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Open-world games are broken, and Nintendo spent 2017 trying to fix them

Earlier this year, AVClub threw a temper tantrum. AVClub was mid-way through Horizon Zero Dawn, a game of dazzling polish and exciting potential, and after a few hours of streamlined, mildly inspired introduction, AVClub viewed with horror what the remainder of my time with the game would be: It was to be, yet again, a map game. AVClub would find new regions, climb some sort of tower, unlock a bunch of icons representing various activities on a map, and then go do them. AVClub would gather endlessly generating materials that would let me craft bags that would let me hold larger quantities of those materials. There would be a detailed screen, somewhere in the byzantine menu, that listed exactly how few of these many activities AVClub had accomplished, designed to make me flush with gratitude for the surplus of content this game had afforded me. Only six of 14 errands accomplished! What a brave new world we live in!

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2pacalypsenow435d ago (Edited 435d ago )

Fix what? Zelda didn't really revolutionized the open world genre, it just made Zelda Open World..

Sounds like this article was written just to praise Zelda and bash Horizon.

-Foxtrot435d ago

Yeah agreed

Zelda went open world but to “revolutionise” the genre...LOL

Lack of variety in enemy types

AI is awful

Stupid weapon breakage system

Characters aren’t as memorable

Dungeons are god awful compared to past games...I could name different epic ones off top of my head

Boss battles are a little lacklustre

World is lifeless

Not many random events

2011...this would be fantastic and more fresh but to stretch it and say they are “fixing” Let’s not make things up to praise Nintendo, you like it? Fine. But let’s not make out it’s doing something when it’s not.

Unlike Super Mario Odssey which is worthy of its’s fab

ninsigma435d ago

Just started Oddysey today. Super fun! Really really imaginative and it's just like wow at every turn. Definitely deserving of the praise it got.

-Foxtrot435d ago

Oh definitely. You go into Super Mario Odyssey and it's just filled with improvements along with epic moments...a game worthy of the scores and praise.

It's a step up from Galaxy in my opinion...I can go anywhere on the map and do the missions in any order I like, I feel like I have more freedom like in Sunshine or 64. I could literally nit pick a few things but nothing to bring me down while playing it.

ninsigma435d ago

Only played like half an hour of it so far (which goes to show how good it is considering I'm praising it already) and the only nit pick I have is the start of moving in a direction. Modern Mario's have him run on the spot for a second before actually moving. It's not major, just something I didn't enjoy in the other Mario's either, but I'll get over it fairly quickly xD

wonderfulmonkeyman435d ago (Edited 435d ago )

"Stupid weapon breakage system"

I dare you to formulate an intelligent argument for that statement.
I guarantee you that I can show you differences between how it fails elsewhere vs how/why it actually WORKS with the way BotW's weaponry is made, via stats, exact-copy acquisition, etc.

The people saying that weapon breakage in BotW is bad or doesn't work, haven't done their research.
Debate me.

PlayableGamez-434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

I feel like nostalgia at this point is what's keeping Nintendo relevant.
Odyssey looks a lot more interesting than Zelda in my opinion.

showtimefolks434d ago


Couldn't agree more if that game didn't have zelda in the name it wouldn't get a 7/10

Mario oddyesey is awesome and actually does something new and fresh and is fun

Zelda just went open world and just is boring

Now that is my opinion

Dragonscale434d ago

Sorry monkey but the fragile weapon mechanic along with the stupid stamina swirly thing in the middle of the screen are poor design choices tbh.

Shiken434d ago

Sorry you feel that way. BotW has been the most fun I have had in a game in years, and fully deserves its scores. GotY in my book, hands down.

michellelynn0976434d ago

Oh I will debate you on this big time.

UltraNova434d ago

Hard choice for me this holiday - I'm between buying a Switch (for Mario) or PSVR! Damn!

SenorFartCushion434d ago

Ha. People are strange. There is somehow a small group of people who are treating Mario as a form of rival Nintendo don't own them both.

septemberindecember434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

The A.I. is good, I'm not sure what you are talking about. It's one of the few games where enemies actually react accordingly. I mean, if you just played the first few hours and judged the A.I. I suppose I could understand, because early enemy A.I. is built to be rather dumb, but late game A.I. is very substantial.

