190 Reviews liked by Trimalchi0
CASTLEVANIA MARATHON- 12/22
Bit of a letdown after Symphony, but it's only slightly less cheeks than 64.
Nathan walks really slowly and jumps surprisingly high, which gives a really weird feeling. The Belmonts all strutted everywhere but they didn't jump up like Nathan does. Alucard waks faster and jumps higher. Nathan walks like a Belmont but jumps like Alucard, which leads to a disorienting movement system, and double-tapping to run in a map like CotM's is more than a little annoying.
The card system is in theory very fun- mixing and matching an impressive amount of base effects with an equal amount of elemental alterations is actually a really cool system that I'd like to see in a later game, but the problem is that you have to grind out pretty badly for each card- and there are 24. Rough.
As well as this, the music fumbles for the first time in a while in Castlevania and the bosses aren't as memorable as earlier games. The final fight with Dracula is terrible and is one of the worst bosses in the series, rivalled by only Dracula X's final fight.
Circle of the Moon is a prime candidate for a remake, in my opinion. There are a lot of cool ideas that went to waste, and I would love to see a return to Nathan and Hugh's story in future.
Next- Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Previous- Castlevania (1999)
Previous- Castlevania (1999)
CASTLEVANIA MARATHON- 7/22
I would argue Rondo of Blood is the beginning of the golden age of Konami's big franchises. Start it here and end it at about 2005 and you have a roughly decade-long streak of back-to-back masterpieces (with a few misses, granted) that only a few studios have matched since (Off the top of my head, the only runs that can match it in both length and quality since are FromSoft and Naughty Dog, though I would be happy to be wrong).
Rondo of Blood is the best Classicvania. Everything just clicks with it. I really enjoy that after SC4's push into being much easier, Rondo kicks it back to being punishing but fair. Richter can swing his whip up, but only at one angle that means he can get some aerial enemies, but has to position himself with more care than Simon had to. The level design is similarly tough without being cruel, and I love the alternate stages mechanic.
The series continues to experiment with player choice and nonlinearity. Each level has an alternate path you have to work to get to, and like Dracula's Curse there's a separate playable character. Maria Renard is broken and makes the game comically easy, but she's also a 12-year old girl who fights by summoning animals (which is really funny) and you have to unlock her so I'm alright with it. Her ending cutscene is also really funny and displays that the devs knew exactly what they were doing by adding a broken character that's a little girl. It's great.
The presentation is also so good. I love the covers of older tracks and Richter's theme is maybe my favourite track in the series. The visuals are gorgeous thanks to being on a stronger console than its contemporaries on other platforms, most obvious with the addition of animated cutscenes that lend Rondo a shonen anime feel that keeps it distinct from its classic monster movie-inspired 2D bretheren and its gothic pretty boy-filled successors.
God, I love Rondo of Blood. It's a shame that it took so long for it to hit Western shelves because I really do think it's the peak of the series' sidescrolling platforming era.
Next- Castlevania: Bloodlines
Previous- Super Castlevania IV
Previous- Super Castlevania IV
one of gaming's all-time great punchlines is how this is, to this day, one of the most technically fraught and unstable games ever made, chugging and stuttering on computers made nearly 20 years after it's release, where the game will, at every loading screen crash and then reload itself in the new area just to keep the memory leak from crashing your whole PC, and then you see the majesty, the sheer ambition of Downtown Seattle that this game struggles so hard to render...is like three rooms where if you look at a lightbulb the framerate is halved. genuine comedy gold.
only other real reason to play this is to witness how The Bush Years hit Deus Ex so hard. any semblance of rebellion or hope from the original's world has been stripped away completely, Alex D is a remorseless gun for hire without any of the charm of JC Denton, well-meaning terrorists like Tracer Tong from the original are suddenly apologetic state actors utterly condemnatory about their past dreams of a world free from the yoke of megacorps and fascism, and where any path not based in the perpetuity of the american empire will lead to the actual destruction of humanity. either With Us or Against Us indeed. the possibility for subversion, either narratively or experientially, is crushed underfoot by this contrition to the status quo and the obscenely narrow level design. as a game about Choice and Consequence and Freedom it's a disaster, but as a game about the lack of those things, about living in Francis Fukuyama's End of History? Invisible War can only be called a tremendous success.
