Is Breath of the Wild "Blah"?

Howdy peeps, long time no see.

With Tears of the Kingdom’s release I figured, “Hey, maybe I should play Breath of the Wild, since I’ve owned it for four years, it’s supposed to be one of the best games ever, and it’s basically the standard bearer of the type of game I’ve wanted to exist your whole life.”

But after a few hours of play I’m feeling underwhelmed.

Is this a thing? Are there people who find Breath of the Wild just kind of “meh”? Is it gonna get less meh? Maybe this will come off as deliberately contrarian or something, but I’m making this thread because I’ve literally found myself asking Google things like, “does breath of the wild get less boring” and “do puzzles get harder in breath of the wild”. No one I know has played this game, and I’m craving to have someone put my feeling in context.

So far, I’ve played in two sessions. I finished the first four temples to get out of opening region. I’m currently heading to the first town, but on the way I stopped to climb the twin mountains and completed the two dungeons at the top. I’ve had to do some cooking. I’ve been doing plenty of exploring and mostly avoid combat with stealth/exploration.

The problem is that so far it just all feels so…joyless. I guess, I’m not hooked. I’ve been REALLY disappointed by the first six dungeons I’ve played, four of which were tutorials, while the last two were one-screen puzzles. The dungeon puzzles were always my favorite part of Zelda, though playing Zelda 1 recently the exploration was enough that I didn’t miss them. But in BotW so far it feels like, “Why did they even bother”? They’re kind of insulting, honestly.

Other than that, maybe there’s not enough to fiddle with? With Bloodstained, it really clicked with me how much I love economies and characters customization. It’s always been true, but now I realize it’s one of my favorite things.

But then again, I loved Shadow of the Colossus, even on replay. Though that might indicate another issue I have: Zelda games have always been kind of theme-light, relative to their genre (theme as in the game design term for story/plot/concept; not literary usage). It hasn’t bothered me before, but I do find myself feeling like I’m in kind of blank demo. I don’t roleplay mentally at all when I play games; I play them as systems that I want to exploit. But story, environment, and lore definitely set a mood. And BotW’s mood is pretty vague and insubstantial.

Finally, I’m not really digging the little touches. Lots of little things feel awkward to me. I get the buttons for changing weapons and using abilities wrong a lot. I would really like a roll.* I can’t get over the fact that I have to use the stick to turn inventory pages (every other game I’ve ever played uses shoulders). It would be nice to just click A on a lit pot to go to a dedicated cooking UI. A lot of this stuff feels like alternate takes on the wheel, and it’s not like no one had done this stuff before.

So I dunno. I expect most people to think I’m just looking for reasons to complain or something. There’s this phenomenon in media criticism: when you’re not enjoying something you cast about for explanations. No one can say for sure if you ever diagnose the actual issues that’s affecting you, but you become more confident in your assertions when others have the same perspective. So…am I alone on this stuff?

*At this point, you might start to think I want this to be a Souls game, but actually I’ve never gotten into Souls, because it stimulates my anxiety too much.


My relationship to the genre: Shadow of the Collossus is one of my fave games. I never got into the Souls series, because it stimulates my anxiety. My fave Zeldas are the gameboy ones. I never played a 3-D one before. I’ve been playing the first one on the portable anniversary thing and like it a lot. Was loving Genshin Impact until I hit a town and realized I didn’t want to talk to NPC’s in a game like this. Loved what I played of Death Stranding (life stopped me 15% in). Basically my favorite things to do in games are explore, maybe sequence break, try to break the game in general, climb things, jump real high, and fiddle with customization. Favorite games lately have been Hades and Bloodstained.

So you can see how BotW should probably be my jam.

But…maybe I just need it to have one extra element? If not stronger themeing, then better puzzles. If not better puzzles, then more complex economies. Maybe it’s down to that. A lot of the other games I like that are similar combine two things I like. BotW feels like it’s basically JUST exploration. But the exploration doesn’t plug into some larger system or story that would give it more meaning.

Though I’m guessing that later I’m gonna unlock the ability to make weapons from stuff I gather? That might do it for me. Right now, cooking is sort of interesting, but also sort of boring, because nothing is hard enough that I need to cook.

And yes: I know there’s an old BotW megathread. I skimmed it a bit. Don’t really want to risk spoilers/it’s a lot to comb through/I want to discuss the game in a modern context, not the context of when it first came out.