Tiqila434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

Choosing between Odyssey and BotW is hard but I think I would go with BotW.

I fully disagree with your list Foxtrot. For none of what you mention substantially reduces the fun. Some things are even wrong in my opinion, like "characters aren't as memorable". I think it has some of the most memorable characters. 'World is lifeless'... where do you got that impression from? It is so full of life, I sometimes play it with my daughter just to watch (and interact with) the wildlife... Something that gets boring after a minute in other open world games (like AC, Far Cry, Witcher,...)

It amazes me how perceptions can be so different.

yeahokwhatever434d ago

Far Cry Primal had a WAY better world than Zelda. I felt like I was in a real place, with real things. Zelda is hilariously empty.

mav805434d ago

Completely agree. Zelda suffers from the same problems as most open world do for me.
Weak, poorly placed story
Lack of meaningful player direction
Large percentage of generic fights
Too much filler
Eventual burnout and boredom before completing game

dillydadally434d ago

I'm going to have to disagree with a lot of your points, ESPECIALLY that the AI is awful. The AI is freaking amazing in Zelda:BotW. The first time I fought one of those huge ogre monsters and he learned to cover his eye with his hand after I shot him in the eye a few times, I was like, "wHaT!?!?!" The smaller monsters also change their behavior when you pull out your bow or with how you approach them. Honestly, it has some of the best enemy UI I've seen in a game.

I don't know why you'd say the characters weren't memorable or the world was lifeless either - I felt like there was something new to discover over every mountain, unlike most open world games. And I was pretty amazed by all the wildlife and the realistic weather patterns when I started playing. And not every game needs random events.

But yeah, the weapon breakage system was stupid.

zerocarnage434d ago

Nothing wrong with weapon breakage,weapon sharpening features, monster Hunter world and the previous MH games wil have or had weapon sharpening and it fits monster Hunter perfect.

InTheZoneAC434d ago

@nin, I call that artificial input lag and it annoys the hell out of me in mario games from the last 10 years. I still play them, but having that weight is annoying.

Kosic434d ago

I completely agree with you on BOTW. it's an ok game but it hasn't changed the gaming industry at all. It may of changed the legend of Zelda. But everything above is it's weakness.

They spent too much time making this world and everything else had suffered for it. The dungeons were the worst I've experienced in any Zelda game

Cobra951433d ago (Edited 433d ago )

I actually agree with one of your points, Fox. The weapon durability system is a needless, joy-robbing chore. That's about it, though. I disagree with your other 7 points. Well, OK, no big dungeons. You get all the shrines instead, many of which are pretty good, plus the 4 beasts. You can't say it isn't different and revolutionary for Zelda. Also, enemy AI picks up a ton as you progress, and better enemies start popping up everywhere, even on the intro sections of the world. Lifeless, really? Come on.

Edit: I fully endorse the comments above from septemberindecember, Tiqila and dillydadally.

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SenorFartCushion434d ago

Of course they revolutionised the open world. That's the point of all of these articles.

While every game just added hunting, Zelda made a big patch of land surrounded by nothing and everything in that big patch of land was accessible. That sounds like any open world game but the climbing mechanics and attention to detail i.e. the realistic elemental properties that were actually elemental i.e. that list of tick boxes that only a few games even pay attention to and applied it to a game that gave you the last mission at the start.

There are games with climbing, elemental properties, even games that provide the last mission first but never has that entire list been implemented into one open world.

That's revolutionary.

Imalwaysright434d ago

"attention to detail i.e. the realistic elemental properties that were actually elemental"

100% this. Zelda's open world is by far the most realistic open world I ever experienced in a game. As a gamer witnessing the logic based interaction that each object in the world has left me in awe with what Nintendo achieved with the game.

the_massive434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

Nintendo has some game design philosophies that really rear their heads here. (I have 80h in to BOTW and close to 50 in to Horizon.)

1) Shrines. Every single one is somewhat unique. This is part of a gameplay design ethos that also seeps in to Mario in the more recent games - each level needs something unique (and it may only ever used on that level).

2) Seeds - same basic idea - you know the goal of the game, and each one is a unique puzzle. It could have just been "go to this spot on the map and dig", but theres some effort in each one.