don't know if i would call this a good game, exactly, but it is a deeply fascinating one. i think the ideology it espouses is truly evil but as a game design object I have to recognize the care and attention to which the game goes about communicating it. each deus ex game is a fascinating time capsule of the moment in which it was made, for good and ill, and this one is maybe the most unhinged and weird of them all. would love to give it a full proper replay to pick over it in greater detail but that would require it not crashing my computer every 25 minu-
This review contains spoilers
content warning: sexual violence
I actually liked most of this but I cannot endorse a game where you, the player character, are implied to have repeatedly sexually assaulted one of your patients. like jesus christ who thought that was okay.
the actors do a really great job of selling all the madness and i'm sorry they had to be a part of this
Almost everything I like about Underground 1 is still here, but I feel like the story is significantly worse. It's a solid enough skateboarding game, but if I had to choose one I'd pick the first game.
A few hours into my playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I made a comparison in my mind to another Nintendo sequel. Similarly to Tears of the Kingdom, it was the sequel to one of my favourite games. They both reuse the same basic game engine and mechanics, but set out to give players a new experience, without dismissing fans of the original. And both, while not entirely bad, missed the mark in ways. That's not to say that I think Super Mario Galaxy 2 is bad; far from it. I love Galaxy 2! I just had a few complaints with it that slightly lowered my opinion of it, and I still prefer the original. And for the first few hours, I expected Tears of the Kingdom to follow a similar path. I was hooked. While I was still in the first area of the game, it was setting up the new ideas perfectly. I was ready for the rest of the game to hit me with its best shot.
However, that shot never seemed to come. Where Galaxy 2 sought to soar higher than its predecessor, Tears of the Kingdom came crashing down.
I would like to note before going on with my long rambling that I haven't seen 100% of the content of this game, and it's likely that I got something wrong. But a lot of my opinions were inferred to me by the direction the game was going. Remember what I said earlier? How the game had perfectly set up its new ideas? Well, sadly, it set them up, but never aimed to go further.
To put it simply, every new idea introduced in Tears of the Kingdom feels undercooked. During my playthrough, I kept wondering and brainstorming ideas that could help flesh out each mechanic more, but the game feels like it was made in a way that undermines itself. My biggest issue with these comes from the creation mechanic. This is clearly the main thing Nintendo wants customers to take away from this game. It's all over the marketing: "You can use Link's fancy new arm to put together and build pretty much anything! There are endless possibilities!" And technically, the marketing isn't lying. You can build basically anything. Want to build a flying machine that can fly across Hyrule? You can! Want to build a car filled with explosives that can decimate enemies immediately? You can! Want to light a Korok on fire and crucify them? You can! In terms of options, this is an incredibly fleshed-out mechanic. However - and this feels extremely weird to say as someone who has been learning to work as a creative for the past three years - I just could not bring myself to care about the Ultra Hand.
My big issue comes from how the Ultra Hand is actually developed in the required quests for completing the story. And, well, it just isn't. The puzzles in Tears of the Kingdom are some of the most basic, uninteresting, and bland puzzles I've played in a while. Granted, I haven't actually cleared every shrine or every challenge in the game, but out of the 50 or so shrines I completed, I never once felt the difficulty rise at all since the very first tutorial. Most of them just boil down to "Stick this object onto this other object, activate it, and watch it play the game for you". Maybe you'll be putting a fan onto a minecart and watching it push you through a track. That's the whole shrine! It isn't like the game expects players to be purposefully experimental with clearing the shrines either, since each one happens to give you the exact amount of tools you need to go through the intended path, limiting the player more than encouraging them. You can still get away with some interesting stuff, but 30 shrines in I was already so checked out that I couldn't really be bothered. The dungeons do fare better than the shrines in this regard, seeing as how they take place in much more open areas and allow more exploration, but the puzzles in the dungeons actually made me miss the Divine Beasts from the first game. Say what you want about those, but I'd rather take a dungeon that actually requires me to think. The only dungeon that even comes close to the mechanical depth that I want is the one on Death Mountain, seeing as it requires you to use a flying machine in tandem with another (INSERT SPOILER ABILITY HERE) ability, but even then, you don't actually build the machine; it just happens to be lying around when you get there.
