When I binge watch a few episodes of Steven Universe, I always attempt to remember what I just watched. I try to remember specific plot events, funny quips, little memorable animation touches, references, anything. I try to search for specifics as to why I kept watching. But, all of that analysis is pointless, because I already know why I, and why I’m sure many people, love Steven Universe.

It’s Atmosphere.

This image is a still of the image that shows up in the end credits of every episode, and it is gorgeous. You have a comforting atmosphere from seeing Steven’s laundry, and the pastel colours are incredibly easy on the eyes. The sky isn’t incredibly detailed, but that just makes it easier on the eyes. Everything is able to be processed almost immediately. It keeps the colours simple as well, and simplicity leads to memorability.

Beach City’s Simple Beauty

Simple character and environment designs are all over Steven Universe. The word “simple” probably has a negative connotation, but I mean it in a good way. Steven Universe evokes a nostalgic feeling with its animation and character design but utilizes modern animation techniques to keep everything flowing.

The setting of Beach City also connotes nostalgia and comfort. A quiet, pastoral beach town with relatable and lovable characters. It is the idyllic still-life town. Things happen, but only if you seek them out. Other than that, it is quite quiet, and people are honest and to their devices.

 

Of course, Beach City isn’t the only setting in Steven Universe. The show has excellent world-building, and every subsequent episode gives you a tiny snapshot of the rest of the locations the characters visit. Each new location is teased at, slowly revealed, and creeps in, which is similar to the show’s pacing and atmosphere. Nothing comes at the viewer too shockingly. Of course, there are big plot twists throughout the show, but they are usually foreshadowed.

When terrible things happen to Beach City, they are usually swift, and come to a nice resolution. Beach City’s idyllic setting falls into the generic cartoon stereotype of always being repaired at the start of the next episode. Which, although it sounds like a cheap cop-out to reduce drama, it contributes to the warming, escapist atmosphere of the show.

Internet References Done Right

When a show uses references or memes, they are walking a very dangerous tight-rope. At their worst, they can take the viewer out of the experience by making them facepalm, or they feel insulted. I used to think there was nothing to references in a show or a game. I never felt that references were anything more than an Easter Egg for astute viewers, or justification for a show’s quality. But I propose that Steven Universe uses references to other media to enhance its welcoming atmosphere. Steven Universe uses video game, anime, and movie references to bolster its feeling on the viewer.

I don’t exactly know how to equate the atmosphere of Steven Universe to anything else, but let me try. Steven Universe feels like going on a good, Tumblr blog when you’re an impressionable teenager. Steven Universe feels like reading a really good book that speaks to you when you’re in a very vulnerable time. Steven Universe feels like re-discovering something that ignites a previous passion. It provides this sense of comfort and nostalgia with its references. It knows it is a popular show on the internet, and it creates character and references that appeal to those already entranced within pop culture.

I wonder who these 3 characters are based on

References in Steven Universe exist to make it feel like a good, engrossing internet video. It indulges itself in internet culture, but it never lets it overtake the narrative. Powerpuff Girls 2016 is all memes and internet references, and it is garbage. Steven Universe still anchors itself in good characters and a strong story, and references are supplemental material. References are not used as a cheap device to get an “XD SO RANDUM” laugh. Steven Universe uses references incredibly well to define its characters and establish its atmosphere.

Relatable Rocks

Steven Universe is driven by its character stories. The over-arching plot is pretty interesting, and it’s shrouded in enough mystery to keep the viewer watching. But, despite the show’s characters being 5000-year-old aliens, they are all grounded in relatable human drama. I also applaud the creators for not making its characters stereotypes. They all act like human beings with goals, motives, desires, pasts, and flaws. That’s the most important thing to a character: they’re flaws. I was watching Beauty and the Beast recently, and while Belle is really cool and super awesome, she isn’t very interesting. She doesn’t really have many issues, and everybody seems to like her.

However, with a character from Steven Universe like Amethyst, there is a lot of interesting parts to her. I think it’s time for:

CHARACTER ANALYSIS SECTION

Amethyst, and her struggles and development.

On the surface, Amythest is a confident girl who’s always joking and never takes things incredibly seriously. She initially fills the archetype of the character who never takes anything seriously. But, her confidence and bravado is a mask. Underneath, she is a deeply flawed person with an inferiority complex.

