Zelda BOTW Diary (8)

Some random miscellaneous thoughts:


The music in BOTW is very subdued. There is music at times, but most of the time the only sounds you will hear are the wind, the calls of wild animals (I guess, hence the title), and your footsteps and whatever noise the stuff you’re carrying makes.

Even when events trigger music, it is usually in sotto voce, although the tunes are familiar and make callbacks to the earliest games. The jingles and fanfares that you might remember from the original LoZ or A Link To The Past are back, but quiet, and more hinted at than played. There’s also subtle music at times to hint to you that the weather has changed, or to give you a very subtle encouragement to go on in exploring in the direction you’re going.

There’s foreground music for important fights, such as the Stone Talos and the Guardians, but most of the rest of the time, there’s nothing. This makes enemy encounters a bit more dangerous, since if you’re not looking in the right direction, they can literally sneak up on you.

Enemies do generally make sounds, and sound cues are often vital to notice things. Most of the wild animals you can catch to turn into food ingredients make some kind of noise, and you’ll catch on to it eventually. It’s easy to ignore at first, since in so many games these audio effects are cosmetic ambiance rather than functional. But in BOTW just about everything in the world is something you can interact with, and if it makes noise, it’s probably alerting you to the fact that there’s something there that is a factor, or at least a potential factor that could shape an encounter, or be the encounter.

Resetting set pieces

One of the things that annoys me about the game is the impermanence of certain setpieces. The one that immediately springs to mind is the tree you cut down to cross the ravine. If you leave the area and come back after cutting it down, the fallen tree is gone. This means you have to cut it down *again* in order to cross the ravine again. Do this enough times, and you’ll break your Woodcutter’s Axe. Unless these respawn infinitely, that’s a problem.

Certain things absolutely should reset. Food that grows in the wilds should re-grow after harvesting and some time passes. Things that grow very slowly, like large trees, should be a bit more permanent. Like, I get that if you screw up the tree felling obstacle, and the tree doesn’t end up where it needs to be, you’re going to potentially run out of trees to cut down if you’re really bad at it, and there should be a re-set so that you don’t have to restore from an old save point if you mess up all your chances. But once you get it right, what’s the replay value in having to do it again? Leave the fallen tree bridge as permanent once the player succeeds in doing what the designers meant for them to do.

Certain things *don’t* reset — if you clean out a bokoblin camp, it stays cleared out. If you don’t pick up all the weapon drops, they stay there waiting for you to need them later. Edit: After you leave the Great Plateau, the game introduces a concept called the Blood Moon, which resurrects all enemies you had previously killed. When I originally wrote this, that event had not yet happened in the game.

But if you pick up an item and then leave it somewhere, leave the area, and return, it’s gone.

World feel

This world is pretty beautiful, and pleasant. The weather is mostly nice, at least on the plateau. It gets dark and windy, but I haven’t seen it actually rain yet. I understand that it does rain, maybe not mainly on the plateau? But the world is verdant, with plenty of wildlife, bountiful plant life, I could just hang out on the plateau and never have to worry about Calamity Ganon, and live my life. The old man does, and not even the bokoblins seem to bother him. Which, again, adds to my perception that killing the bokoblins is murder, and not heroic.

If the bokoblins raided the old man, wrecked his farm, ran him off, it would make fighting them meaningful. This makes fighting bokoblins purposeful, but not particularly meaningful. (Edit: Later on, there are numerous examples where we run into bokoblins doing some evil to the good people of Hyrule, which we don’t see on the Great Plateau.)

It’s purposeful in that it teaches you how to fight, it enables you to get weapons and other loot drops, and if you don’t fight them, they’ll attack you when you get close, and while you can run away, you kindof need to deal with them at times. I imagine there’s probably people playing BOTW who try to do a pacifist run where they don’t kill anything unless it’s necessary. I’m not sure how possible it is to do that, particularly if you consider the food animals to be included in a non-violent run.

The world feels very empty. I mean, there’s stuff literally everywhere that you can interact with, but even so, you spend the vast majority of your time in the world alone. In the original LoZ, there were always monsters on nearly every screen. In BOTW, you can wander about for quite a while without encountering anything that wants to fight you. The animal encounters, until you realize that they’re intended to to be interactive, not merely no-collision, non-interactive set pieces to add a bit of ambiance, you could run past without doing anything but scaring them off, not realizing that you can capture them and cook them.

(But, wouldn’t it be nice if you could catch, say, a squirrel, and turn it into a pet? And maybe if you fed him acorns, he could go up a tree and find some hidden treasure for you, in return? And you could befriend some birds, and they might scout for you, and lead you to a point of interest, or away from a danger you’re not ready to face, or maybe come to your rescue if you’re low on health, and need someone to distract an enemy to cover your escape?)

Even with the Old Man to run into now and again, and talk to, you don’t really run into much else. During the day, monsters only when you run into a new area and haven’t cleared them out yet. At night, random generated encounters with Kees and bokoblin skeletons. Sit by the fire overnight, and you can avoid the night bad guys. You could live your whole life that way. The Old Man does and seems to live harmoniously with his world, and can go literally anywhere he wants to without apparent peril or fear.

My observation is that the plateau (at least) is rather pleasant, and doesn’t feel particularly dangerous, nor does it feel particularly under threat. Ok, sure there’s monsterous skeletons that will attack you at night. That’s kindof messed up. And true, there’s only one living person left, if you don’t count the bokoblins as a people, but he doesn’t seem to be traumatized or terrified. He’s calm and just goes about living his life, apparently not under any threat from any evil. Even though there’s that weird evil-looking dragon flying around way off in the distance. It’s just not menacing at all though. If it few over every now and then and did something threatening or dropped off some enemies, maybe that would help sell the threat better.

And there’s no particular urgency to your quest to confront and defeat Ganon. You can spend as much time as you want dicking around, messing around with the environment, figuring out different cooking recipes, and just fucking around with all the wonderful interactive environments and play mechanics. But this doesn’t particularly lend to a strong sense of purpose, urgency, or of an epic conflict. I guess, though, that the same can be said for the original LoZ, too. This doesn’t make it a bad game, by any means.

In short, I like the world, it is truly breathtaking. But the tone feels a bit off, and there should be more pushing you to move the quest forward. I get that the designers were going after a more open-world style game where there was an unprecedented level of things you could do, discover, and experience, and they went out of their way to make the world more immersive by making just about everything interact-able with just about everything else, which is an unbelievable amount of work. But I think they spent so much time focusing on world design that they ended up leaving the story telling, or maybe just the plot, a bit of an afterthought.

Updated: 2020-Apr-21 — 11:54 am

Leave a Reply