As for the shrines that don't utilise the Ultra Hand, those don't fare much better. The time reversal and ascension mechanics are cool ideas, but I can literally count the number of times I found them useful on two hands. In a way, you could argue that the shrines act more like miniature tutorials. Heck, some of them literally only exist to teach players about basic mechanics like shooting your bow and arrows or throwing your weapon - literally using text boxes to explain how each of them works. But I never really felt motivated to build anything in the overworld, either, not only because you can literally only collect the tools in your inventory by using a makeshift gacha mechanic. The Ultra Hand is perfect for players who want to spend hours creating cool vehicles or whatever, but for someone like me? I don't want to spend that much time on a game when I have so many more in my backlog to play. Whenever I walked by a pile of wooden planks and wheels left there by the developers, I just thought, "Why, though? I've already travelled around Hyrule perfectly fine on my own in Breath of the Wild. I could probably just walk to my destination faster than it takes me to build this shitty wooden car."
And therein lies my other huge issue; This game just feels too much like Breath of the Wild. Not enough is different. That might seem like a dumb statement. Like, of course it feels the same. It's a sequel using the same engine. But when this game kept getting delayed for four years straight, I kept thinking, "Woah, if this is taking just as much time to develop as the original game, they must be creating a huge new world for us to explore, alongside the updated Hyrule!". And while I was sort of correct, the new areas in the game are anything but interesting. Going back to what I said earlier, Tears of the Kingdom feels like it's undermining itself. I was so excited when I saw that the game would (supposedly) take place on these vast floating islands in the sky. That's one of my favourite types of settings ever! And the problem isn't that Tears of the Kingdom doesn't execute the idea of floating islands well; it's that it's barely utilised at all. I don't know the exact measurements for this, but from a quick glance at the map, the sky islands look like they take up literally around a 10th of the size of Hyrule. After the tutorial, that's pretty much it. I barely got to spend time on them outside of looking for the shrines they contained, which wasn't that fun either considering what I've already said about the shrines. Despite a gorgeous visual style, I unfortunately didn't get much out of the sky islands, which sucks considering it was probably the setting I was looking forward to most.
The other brand new area does fit into what I'd want a bit better, but also manages to miss the mark. I won't go on for too long about this since I don't actually think it was shown that much pre-release, but while it does have an amazing visual style and also gets to the type of size I'd want for a sequel (it's actually around the same size as Hyrule!), the game, once again, barely utilises it. Maybe I just missed something, but I never saw a reason to even go there after discovering it for the first time. It feels like it just exists to waste your resources by using them to light up the area, as the whole place is completely dark. (Don't you love it when games do that? Make it so you can't see anything and have to slowly make your way through an area? Definitely not aggravating at all.) It only felt necessary to go there close to the very end of the game, a point at which it is far too late for what could have been an amazing new setting.
I'm not entirely sure how to explain this last point. But despite how much I've talked on and on about the issues with gameplay, what killed it for me was the difference in atmosphere and tone. One of my favourite parts of Breath of the Wild was the feeling of solitude. At the start of the original game, when Link wakes up, he is completely alone with no memories in a devastated world. No one really knows him. Everyone from his previous life is either dead or close to it. The only human he sees for the first few hours of gameplay is a mysterious old man. He's thrown into a conflict of which he has no idea he was supposed to be a part of. This melancholy dread stirs all throughout Breath of the Wild, complimented by a minimal musical score as Link traverses through Hyrule. These moments in Breath of the Wild helped to completely sell me on the atmosphere, despite the slightly weak story the game plays out.
Meanwhile, how does Tears of the Kingdom start? With a 15-minute info dump as you slowly walk alongside Zelda as she gives you the exposition for the plot. Practically everyone in Hyrule knows about Link and his heroism, and the events of the first game are barely addressed from what I've seen. There isn't really a good frame for how much time has passed either, since characters like Purah have grown up a lot, while characters like Impa and Paya look the exact same. You revisit the same areas from the original, and the characters automatically agree to help you because you've already saved the world before. Link doesn't feel "alone" to me anymore. The developers have not changed Hyrule enough to accommodate this change in tone, which, in my eyes, ultimately undermines the moments when Link is exploring Hyrule.
