Breath of the Wild Preview Combat Critique

You said Breath of the Wild lives or dies on its combat. What specifically did you not like about the attack animations or enemy designs?

I guess I get to cite my own highlight video.

The bokoblins look surprised when you get near to them, they don’t really go on guard or try to avoid you. They get preoccupied with other actions even when you’re near them, like picking up missing weapons. They attack extremely slowly while you attack really quickly and they don’t work together to attack you, they only attack one at a time and almost never try to interrupt your attacks. They have no super armor to go through your attacks. Individual enemies are nigh helpless.

Also the arcs of some of the attacks just look kind of strange to me. Like he’s not extending his body as much as he could be, or he’s not swinging directly in front of him.

In combat it’s really easy to lock the bokoblins down with simple melee attacks and they’re not going to do a lot to stop you, unlike a dark souls enemy, unlike a DMC enemy, unlike most other action game enemies.

Again, Link doesn’t have an amazing move variety. He has standard attacks, which unlike Dark Souls standard attacks, are so fast they aren’t a significant risk. And unlike classic zelda, enemies can’t damage you on contact (except a few), instead needing to do a long windup, and unlike DMC, they don’t coordinate in groups to try to hit your flank while you’re attacking one enemy, so you need to switch focus frequently. And unlike God Hand or Bayonetta, enemies can’t act out of hitstun. They don’t have any super armor. You have massive hitstun on enemies and low pushback, except on the finishers of moves (which likely means you can do the classic rekka delay reset to infinite enemies like it’s Metal Gear Solid). Even the slowest weapon in the current demo, the axe, is faster to start up than a bokoblin’s attack (you can see this at 18:43). Apart from the standard attacks, you have jump attacks and the flurry rush. Flurry rush is witchtime style free punishment on a tight dodge, low depth. Jump attacks have splash damage now, so they might serve slightly different function than just being stronger slower attacks. I guess you have bows, but those might end up just being cheese fodder like dark souls spells. Enemies don’t have a significant long range threat like say Nier enemies do to keep ranged weapons interesting.

Dark Souls gets away with a small number of moves by making the whole combat system work on only 1-2 moves that do a lot and 2-3 defensive options that have tradeoffs. Dark Souls would work with just the light attack, and dodge + walking around attacks.

Ys and Classic Zelda get similarly large mileage off of a limited number of attacks. They also have contact damage enemies, or close to contact damage enemies (enemies that can initiate melee attacks from a long distance away). These enemies also either ignore hitstun, or in Ys’s case, combo length is limited and there’s low pushback, so they retaliate quickly. It’s about movement & attacks of opportunity there.

3d Zelda doesn’t have enemy design that takes advantage of any of these things and the enemies shown in the demo don’t look any better than older 3d zelda enemies. The fast attack speed and high hitstun limits them a lot design-wise though.

There might be enemies they haven’t shown yet that are better, and they did show off new enemy types in the most recent gameplay trailer for the video game awards, and those aren’t really impressive either, but they’re showing new attack types, like an AOE around one of them, and a giant enemy that has limited super armor (but still kinda lame attack patterns).

I want to feel hope for this game, because they’re demonstrating all these interesting emergent interactions between various elements, which is cool as hell, but combat is still the primary challenge, and if it doesn’t work, then this stuff can’t tie interestingly into it.

I mean, they’re also finally letting enemies do more than 2 hearts of damage. That’s a big step up for them.

I’m divided right now. If what they’ve shown so far is all they’ve got, then it’s doomed, but they still have a chance to surprise.

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