Amethyst was created through a gem creation process on Earth. This place was called the Kindergarten. Within the Kindergarten, there are these machines called injectors, which develop and process gems over a long period of time. Amethyst was part of a series of Amethyst’s that were meant to be mass-produced for war. However, there was a flaw with her gem. Amethyst’s gem was defective, and because of this, she is half the height of every other Amethyst model. Furthermore, Amethyst was born on Earth, while every other main character was born on the Gem Homeworld. Amethyst never knew the place she was meant to be born in. Because of this, she feels distant from the other gems in her vicinity.

Her purpose was to be a weapon, but now she is a force for good. She is always battling with her identity, torn between two sides. One that desires to save the Earth, and one that needs to destroy it. She is also dealing with the baggage that she is nothing special and that she is a defect of a mass production project. Because of this, she feels that she isn’t special, and she feels disconnected from everybody.

Her story of inadequacy stretches over the entire show, but what separates Steven Universe from a lot of cartoons that attempt drama, is that it wraps its story arcs up. Amethyst fighting Jasper, and learning the sense of unity she feels with her friends is closure to her. In that, those who work alone are doomed to be weak, because they have nobody to aid them.

Amethyst Confronting Jasper

A big theme in this show is unity and companionship, which contributes to the atmosphere the show creators strive for. It feels like these rocks are friends and companions, and that they undergo relatable drama. They have disagreements, they have fights, but they always have a commitment to each other. And love isn’t a feeling, it’s a commitment.

The interesting thing is Amethyst isn’t even my favourite character in the show. I can write about any of the characters extensively because each episode that features them progresses their personality and character even further.

The Pacing

I have heard people criticize Steven Universe for not being very story focused for the first 20 episodes or so. To that extent, I agree somewhat. While the first 20 episodes are mostly episodic, they also foreshadow later events and allow a glimpse into the daily lives of its characters. For me, I don’t mind when there isn’t intense story happening in Steven Universe. If the show gives me a relatable world, I don’t mind just relaxing there for a bit. Steven Universe makes me happy, and it doesn’t need a dramatic story all the time.

End-o Friend-o

Steven Universe is a fantastic, comforting show. Every time I watch it, I become immersed within its world of relatable characters and drama, and its mellow atmosphere. I can ignore its weird pacing because I enjoy seeing everything develop. Each episode feels like a progression of this town and further development of its characters.

I LOVE THIS SHOW.

 

MY CROPS WON’T GROW!!!

Capitalists hate the winter time. They hate it because they can’t make as many agricultural profits. This is because, like in real life, you are severely limited in your crop production during the Winter in Stardew Valley. The lack of profits to be earned from crops may be incredibly daunting, but Winter serves as down time. Perhaps Spring-Fall was incredibly breakneck and stressful for you in Stardew Valley? Perhaps there are a lot of things you were unable to complete or do because you were stressed by the ever-looming passage of time. I certainly was, and with this post, I will help guide you through Winter in Stardew Valley, and show you how it can be fun and productive.

Think of the Future

If crops are truly on your mind, then rearrange your farm. You should have a high enough farming level to craft a quality sprinkler. I highly recommend crafting as many of these as you can during Winter. In year 1 of Stardew Valley, there were likely many things you were unable to complete, because your schedule was so packed. You were also likely to have a farm that was a complete mess because you were pressured to make some money in the first few impoverished days in Stardew Valley. Therefore, it is imperative to make a mental map of your farm layout for Spring of Year 2.

A person with a farm like this:

didn’t get this immediately. Clearing your farm out in Year 1, and establishing a massive plot like this is nearly impossible. So don’t be discouraged if your farm isn’t as nearly as profitable as you would like to be! Winter is a time to evaluate your plot, whether you would like to grow grass for your animals, where you would place your sprinklers and your crops, and where you would like trees and decorations. Would you like a farm that’s decorative and pretty? Or would you prefer a farm that maximizes profits? You have options.

What I have done so far, is mine for the materials needed for quality sprinklers, and lay them out on my farm prematurely. This means that when Spring Day 1 rolls around, you can buy as many seeds as you need, and not have to worry about taking the entire day up watering. They will all water themselves automatically, and you can focus on other tasks like fishing, mining, or making new friends!

Save Every Last Dime

So now you know to lay your farm out for a massive Spring harvest. Only, there’s a slight problem: you need money to buy seeds and resources. There is no point to planning your farm if you cannot enact that plan. Therefore, do whatever you can to scrounge up as much Winter money as you can. Forage for Winter crops and sell those. Forage for Winter Crops and bring them to the community center to get Winter Seeds and sell those. You will need that cash to afford the seeds in Spring. Don’t be afraid to sell the not-so-fancy gems you find in the mine. Hold onto the diamonds and emeralds because those make fantastic gifts, but don’t hesitate to sell Jade, Amethyst, or Topaz.