This completely represents what Tears of the Kingdom is to me. It's clear the folks at Nintendo knew how successful Breath of the Wild was but didn't really realise why. So when it came time to make the sequel, they threw in ideas without wondering how they would change the original. The tightly designed mechanics from the original have been removed and replaced with what amounts to godmode tools that don't really mesh well with the puzzles they've designed. I haven't talked much about the overall plot, as I don't want to spoil a game that most people are enjoying much more than me. But it feels similarly weak to the original's, and this time, there's no masterfully crafted atmosphere to save it. Breath of the Wild wowed me. Dare I say, it was a breath of fresh air. But Tears of the Kingdom just leaves me feeling nothing. It's not awful; despite my ranting, there are still elements to appreciate. The visual style, as I've said, is phenomenal, Hyrule itself is still slightly fun to explore despite it's lack of a distinct tone, and the soundtrack can be incredible during the endgame. The creativity of the ideas and concepts shown here is fantastic, but that simply isn't enough when the rest of the game doesn't feel interested in expanding on them.
Sometime soon, I want to play through more Zelda games. Not only because I admittedly haven't played that many, but because I want to see what everyone else sees. I want to see how this series became one of the most iconic in history. When I started Tears of the Kingdom, I went in thinking I would get to see it. But when I look at this game, I unfortunately cannot give it the title of "Legend".
congratulations to tears of the kingdom for having the best cutscenes to sleep through
This review contains spoilers
Breath of the Wild was a game I loved and I’m still very fond of. I think its weaknesses are pretty clear-cut and acknowledged by a lot of people, but the reason I still hold it in high regard is because of how cohesive it felt. Without sounding too corny or sycophantic, for a Nintendo who (especially at the time) were increasingly attached to an image of coddling and handholding, a Zelda game starting with the objective to “destroy Ganon” and declaring everything else to be optional felt like an important statement, it felt like a shift away from the streamlined, prescribed experiences of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword and toward a vision of natural discovery, which landed for me because of how much it felt like the game was constructed around it: A breathing, living world, the sound of nature and the swaying of trees, puzzles revolving around non-discrete physics and grounded temperatures, world design intended to accentuate the simple desire to climb on top of things and jump off them, looking at something in the distance and thinking “I want to go there”. They were so committed to this vision that they abandoned the heroic, melodic field themes of the past in favour of something restrained, which was guaranteed to piss some people off. I’m under no illusion that Breath of the Wild was a perfect game, in fact, its an extremely flawed one, but as my tastes in games have aged and (hopefully) matured I’ve come to value thematic completeness over "content" more and more, which Breath of the Wild achieved, despite its flaws.
Make no mistake, Breath of the Wild had a lot of flaws. Arguably outside of that core experience of free exploration, it was a game composed almost entirely of flaws. This seemed to be common knowledge for everyone but Nintendo, who saw the praise and thought it would be sufficient to replicate its core systems verbatim. I think if you asked someone what their wishlist for a BotW 2 would have been, practically nobody would have imagined what Tears of the Kingdom actually ended up actually being: More Koroks? Identical combat? More shrines? Cooking and healing unchanged? Clothing and inventory slots unchanged? Weapon durability? Still no traditional length dungeons? I don’t think many people would ask for that. This isn’t to say that Tears of the Kingdom has improved nothing: Enemy variety is significantly better here and the world in general is much denser and has more to discover - the Elden Ring influence being obvious in the depths and caves. Bosses are also much better and even have multiple ways to defeat them, bringing them in line with the freedom on offer in the rest of the puzzles. These things were “asked for” and they’re good, but they’re very much “more of the same”.
