Sustaining Narrative in Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is making headlines everywhere it goes. From E3 to Gamescom the previews from Nintendo have been well-received, even making a big splash on Facebook. The game is going to be open-world, which is very different than classic Zelda titles. This may get Nintendo more fans, but will it lose them any?

There is a classic formula for the Legend of Zelda games. You start the game off and travel a fairly linear path through the game from dungeon to dungeon. In each dungeon, you’ll find the item you need to defeat that dungeon’s boss. This keeps going until you defeat the final boss and save the world. There have been a few variances from that formula, but generally it’s been a fairly straightforward game with a strong narrative.

The problem with a lot of open-world games is that you have less of a chance to develop a strong narrative. Breath of the Wild is an open-world game in just about every sense of the word. The game is estimated (by Arekkz here) to take around 40 minutes to walk east to west, and 33 minutes to walk north to south. As a point of reference, it takes roughly 30 minutes to walk across Skyrim.

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That is a very big world, and that is just an estimate of the overworld. Which means it doesn’t include any sort of shadow realm. So, if a shadow realm is included in Breath of the Wild, it’ll be even bigger. With all the space to explore and roam around, this will definitely be an open world game.

There are other aspects that make the game fit better into the open-world genre. Gathering, durability on weapons and items, cooking, finding shelter, ways to interact with just about all of the environment, and enemy camps hidden throughout the world are strewn through this new title.

There is something to do just about everywhere, but most of it doesn’t tie in directly with the story. For example, you can attack a Bokoblin camp, go shield boarding down a mountain, and go searching for hidden treasure. As far as can be seen, these aren’t directly tied to the main story. Going back to Skyrim, gathering materials, destroying bandit camps, and hunting dragons isn’t directly tied to the main quest, and may not have much of a story to go along with it. This is what you should be expecting in Breath of the Wild. A lot of new and probably fun stuff that doesn’t really advance the main plot.

Bringing a bunch of shiny new features into Breath of the Wild may excite a lot of players who never gave a Legend of Zelda game a try, but it may also alienate older fans of the series. LoZ is known for its epic narrative and heart-wrenching stories, not for its features and expansive world. Yes, the scenery is beautiful, and yes, open-world games are fun. However, they are also not for everyone.

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Gamers who are looking for a narrative-driven game where they can play through in their spare time while dealing with responsibilities may feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of Breath of the Wild. Open-world games are meant for people to pour their time into.

Nintendo has released pretty much nothing about the story behind Breath of the Wild. All they’ve shown is a small portion of the game itself, and seem to be focusing on the size of the game and what you can do.

Conclusion

Until the story is revealed, longtime fans may be unsure if this game is right for them. It may be too updated and modern to appeal to them, but only time will tell if that is true or not. Only in a few months after the game’s release will we learn if the story for Breath of the Wild is as tear-jerking as Wind Waker, or as powerful as Ocarina of Time. Time is the key here, just like it was in Majoras Mask, but we can’t fast forward to the end in real life. Is updating the Legend of Zelda franchise a good move, or a bad one? Do you have any other thoughts on Breath of the Wild, or any parts you’d like to know more about? Let me know in the comments below.

Spencer Havens
I have been writing and playing video games for as long as I can remember. I'm just excited to get closer and closer to combining my two passions.

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