I think we’ve gotta remember that Breath of the Wild is a successor to Skyward Sword and that coloured things a lot when it came out (and there wasn’t a clear idea of the scope of the game on release). In terms of game design improvements it’s big even if BotW isn’t nirvana.


A meta opinion I have: I believe “Blah” is likely the most common attitude people have towards not only BotW but every game and every piece of media. It’s just rarely expressed online because people post about what they love or hate instead.

For most games, less than half of players have the achievement for beating the first boss on Steam. Those people all shelled out money to play it! Now picture the sheer wall of indifference of the far greater number of people who didn’t buy the game.

BotW has a reputation as being super mainstream and welcoming and universally beloved. But that’s all relative, it might be closer to the truth to say it expanded its appeal from “tiny niche” to “small niche”.


i feel like with breath of the wild (and the switch in general) nintendo and zelda specifically had been out in the wilderness for a long time and a lot of people - not just the nasty stereotype i have in my mind of their online fanbase - were kind of… primed to enjoy it again? similar feelings re: the street fighter 4 console release in 2009


Game Owns.


As someone who had it backlogged for 6 years, it was easy to imagine it was the Zelda game I always wanted.

Like, there was a time when the SB take was that a true modern Zelda would be like Shadow of the Colossus mixed with Dark Souls. But alas: Nintendo doesn’t seem to get it.

Then BotW came out and it seemed like that’s exactly what they did! Plus cooking and destructible weapons, which is a level of austerity you’d expect from a cult indie game at the time.

The response was so universally positive even around here that I figured it probably was the perfect game it seemed to be. But playing it now. I don’t know if it seems dated or just…overrated.

“Dated” feels like a false excuse. Shadow of the Colossus and the Souls games predate it. You could probably compare it to the Bethesda and Obsidian games. I think crafting was already a trend but if it wasn’t exactly trendy, Vanillaware games had perfected it. BotW was more about synthesis and streamlining than innovation. And my impression of it today is…maybe this is for more casual players?

Come to think of it, it’s similar to how I feel about all the Mario games I’ve played in the last 20 years. Technically perfect, but just too easy to be fun. I was also surprised to find I bounced off Hollow Knight, because it felt overly streamlined.

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Are the parts I played “slow” or “secretly a tutorial” or something or is this the game?

Am I gonna unlock weapon crafting and get obsessed with foraging or is it not really like that?

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Oh you gotta play until the guardian beasts. Best part of the game. Should only be 15-20 hours.

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Hm. Might do. Let’s see if I make it.

Coming into any game with this kind of expectation guarantees disappointment.

But I also think BotW is like, pretty good, but not amazing or anything.

It’s not accurate to think of the shrines as “dungeons”. There’s like, I dunno, 50 of them or something, they’re little puzzle bites. The whole game is composed of little puzzle beads along a rosary of exploration. You poke over here, you find a little bite. You poke over there, you find a little bite. It’s a nice flow as long as you immediately get any sense of completionism out of your head.

It is also, however, sort of anti-exploratory? In the sense that, if you see something that looks remotely interesting, it is guaranteed you will find a bite there. Anywhere you go there will be bites. It really flattens out the whole experience, and after a while you realize it’s basically just another Assassin’s Creed or whatever but with the good taste to leave the icons off the minimap. Not that that’s worth nothing. That’s worth something.

There ARE dungeons, but only 4, well 5 if you count the last one, which you’ll find out soon once you hit the first village and get the plot established. A lot of people seem to think they’re the weakest part of the game, but I actually like them the most. They have an interesting hook, one they could have done more with but still. There’s a promising direction in them that’s missing from the rest of the lackadaisical wandering around stuff.