Furthermore, if you missed out on planting trees and the Community Center is mocking you for it, then now is the time to save for them. They take a very long time to grow, so to get them ready on the first day of Spring would make a monumental difference for your profits. Do not go overboard with multiple trees, however. One of each should be fine. Perhaps you have even designated a place on your farm for trees to grow.

It is tempting to buy more animals to generate a profit off of them, but unless you are ready for a long-term investment, I would say hold off until massive profits in Spring. If you already have a few animals, then I believe you should coast on that amount for a while. Because you have to buy a heater, which takes 2000g for the Winter time, buying expensive animals could be costly for the short-term Winter saving plan. Also, I would say hold off on upgrading your Barn and Coop. While they are being upgraded, you can still access your animals, so you don’t have to wait for a specific time to do that.

Barns and Nobles

Homies and Recreation

The Community Center is an integral piece of Stardew Valley that should not be ignored. Not just because completing bundles gets you awesome rewards, but because fully completing the Community Center is how you complete the game’s main quest! Obviously, you can’t complete everything in a single year if you didn’t keep track of it (or use the Wiki). That’s why Winter is a time for you to plan and assess how to fill the center up quickly. Planning will take you 20 minutes, but it will honetly be a life-saver for you. Don’t do what I did, and sell all your pumpkins in Fall, forgetting that you need to give it for the Community Center, and wait three in-game seasons for my chance again.

Also, if you planted tons of seeds in Fall, you should have a decent amount of cash. Don’t be afraid to budget your earnings for gifts. Building relationships in Winter is a great activity, and it can spruce the otherwise dead season with more lively cutscenes and stories. Building friendships and seeing people’s stories are one of the most interesting aspects of Stardew Valley, and seeing their demeanor change from cold and abrasive to warm and welcome is so rewarding. At 0 hearts, Shane says “Do I know you? Leave.” At 5 hearts, he says “I’m surprised anybody wants to talk to me, I appreciate it.”

THE OFFICIAL STARDEW VALLEY CHECKLIST FOR ACTIVITIES:

  • Make friends
  • Prepare the farm with Sprinklers and designs
  • Go to the community center and plan what you need from Spring-Fall
  • Save dat cash
  • Never talk to Pierre, the scumbag.

 

Here, I present pieces of evidence that Breath of The Wild does not take place in Hyrule, but rather, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Evidence #1: The rain

It rains a lot in Zelda. Like, a lot.

Rain in Zelda.

Rain in Vancouver

It is definite proof.

Evidence #2: Maple…or Mable Ridge?!!?

There is a place called Mable Ridge in Breath of The Wild.

Here is Maple Ridge in British Columbia

The similarities are staggering.

Thus concludes my fan theory.

Don’t forget to rate, comment, and subscribe for more Minecraft Let’s Plays.

The issue of review scores for video games isn’t something that new. People’s obsession with a higher number to validate their opinion of a product is nothing new. Scores are not the bane of the reviewing industry. They work as good gauges of quantifying the quality of a product. If I glance at a game, and it has an 8/10 rating, then I know that is a good rating.

BUT Y’ALL GOT TO CALM DOWN ABOUT THESE THINGS MAN.

Let me take you all back to the past. This is a story older than time itself. It’s 2006. The period where nothing was happening other than the economic recession being put into place. Mid 2000s, a terrifying time where absolutely nothing happened. Time just stopped for 7 years. AVGN was in his prime, and YouTube was just being established. And there was a little game called Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. This game was a launch title for the Nintendo Wii and promised to be a system seller. It utilized new, motion control technology for swordplay, and it was a very well reviewed game. It currently sits at an astounding 95/100 average rating on Metacritic. But there was one reviewer, from Gamespot, who dared to challenge this regime. Jeff Gerstmann, who was a GameSpot employee at the time, DARED to give Twilight Princess an 8.8/10.

Now if you’re a regular person, you see this and go: “8.8? That’s like an A rating. That’s a great grade!”  To which I say, yes. Yes you are correct. But for the gaming community, this did not do. Jeff Gerstmann was lambasted by the gaming community for not having the audacity to provide it with the perfect rating.

