After the bombshell of a gameplay preview that dropped at The Game Awards there has been non-stop speculation and analysis of the premier video. Arguably the most analyzed portion of the video is the map, which was shown briefly on the gamepad during the play session. After years of Zelda fans begging for a big and open world in a Zelda game, Nintendo finally appears to be delivering and it has people in a frenzy. In the midst of the hype, people have been trying to figure out just how big the game world really is using methods that seem to range from the scientific all the way to shaking a magic eight ball. What makes this particular analysis so much more intriguing is that it tries to deal only in fact, as opposed to conjecture. By using the normal height of Link, IGN user CloudWIndfootOmega is able to make more realistic and plausible measurements that make this analysis relatively convincing. Let’s dig in to his theory a bit so I can give you all an idea of why this theory stood out to me.
First off, CloudWIndfootOmega puts Link’s height at approximately 1.7 meters (about 5’7″), which from previous lore and information should be pretty accurate. In the case it isn’t though, CloudWIndfootOmega also looks at these measurements with slight variations in Link’s height. After deciding on his height, CloudWindfootOmega compares it to the path that was shown at the beginning of the preview to create a reference point that can be seen from the world map. Now that he has measured a section of path that is visible from the gamepad map, we are able to start doing some scaling. By using the fixed waypoint that is also visible on the gamepad map, we simply use the now calculated size of the road to figure out the distance between Link and his destination.
Now that that’s done, we have an even bigger scale to work with than before and can effectively measure the entire map (the road itself is neither visible nor viable for measuring the whole thing). After doing the calculations we come up with a map that is approximately 7.1 kilometers (4.4 miles) from east to west and approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from north to south. Put into square kilometers for the sake of easier comparison with other game maps and the world comes out to about 42.6 square kilometers (26.5 miles). If we want to compensate for possible height discrepancies, we can say that it is between 40 and 45 square kilometers (or 25-28 square miles) if Link’s height range is between 1.6-1.8 meters.
There you have it folks, my personally most trusted map analysis thus far. While I’m sure that it isn’t 100% accurate (if it is I will personally buy CloudWindfootOmega Zelda U), it is the closest thing I have seen to a completely non-conjectural analysis. To put it in perspective, let’s compare these numbers to some of the other famously large game worlds of the past few years. According to stackexchange.com, Skyrim’s map is approximately 37.1 square kilometers (23 miles), however due to invisible borders a whole quarter of that is unplayable. That leaves just 27.8 square kilometers (17.2 miles) of playable area, which is considerably less than this theory suggests Hyrule will be this time around. Another recent fan favorite with a giant map was Xenoblade Chronicles. This has become somewhat of the Skyrim for Wii due to its similarly massive world. According to gamefaqs.com, Xenoblade is approximately 30.5 square kilometers (19 miles). While I have never played Skyrim, I did indeed beat Xenoblade and I loved the feeling of a massive and diverse world. Monolith in particular nailed the diversity of the areas, with no two looking too similar.
To me though this raises another question: is it possible for the Zelda U world to be too big? It’s not that I don’t appreciate a big world, but it becomes a problem when the developer just does it for the sake of it instead of having a game design related reason. My hope is that this sprawling game world is filled with things to do besides travel. To use a weird but fitting metaphor to describe the dilemma, “an Oreo’s taste only surpasses goodness and reaches excellence because of what’s in the middle”.
What do you think? Do you think it’s impossible for Zelda U to be too big or are you cautiously watching to see if they might have overdone it?
Edited: Incorrectly said Xseed instead of Monolith