The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdomlike its predecessor Breath of the Wild, is a massive game filled with an incredible amount of things to do. It must be overwhelming – but somehow, it helps me break one of my most compulsive habits.

I’m busy. Not unusual – not more than you, probably – but life just fills up, you know? I have a to-do list for work and a to-do list for anything that isn’t working. I have precious little time to myself and a million things I want to do with it; I have ballooning lists of things to watch, read, and play that I will never keep up with. I have apps for recording movies, TV, games, and books. I feel compelled to optimize. I will minimize my free time.

Some of these habits are cultivated through play. Think sprawling open-world games that pack their massive maps and epic narratives into a digestible structure of objectives, checklists, and collectibles. (My friend calls them “UbiJobs” after the latest Assassin’s Creed games.) Honey World of Warcraft it’s basically an endless to-do list in video game form. It may feel like work, but it’s also satisfying and gives you a sense of accomplishment and mastery – so give it a try in life. Designers of gamified apps to micromanage everything from pocket money to movie watching certainly learned from this school of design.

Photo: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

With me, the habit of turning everything into a checklist began to consume games that didn’t seem to encourage it. It was the big game in my life until recently Octopath Traveler 2, a classic RPG with eight parallel storylines that shed light on sub-goals and tracking systems, giving the player a lot of freedom in how to approach it beyond the need to keep up with the level curve. However, I found myself making lists for it in the notes app: optimized order for solving quests, dungeons sorted by recommended level, items to hunt, etc.

None of this bodes well for my time with him The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. But like six years ago Breath of the WildI admire how much the game encourages free-form, organic play, real exploration, and real adventure.

In the evening, I set two or three goals in my head – clear some shrines I see, go to the next temple, explore a new segment of the Deep. Three hours later, I’m only halfway to my first goal, having had many amazing adventures and making many surprising discoveries along the way. I’ve done things not on the list: take down a Battle Talus disguised as a Bokoblin post (and turn its heart into a hammer), compete in a skydive, chase shooting star fragments, scavenge seal sets. I followed my nose, played in a naturally inquisitive, experimental, freewheeling style and didn’t worry about progression. I let one detour (like exploring a cave) happily meander into another (like building a car to deliver a stranded Korok to a friend) that took me off my planned route. I’ve just been to the amazing world that Nintendo has created. How exciting and fun Tears of the kingdom maybe, in fact you could call it mindful.

Photo: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

How did the Nintendo team led by Eiji Aonuma and Hidemaro Fujibayashi do it? I wish I knew – like many game designers, I’m sure. Breath of the Wild is often called influential, but over the last six years there has been a notable lack of games that can emulate it in this regard in particular. There are few open world AAA games that can successfully hide the tables they are built on. If it were easy, we’d have more games to make us feel that way. But there are a few tips.

Tears of the kingdom‘s world map looks effortlessly natural, but it’s designed with an unwavering focus on vantage points: There’s always a view, and within that view, there’s always something to look at. This is combined with a visual design that emphasizes readability from a distance, with clear silhouettes and colorful accents to attract the eye. With all its clever physics systems, it feels like a full, living world, but it’s important that it looks like a world, too, and that’s where the painstaking craftsmanship of Nintendo’s artists comes into play. It was true for all of them. Breath of the Wildand all this is doubly emphasized by its amazing verticality Tears of the kingdoma three-level world of surface, sky and cave depths.

Then there is the level of artistry in the color and construction of that world. Unlike many open-world games, this doesn’t feel like a landscape assembled from a box of cookie-cutter content types. Each enemy camp, mini-game, or cave system is unique and naturally emerges from the landscape: these bokoblins, carting a treasure chest around in the countryside, look like they have somewhere to go. I wonder what they are carrying? Why does that sky island look like a giant spiral? You are drawn to these points of interest because they look interesting, not because they are marked on a map; you haven’t seen anyone that before. Even in this context Tears of the kingdomThe subtlest collectibles, like the Korok seeds, don’t present themselves as a to-do list, as they’re carefully incorporated into an already rich world, rather than scattered (hundreds!) of them across the map. engagement bait.

Photo: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

The new cave systems are a shining example of this Tears of the kingdom always leads you astray. Their inviting entryways are not portals to mini-dungeons that will throw you right back at the start upon completion. Instead, they take you down winding underground paths, usually away from your destination. In the end, you climb to the top of a new hill with a new view that reveals new things to explore.

If you want to deepen yourself Tears of the kingdom, the spartan Pro interface removes most HUD elements. In standard form, Tears provides a lot of information – but save for a pulse quest marker on the minimap, none of it is about what to do next. There are map pins that you place yourself (perhaps using your telescope to scan the landscape), time, weather, temperature, your health, abilities, and geographic location coordinates. The search tracker, meanwhile, is fairly rudimentary and can only be seen in the menu.

What does that tell you? Tears of the kingdom‘s developers consider important: where you are, what the conditions are, and what tools you have at your disposal. no what you should do As with this great, unexpected discovery engine, it’s up to you. The developers, through their artistry and playfulness, allowed me to stop optimizing, stop achieving, stop ticking things off my checklists, and just enjoy the game they made.

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