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Breath of the Wild's New DLC Is More of the Zelda That's Harder To Love; Plus Okja's Child-Like Joy

UNPREDICTABLE | Caty ponders Breath of the Wild's new DLC and watches Okja.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

Unpredictable is a column from Caty McCarthy about recent games and other happenings bustling in the world of media. This week features the game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and film Okja. A word of warning: this story contains sometimes-only-vague SPOILERS for the main quests and certain moments of Breath of the Wild.

When The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released to widespread acclaim, boasts of "this is the greatest game ever made" flooded it. People loved it. They wanted to name their firstborn kids Link and Zelda after it. They claimed that this game, yes this game, would be used as a blueprint for years to come, as Shadow of Mordor once had claims regarding its nemesis system. And then critic Jim Sterling reviewed it, giving the still-positive score of 7/10, and fans were angry about the less-than-perfect score.

In the weeks after release, when I myself got a chance to play through the adventure game, I found myself agreeing with Sterling (even if I felt a tiny smidge more positive). Breath of the Wild is a game with an incredible sense of exploration—exploration that sets it far above most open world games. But it's also missing so much.

Every enemy is a familiar variant, and hardly breaks away from them. It's missing varied dungeons, something that I've come to love from Zelda games over the years. In Breath of the Wild, bosses share the same skin both between the confines of larger dungeons and out in the wild, and the dungeons themselves all wield the same logic (move the structure by using the map!). The game was missing memorable characters. There was no Tingle equivalent here. No Midna. Hardly a Zelda, even. The first two only come in the masks that you get in its new DLC.

That says a lot. Breath of the Wild is only concerned in characters when they're callbacks to the old Zelda, the ones with more structured experiences. The gorons you meet remind you only of the more colorful gorons in every other game. When you meet the Zoras, you wish you had more time to get to know them. Breath of the Wild is a game of brevity through and through, it never lingers. Its shrines hardly last longer than a few minutes (minus a select few), and its main quests end usually in under an hour. The longest main mission is the one that has you traipsing to the Gerudo Desert, then outwards to a hideout, and back again.

The Gerudo Desert section, despite its own problems, felt the most like a Zelda game of the entirety of Breath of the Wild. There was an arc to this particular dungeon, and memorable characters you met along the way. The rest were over shortly after they had just began, and mostly left you alone at the core of it. By its end, I wished the rest of the game's main quests were like the Gerudos'.

That's not to say Breath of the Wild doesn't have amazing moments. Its moments just happen outside of the main story. My favorite moment in the game was climbing atop Mount Lanayru after someone in a nearby village told Link of its mysteries. I clambered up the snowy mountain to find an enormous dragon. Poisoned with black and red ooze, left only for me to glide after and cure it. The dragon was thankful for me. It was a magical moment, in a game of truly wondrous exploration. Alas, it left me wishing for more moments like it.

Breath of the Wild's first DLC, The Master Trials, seems to only exemplify these qualms I had with the game. It's the DLC only for the most hardcore of players, the ones who enjoy the challenge and couldn't care less of the actual Zelda-ness of the game. It features nostalgia quirks: a literal Majora's Mask, a full-body Tingle suit that scares passersby for unknown reasons. They're all callbacks, not canon to Breath of the Wild's universe.

I'm curious about Breath of the Wild's next DLC, the story-driven The Champions' Ballad. I wonder if it will deliver the story I craved in Breath of the Wild, even after I disappointingly chased after all the Memories and felt unfulfilled. I wonder if this expansion will bring players a new area—something that would be incredibly exciting, as exploring unknown spaces and stumbling upon new places is no doubt Breath of the Wild's strong suit.

Alas, The Master Trials are very much not for me. Nor for most players, I imagine. Of most of the people I know personally who were playing Breath of the Wild, so few actually finished the game. Instead they happened upon remarkable moments, we swapped stories of our respective unique adventures, and few cared to even see the story through. The players that craved the challenge will find lots to enjoy in its DLC, but for everyone else, we're left starving for something else.