The game has a very explicit “play around as long as you want, then go to the boss and beat it when you think you’re ready” structure, and that’s exactly what you should do. Pushing yourself to SEE MORE after you’re done with seeing is a recipe for bitterness. When you’re ready to finish just finish. There’s nothing THAT interesting to see.


i got the game when it came out and enjoyed it a lot, at the time. i then took a multi-year hiatus and tried to go back to it this year. i restarted where i left off, and was on my final Divine Beast, and it involved a stealth mission inside the Yiga Clan (which took me an hour to find because the maps were unhelpful) and…i just stopped playing.

i feel like i’d have to start the game from square one to get back into the headspace to care about that scenario.

also (nerd thoughts coming up) the game honestly looks like shit on my 4K TV


i enjoyed botw well enough but i think its ultimately kind of mid tears of the kingdom seems much better in most ways basically


it’s baby’s first immersive sim that got me to climb stuff for the hell of it (good!) but also has some pretty awkward parts (that yiga stealth segment sucks) and one of the more overtly transphobic plots in an AAA game so it’s a mixed bag even if it was (at the time) a relief to see nintendo able to do something new and different after driving zelda into the ground with endless iterations of ocarina of time


in retrospect i agree that BOTW is basically mid, but having not played a Zelda game properly for years I found it very very nice at the time. It reminded me of the promise of adventure that the older games had, and subsequently lost as they became more and more like theme parks.

Also, as an open world fiend, I can say that this is one of the finest open worlds to ever exist. The problem is that it doesn’t really get fun until after Kakariko + getting some more stamina and hearts. But it really does let you do whatever you want to after that, if you’re willing to press at the edges a bit. It’s so, so good at providing “natural” barriers rather than hard walls that you simply can’t proceed past. Every obstacle is doable at any time, if you’re patient enough.

If you like the exploration in the first Zelda game, I highly recommend going off whatever designed path you’re put onto and just fucking around for a while. Like, find some place you want to go and just start walking in that direction. The game is most rewarding when it still feels like you’re pushing on boundaries you’re not supposed to be, and dying frequently. It really really shines there, because it forces you to understand the systems at play and how to exploit them. They’re not super complex but to me that makes finding the edge cases even cooler (also funnier).

Relatedly, I highly recommend dying a lot in this game. There’s almost no penalty for dying, and it’s both very funny and very educational. And it makes surviving the very difficult encounters much more rewarding!

Also what physical said


oh also i recommend going straight to hyrule castle just for the hell of it. it was the first thing i did after getting off the plateau and i was actually able to sneak by everything and get to the final boss of the game (who immediately killed the hell out of me), it ruled


breath of the wild has really strong world design. i think beyond that, most of it works as a set of ideas. i don’t think it works super well as a videogame, but it manages to avoid some of the pitfalls of ubisoftian open-world design in obfuscating some things rather than giving you a dense map of icons to checklist.

in this obfuscation, it allows itself to evoke some wonder and mystery, especially when you don’t yet have a grasp on the full confines of the world.

the world design is good enough that a lot of the friction (or lack thereof) and not-quite-there-ness often doesn’t matter.

i think TotK is much more interesting as a video-game-ass video game, and the world design of death stranding is even better than breath of the wild’s imo, but it has a certain appeal, still.


Posting to say hi BHM I hope you have been well. I skipped this game but picked up the sequel because that’s my level of curiosity and investment


BotW reveals most of its hand rather early, but there are some more systems and economies and quests that manage to reveal themselves over the course of a few dozen hours it takes to have a satisfying playthrough of the game.

The shrines are absolutely not dungeons and you should not expect any of them to have that scope — there’s 120 of them after all.

The “main quests” are fine, though the narrative delivery is dire.

Seconding cania’s recommendation to just raid Hyrule Castle whenever you feel like it. I did it after finding most of the towers but before doing any of the divine beasts and found it to be a genuinely thrilling experience.

(Still haven’t gotten around to Tears yet.)


As stated already BotW is certainly looking kind of mid after TotK filling in alot of the gaps. I think the biggest improvement between the two is how much easier it is to come across side quests in TotK. In BotW it felt like you had to seek them out even if you might have already done them naturally before finding the NPC or finding the right trigger to complete them. Even before TotK the game felt a little to empty without a more robust ability to use your inventory. To this day I don’t think i found a use for gem stones outside of trading diamonds to get the special zora spear and other like weapons in different regions. I’m sure there might’ve been other stuff like that but like I mentioned before they felt to hidden unless you were the type to talk to every NPC and follow every breadcrumb. TotK is much more willing to have people come up to you and tell you a thing and that will then feed into two or three other things providing much more direction.

I appreciate BotW as a dress rehearsal for the real show to come. At the time it was the right amount of boldness to go a new direction and restraint to not just copy the homework of other games stick to their scale while making everything feel like there was intrinsic value to “go to the mountain top” instead of extrinsic just going there is the design/game goal for the sake of technical/visual spectacle.