I think the most emphatic success of the game is the new powers. In BotW, powers were rarely useful outside of the shrines that required them, whereas here so much of the experience is curated for them. Caves and ascend create this beautiful continuous flow where exploration never comes to an arbitrary stopping point, and rewind feels like it perfectly accompanies ultrahand as well as being a general programming marvel. Fuse is the one I’m most sceptical of. Doubling down on weapon durability - a mechanic which was almost universally complained about in BotW - is a design decision I respect on paper, but I feel in practice it serves to make a lot of the weapons more interchangeable. If the majority of weapon attack power comes from fused monster parts, then the base weapon barely matters, meaning getting a weapon in a chest is just as shrug-worthy as it was in BotW. That this system hasn’t been fixed by fuse is evident in the late-game, which has the identical problem to BotW in that you have so many weapon slots and so many equally good weapons that each individual weapon becomes meaningless. Ultrahand, however, is easily the star of the show and feels like this inexhaustible source of hijinks which the whole game is constructed to support.
One of my favourite reviews on this website by nrmac, a review I think about frequently, talks about how a lot of great art wasn’t “asked for”. I don’t think this game in general fits that bill but ultrahand feels like it does; something great that nobody asked for. In concept, it feels like a perfect elaboration of the ideas in BotW - drawing attention to the environment as a source of problem-solving and furthering the theme of freedom, the new crystal-fetching shrines that were integrated into the world ended up being consistently my favourites for how they encouraged building hilariously dumb contraptions. At the same time, I do have a problem with ultrahand. It seems likely to me that ultrahand is a mechanic designed with the Twitter clip in mind, something aimed toward the potential limits of play rather than the average situation. I say this because throughout the entire game I only really needed to build about 3 different things to solve these problems: Fanplanes for long horizontal distances, hot air balloons for long vertical distances, “thing with rocket” for everything in-between. Granted, I had fun building these things, it didn’t get old, but it never felt like the game coaxed me into the complex depths of this mechanic, something which the shrines should have done. This is evident in the frequently ignored building materials that litter Hyrule’s roadsides, which might be fun to build with but never actually time-efficient, why build a car when you can just fast-travel?
This creeps into one of my biggest problems with TotK. Not the shrines alone but their connection to the new verticality offered by the floating islands. The paraglider in BotW was a tool that risked breaking a lot of the experience by allowing the player to traverse great distances with little effort, but it was rationed and balanced by high places being a goal. There was this flow to exploration where mountains would invite you to climb them, then once at the top you could paraglide to anywhere you could see, it was core to the exploratory loop. In TotK, however, verticality is cheap, not only because every tower catapults you so far into the sky, but by how you can just fast-travel to a floating island and paraglide wherever you please. This greatly exacerbates the problem that shrines pose. Shrines were disappointing in BotW not just because they offered lacklustre experiences, but because they were one of the only few things in the game which offered permanent rewards, as well as permanent progress in the form of fast-travel points, which put this awkward focus on them which they couldn’t live up to. It was a necessity imposed by this that shrines were obfuscated by the geometry. If it was possible to spot shrines easily, the whole game would just be about running from one shrine to the next, which would only further highlight their problems. In TotK, however, this essentially happened. I frequently found myself jumping off floating islands, paragliding to a shrine, then fast-travelling back to the floating island to jump off to another shrine. The majority of the shrines I completed were found this way. At the end of the game, my “Hero’s Path” was very frequently just straight lines toward shrines.
There’s this point in Matthewmatosis’ BotW video, (starting at 28:28, I recommend you watch these few minutes, it’s incredibly relevant to what I’m saying here.), about how free traversal isn’t actually what leads to memorable encounters. Personally, my most memorable moment from BotW was the path to Zora’s domain, which I did very early on and felt like something special. It’s telling that in TotK, a similar setup occurs with the path to the domain being blocked by mud, trying to encourage the player to find creative ways to clean up the path before them, but whereas in BotW I was forced down that path, in TotK I simply paraglided right into the domain from a nearby sky island, which I knew the location of anyway, and so its effect was completely nullified.
Here’s the moments in TotK which I loved the most and were memorable to me: The buildup to the Wind Temple, finding the entrance to the Korok forest, and the entire Mineru questline (the least spoiler-y way I can put it). I imagine the first of these will find general agreement as the best setpiece from either of these games, but the second, to me, was this amazing eureka moment where I finally figured out how to get there. But imagine for a second if you could just glide into the Korok forest from a sky island. Do this, and it illustrates my problem with the rest of the game.
