Posted on May 16 2016 by Jon Lett
Zelda Wii U/NX is well on its way to release (I am being generous with that statement, I believe), and we are all gearing up for a sweet new open-world title with a massive land full of life and intrigue. …Hopefully. To be honest, there are certain major aspects of Zelda’s various overworlds that could use a little work, and I hope that these aspects are cleaned up in the new game. Twilight Princess HD, for example, was fantastic, but reminded us all that the huge, impressive sandbox areas was sadly lacking in any sort of challenge or interest. What can be done? What sort of things can be added to these areas to keep players interested while travelling?
Join the discussion after the jump!
After playing a number of adventure and open world games as of late, I can’t help but notice that most, if not all of Zelda’s overworlds are extremely devoid of interesting material when compared to modern standards. All that tends to be used to bring the world to life is the presence of monsters, and the job has been done less than amazingly at times. Too few creatures, easily-killed monsters, little to no change in combat difficulty when returning to older areas – it could be better. A game like Xenoblade Chronicles X or Fallout 4 lets you explore all you want – with some monsters being required to fight and others optional – but as you venture out further, the levels of enemies get higher and higher, and their reactivity and hostility grows more dangerous, making it much harder to traverse their respective environments. These creatures also provide spoils legitimately useful for the rest of the game, making combat actually feel worth it. Zelda could do with some of these elements, if only to make the already great games feel more alive, and worth traversing between important areas. That being said, could these “filler” areas be made truly important for their own reasons?
Enemies aren’t everything. Other major points of interest when playing certain other games/series are collection of items, map exploration, and quests. Again, Xenoblade Chronicles X or Fallout 4 make for great examples. Xenoblade requires the player to traverse, discover, and do recon in a certain percentage of the various continents before advancing in the story, among other requirements. This gives the player ample reason to explore the vast, impressive world, and while out there, they can often come across people offering small quests, or even items needed for quests you already have, giving you more choices in how to advance the game further. Fallout 4, on the other hand, has you crossing vast distances rather early on, just to get to one of the first story-based areas. This allows you to become familiar with the Wasteland, and to possibly venture off the path to your destination, in order to discover things and find your footing the way you want to, leaving the main story until later. One other good game for comparison is Rise of the Tomb Raider. Though not an open world game, certain parts of the map, like the Soviet Installation and the small town inhabited by some mid-game allies (*subtly avoids spoilers*), are ripe with small nooks and crannies to explore, with treasured relics, historical documents, and extra quests to find. Some will give you weapon upgrades, others experience, and some – like the documents – are for little more than world-building, but that’s still all worth it.
Zelda can learn from and build upon all of these things. Xenoblade’s required exploration may seem like a chore to some, but if Zelda: Forever Delayed is going to truly have a world worth exploring, and the quests will involve a lot of travelling to important areas, perhaps knowing the world you are going to traverse ahead of time could help, if only to give you time to look around the beautiful environments without the main story to distract you. And speaking of main story, Fallout could certainly teach Zelda a thing or two about the value in leaving the story behind for awhile. When that game first came out, I heard so many players say that they were LOVING it, and they had not even started the main story yet. Zelda has been all about the story in recent games, and maybe that habit should be broken, in order to bring a better focus to small, world-building quests dotted about the countryside, where the simple, less-pivotal characters are waiting for you to meet them. And finally, Tomb Raider’s small, optional items – relics and documents, primarily – are a great example of how nearly useless items can still present a fun time for people looking to scour the land for secrets. Yes, these items give Lara Croft some experience and literacy bonuses, but I mostly want to see what stories they can tell about the place I am raiding. If Hyrule had things like this, the already extensive lore of the series could have some extra details filled in through memos, records, and memoirs of past Hyrulians – humans, gorons, zora, or otherwise! Hearing more than idle gossip and opinions from people standing around the kingdom. After all, the dungeons, temples, and sacred grounds all over Hyrule were made by somebody. Why wouldn’t they have left some sort of record of their individual lives?
As per usual, we would love to hear from you guys. What could be added to the landscape of this new upcoming Hyrule that past games have not implemented? What should the new open world do to keep from feeling bland? Drop some comments below!