The greatness that is the GameFAQs boards

 

Some highlights of these GameFAQs posts are: “EIGHT POINT ******** EIGHT?!?!?”, “lol!……8.8”, “JEFF IF YOU CAN SEE THESE POSTS YOU BETTER FIND A NEW JOB U FAT ASS”, and a petition, on a forum message board, for people to sign a petition to force employees to rerate the game. Because an online petition isn’t at all the prime example of being a slacktivist

I know that example looks fairly extreme and that the reaction for an 8.8 for Twilight Princess is an outlier. But, the sad thing, is that reaction isn’t an outlier. This happens A LOT. People give into the hype for a game when it comes out, and gosh darn it if those numbers aren’t as high as they want they are going to be furious! It is this childish inclination to have a game support one’s conception of it. If somebody dares to slander a game slightly that we love, then there is a knee-jerk reaction to hate on them. How can they not see the beauty of something that we love so much?!?!And therein lies the problem. Reviewers have opinions. People reviewing games of different genres will have biases. For example, I hate racing games. I don’t find cars fascinating, and the gameplay for games like Gran Turismo and Forza never appealed to me. I prefer arcade racing games like Mario Kart and F-Zero. Now imagine me, having to review Forza, play it for 30 hours, and write my opinion on everything in it. That review would be a mess.

I already have disdain for the genre, and what is likely a great game won’t click for me. Can I dock the score of the game overall because I didn’t enjoy it much? Would I give Forza 5 a 9/10 when I would also give an RPG like Tales of Xillia 2 a 9/10? Probably not. These two genres are completely different, and one of them does not tickle my fancy. A solution to this issue is to find a reviewer who either loves everything a company does or is a fan of the genre. But therein lies a problem as well. If a reviewer already has an attachment to a game, then they are likely to overlook its problems and write the game off as better than it is.

An alternative solution is to find a reviewer who is skeptical, who goes in looking for flaws, looking to see if the game holds up. Sometimes the game ends up being really good, and it ends up being a positive surprise for them. But a lot of the time, a similar issue crops up to the optimistic reviewer. There is going to be a negative bias towards a game, and that is also problematic because it can lead to a review score that might be lower than if another reviewer took on the same task.

This problem runs deeper than inherent biases as well, as events from the past can also influence the perception of a game. For example, if a reviewer had reverence for a Mario game as a child, their review would likely cut a newer Mario game some slack. They would be blinded by their love for the franchise. Yet another bias that an individual can’t just whisk away. These biases and favourites are within us as humans, and they cannot be controlled. We may claim they can be controlled, but they can still appear subconsciously. For example, in my review of Valhalla, I was likely praising the aesthetic of the game because I love a Cyberpunk setting and anime artwork. Maybe to another person, it looks stilted and bland.

It also doesn’t help that negative scores lead to scorn and hate for a website or an individual. People usually want to avoid the negative PR or the controversy for daring to speak their opinion. For example, The IGN review of Uncharted 4 gave the game a 9/10, and it has 11000 dislikes and 5700 likes. This is for a 9/10, which is a phenomenal score. And every single one of the top comments aren’t actually about the review. They are all talking about the score and referring to the bullet points at the end of an IGN video that tries to sum up the pros and cons of a game. Did these people even watch the 5-minute review? I can’t make that judgment because I don’t know them. However, some of these comments highlight my previous issues with review scores listed earlier. They point out that Advanced Warfare got a 9.1 out of 10, while Uncharted 4 got a 9 out of 10. Two different reviewers with two different expectations gave a different score to entirely different genres.

Some of these comments on the Uncharted 4 video include:

“fire. this. lady.”

“kill yourself this game is an 11/10”

“Don’t review a game ever again” (this has 866 upvotes)

“You guys have no patience to play more down to earth/grounded games. All you want are mindless set-pieces and high octane action.” (that is just a baseless assumption)

I could go on forever but you get the idea. People call for this girl to lose her job and her life because a number wasn’t right for them. A number that doesn’t at all affect their enjoyment of the product they are consuming. A number that is completely arbitrary, and means nothing other than our own human conception of it.

It also doesn’t help that game review scores have gradually been increasing in averages over time. If a game on Metacritic gets lower than 75/100, it gets stamped with the dreaded yellow colour. It is deemed a “mixed review game”…with a 7.5/10. A good rating. It feels like big reviewers that give a game with a lot of hype anything lower than an 8 are seen as idiots who cannot do their job properly. When, in reality, an 8/10 is a great rating for a game.

