Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Zelda: The Open World Is Not Enough

As a Zelda fantard, I think it's important that every Zelda game be in the running for Game of All Time. Oftentimes, on Zelda forums, blogs, and such, people discuss what could make Zelda better. There's notion that the “Zelda formula” is getting a bit stale. I would agree. Some say the series would fare better as an open world game. I would agree with that as well. However, that's not all that's necessary. That would merely improve Zelda into a good game. As the opening sentence might imply, I don't think that's good enough.

My cousin has this game called Far Cry 3. I've spent a good bit of time over at his house of late, and I've been playing the hell out of that game. It's really good. Anyway, I found myself wondering, “Why can't Zelda have an overworld like this?” However, as I traversed through the campaign, I realized that Zelda would still suffer from many of the same problems if it were like FarCry 3. Far Cry 3's main storyline is completely linear, just as Zelda's is. There are things you can do such as skin animals or liberate enemy bases which makes you feel as if you have a good degree of freedom, but the freedom in that game is linear slavery when compared to freedom offered by LoZ or even ALttP and OoT.

In the older Zelda games, the recommended dungeon orders were optional. For example, in LoZ, “Level-1” is referred to as such, but you don't necessarily have to complete Level-1 first. You can do Level-3 first if you want. Items from Levels 3 and 4 are required for Levels 5-8, but you can basically go wherever the sam hell you want. The only place you can't go is Level-9 (the last level where Princess Zelda is being held). LoZ puts the free in free roaming.

Anyway, imagine if Zelda had an open world like FarCry 3's where the entire map is accessible from the start, but the dungeons still need to be completed in a set order. The only benefit is being able to do the sidequests early (much like how you can liberate bases early in FarCry 3). And really: What's the freakin' point of that in Zelda? You can play Bombchu Bowling from the start of the game? That's nice and all, but it's quite a step down from being able to clear the last dungeon first.

Zelda shouldn't settle for being a mere good open world game. It could be so much more if Nintendo only wanted it to be. Modern Zelda could be immortal – a part of the conscience of gamers everywhere – as LoZ, ALttP, and OoT are. And yet, not only do they avoid providing alternate dungeon orders, they continually close off entire portions of the map until much later in the game.

But maybe that will change with Zelda U.