Sunday, December 11, 2016

Breath of the Wild: Villages of the Sages

The Life in the Ruins Trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has given us our first glance at villages in the game:

The village displayed in the trailer is somewhat reminiscent of Ordon Village from Twilight Princess. You have this farmer's village vibe going on, you can spot Cuccos, people are planting carrots, and there is a watermill and a building, which appears to be some sort of mayor's house. And it's most likely not the only village in the game.

Well, I'm going to make an educated guess here that this game will loosely follow the idea of Zelda II - The Adventure of Links, where you have several towns named after the sages from Ocarina of Time. It would make sense for Nintendo to make some connections to this game as well, because Breath of the Wild most likely will take place after all the Zelda games. And so far Zelda II has been the Zelda game with the largest world , where it would be nice, if Breath of the Wild takes some of it into consideration, even if it's just naming references. But some people were also speculating that the bird people that we saw in the trailer are in fact the Fokkā from the Great Palace. So, this new footage certainly did leave some Zelda II impressions.

The biggest challenge, however, will be avoiding that the villages and towns end up as generic as in Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. There were seven in total (not counting the ruined Kasuto) and they all have their set of standard villagers, including the Healer, the Old Woman, who replenishes your Magic, and the Old Man, who teaches you a new spell...

You don't want to end up with generic NPCs like that. And you want each individual village to be worthwhile for exploration, with individual NPCs that have something to tell and with some stuff to do and to find. And that will be a massive challenge for Nintendo.

The best towns in the Zelda series so far were Clocktown, Windfall Island and Skyloft by a margin. But these towns really had full attention - Clocktown was without a doubt the central and most important place in the game and the same goes pretty much for Skyloft, while Windfall was the big meeting and trading place of the Great Sea. You had lots to explore, many interesting NPC interactions and sidequests, but that's because Nintendo really set the focus on them. The other "villages" didn't have as much to offer, if there even were any.

With a large world as in Breath of the Wild you want to balance things out a little bit better. There doesn't seem to be some sort of central village in the game or else we probably would have spotted it already. It seems to be just smaller villages scattered around the various areas. And if they really follow the naming conventions of The Adventure of Link, they might tie to different races as well, e.g. "Darunia" could be a Goron village, "Ruto" a Zora village and "Nabooru" a Gerudo village (we be lovely to meet this tribe again). We could be looking at "Rauru" with the above village...

However, in that case simply naming the villages after the sages from Ocarina of Time probably won't be enough, where you might need to use names from characters like "Mido" again. There probably are multiple settlements of humans / Hylians like the above, not just the one village. And there are potentially a lot more tribes than usual in this game. It would be amazing to have a game here, where many different races from the Zelda series come together. Goron, Zora, Gerudo, Deku, Koroks, Mogma... all in this world. There's certainly enough space to cover the most prominent ones, while also introducing new tribes at the same time. The bird race might even be a new one, if they don't turn out to be the new Rito or Fokkā.

But it's too early to say anything for sure, because we haven't seem much of the friendly population in Breath of the Wild. Next to the above village, we only saw some houses and farmers in the very first footage from E3 2014 and a horse stable in the new trailer:

This place in the trailer raises another interesting point: people are not all that static in Breath of the Wild anymore as they are used to be in the previous Zelda games. You can see people fight monsters and you can also see people travel. There is a guy on a horse and another guy, who looks like a traveling painter (his hair is even shaped like a brush). And it might be that you meet people dynamically on your travels to keep things interesting. The Bird Link guy might even be another traveler that you meet occasionally throughout the game, while this was already confirmed for the minstrel bird guy.

And this is a big step forward. Especially in the Wind Waker it was kind of weird, how you barely ever met anyone besides Beedle, the Salvage Corp and a freaking Ghost Shop, most likely because it wasn't really possible to implement this at the time. But it would be nice to meet people on your travels outside of villages to make the game world feel more alive.


Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Well, Zelda II was made in 1986-1987. The technology back then didn't allow for much visual expression back then. Even Final Fantasy I's towns looked rather one-note.

It wasn't until A Link to the Past that towns became visually interesting and populated with interesting characters. That became a necessity because it was the first game really driven by an overarching storyline where Link really had to deal with NPC's to advance the plot. Zelda II was more of a pure action game with little plot.

TourianTourist said...

Well, the problem comes with having many towns. In A Link to the Past you only really have Kakariko. Clocktown, Windfall and Skyloft are all examples of excellent towns. But they really got focus attention.

Now, in Breath of the Wild you might end up with many different towns all over the worlds. And having good quality might be an issue here. I haven't played Skyrim yet, but from what I understood it has also quite generic villages... And that's what I hope Nintendo will somehow manage to avoid.

I used Zelda II as an extreme example here, because it's still inside the Zelda context. Of course the game had its technical limitations, but the large world problem still applies.

Marandahir said...

Kakariko Village, Rauru Town, Darunia Town, Ruto Town, Saria Town, Nabooru Town, and Hyrule City would be a good spread of civilized locations – though they could use a few more (Kasuto Town, Mido Town?). Skyrim only had 9 major towns and cities, alongside a handful of small villages like Riverrun or Dragonsgate. I'd love for Zelda:BW to have more towns though, maybe more in line with the number of settlements as, say, Morrowind. The game seems to be 5x the size of Skyrim, so it easily has room to do so…

And obviously, Hyrule Town might not exist - it probably would have been in the Sacred Valley, and is likely now destroyed…