As promised, below you'll find some additional thoughts for after you’ve watched the video! Thanks so much to everyone for being patient over the last few months - it’s very much appreciated. Enjoy! x
Bonus thoughts! So! First of all, weapon degradation is a really interesting one - I’ve personally had no issue with it. If anything, I’d say it’s an integral aspect of the game’s longevity despite being largely, wonderfully aimless. One of the main reasons I grew tired of Skyrim was that the lure of loot gradually wore off. Once you were seriously geared up, the world suddenly became a landfill of metallic junk.
Weapons that break give Zelda’s treasures a more constant sense of purpose, and help remove the need for a smooth curve of balanced difficulty. You find bits that make the game too easy - they serve a purpose - and then they break. Players always seem angry at having things taken away from them, but treasure without risk or loss isn’t really TREASURE.
Big quests tend to leave you entirely out of arrows and with your best weapons gone, but - providing you aren’t rushing to finish the main plot - this only adds to the texture of the experience. You chill out, you explore, you find powerful stuff, and then you embark on a serious adventure that will see you expend the resources you collected. It’s such a fresh and wonderful flow that truly embodies the nature of adventure - much more exciting than the traditional model of Exponentially Always Getting Stronger Because Games.
Most importantly of all though, it’s clear that Breath of the Wild isn’t meant to be a game about fighting. It’s punctuated with battles and conflicts that ramp up with delicious drama, but there are clear clues about the way the game is intended to be played: enemies frequently drop near-worthless loot, and your weapons rapidly degrade and break. Meanwhile, the world constantly respawns ALL of the enemies. By the rules clearly embedded within this world. fighting is frequently framed as just being a waste of your time. Run, my boy! Run!
And do you know what? I think that fits. This isn't a game about being a warrior, it’s a game about being an explorer - a scientist. Most beautiful of all is that more frequently than not, weapons double up as tools. Most of the weapons I treasure and love will never go anywhere near a fight. Why would I use these things in combat? These are precious! They’d break!
It really isn’t the weapon degradation that feels jarring to me - it’s the quantity of combat trials you face in the game, creating a barrier of challenge and frustration that feels oddly out of place.
That said, it really is fair to say that the inventory management system is poor - although arguably a side-effect of this is that players won’t use it unless they really have to, keeping the game residing in the world whenever possible. Weak silver linings, admittedly - but I can’t rag on the inventory system too much, as there’s beauty hidden within this mess.
The game’s insistence of lumping almost everything together in one big box of stuff leaves it unclear which items hold real value, and which items might hold interesting secrets. This thrill of feeling like you exist in the world comes down to the elements I explored in this video, but it’s this gradual discovery of the world’s physical properties that truly pops into life. Science, man! Baked apples! It's good!
Finally, despite the great efforts of the game’s design to keep you present and immersed in its world, eventually it really does start to falter - especially with regards to the classic mechanic of Fast Travel. It’s too easy sometimes to find yourself zapping between fast-travel points as if cycling through a small stack of postcards: grasping for that instant gratification of glimpsing a new adventure in the distance, rather than taking the time to stick with one direction until you find one.
But gosh, if it isn't The Best Game Ever. What an absolutely wide-eyed, wonderful treat.