3) Not letting plot dictate exploration. If zelda was horizon, I wouldn't have been able to go 3/4 of the game without realizing there was a way to upgrade the number of weapons I can hold. Also would not be possible to just go kill the end boss shortly after the "tutorial" island

4) Weapons. It irks me, but I think I understand why they break - to keep you invested in exploration.

5) exploration - since you can literally go/climb anything and for the most part artificial walls dont box you in. Horizon is basically flat everywhere except for a few specially marked areas where you get some verticality. Horizon is a game about plot and combat. The open world is pretty enough, but you don't really do anything with it. This isn't just a horizon problem.

6) interaction. The whole world is a physics playground. You can (and should go find videos) be as creative as you care to be and a lot of times it will pay off.

For open world big-map adventure games, I think it sits on the pinnacle. Room for improvement? Sure. But as I nudged towards my 110th shrine I realized I was literally combing over the world for multiple hours to find each new one. So I went and beat bannon. Did I type bannon? I meant Gannon.

The future is not making some same-ol bs game, the future is making the world more interactive. Zelda was the first step.

thepatientgamer434d ago

I just want to add that MGS5's open world is as good if not better than BOTW...and I love BOTW btw. In my opinion they both encapsulate what's possible when a ton of systems work seamlessly to create a truly innovative open world. In my opinion, that's why I think the comparisons of BOTW to Horizon are a moot point, since both of them do things so differently. The comparisons should have been made between BOTW and MGS5. Sadly, for both horizon and BOTW, they had to deal with the consequences of being released around the same time.

Tiqila434d ago

MGS5s open world is not nearly as good as BotWs.
It's an empty desert filled with generic military camp levels. Total crap.
But that's just my opinion.

Aceman18434d ago

I love the game, even give it a 10 for the experience but for me it's not the best zelda game I've ever played.

I actually found most of the game lifeless with lack of fun enemies, and the shrines were ok at best.

Uken12434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

This article is too wordy and boring I couldn't get through it. It doesn't even make sense, how was Nintendo fixing open world games? All they did was make a really good one.

Not many games nowadays revolutionize gaming. It's been a while since the last revolution. But I think Zelda does offer a more accessible open world experience. It was well balanced and fun to experience. For me it was like anime Skyrim when I played that the first time. And I enjoyed both. Both 10's in my book.

But it still has flaws like every open world game.

michellelynn0976434d ago

I think they mean how Mario and Zelda fixed a lot of problems in the open world games. I loved Horizon myself, but was it as good as Zelda? No.

Dark_Knightmare2434d ago

I have to disagree and I feel like if botw wasn't a Zelda game most people would say it wasn't as good as horizon. I mean looking at it fairly horizon had a better story,characters,enemies and their a.i., graphics,voice acting,sidequests and the big one combat. The only thing botw truly did better was the physics,exploring and being able to climb everything.

telekineticmantis434d ago

One thing I notice about fellow Nintendo Fans is, Nostalgia Trumps all criticism when it comes to Nintendo games. I remember earlier when God of War was first announced, it came with immediate scrutiny, "How are they gonna explain the move to Scandinavia", "how are they gonna explain the move to Norse Mythology" When it comes to Zelda it's... Oh you live in the Sky now, no explanation how you got there, derply derp oh wow 10/10. Ex. See the reviews for Twilight Princess, ok got it? Now Play it...?!

joab777434d ago

I think CDPR and Guerilla did a pretty damn good job too! And let’s wait and see about Cyberpunk 2077. Hell, AC Origins is a damn good open world rpg! I am very surprised at how good it is.

TallonIV434d ago

Zelda did improve upon the open world genre. Being able to climb and go absolutely anywhere on the map hasn't been done before.

WickedLester434d ago

Exactly. I played both games. Enjoyed Horizon way more! Zelda felt like "Babies first open world RPG."

quent434d ago

You're insecurity is showing fanboy

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Nyxus435d ago

"I would find new regions, climb some sort of tower"

Like Zelda you mean?

the_massive434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

Except in zelda, they used towers not to just reveal a portion of the map. If you go up a tower, you'll notice maybe a few shrines, but more importantly they want you to see interesting land formations and want to go figure out what they are all about.

