Show, Don’t Tell: Horizon: Zero Dawn vs. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Horizon Zero Dawn Logo

Zero Dawn vs. Zelda

I’m having a lot of fun with Horizon: Zero Dawn, and I am also a big fan of game narrative, but sometimes there are just too many words. Today I’m going to compare the design styles of the new Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the aforementioned Horizon. Specifically, how they use (or don’t use) voiced narration to lead the player.

In the first few minutes of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s gameplay, the protagonist, Aloy, points out what’s going on in the environment. Verbally. Even though there’s no one around to hear her. You could argue that you’re hearing her “thoughts,” or that she’s talking to herself because she’s scared, but neither case is a good excuse.

The player simply doesn’t need to hear it

Horizon Zero Dawn game
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Aloy will describe her surroundings, talk about what she should be doing next, talk about what she just did, and ultimately treats the player like a blind person with short-term memory loss. It’s as though the writer wrote a book and adapted it verbatim for the game, cutting out the he-saids and she-saids and leaving everything else.

Again, I love game narrative. I think games are a powerful storytelling medium. But just because a game can have more words written or lines spoken, certainly doesn’t mean it should. Ideally, the player should be able to play the game with the volume and subtitles off, using only art and design cues to figure out what to do next.

Look at Breath of the Wild. While it’s a longstanding tradition for Link to not speak, many Zelda games since Ocarina of Time gave the player a talking companion who points out everything you need to know. Navi, Midna, the… blue person from Skyward Sword whose name I forget. They all helped lead the player without needing Link to speak a word.

But in Breath of the Wild, like the original Zelda games of yore, has no quest-long companion jabbering in Link’s pointy ear. The game simply trusts the player to figure things out on their own.

This is the ideal design

Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

The ironic part is that Zelda is a game for kids and adults alike on a Nintendo platform that facilitates new gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is rated T for teen, and requires the player to use a PS4 controller and its dual-analog configuration that new gamers struggle with.

In essence, Horizon: Zero Dawn holds the player’s hand despite there being very little chance that the player is someone new at games, while Breath of the Wild trusts the player to figure things out without someone yapping at them the whole time.

It’s easy to look at games like Horizon: Zero Dawn as the way of the future and games like Zelda to be relics of the past. But with these two game releases, both at nearly the same time, the “relic” has shown itself to be much more comfortable as a game. And future designers—especially narrative designers—should take note.

Five Ways To Improve Twilight Princess

The rumors are true. I’m ecstatic to confirm that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD has been announced for Nintendo Wii U. Recently been seen as more of a marmite choice in the series, I am on the positive side and even consider it to be not only my favorite Zelda but one of my favorite video games of all time. This was my first 3D Zelda which contributes to it having a special place in my heart. Considering this nearly ten years on the question begs, What improvements can be made?

Some fans believe the game should be preserved in its original glory, but really that would be pointless. So here I am going to pick five improvements that would bring Twilight Princess into the current generation and transform it from the “marmite” one into the great adventure we all want it to be.

 

Enhanced Visuals

One thing I learned from revisiting this gem is that the graphics have not held up as well as I originally thought. I still remember powering up my Wii on Christmas 2006 and being wowed by how lifelike Hyrule Field looked. Ten years on it doesn’t have the same impact. I will always have those unforgettable memories but by giving the visuals a new lick of paint I could relive this momentous moment only this time in dazzling 1080p. Following on from the direct i’m not going to lie the visuals were a little disappointing however there is signs that this could be stunning so hopefully by the time March rolls around we’ll have the perfect slick imagery.

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Ability To Skip Tutorial  

One common aspect that keeps getting thrown at Twilight Princess is the length of the opening tutorial. Some hate it with a passion due to it limiting the player with what they can do for a good chunk of time. Others enjoy going about Link’s daily routine. Basically enjoying the calm before the storm. Whatever your opinion because this was such a defining factor and put off many players, it would be better if you could choose whether or not to skip the opening. Yes leave the core bits but monotonous tasks like chasing a cat can be left out.