The dreaded yellow numbers

The problem with review scores is thus: They try to quantify a qualitative property. They attempt to put a number to an opinion. A number that is arbitrary. Multiple people have multiple perspectives on every game they play, and that is a problem. But review sites can’t do away with review scores. People love an easy number to judge something, I do the same. It’s a problem in the gaming industry that permeates and just can’t go away. Removing a score can cause people to not check out a website anymore. Some people don’t even read the review, and only glance at the number. Can a site that pays its employees afford to remove that and potentially reduce earnings? It’s hard, but, I think it’s important not to take review scores so seriously. Judge a game by actual criticism and the words of the reviewer. If you are honestly curious about a game, read opinions and see if it matches your preconceptions. Don’t feel ashamed to like a game that others don’t. You’re different than everybody, and trying to validate yourself by lumping your opinion with another’s isn’t necessary.

 

Initially I was tentative about buying a Nintendo Switch. The first year has a great lineup of games, but in this very first month of March, there isn’t much other than Zelda and an updated version of Binding of Isaac to tickle my fancy. But I caved into the purchase because I’m a huge Nintendo fan, and I saw the glowing reviews for Breath of The Wild and came to the conclusion that I would love it too. So I bought the Switch, traded in at EB Games for a copy of Breath of The Wild, booted up the Switch for a set up that didn’t last two hours like some other Nintendo console I know…

And experienced the best open world game I have ever played.

I mean it, Breath of the Wild is an absolutely incredible game, and my favourite open world game ever. I can safely say that only after 10 hours of play. I love this game so much. I haven’t played a game for 8 hours straight since I was a little child. It evoked feelings in me that I haven’t felt in so long. It’s incredible to see a game that not only lived up to the hype but exceeded it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to explain why Breath of The Wild is a fresh air for Zelda, and for the open-world genre as a whole.

Complete Freedom

The biggest appeal of any open-world game is their non-linearity and complete freedom. However, most open world games have worlds that end, or feel same-ey, or feel pretty generic. Breath of The Wild is a massive open-world game that has as little restrictions as possible. See a mountain? You can climb it. See a group of enemies? You have tons of options to deal with them. See a shrine? Go off the beaten path and go there. You aren’t gated in your progress whatsoever, and it is phenomenal. This is a stark contrast from Skyward Sword, which, although I do love the game, was a very linear experience. There’s nothing wrong with a linear game, it just takes away a bit of the adventure. Breath of The Wild instills a sense of wonder and discovery in Zelda that I haven’t felt since I was a child playing Wind Waker. Seriously, experiencing this game with no spoilers, no idea of the experience that you’re in for is the best way to play it. Every combat encounter, every mountain, every bit of terrain can be explored. And exploration is pretty much always worth it. There is always some material, some weapon, some item that you can use to better yourself. In Skyrim, you can’t climb every mountain. In The Witcher 3, there isn’t much exploration to the caves. Zelda has that. Zelda has that level of polish and sense of wonder. The signature Nintendo polish is present in Breath of the Wild and seeing constant new experiences, enemy camps, and side quests is an amazing, addictive feeling.

The sheer scale of BotW

Combat, too, has seen a massive revamp. Encounters are hard and require thought and preparation. That almost NEVER happens in a modern open world game. In Skyrim, run up and bash your enemies with a mace while healing in the other hand. Every encounter is solved from the first hour in. In Fallout, shoot them with a gun in the head. Works every time. In Zelda, the enemies hit hard and can take a hit. You need ACTUAL preparation in food for these encounters since health and defense upgrades are rare. I absolutely LOVE that the game respects you as a player to know whether to engage an enemy. It’s not like an open-world RPG where you just see the level, and you’re like “oh okay I won’t mess with those guys they’re 10 levels higher than me.” There are no levels to enemies, so you have to assess whether an encounter is worth it.

The combat goes even deeper. In any situation, there is always more than one way to go about it. If you see a massive monster, you can rush in with a two-handed club and bash them in, relying on your dodging to keep you alive. Or, you can freeze a big enemy with a freeze arrow, and render them immobile, making weaker enemies easier. Or, if you are at a point of elevation, you can roll a bomb down the cliff and blow it up near them. OR, you can pick them off from a distance with arrows, OR…you get the idea.

