Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Every open world game is different, because each game uses its gigantic map for a different purpose. Maybe it's to give the player options in how they approach their objectives. Perhaps it's a stage for a shifting political drama, or a sandbox so the player can blow off steam between missions. And, sometimes, it's just a way to dump a big checklist of content on the player. For The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo used an open world for a very specific purpose: to let players go on an adventure. And in this video, I want to look at how Nintendo used, and ignored, different bits of open world design to make a fantasy kingdom that you'll want to explore, survive, and conquer. For starters, Nintendo gives players an enormous amount of freedom in how they approach the game. There are only two things you have to do in Breath of the Wild, after all: finish a tutorial, and fight Ganon. Everything in between is up to you. You can do the four major dungeons out of order, or not at all. You can finish as many shrines as you like, track down as many memories as you want, and it's up to you whether you take Link's famous sword into the final battle... or a wooden mop. What this means is that you carve your own path through the world, which is a pretty important factor in an adventure. Link's story is your story, defined by what you do - and what you don't do - as you explore Hyrule. This is very different to previous Zelda games - but also to most other open world games, which feature a rather linear story - made up of mandatory main quests - where your only choice is to either follow it - or delay following it. And, aside from limiting the player's freedom, this often has the unfortunate side effect of providing a disjointed story where you desperately need to track down your kidnapped son - but you'll get to that just as soon as you explore the entirety of Boston. But I think Zelda gets around this in a clever way. You can take on Ganon at any point. But because you'll likely get killed before you can even approach Hyrule Castle, you're not delaying your showdown with the big bad - you're training for it. Which means everything you do in the game - from collecting heart pieces to boosting your equipment slots to activating the divine beasts - is in preparation for that fight. Zelda shatters that barrier between following the story and doing side activities, because everything you do is relevant. Well, almost everything. Another thing Zelda does differently to most other open world games, is in how much information it gives you about the world. Which is to say: hardly any. At the start, your map is completely blank and you need to climb up, and activate these towers, to fill in the gaps. But unlike the towers in Assassin's Creed and Far Cry games, this doesn't litter your map with icons for nearby activities, side quests, and collectibles. Instead, you have to find all of that stuff yourself, and this means you are lead through the world, not by icons and waypoints, but by your own curiosity. You might see something interesting on top of a mountain, and decide to hike up there. You might choose to climb up a tower, and use your magic iPad to survey the landscape, before dropping down pins and stamps to mark locations you want to check out. Or you might scour the map screen for interesting place names and structures, and then go find out what's there. Importantly, there's probably something good. Any collectibles you might find are genuinely helpful, especially after your 325th sword just broke. And any shrines you might find provide genuinely unique puzzles, instead of the usual copy-and-paste side content we see in open world games. Or you might find something that tells you about the world of Hyrule - because most of this game's storytelling is done through the ancient ruins, giant bones, forgotten battlefields, and other bits of the environment. It's also important that you can always go where your curiosity leads you. I was playing Horizon Zero Dawn the other day, and was intrigued by these gigantic robot bones up on the side of a mountain. But when I tried to get there I was greeted by a cliff side too steep to climb, and an actual invisible wall. Bummer. Zelda, though, not only offers complete freedom, but a generous climbing system means you can clamber up any wall - provided you have enough stamina, or can find spots to rest. By the way, Zelda makes it really fun to traverse Hyrule, whether that's climbing, riding a horse, paragliding down from a tall tower, or - best of all - surfing on your shield. Exploration is always encouraged when it's fun to move around. Anyway. Maybe that invisible wall in Horizon was to stop me from coming across a mad robot dinosaur that I was not yet ready to fight. But, Breath of the Wild shows that letting players get pummelled by killer enemies is no bad thing. In the game's opening hours I stumbled upon this centaur chap - a Lynel - and the fight didn't exactly go well. Immediately, the world no longer felt like a playground to enjoy, but a daunting world to survive. Much more conducive to an adventure. And it's not just big enemies, but the world itself feels out to get you. You'll need to contend with harsh climates, like ice-cold lakes, volcanic areas