I don’t doubt that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be an interesting game packed with engaging plot, well designed encounters, interesting environments and fascinating exploration options. The problem is, by design or by fault, the E3 Wii U and the January Switch Hands On Event’s demos both fail to present the game as anything but empty, dull and unnecessarily spread out.
Based on the demos I have played for the game, the much lauded size of its open world feels like a dull and uninteresting way to pad out a world lacking in content. Watching trailers, I feel like there’s an amazing Zelda game that I am just not being allowed to experience.
While Nintendo claims it deliberately removed content from the demo area of Breath of the Wild, this should not be applauded. The demo features a huge, empty overworld with barely anything to interact with upon it. The few interactions spread across it feel haphazardly thrown in, without thought to their placement or overall significance. The inclusion of a highly limited stamina meter in this largely, empty open world felt like I as a player was being artificially limited from getting between interesting encounters. Most of my time playing the demo both on Wii U and Switch was spent running across empty fields looking for fun things to do, rather than doing things that were inherently fun.
Fuck stamina meters in games, and particularly fuck the stamina meter implementation in this demo. Links basic jogging speed is a tad shy of what I ideally want it to be, and his sprinting speed feels great. I want to sprint constantly, but am unable to. If you run out of stamina, you also lose your ability to swim, so if you sprint into a puddle you could just hit the water and instantly die. That’s a load of rubbish when you can see fun things to try in the distance but can’t get to them without using up a sizable chunk of your total demo time.
The demo teases players with a tiny splash of voice acting from Princess Zelda, then has every NPC interacted with be silent. Trailers suggest a far greater number of characters will be voiced in the final game, but the demo paints a picture that only Zelda’s introduction will be voiced before the game falls silent again. If inaccurate to the full game, this was a foolish choice on Nintendo’s part.
I still believe Breath of the Wild is going to turn out to be a fantastic game, but let’s not pretend that this empty wasteland of a demo does a good job or representing gameplay that would be acceptable across an entire finished product. If this demo is what BOTW was at launch, people would certainly not be praising it.