Thinking about it, I guess that's why I've always played Zelda. Not for the story, but for the sense of adventure it had. The memories I've had with Zelda have never been directly tethered to the story itself, but the bosses and dungeons I faced with Link along the way. Breath of the Wild swapped that usual type of adventure (of the epic proportions variety) for a wholly different, quieter adventure. And it's still a great game. (And as many have argue, one of the new "greats.") But I wonder if the upcoming DLC beyond The Master Trials will tempt me and others to return to Hyrule, or if this is a story that I just have to close the book on for good. Hopefully for the next Zelda game, we can get a little bit of both brands of adventuring.

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Last week I watched filmmaker Bong Joon-ho's latest film Okja, which is streaming now on Netflix. The film follows a young Korean girl and her friendship with a giant "superpig," which looks more like a hippopotamus than a pig. Unlike Hippopotamuses, which kill thousands of people every year, the superpig is sweet and gentle. It made me want a pet superpig.

The superpig is part of a bullshit ploy of ethical capitalism, a ten-year plan by a corporation to breed a new kind of experimental beast, one that can be slaughtered and consumed now that the world is allegedly running out of animals to eat. Essentially, the world is farming the world dry of animals, so the United States decided to make a new animal to help out the shortage.

It's a cruel notion. The movie sees the young girl travelling literally across the world to save her superpig while getting tethered to an eco-terrorist organization somewhere along the way. But what I loved most about the movie wasn't its heartfelt tale that would make anyone consider vegetarianism, it was the breezy kid-like pacing of the movie. Like an old school Spielberg film; the type that takes its kid characters seriously.

Kids movies exist in a world of their own. Their action trots along at a fast pace, as to keep a young one's attention. Its story is often simple, but not too simple. In some of the kids movies I've loved most in recent years, they're easily relegated to a single sentence. "A girl befriends a demigod and together they save her island." "A boy goes on a journey to destroy the evil that has consumed his grandfather." In Okja, the story is just as simple: a girl tries to save her best friend, a big ol' pig, and will do so at any cost. It just so happens there's a few swear words and adult moments sprinkled in-between.

That innocent perspective and liveliness is what makes Okja so special, and my favorite movie of the year so far. It's tonally weird, mixed between humor and earnest drama, similar to the messy depiction of class disparities in Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer. Okja's not without flaws—it falls apart a little bit in the middle—but its opening and final third are so excellent that it's easy to forgive. While Ahn Seo-hyun, Steven Yeun, and Paul Dano are the movie's clearest highlights, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his career. Or earns the Razzie of his career, depending on how you look at it.

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Comments 21

  • Avatar for TrustyPanda #1 TrustyPanda 17 days ago
    I agree with you about Breath of the Wild. I beat it this week (late to the party) and as much as I enjoyed it, it's far from my favourite Zelda game. Like you, I think it was the total lack of memorable dungeons that let me down the most, though I don't think Zelda have to have dungeons to be great. Twilight Princess, which I still consider to be the most soulless game in series, had dungeons, yet I'm hard pressed to remember even one of them. Quality dungeons matter the most.

    Breath of the Wild is a great game, it's just not a "10/10", "Masterpiece", "Greatest Zelda ever", that so many media outlets labeled it. I mean it's all subjective, of course, but the race to gush all over Breath of the Wild was strange to me.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #2 VotesForCows 17 days ago
    I must check out Okja - you seem to have good taste in movies! It can't match Moana though, surely.
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  • Avatar for PsychicPumpkin #3 PsychicPumpkin 17 days ago
    I've been frustrating myself trying to get through the trials. Having a wife and three young children makes it difficult to focus on the trials to build up a good strategy.
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  • Avatar for docexe #4 docexe 17 days ago
    Interesting perspective. I disagree on the part about Breath of the Wild lacking memorable characters. I mean, what about the four champions (Mipha, Urbosa, Revali and Daruk), Prince Sidon, Kass, Hestu, Riju, Teba, Purah and Robbie? For not talking about old fixtures of the series like Beedle and Zelda herself. I also disagree on the main quests being underwhelming, as frankly, the only one that I found too short was the one related to the Rito village.

