Had this game for about 2 years now. Have put in probably around 40 hours across many sessions broken up over the years. I just finished my third divine beast and I think I have played enough for a fair assessment of this game.
First off, it’s a game with brilliant mechanics and puzzles and excellent dungeon design which is what I remembered from my time with Wind Waker (my first and only other Zelda game ever). Some puzzles can be a bit obtuse but most are generally well thought out.
The open world is great though just a bit too sparse for my liking. I can see the direction here, ie. not going for a typical Ubi open world where you get a meaningless icon every five feet but I think there needs to be more reward for exploring the world. But overall, as a fan of open world games, I'd say it's a pretty good open world all things considered.
Anyway, I don’t think I need to talk much about why this game is good since so many people already know why. Instead, I’d like to focus on why this game is flawed.
My biggest complaint is on the weapon durability system. It’s terrible and it encourages a lot of ridiculous habits when fighting enemies such as overusing bombs because you don’t want to waste weapons on weak enemies like Chuchus. It wouldn’t be so bad if the durability was increased significantly but in its current form, it seems like weapons can only be used for 20 – 30 hits before breaking which is just absurd. It also discourages you from sticking to and mastering a specific combat style you like.
When I was fighting Thunderblight Ganon, I went through four or five different weapons. I can be attacking him during that tiny window of opportunity when his shield was broken, and my weapon breaks midway and I need to fiddle around in the terrible weapon UI to equip another weapon just to continue hitting him. Same thing for shields. Four weapon changes and one or two shield changes in a single boss fight. How is that good game design? It completely takes you out of the fight and breaks combat immersion and rhythm.
And speaking of fiddling around in the menus during fights, the game encourages you to cook a bunch of stuff, mainly for healing and to store them in your inventory. You can have a huge store of health items in your inventory which is a good way to make you feel safe. But as it turns out, enemies can chunk off a huge amount of health too so you're going to need all of those items. Took a huge 60% health hit from a single enemy strike. Go into the menus and eat some food. Eating lightning damage? Go into the menu to drink an elixir. Elixir ran out in a fight? Go into the menu to drink another elixir. Seriously, the amount of fiddling in the menus in the middle of combat is just absurd, especially in longer boss fights. And yes, I have been upgrading my stuff as much as possible. My main armour set has already been upgraded 3 times. Once again, the need to eat stuff all the time breaks up the flow of combat unnecessarily. Not being able to bind healing items to the Dpad for a game that requires so much healing is just bad design.
And then there's the controls. It’s highly unintuitive and poorly thought out. You press L to pull out your Magnesis/Cryosis/Stasis and press L again to put it away. You press L to pull out your Bomb and pressing L again….does nothing?? You press A to jump onto a horse and also press A to accelerate then press X to leap off of it. But on the ground, you press X to sprint/accelerate? You have to hold Y to activate the special thunder attack but that also activates your weapon's special attack? No wheel to quick select weapons in-game so you have to scroll through all your weapons to find the one you want in the dpad menu? It's a huge mess and extremely clunky the more stuff you unlock.
Finally, for such a huge tent-pole title to release in this day and age with 95% of lines not being voiced is utterly ridiculous. It’s one thing if no one actually says a word ever but when important characters are fully voiced in cut scenes, only for them to go “hmm” and “ahhh” five seconds later in-game, it completely breaks the immersion. How hard is it for Nintendo to do full voice acting at least for the important characters? It's not even a dialogue heavy game so full voice acting throughout isn't even that much of a stretch.
Maybe I am just a really jaded gamer these days (I play 5 new games a year these days) but I was expecting a lot more from this game given all the hype and awards. As it is, it is a solid 7.5/10 in my book and nowhere near where the critical acclaims suggest that it is.
It is precisely because of my jadedness that I started playing this game a while back. Nintendo's games have remained relatively pure and gameplay-focused through the years so I thought I'd enjoy their games just for their simplicity. But it definitely feels like they've not been keeping up enough with the times. I know it's a separate discussion but I got into Hades in late-Dec and that is a real breath (no pun intended) of fresh air. An original and highly polished experience which BOTW just isn't.
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