They very purposefully block your view to some things and let you see others. They don't mark all the things to do right away, robbing you of the feeling you get from discovery and exploration.

Bimkoblerutso434d ago

....that is the flimsiest spin I have ever heard. BotW is literally just a tried and true open-world design running around in a Zelda skin.

And to be brutally honest, the exploration and adventure aspect of the genre is literally the only thing that they handled well. There are a TON of incredibly annoying design decisions in the game that really have me scratching my head at some of the praise the game has garnered. Not because it's not a good game, but because there are literally design decisions in the game that are universally panned when they make it into other games (item degredation, artificial difficulty, tedious repetitive tasks for pregression, huge stretches of empty space, etc). But somehow...those decisions were REVOLUTIONARY in Zelda?

I really don't get it. It was a fine game, but revolutionary it was not...not even close, to be honest.

the_massive434d ago

Since I cannot reply to the reply:

1) I don't like item degradation, but it's a smart solution to a few problems. First it keeps you involved (for good or bad) in the game world. It also gets around a lot of the "item progression" problems that a game that literally lets you beat it in a hour can have. I don't think its perfect, but it overall was probably better than you picking your fave wep and never needing to find any other resources.

2) There is no real progression (in the sense a narrative focused game might have) in zelda. You can get more hearts and play around and beat it whenever you want. It's a physics sandbox and the designers make 120 puzzles to solve. If the sense of exploration and discovery and solving puzzles isnt your bag, well, so be it.

3) I'd be there with you on empty space if traversal wasnt so easy. And usually, the space isnt quite as empty as it looks.

4) what artificial difficulty? You have me confused on this one.

I mean, would you rather it just be a mostly linear game with a story spoon fed to you? Wrong series my friend.

Bimkoblerutso434d ago

First, I would like to just apologize for using the word "literally" so many times in my previous post, haha.

Anyway, "artificial difficulty" in that their definition of "difficulty" is palette-swapping an enemy and having it do five hearts of damage instead of one.

And the point is not that I would rather it be linear. It's that the empty meandering, space is one of the major hurdles of the genre itself, and Zelda does about as much as any other game to rectify it. Yet this is the game that is apparently "fixing" the broken genre. It makes no sense. BotW has every quirk and issue that any other game of the genre has struggled with.

blawren4434d ago

The towers did nothing but reveal the map, nothing on the map, just the map and it's land features. It also gives you a vantage point for seeing where to go next. It's hard to understand, but you really gain little by having the map revealed. Aside from the great plateau, you could complete the game map free for true exploration.

Nyxus434d ago

The towers also gave you a warp point, which is an important reason to activate them (and it's also a standard open world feature).

Magnetar434d ago

I agree, open world games like Zelda and Skyrim give a sense of exploration and wonder. While I just feel like I'm chasing map icons in games like AC and Horizon.

septemberindecember434d ago

Maybe you should read the whole article where they mention specifically that Zelda plays out similarly, but does a few key things differently which is why they preferred it?

Seriously, don't stop at the third sentence.

PhoenixUp435d ago

Nintendo didn’t do anything new with the open world design

Sono421434d ago

I actually think their take on the open world was very lackluster.. people need to stop drinking the BotW koolaid and give praise where it's deserved, Mario Odyssey. An actually well designed game.

tucky434d ago

Mario odyssey is soooo overrated ... Good little game exactly like previous Mario games (80% is what it deserves). Really nothing fresh with it.
In opposition Zelda is a masterpiece in every way

Bronxs15434d ago


You’re so full of it.

Nothing fresh with Mario Odyssey. Remember in Mario one how you transformed into a dinosaur 🦖? And in Mario 2 you customized his appearance ? And I loved Mario 3 the parts that switched between 3D and 2D. That was a blast. And my favourite part of super Mario world was taking it on the go with me. I loved having it on my 55” flat screen then in my hands on the shitter the next instant. And the cap mechanic in Mario 64 was cool. Remember how you’d possess enimines in thst game? And the water jellies and stretching plants are a straight rip off of 3D world Nintendo is sooo devoid of creativity! /s

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prankster101434d ago

Nintendo haven't done anything new for over a decade...

dillydadally434d ago

I don't know. I thought they put it all together better - like the way you could climb anything and get up high to identify interesting places to go and shrines and such.