    I do agree that the game needed more enemy variety and on the lack of traditional distinctive dungeons. I liked the Shrines challenges on the whole and found the Divine Beasts cool, but they are certainly not as memorable as some of the best dungeons in the series (dungeons like the Skull Woods, Eagle Tower, the Forest Temple, the Stone Tower Temple, the Snowpeak Ruins, the Ancient Cistern, etc.). The fact that they all use the same aesthetic certainly doesn’t help. In that sense, I do hope that a potential sequel manages to reintroduce that kind of grand thematic dungeons into the Open World design of BotW.

    Still, while I do think that the game received too many platitudes from reviewers for its own good (“best game of all time!”, not again! *facepalm* -_-), I do think it’s not only among the best Zelda games (it’s the one that finally tied with A Link to the Past in my personal ranking), but plainly speaking, among the best Open World games I have played.

    I also welcome the Master Trials pack. While the game is definitely more challenging than prior 3D Zelda games, it’s still far from the brutality of the old 8-bit/16-bit renditions of the series, so the added difficulty is appreciated.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #5 Kuni-Nino 17 days ago
    And the Zelda cycle begins anew. Skyward Sword was really too good for this world.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #6 Roto13 17 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino Every single time!
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #7 NiceGuyNeon 17 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino Totally.

    Breath of the Wild is the greatest 3D game I have ever played. That might not be the case for everyone, but it is for me. Maybe for others that's Dark Souls, Halo, Super Mario something, or Shadow of the Colossus. Whatever.

    Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess are home to the best dungeons the series has seen and I argued for Twilight Princess having the best level design of the series for about 10 years. I'd say Breath of the Wild has the best level design now because the entire game is a giant playground built around maximizing enjoyment and letting you play how you want to play, and STILL makes all of the shrines feel like standout moments to conquer. Whether that's an emphasis on combat, exploration, puzzles, narrative, or the numerous side activities available to you from side quests to cooking to treasure hunting to upgrading gear.

    I can't think of an open world game that exemplifies that sort of design, of true openness without constraining you to a set path, or without breaking down in a mess of glitches, or without some point where it says "and we're at the point of no return, everything is cut off for you." In a way, because EVERYTHING is optional to you, it becomes less of a checklist and more about how you choose to spend your time in the world, and that's such a big part of what makes it a standout game in my opinion.

    Breath of the Wild is the greatest 3D game I have ever played and that's with an understanding that it can be better. Not in terms of overall vision, but I can already see the sequel with towering dungeons that can be seen from all corners of Hyrule, just like that rocking castle in Breath of the Wild!Edited 3 weeks ago by NiceGuyNeon
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  • Avatar for franciscovillarrealh #8 franciscovillarrealh 16 days ago
    "Hardly a Zelda" is unfair when Breath of the Wild has the best Zelda since Tetra.

    "The gorons you meet remind you only of the more colorful gorons in every other game."
    You mean the "more colorful" gorons who all look the same, save for the handful of important ones?

    "When you meet the Zoras, you wish you had more time to get to know them."
    The Zora portion of the main quest is pretty much the most developped one.

    I'll cop to the limited monster palette and the shrines looking very similar (especially with how many Tests of Strength there are) but its NPCs are consistently great. Sure, there isn't anyone of Midna's tier, but the last time they tried to replicate Midna, we got Fi. I'm fine with their aiming their sights a little lower.
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  • Avatar for jholden3249 #9 jholden3249 16 days ago
    In hindsight, Zelda is not a perfect game. It needed stronger story and a few more elaborate dungeons. If it had that, it would have been the greatest video game of all time.