There are so many ways to accommodate any play style, but the game never feels stale or easy. I died, like, 20 times in my first 10 hours. That’s 4x as many times as I died in the entirety of Twilight Princess. This Zelda does absolutely no handholding for the player, and that’s phenomenal. But it never gets too frustrating. Deaths all feel fair, and dying doesn’t send you back too far. It sends you back a few minutes of progress, so it keeps you wanting to play more and think of new strategies to every combat encounter and that is just phenomenal. It feels like every piece of this massive world was handcrafted by Nintendo delicately, and that is an unbelievable sensation.

The Boring Stuff is Fun

I hate the towers and open-world aspects of Ubisoft games. I think towers are bland, cheap ways to scout out the area around for bland, checklist activities. It feels like busywork. Breath of The Wild, however, made me love these watch towers. How did it do that? Because it doesn’t just fill arbitrary objectives on the map. A watchtower in Breath of The Wild respects you. It doesn’t fill out your minimap with objectives. It DOES reveal your map, but it doesn’t show you where every little thing is. It lets you, the player, observe your surroundings and plot YOUR journey. It is the player’s journey to discover every shrine and area, and they are allowed to pin it for themselves. They can choose which area is important to look for. It also helps that there is no inventory limit on materials, so every journey means that you always make some progress. You always improve with more progress. both statistically and skill-wise.

I was skeptical of the shrines. I hate boring forgettable Skyrim and Witcher caves. Although Witcher 3 does this to a lesser extent, a lot of Bethesda caves, vaults, and innocuous locations are copy-pasted. Every single one of the 100+ shrines is different. They have a different challenge, whether it be a puzzle or a combat encounter. Furthermore, they’re short, which is brilliant. They never overstay their welcome, and it ends up being a tiny little piece of a traditional Zelda dungeon spread out across the land. People who love dungeons aren’t left out, and those who love to explore aren’t left out either because the shrines provide orbs that let you upgrade yourself. Exploration of innocuous locations is fun. I have NEVER seen an open world game do that for every single one of them. It is such a massive step up in quality and polish that it is mind-boggling.

Link diving into battle

Crafting isn’t just a bland, “hit-a-few-buttons” experience as well. It’s all relegated to cooking, and there are so many combos to cooking. You can experiment with stat boosting elixirs and filling meals. It’s astounding how much experimentation can be done.

Actual Charm

This isn’t a generic setting, where every NPC is a copy-paste, and people with the same voice actors aren’t seen talking to each other. There aren’t many towns, but that’s a good thing, because every character is unique, and has their own personality. They have their own goals and Zelda-esque charm to them, that they never lose their appeal.

Even the little things that Link does adds so much to the game. When he pats his stomach after eating a meal, it’s adorable. When a really strong hit slugs Link and sends him flying, he doesn’t immediately get up. He lays on the ground for a couple seconds, before begrudgingly rising, like he’s actually hurt. Link’s stumbles when he climbs, and his exasperation when he is out of stamina are small details that mean so much.

What Does BOTW do Differently?

Breath of The Wild is one of the most player-driven experiences I have seen for a game. In other open world games, your personal journey still feels like it is contained by a set of quests and rules. The character you create and the journey you encounter is free but limited. In Breath of The Wild, there is no character customization. You play as Link, and you do have a set goal: beat Calamity Ganon. Hell, you can go straight to Calamity Ganon and fight him right from the beginning. But the game doesn’t recommend you do that. They say you get stronger first and the main story INCENTIVISES exploration. In Skyrim, the main quest will have a character request you meet them at midnight, but then you show up 6 months later and they’re like “AH, JUST ON TIME”, and it makes no sense. It is your journey of progression, and the game encourages you to explore its world and see every nook and cranny.

I have heard a lot of complaints about a generic story, but it never bothered me. A simple story means that you always understand the motive and purpose behind exploration. Witcher 3 is a fantastic game, but there is SO much going on that it can be pretty cumbersome to a newer player. Breath of The Wild is the start of a story, and the game uses Link’s amnesia as an excuse to tell him everything. The simple story enhances the exploration and world-building. Ironically, despite being generic, it stays interesting throughout because of the player’s story.

The expansive map of BotW

Also, I didn’t even realize that the intro area to Breath of the Wild was actually a 3-hour tutorial. Really, that whole beginning plateau is just a tutorial area, but it doesn’t feel boring, not for a second. If a game’s intro can immerse me so much and make me believe that it isn’t even a tutorial, then it does something incredible. I know that White Orchard from Witcher 3 is the beginning area, and then I get access to more of the game. I never got that inkling whatsoever in Breath of The Wild. The intro area teaches the player so much through play, and not through walls of boring text. It teaches you how shrines work, and it teaches you to explore. The systems are simple enough to understand, and the lack of advanced statistics on weapons means everything is easy to understand with a small glance. Like, I don’t care if a mace in Skyrim does +6 against beasts at nighttime because that doesn’t matter. Breath of The Wild cuts that crap out and just gives you easy to understand stats, and lets the player drive their own progression.