A lot of this would be alleviated if shrines were better, but they are shockingly just as bad in the exact same way that BotW shrines were bad. The introductory shrines on the Great Sky Island are the same level of complexity as all the rest of the shrines, they mostly start off with an idea that’s “very simple” and iterate on it until it’s “simple”. Many solutions are just “use recall on a thing then jump on it”, or “build something incredibly rudimentary with parts that the game gives you anyway, making it obvious what the solution is”, or “use ascend on one (1) thing”. Practically every “combat training” shrine is insulting, even to the intelligence of young children, and every demeaning jingle that played when I did something incredibly easy had me questioning whether I was in Nintendo’s target age range anymore. While BotW’s premise of “freedom” seemed to be Nintendo letting go of their coddling tendencies, shrines were evidence that they couldn’t let go entirely. I was expecting the sequel, at the very least, to develop this part of the game, or at least skip the shrines dedicated to tutorialising basic mechanics, but it still has the problem that some tutorial shrines will be found dozens of hours into the game. Personally, I found a sneakstrike tutorial and bow-bullet-time tutorial over 30 hours into my game, which would not only be bad on its own, but considering the previous game made the same mistakes 6 years ago, it’s embarrassing. I’m sorry if you like these shrines but I fundamentally think they are a bad idea; a game about discovery and exploration is at odds with the aesthetic homogeneity they offer. It’s still possible to solve them in multiple ways, but when the solutions are this easy, why spend any time experimenting?
Intrinsic motivation was an important concept in BotW, but intrinsic motivation needs to work in conjunction with extrinsic motivation in order to be compelling. A player may wander in a certain direction out of the intrinsic desire to go towards something that looks interesting, and the game may reward them with a shrine, but if an extrinsic reward is easily accessible without doing anything intrinsically interesting, the only thing stopping the player from bypassing it is their own willpower and ability to curate their own experiences. I could build a big mecha car with laser beams on it and roll into a moblin camp to commit war crimes, but when I can jump from a sky island directly to four shrines in the same timeframe, it dramatically challenges the lengths I need to go to “find my own fun”; I could spend 30 minutes experimenting with the most hilarious way to break the solution to a shrine, but when the intended solutions take about 2 minutes, it gets to the point where only the most dedicated players can make the most of the experience (again, why I think this game is designed with the Twitter clip in mind). In short, the intrinsic and extrinsic parts of this game are out of sync with each-other, or to put it in another way, there’s too much freedom.
This is starting to sound incredibly negative, but to be clear, I do think this is a good game, but in many ways it has exacerbated the problems latent in BotW, when many many other problems it hasn’t iterated on at all. It’s easy to ask for “more stuff” in a sequel, but despite BotW’s relative lack of content, it still inspired a sense of wonder in me that lasted throughout the majority of the game, some of which is lost simply by knowing where things are. When I stumbled upon Zora’s domain in BotW, it was magical. When I paraglided my way there in TotK, it was expected. When I found my first dragon, or maze, or the blood moon rose for the first time in BotW, it was special. When I found these same things in TotK I was bitterly disappointed that they reused them.
The story makes this all even more disappointing. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Link and Zelda have a fatal encounter with Ganon/dorf and some amount of time passes, Link, far into the future, travels around Hyrule enlisting the help of four champions/sages, a Rito, Gerudo, Zora and Goron, he finds the master sword, which Zelda had prepared in advance for him, and collects memories of the past which inform him of what happened. Finally, he travels into the interior/depths of Hyrule castle to confront Ganon/dorf, who turns into a beast and is ultimately defeated by Zelda and Link together in a mechanically dull cinematic final boss. Beneath the Zonai stuff, it's the exact same story, set in the same world.
It’s a good game, how could it not be? but during the marketing cycle, I was hoping it would be to BotW what Majora’s Mask was to Ocarina. Something that, despite using the same assets, offered a different experience and used its direct sequel status as an opportunity to tell a radically different story to the typical Zelda fare. This isn't a Majora's Mask, it’s a Twilight Princess, something with a superficially edgy veneer that ultimately struggles to find an identity distinct from the game it models itself on, something that feels "asked for", despite its parts that definitely weren't. I think I’m self-aware enough to realise that pontificating about the reception of a game is a waste of time, but given the glowing feedback this has received, I think we’re likely going to see the next Zelda game also retread the same ground, here’s hoping that once the new formula becomes stagnant again, we can see another Breath of the Wild, not in its flawed superficial mechanics, but in essence.
