I beat the main storyline in Breath of the Wild yesterday. The final boss fight turned out to be maybe even easier than some of the earlier ones. Graphically, narratively, the designers went for this Dark Souls-y horror monster drama, but it didn't really feel like it jived with the rest of the game or the actual difficulty. Then there was a second boss fight that was so easy and guided it was almost pointless. And finally a brief epilogue where the eponymous Zelda finally makes an appearance (well, one that was not a flashback).
Having little experience with the franchise (I played the first and second ones on the old Nintendo system for very very brief times at a friend's house long ago), it feels like Zelda, the character the series is named after, is almost a non-entity. You don't play her, you don't really interact with here. She appears in some flashbacks you can find as one of your missions, where she is mostly acting the sad princess routine doubting her abilities (and in one weird one getting yelled at her father the king). It's a missed opportunity that you can't play as her, or that she doesn't have any real part to play in the narrative other than appear at the end to make the monster go away after you win the boss fight.
The game doesn't let you continue after the win, rather you can just go back to the save right before the battle. Do I care enough to do that? There are tons more places to explore in the game, but also there probably isn't anymore story to find, just more monsters and puzzles. As a game it succeeds as a lovely open world to explore, but it also suffers a lot from feeling empty and static when it comes to any narrative storylines and in particular any interaction that isn't just running (climbing, swimming, gliding) around, picking up stuff, fighting monsters, and solving the occasional puzzle. Compared to games like Skyrim or Dragon Age or Mass Effect or The Witcher it felt... lacking in narrative and feeling. (Skyrim also often suffers from lack of npc interactions, but in its open world there is tons of narrative going on.) Also, Link, as a protagonist is so boring. If I can't customize my character then at least the character I am forced to play should be interesting (or at least have a personality of some form) like in The Witcher. In the end, I guess I am disappointed.
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Still playing Breath of the Wild in bits and pieces. After spending a lot of time running around the world and doing random side missions, just exploring, I started doing more of the main mission - what they seem to call dungeons but are more like puzzle rooms, large ones with a boss monster fight at the end. While I have had to look up some of the puzzle bits online, I was pleasantly surprised that the boss monsters are not crazy hard, which I guess I've been trained to think they would be by Dark Souls and such. In this case, I've gotten through the first two on the first try. I am still wishing the game had a little more in the way of NPC interactions and storyline choices. I can kind of run around and do whatever I want and whatever I want but in the end it's just my really blank character (he never even speaks) running around by himself occasionally doing things that people ask him to.
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Breath of the Wild continues in small bursts. It truly is a very D&D-esque old school sandbox. After you get through the opening tutorial section, you are unleashed upon a very large world that you can mostly explore, barring elemental dangers (it gets cold high up on the mountains without adequate protection) or running into tough/large monsters (I've stumbled upon quite a few that I just turned tail and ran from). You almost immediately get your final goal, but the steps along the way are so far pretty vague. Talking to people gets you clues to locations or small side missions. But otherwise it seems you just have to keep exploring. You don't get experience points or level up, but if you complete the puzzles in these shrines scattered across the world you can increase your health/stamina. Otherwise it seems like getting better equipment is the only way you change, and I mostly just occasionally stumble onto something new or interesting, but have no clear idea if there is a way to find anything better. I don't even have a sense if there are "harder" areas that might require me to be tougher but also net me better treasure.
One of my main actual goals is finding the location of these various photographs so I can restore my character's memories. Between this and the shrines, it's mostly just exploring. You can get to high locations to look for landmarks to note on your map, and then you head off to reach them, stumbling upon things on the way. It might be the most directionless game I've played yet. I assume at some point I will get more clues on how I actually complete the end goal, at this point I have no idea, but that seems ok... for now.
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