Conclusion

I was blown out of the water by Breath of the Wild. I was so scared it would be a generic sandbox. I was worried that it would just be empty space. I was worried that the shrines would be Skyrim caves. I was pessimistic. But I was wrong. I was so so SO wrong and I have never been happier to be incorrect. Breath of The Wild is the best open world game ever. Period. Ever. It trumps other outstanding open world games, and I was able to come to that conclusion after only 10 hours. Breath of The Wild evoked a sense of exploration and adoration with a game that I had not felt since I was a child. If it isn’t obvious, PLAY BREATH OF THE WILD. NOW.

Final Score: 10/10

 

Uncharted 4 is a good game. Let me say that right now. My experience with Uncharted 4, overall, was good. I only say this, because a lot of this post will be negativity about the game, and I want you to keep in mind that I do not regret playing Uncharted. I was happy with my experience overall and would give the game a 7/10. So with that out of the way:

Holy crap is there a lot of time in Uncharted 4 spent doing nothing.

I never had this feeling of boredom in the previous Uncharted games. I love Uncharted 2 and 3, and Uncharted and the franchise is one of my favourites. I really love these games, and I think they’re a blast to play through, and replay. But when I asked myself if I wanted to replay Uncharted 4…my answer was no. I didn’t want to wade through the endless climbing sections, the fake-out deaths, the beginning, and all of the other unnecessary fluff. Sure, the fluff in Uncharted is gorgeous, and I commend Naughty Dog for making the game as incredibly beautiful as it is, but visuals aren’t enough in a game for me. Uncharted 4 was too long. That sounds like a strange complaint to give a game, but I felt that many parts of the game could be cut. This post will try to outline what parts of the game I believe should be shortened, and ways to make the overall experience more concise and enjoyable. If I sound like an idiot trying to improve a game, let me know what you would rather do, or how much of an idiot I am in the comments. Anyways, onto this idiot’s suggestions:

The Divisive Beginning

I both love and hate the beginning hours of Uncharted 4. I feel that they are too boring and easily could have been shortened by 30 minutes. But I also love the fact that it establishes the tone of the game. The Uncharted games did their best to simulate a bombastic, action movie. The laziest way I can think of to describe Uncharted, is the Indiana Jones of video games. Uncharted 1-3 never truly took themselves seriously, and put player fun as its priority. They were action-packed, and had the player on the edge of their seats. But after The Last of Us, which was Naughty Dog’s game after the Uncharted trilogy, they learned some different storytelling and pacing methods and applied them to Uncharted 4. Uncharted 4’s main character Nathan Drake is reluctant to go adventuring, and he is nowhere near as energetic and excited as he used to be in the previous games. The opening serves to establish the mood of Nathan Drake’s life through boring play. Naughty Dog wants us to feel the boredom and mundanity of Natahn’s life now, and I’d say it works.

But it is still boring. Like, really boring. And that is why I’m ambivalent about this beginning, because it is 2 hours until the first, really fun and exciting gunfight, but it also showcases excellent storytelling through gameplay. I feel that certain parts could be slightly altered to reduce the time spent on this section, Firstly, I think the beginning in the boat should have been replaced with Nathan and Sam as children exploring their orphanage. BUT THAT PART’S MORE SLOW! You may chime, but I believe that the boat section is unessecary, and serves as a poor tutorial. The boat section is not representative of a majority of Uncharted 4’s gameplay. It was meant to be a one-off, exciting moment later on. Having that moment early spoils it later, and it is just jarring. Why is this how the game begins? It lasts 5 minutes, and just gives the player whiplash. It throws them right into a shootout tutorial for a section that happens only once, and the skills aren;t transferable for the rest of the experience.

The snore-fest diving chapter

Starting it right with Nathan and Sam escaping the orphanage establishes a serious, but playful tone, climbing and explorative themes, and establishes the relationship with Nathan and Sam immediately. These are all aspects of Uncharted 4 that last the entire game.

I don’t feel that the cutscenes should change in the beginning. I think they are all paced well, entertaining, and show the strength of the voice actors. Uncharted has pretty fantastic cutscenes. I even enjoy that bit with Crash Bandicoot. It’s a fun, nostalgic throwback while also providing Nathan and Elena with some witty banter.