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Repetitive Rupee Messages

Another thing that most agree on that goes from a little niggle to a big annoyance is messages that continuously and unnecessarily repeat. The first time you find a rupee (no matter what the value) a message appears onscreen declaring this. An example of the text is “You got an orange Rupee”. Nothing wrong with this, it introduces the player to the currency of this world. What you don’t want is to be told that every time you boot up  the game. It may only seem a small grievance but trust me after ten hours of play time it grates heavily.

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Increased Difficulty

A feature of Twilight Princess I absolutely love is the scale of bosses. They are gigantic, yet for their size if you know what your doing they fall like dominoes. Some may be a bit awkward but all in all they don’t put up that much of a fight. So this time round I want these brutes given more of a bite than their bark, not the other way round. Really make these monsters pose a threat. An easy solution for this is to add a “Hero Mode” like Wind Waker HD received.

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Expand the Market 

Hyrule seemed a marvel at the time with its city centre bustling with townspeople, however for all the shops that surrounded, very little were actually accessible.  Marlo Mart was a great start but only wet our appetite for more. This felt like a missed opportunity, one that can be easily fixed. Add a clothes shop where you can customize Link, possibly even giving him outfits from other iterations. Install a mask shop in tribute to Majora’s Mask. Anything to make this town seem more alive. There is so much potential here so Nintendo please take full advantage.

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Apart from these minute issues, I adore Twilight Princess dearly and i’m thrilled to see a HD remake. Twilight Princess is due for release on March 4th 2016 for Nintendo Wii U. What’s your view on this hit or miss entry? What improvements would you make? Leave us a comment below to tell us why.

2D-3D, Gaming’s Greatest Challenge

Gaming

We live in an age of gaming where we have near photo realistic graphics, gigantic open worlds modeled off of real, and fictional places, and for the most part we have conquered the third dimension. 3D gaming continues to improve, and we as gamers have evolved to the point where we can navigate a virtual 3D space relatively unhindered. The real challenge games developers face, and have always faced, is transitioning old 2D games, into new 3D ones.

This might seem like a cheap shot at an easy target, but look at Sonic. The moment Sonic stepped into the realms of 3D the quality of his games have dropped, heck some are unplayable. Needless to say, the transition has not been smooth for the hedgehog, but he is not the only one to have suffered. Megaman, Bomberman, Castlevania, they all tried to Tardis over, and they all failed. Megaman X7/8 were so bad, even the 2D sections suffered. Castlevania N64 titles were mind blowing in their shoddiness and continued to fester into the PS2 era. Bomberman failed so badly I am not even sure he exists anymore. The list of failed attempts to “innovate” is nearly endless.

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But then you have to insert the exception to the rule, or something I like to call: The Nintendo Factor. Where others failed, Nintendo somehow managed to make hit, after hit. Some of these newly 3D games are still considered masterpieces to this day. Mario, Link and Donkey Kong all made it through the rift during the N64 days. The gamecube brought Metroid through and pretty much created its own subgenre of FPS. Pit got his makeover into 3D on the 3DS after his last title was on the NES! Simply put, Nintendo know what they are doing. I don’t want to fan the fan-fires, but would it really be so bad if Nintendo took over the reigns for someone like Sonic? A few generations ago having Sonic on a Nintendo console would have been blasphemy, we now have  dozen games where both Mario and Sonic star. Would it be such a stretch nowadays? Lets face it, Sonic games are not going to get any better without some intervention.

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Of course Nintendo are not the only company able to bridge the gap. I mentioned Castlevania earlier, with the Lords of Shadow series we finally got a good 3D Castlevania. We even got a sequel, and a 2.5D prequel to said sequel! Metal Gear is another biggy. I might be pushing the boat a little far on this one, but even Bioware managed the transition. Baldurs Gate into Dragon Age was a technological leap I did not think possible. 2D-3D is achievable, proof is literally everywhere. It has just taken a fair amount of casualties to get to this point.