All I'll say is I got sick of other open world games quickly, mostly because they either feel too formulaic or too stiff and contrived, but Zelda kept me going. It's the only open world game I've ever REALLY enjoyed.

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Septic435d ago

Did a great job! Ninty really schooled others on how it's done. Such a great open world.

gangsta_red435d ago

Everyone that I talked with who played Zelda said it's one of the very best open world games they have played in a long time.

Nintendo definitely cracked the code with this one.

tucky434d ago

Agree ... such a polished openworld
Perfect design

-Foxtrot435d ago (Edited 435d ago ) guys

Couple of rascals

NohansenBoy434d ago

They didn't do a bad job, but they didn't really bring anything new to the table. Plenty of older Bethesda titles and MMO like WoW still did open world better the BotW.

Christopher434d ago

MMO like WOW...

Which was that year's BotW in that it got tremendous praise for doing what others before it had perfected.

NohansenBoy433d ago

I disagree. WoW did plenty with the areas and put plenty of content out to fill up just about every inch of WoW, at least in Vanilla. That's the thing though, I should have said Vanilla, not WoW in general. There's far too much dead space in BotW that's just there to extend the amount of space in the land of Hyrule, but as I said with Vanilla WoW, anywhere you went you'd always find a new interesting area to explore or new content to try out. The large area around Hyrule Castle Town is just a glorified Guardian battlefield with not much else going on and that's what I mean by "too much dead space".

BotW has plenty of room for improvement and plenty of space on the map to add content or I guess the Cemu modders can do that for Nintendo.

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Kribwalker434d ago

I agree. i spent part of the weekend finishing HZD and i can tell you that other then graphics I found Zelda to be the superior game.
I found HZD to be a fairly generic open world game, and i can’t be alone as when i got the Trophy it said only 35% of players got that trophy, so there must be a lot of folks that also felt bored while playing it

Nyxus434d ago

That's the case for any trophy in any game, it doesn't mean anything. Who's to say Zelda's wouldn't be lower if it had had trophies? I played both HZD and Zelda and found Horizon to be better.

Christopher434d ago (Edited 434d ago )

Which trophy? You do know it's uncommon for most gamers to even finish a game, right? If you mean Platinum, that's extremely high. Like, ridiculously high.

P_Bomb434d ago

Can’t be that naive. As Christopher said, statistically the overwhelming majority of ppl don’t finish games. This is a universal constant. There’s articles.

Rather than assuming 35% completion = proof of teh boring, research it and compare it to something YOU like. Such as the 84hrs you put into Halo 5 which only has a 27% for completion cheevo.

6% for Cuphead, 13% for Witcher 2, 21% for Witcher 3. GTAV, list goes on. Sometimes something like Mass Effect hits 45%. That’s the business.

OffRoadKing434d ago

For me its the exact opposite, I think HZD is by far the superior game.

Christopher434d ago

So, I looked at my trophies and @Kribwalker is talking about the final mission trophy.

Here are the completion rate for other big selling games:

ME Andromeda: 31.1%
Watch Dogs 2: 28.1%
RotTR: 47.3%
Uncharted 4: 43.2%
The Order: 43.5%
The Division: 33.2%
Fallout 4: 20.5%
AC Syndicate: 31.8%

So, seems low for exclusives but at least on average for third party major titles. Was interesting to see how many finished RotTR. Should tell the publisher how many fans there are on PS4 for the game in the future.

And Platinum completion rate for HZD is about what I expected, only 8.1%

tucky434d ago

Could not even finished hzd ... too boring despite great graphics

Kribwalker434d ago

yeah it was the final mission not the platinum, i don’t think i’d put in the time for the platinum.

bought the game, played the game, have an opinion on the game. Have you done the same for games you like to express your opinion on?
and again, i’ve said it before, it’s not because it’s ps exclusive, as there are a lot of PS games i like, or i wouldn’t have bought a ps4.....Until Dawn is still one of my favourite new IPs this gen. I just feel HZD is overrated