What Defines Open World in The Legend of Zelda for Wii U?
Nintendo's next installment of The Legend of Zelda on Wii U has been hailed as an open world game. However, it feels like we have taken what the developers said and construed it to what we believe the term means.
The Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma described the gameplay during Nintendo's E3 broadcast in 2014 (video above). He kept referring to a vast world that players can explore, enhancing the puzzle aspect of the game.
However, Aonuma clarified in an interview with Gamereactor Magazine that the Zelda franchise has always been open world. The difference is the Wii U has given the ability for players to explore everything "seamlessly." The definition of seamless is "moving from one thing to another easily and without any interruptions or problems."
What Aonuma meant by "vast world"
Really look at what Aonuma is saying in the video. He says the mountains are accessible from where Link was at on his horse. For the first time in a Zelda game, it sounds like players can travel from one place to the other without having to enter areas at a certain place.
In previous iterations, players had to go to a specific place in the overworld to enter places like Kakariko Village, Death Mountain, etc. Now, it looks like players can just roll on and enter destinations like these in any way possible. Perhaps certain aspects of the world will become accessible as players go through the game.
The confusion comes from linking The Legend of Zelda to the traditional open world definition. When we say "open world," we think games like Grand Theft Auto or The Elder Scrolls. Some people were immediately linking a traditional Zelda game with an environment similar to Skyrim.
Image credit: mrzdoinferno
Zelda will never become an open world game to that extent. Link isn't going to start picking locks, stealing horses, or try to juggle relationships with certain Hylians. That might be a dream come true for adult Zelda players, but Nintendo will never turn this franchise into The Witcher.
Open world expectations
How a player progresses through the game could be different than traditional Zelda games. Shigeru Miyamoto, who also took offense to the "open world" term after the E3 video last July, doesn't want to make The Legend of Zelda linear. Instead, all players could have a different experience based on where they choose to explore.
"In the traditional Legend of Zelda series, the player would play one dungeon at a time. For example, if there are eight dungeons, at the fourth dungeon, some players may think, ‘I’m already halfway through the game,’ while other players may think, ‘I still have half of the game to play.’"
The aspect of exploring the environment could also enter into dungeons. Characters generally guided Link on where to go in the past, but maybe players will have to explore the world themselves. If they enter a dungeon under-equipped or not powerful enough, they'll either have to find a different way to approach it or retreat.
Don't expect anything brutal. Nintendo won't create a game too overwhelming for a younger audience, but they don't mind throwing some challenge in there.
Players counting down to the next installment shouldn't expect The Elder Scrolls: Zelda, but we could have an environment that took our breath away like Ocarina of Time did on N64 and it will be more accessible than ever before. That alone should make us giddy for the upcoming release.