    Notwithstanding, I still say it's a 10/10 all day. No game is perfect, but even despite its shortcomings it's still one of the best video games I've ever played. And no game has made me feel the way Zelda made me feel (for the first 100-150 hrs... after that it started to fade) since the days of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Those were among the best 150 hrs I've spent in a video game. And I'm still playing. Up to 250 hrs now, and I LOVE the master trials.
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  • Avatar for dnard410 #10 dnard410 16 days ago
    @jholden3249, I'm actually curious what Breath of the Wild made you feel that reminded you of Metroid Prime 2. I've been on the fence about trying Breath of the Wild, partly because it seemed overhyped, but Prime 1 is one of my favorite games ever.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #11 nadiaoxford 16 days ago
    "Lacking memorable characters?" Whoof. Yeah, nope.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #12 NiceGuyNeon 16 days ago
    COMPLETE SPOILERS FOR EVERYONE'S FAVORITE WAIFU, ZELDA
    @franciscovillarrealh Yes. The best Zelda since Tetra, and arguably better. Zelda is front and center in nearly every conversation and while you can't interact with her directly as an NPC, her impact on the game's events is greater than any previous Zelda with the possible exception of Skyward Sword.

    In Breath of the Wild she faces her inner turmoil and societal expectations/lineage/destiny, averts complete tragedy, and holds off the Calamity in solitude for 100 years of her own choosing and sets in motion Link's quest by allowing the sword not to be lost, preventing the hero from being lost completely, and containing Calamity Ganon within the castle in order to keep the world from being destroyed entirely.

    She is an excellent Zelda.
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  • Avatar for Mr.Spo #13 Mr.Spo 16 days ago
    Speaking as someone who loves Zelda, I'd have to disagree with many of your complaints about Breath of the Wild. I'd agree that more enemy variety would have been welcome, and a couple more 'traditional' dungeon type spaces would be great. Even moreso, a wider variety of overworld bosses would have been even better. One-off overworld bosses, rather than repeated variants, would be amazing. While there might not be traditional dungeons, there's more puzzle-solving than any other Zelda game, because the designers don't hide challenges and puzzles purely within the constraints of dungeons, and they don't hide them purely within shrines, either. And, on top of that, Hyrule Castle - the closest area to a traditional dungeon - is utterly brilliant. Then there's Eventide Island, the actual Labyrinths, the forest trials, the Shrine of Wisdom and the Typhlo Ruins. In the next Zelda game I wouldn't hide orbs (or their equivalent) in 120 shrines, but have shrine-like areas built into the overworld more elaborately, like the Typhlo Ruins etc.

    That being said, I completely disagree on pretty much every other point. The characters are memorable; not just the champions, but supporting characters like Robbie, Paya, Hestu, and, best of all, Prince Sidon and Kass. Kass might be my favourite ever Zelda NPC. The notion that Breath of the Wild plays on nostalgia more strongly than previous games is something that really rings false to me, especially when you consider (brilliant) entries in the series like Ocarina and Twilight Princess, the former of which retreads aspects of A Link to the Past, and the latter of which apes Ocarina for its first half. Which Gerudo, Goron and Zora characters are as fleshed out as Daruk, Mipha, Sidon, Urbosa, and Riju? Which previous Zelda has single-handedly contained Ganon in Hyrule Castle for a century, or resented her duties? There's more to story and narrative than what's told in the cut-scenes, too, and I wonder if you missed some of the more subtle, but rewarding world-building.

    Breath of the Wild steps away from so much that the series has done before, and it even dilutes nostalgia by having this version of Hyrule so far removed - thousands of years removed - from previous games. Zelda's lullaby is a subtle string melody that might appear when you're travelling the overworld, and not the major harp/ocarina arrangement we've heard in key story scenes for the last 25 years, for example. There are echoes of the rest of the series, of course. There always will be because the Zelda games are archetypal variations on a theme, the Hero, the Princess, and Evil. Breath of the Wild and Skyward Sword - at opposite extremes - prove that. This is a myth that's either re-told or re-performed through the ages, and in Wild, many people have forgotten the most basic elements of that saga. The Zora have forgotten it was Ganondorf that Ruto sealed, and the Gerudo might know one story tells Ganon took the form of a Gerudo, but they don't know that Ganon originally was a Gerudo. I agree it's not perfect, but to me it is one of the all-time greats.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #14 The-Challenger 16 days ago
    I prefer the angular Zora's to these shark like things we received. And I still miss the dungeons, I would be lying if I said I didn't
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  • Avatar for manoffeeling #15 manoffeeling 16 days ago
    Deleted 3 weeks ago by manoffeeling
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  • Avatar for Johnny-Law #16 Johnny-Law 16 days ago
    Lol of course the girl who gave Horizon a 5 also needs to drag Zelda, haha of course...
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  • Avatar for catymcc #17 catymcc 16 days ago
    @Johnny-Law Did you miss the part where I said Breath of the Wild is still a great game? I didn't "drag" it. It's still one of my favorite games of the year, just not the top and I wasn't as in love with it as some others because of the reasons I stated above. It's fair to be critical of games you still enjoy.