that burn up wooden weapons, and deserts that flit between hot and cold. And weather affects you too, such as rain that makes surfaces too slick to climb, and lighting storms that... well.. But the thing about adversity, is how good it feels when you overcome it. I returned to that coliseum 50 hours later - now with better equipment, more hearts, and a stronger understanding of the combat system - and destroyed that Lynel. Zelda games have often explored the themes of growing up and becoming a hero - but never quite like this. Breath of the Wild also uses those tough enemies, as well as steep walls and harsh climates, to discourage you from exploring the map in one go and immediately seeing everything the game has to offer. By withholding bits of the world, in this fashion, - you'll still be discovering surprises, including entire towns and different biomes, well past the point where other open world games would start to feel plain and predictable. Let me just go back to the map marker thing for a second. Breath of the Wild does actually use some typical, open world-style wayfinding. The main dungeon quests, for example, are marked on your map with yellow dots - though, thankfully, the game avoids the little dotted line, instead asking you to find your own route to one of the four dots, and no doubt getting lost and distracted along the way. You can also turn them off, which I'd recommend. Unlike some games, Zelda is perfectly playable without this help, as characters give directions, the map features place names, and most forks in the road feature signposts. But that's just the main quest, and with all of the side missions, Nintendo decided to ditch these navigational aids altogether, and instead, the secrets, side quests, and shrine quests can only be found by following scraps of information. Here's an example. These two lads are talking about a treasure, and they give me a clue to find it. "The little twin steps over the the little river. My cave rests above that river's source". So I wander around, find a sign pointing towards the little brother bridge - that sounds about right -, follow the river to its source, climb up beside the waterfall, and then uncover the hidden stash. Get in. By following these rumours, as well as song lyrics, paintings, and riddles, you're asked to really explore the world, and take in environmental details that, in a different game, you might blow straight past. Plus, finding these solutions is always more rewarding, if you ask me, than simply following waypoints and stink trails. If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it's because I talked about almost all of this stuff last month in my video about the very first Zelda game. Breath of the Wild features more than just old men, Spectacle Rock, and centaurs - but also the freedom, mystery, and general standoffish design of Zelda 1. Though, you are going to have to turn off the HUD and objective markers to really get that experience. But Nintendo didn't just look backwards to make this game - it also looked outwards, with the game's creators saying they researched games like The Witcher and Minecraft. And you can see elements from loads of open world games in Breath of the Wild. The Korok puzzles feel like the Riddler trophies in the Arkham games. Cooking, to prepare for a big battle, brings to mind the Witcher's alchemy. Smashing ore is totally Minecraft. And Breath of the Wild capture Skyrim's wanderlust, and horse bugs. But you can tell that Nintendo used these ideas with careful consideration - deciding which bits of design to use, and which bits to forgo - because an open world isn't just an excuse to chuck in loads of random features and hope they all stick together. Like any good game, everything should work together to contribute to a specific experience. And in the new Zelda - the level of freedom you're provided, the focus on exploration, the use of cryptic clues, the daunting enemies, and the consistent surprises - all add up to give Breath of the Wild a truly adventurous spark. Hey everyone! Thanks for watching. GMTK is funded by everyone on my Patreon - including these top tier supporters. If you're a long time viewer of my channel, you might be surprised to hear me praise a gigantic open world game, after making videos about the joy of exploring much smaller, more compact worlds, like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. But in that Batman video, what I said was "game environments should be measured by how much meaningful content is inside, rather than in square metres", and Nintendo is one of the few companies, alongside Rockstar and (sometimes) Bethesda, who are capable of actually filling a massive world with unique and interesting stuff. Plus, the game uses its space to make your adventurous treks more epic, and provide those all-important moments of quiet and introspection during travel. So, like everything in game design, the size of a world comes down to what sort of experience the creators are going for. Anyway - at the risk of turning this channel into Zelda Maker's Toolkit, my next video will be a Boss Keys episode on Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. And yes, I will finish that series by talking about the dungeons in Breath of the Wild. And then I will never talk about Zelda ever again. Until the next one.