What I definitely would have changed is the diving section. Just reduce the time that Nathan takes to look for it, and make coupling it much swifter. Make the boxes come out immediately, and it will reduce the length of this section by a few minutes, but it will make it more enjoyable overall.

The prison escape sequence is fine as it is. I think it’s a great, action packed chapter that showcases the pacing of Uncharted 4. Overall though, the climbing sections where Nathan is on his own don’t work well unless they act as a relaxation period. They work great if they’re followed by a great, exciting action piece, but the climbing section for the ross is just Nathan going up on his own for 20 minutes. That could have definitely been cut in half.

It’s also here where you notice Uncharted’s tricks. The feigned danger. Uncharted loves to fake you out with these collapsing ledges, but they never lead to any actual danger. They always just force you to fall slightly, and elongate your climbing time. They’re suspenseful for the first bit, but then they become annoying when you know that you are never in actual danger.

That’s all the criticism I have for Uncharted’s beginning. I feel that I could reduce the time of it while not changing its overall effect on the player.

Madagascar

Again, the open world sections like Madagascar are pretty divisive between people. I’ve heard some people praise Uncharted 4 for tackling exploration as opposed to its usual linearity, and I like that too. I like when a series mixes its usual format up. But these sections are way too long. The entire section where you drive up the hill in Madagascar peppered with small enemy encounters takes up so much of the game, that it certainly did not need to. An open  world is nice when there are things to do, and Uncharted’s open world is just space. Very beautiful space, but still just empty space. This could have definitely been reduced in size. While the banter between the three characters is entertaining, it isn’t frequent enough. There are just too many periods of down time, and not enough highs in this section. I don’t think the open world aspect of Madagascar should be cut entirely, but that it should be condensed. You can probably shave 30 minutes off of this section by just reducing the amount of driving that you do.

Climbing

It feels like climbing is 90% of Uncharted 4. I know it actually isn’t, but some of these sections drag on forever. Now, I don’t think climbing should be removed from Uncharted. Not at all. I kind of like climbing, as it provides down time from the hectic gunfights and breathtaking set pieces. Climbing provides something called “quiet time”. Quiet time is the down time in a game, where you just take in something ridiculous or intense that happened. These moments also exist to make the bombastic one’s more potent. The best action movies have the quietest talking scenes.  I feel that Uncharted 2 and 3 have some of the best pacing for any video game. Good pacing in a game can allow a player to keep playing it for hours at a time, and never get bored. There is always variety to be found in the events of Uncharted 2 and 3, and it feels like no two gunfights are the same.

However, Uncharted 4 is longer than these games. You go to more locations, and you encounter more gunfights. These locations and gunfights are stellar, but with more length comes more climbing. Way too much climbing. The climbing isn’t interesting enough. It feels like every single one of these could be slightly shorter, and it would have given the game a much tighter feel. It would have encouraged me to replay the game more if it was a tighter experience, and that down time wasn’t too prominent. But as it stands, the climbing sections and down time in general are just too long.

The Endless Climb

Like, for example, there’s a section close to the end of the game where Nathan is going through a cave with Elena. This cave is full of mummy’s who explode when you get near them. It also has a room where there are skeletal feet hanging from the ceiling. It’s a foreboding moment, and Nathan and Elena express how crazy the person who did that must be. And then this happens 4 more times, and you get infuriated. It feels like the game is wasting your time. They see the legs “wow, Avery’s crazy”. They see the arms “Wow, Avery’s crazy.” They see the skulls, “wow, Avery’s crazy.” It’s unessecary filler for a game that didn’t need to pad out its length. The previous Uncharted’s never felt the need to lengthen themselves in an era where video games were shunned if they didn’t last at least 50 hours. So it’s strange that Uncharted 4 gives off a vibe that tries to elongate the experience.

Removing some of those fake-outs for climbing would be cool too. Reducing them actually makes them more believable, rather than having the player go “oh wow the ledge collapsed I wonder if there will be a perfect set of stones for me to climb on.”

Conclusion

So how would I improve Uncharted 4? Reduce pretty much every climbing section, decrease the fluff of the open world segments, and shorten the beginning portion of Uncharted 4, while still retaining its original intended effect. I want to reiterate that I do enjoy Uncharted 4. I was happy with my playthrough of it, but I feel it was paced poorly. Too many elongated moments of down time, and not enough exciting moments to counterract them.