. There’s also treasure to collect, mini dungeons called shrines to complete, and other things to find. All of which are completely unnecessary to accomplishing your main goal. Helpful, but unnecessary.
So I think the reason this game is appealing is because it gives you the opportunity to create your own goals. With so many unnecessary yet helpful things in the game, you have the freedom to go at whatever pace you want. If there’s a dungeon you don’t like, then do it later, or just skip it entirely. Or do ALL the dungeons. Or if you’re skilled enough, go straight to Ganon.
The same can apply to Minecraft. There are bosses in the game that you can prepare for such as the Ender Dragon and the Wither. But they’re completely unnecessary if you so choose. You can spend the whole time just building houses and neighborhoods if that’s what you like.
While linear games can throw you from one event to the next without much break in between, survival games like Breath of the Wild allow you to set your own goals and progress at your own pace. Now, there are survival games that are way more stressful where you have to race against the clock of hunger or a mass flooding or something. And I could compare Breath of the Wild‘s appeal to that of other types of games like shooters and fighters. And maybe I will analyze those kinds of games later. But I compared survival to linear in this post because that’s how Zelda used to be for the most part, barring maybe the first game and Link to the Past. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Zelda franchise took a step in the right direction with Breath of the Wild.
But hey, that’s just my opinion.