Far Cry Elden Ring-ification of Breath of the Wild with a smattering of end-of-chapter Fortnite and New Funky Mode.
While BotW was content to let players roam free in a sprawling world, Tears of the Kingdom reins in this freedom considerably and hides the guardrails from the player with horse blinders. Link is still welcome to run around Hyrule at will, but the primary storyline holds the keys which allow actual exploratory liberation. My first dozen hours completely ignored Lookout Landing, leaving me without critical tools like the paraglider and towers. That was the most challenging TotK ever got, and the most it (unintentionally) forced me to think outside the box. I dragged gliders to the tops of hills labouriously, I used a horse and cart, I made elaborate vehicles simply to get around. I scrounged for rockets, fans, batteries, and air balloons to ascend to sky islands, making it to a few of the lower ones with great accomplishment. I committed to putting off the towers as long as I could, not realising they were an outright necessity. Seeing how this additional layer of the map functioned demystified it severely, rendering a challenge into a stepping stone for parcels of content.
The depths, like the skies above, are filled with potential. Many of its spaces are similarly wide open to encourage blind exploration with vehicles. Only there is nearly no purpose to any of it. Lightroots are a checkbox which dismantle the most compelling part of the depths -- their darkness. The depths are a place you visit to grab zonaite or amiibo armour and leave. As the Fire Temple is within the depths, and it being the first I tackled, I falsely believed there would be more dungeons strewn about below, simply a part of the world rather than instanced away from it. Sadly, it is the exception.
The other temples are obfuscated and inaccessible without their related storylines, which is itself fine (the temples are impossible to progress through without their associated power anyways) but this leaves the world feeling more boxed in, a selection of rooms in an overly-long hallway. A spare few rooms complement each other, most of them do not. The walls of the rooms must be thick. Whether it is shrines, side quests, or temples, the developers yet again seemingly have no way of knowing what abilities the player might have, what puzzles they have encountered, what skills they remember. All that they know is that in the Fire Temple, you have a Goron. In the Water Temple, you have Zora armour. The positive is, of course, that these things can thus be tackled in any order without a fear of missing out on anything. The downside is that there is never anything more to a shrine, a temple, or anything than what the player encounters the first go around. There is no impetus to return to a location when you have a better tool, or a wider knowledge of how the game's mechanics work. You show up, experience the room, and leave. With 300 map pins at your disposal, and similar issues arising in BotW, there's a sense that the developers chickened out near the end, too afraid to let the player (gasp) backtrack or (gasp) miss out.
Ironically enough, the lack of FOMO is what I miss most. When I was towerlessly exploring with a hodgepodge of trash scavenged from around the world, I felt free. I felt clever! When I discovered the intended mode of play, however, I felt I was putting a square peg in a square hole. There's a crystal that needs to be moved to a far away island? Before, I might have made a horror of Octoballoons and Korok Fronds with Fans and Springs to get it where it needed to go. When the Fruit of Knowledge was consumed, I saw the parts for the prebuilt Fanplane were right next to the Crystal. There's a breakable wall in a dungeon? Bomb Flowers or a hammer are right there. It is incredibly safe. It is a pair of horse blinders that you can decorate as you please. Go ahead and make your mech, you are still on the straight and narrow path.
TotK tries to bring back the linearity of Zeldas past within the BotW framework, but it ignores that the linearity was speckled with a weave of areas which expanded alongside your arsenal, rather than shrinking. Everything here is incongruous, a smörgåsbord of cool set pieces that simply don't go together. There is too much content (Elden Ring) that is too self-contained (end of chapter Fortnite) and too afraid that you will not experience it (New Funky Mode).
Did I have fun? Yes. But I had to make it myself.
Could easily be in my top 5 games of all time IF IT WAS JUST LONGER. I 100%'d the game
trying to speedrun took over half my playtime but I was just left wanting more by the end of it all.
Incredible music, AMAZING gameplay, I remember the story being incredible but I'm so used to skipping every cutscene when trying to speedrun it I forgot a good chunk! I highly suggest giving this game a shot, some of the most fun I had with an indie that year.
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