    And boy, am I still frustrated that people like to bring up that totally fair review I once did that mirrored the opinions of a lot of other critics in this space (though, of course, those were unscored, so I guess no one saw that!) I maintain that Horizon was an underwhelming, so-so game, which I never stated I hated in the context of that review. I think a lot of people see any review that's under a 3/5 as a "wow they hated the game," when in reality a 2.5 is just "fine, nothing special, not something I'd ever play again." I've always been for using the full review scale when reviewing a game, like what film critics do, which other outlets don't adhere to unfortunately. I just found HZD unimpressive outside of its visuals, along with unimaginative gameplay, where once you hit a certain point ten hours in and have the game's most powerful weapons, there's no sense of progression or creativity in your approaches to battles anymore for the rest of the game. I also had serious problems with the game's story and characters, where they felt forgettable and underdeveloped. And I'm not alone in not loving that game at all! To each their own obviously. That's why criticism is here in the world—because everyone's different, and have their own metrics for success.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #18 Roto13 16 days ago
    @franciscovillarrealh I would love to know which Zelda game supposedly has more interaction with the Zoras than Breath of the Wild, because I have no idea.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #19 Kuni-Nino 16 days ago
    Since I just recently saw Okja, I have to say, the movie isn't very good. Maybe it's because I've been watching Bong's movies for awhile but I don't feel like Okja is a good example of the kind of interesting inventive filmmaking he's capable of. Okja follows up on Snowpiercer -- a movie that concerned itself mostly with ideas than characters -- and runs amok with satire and violence while trying to hide behind what's basically a cute pet story.

    Bong's movies have always blended in commentary whether it's about disenfranchised youth in Barking Dogs Never Bite or the ineptitude of townie law enforcement in Memories of Murder, but Okja is the first time I felt he didn't couldnt bring it all together to form something more than a propaganda piece. The movies politics is front and center at the expense of characters and meaningful plotting. At least with the Host, you still had what was basically a dysfunctional family coming together to help one another. With Snowpiercer and Okja, it seems Bong cares more about his ideas and spectacle rather than the story. Okja spends the first fifteen minutes trying to endear you to the monster, and then the next 90 minutes reminding you that humanity is fucked up. Is it E.T. or is it a PETA commercial? It's definitely a strange concoction after it's all said and done.

    Okja isn't a failure by any means but Bong has done so much better. I think it's the Westernization that is influencing his work too much. Okja is like 6 or a 7 on my 10 point scale.

    P.S. Caty, you'll never live the Horizon review down. To some crazy people you'll always be Public Enemy #1. It's best to let it go. Going back to talk about Horizon and its flaws isn't worth anyone's time.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #20 DrCorndog 16 days ago
    I will agree with the complaints about the story and (to an extent) the characters. But the many things BotW does well, it does extremely well. That means a lot more to me than whether it meets every criteria on some checklist.

    BotW has already earned its place in my personal Top Ten Games list. For a bit of perspective, the next most recent game on that list came out in 2005.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #21 yuberus 16 days ago
    Heh, I actually appreciated the lesser focus on the dungeons in this one. They've always been my least favorite part of Zelda games - I'm a much bigger fan of just exploring the world! Which isn't to say I dislike the dungeons outright or don't think Breath of the Wild could have made its better, bu I respect that they wanted to emphasize aspects they haven't touched since the 80s. It felt more like a sequel to the first two Zelda games than to all the ones since then, to me.
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  • Avatar for mattb0527 #22 mattb0527 16 days ago
    @catymcc dude I had not read that review or the shitstorm of 378 comments that followed...what a load of hot garbage. Seemed like a fair review to me.
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