The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Pre-Review Impressions

We've spent the week with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch. Find out our impressions in this hands-on preview.

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Writing a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild preview is excruciating. Not because the game is bad, but because my impressions of it are so good that I want to talk about it in detail. However, I can't, this is a preview, and there are embargoes to uphold. What I can tell you is that Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the title with which everyone hoped the Nintendo Switch would launch. It's the most expansive Zelda title to date and may be the most ambitious game Nintendo has ever produced.

Link to the Future

Zelda: Breath of the Wild turns away from previous series conventions in a refreshing and modern way. Instead of a linear path through pre-set dungeons, the game quickly has you chasing after Shrines. Shrines are scattered around the map, and can be completed in any order. They serve as tests of courage for Link to complete, and once you've cleared the challenge within the shrines, they become a fast travel point. Each Shrine is like a locked room in a previous Zelda title. You have to either challenge an enemy or enemies in combat or solve a puzzle to complete the Shrine challenge. While there are still conventional dungeons, and they're some of the most interesting in the series to date, the addition of the Shrine aspect of the game lends itself well to the new, more open, plot progression.

Breath of the Wild ditches linearity for an "open-air" feel. When you're given a quest, you'll get a marker on the map of your destination, and that's all the help you get. How you get from your current location to the quest destination is up to you. Very often, you'll find that you'll have to enter entirely new territory for a quest. If you were hoping for the game to hold your hand through this new territory, you're going to be disappointed. Instead, Breath of the Wild rewards exploration and perseverance. When you come to a new land, it's up to you to figure out where everything is. In fact, you're given the ability to put custom markers on your map because it's your responsibility to chart where enemy lairs or beneficial areas are.

Nintendo Hard

With this added element of exploration has come a massive increase in difficulty. Hyrule is a dangerous land, and you're no longer given a steady stream of powerful and unbreakable weapons and shields. Instead, you must procure your tools from throughout the land, from enemies, shops, and treasure chests. Your weapons now take damage and eventually break, and your enemies have access to a much more powerful arsenal than they did in previous Zelda titles.

However, Link does now have the benefit of having a much wider selection of healing and stat boosting items in the form of cooking and elixir brewing. Throughout Hyrule, you'll find herbs, fruits, vegetables, and meats in varying quality, all of which you can combine to make a succulent meal. Alone these items may heal a heart or two of health, but when you mix them together in the cooking pot, you unlock their powerful potentials which can increase your defense, completely heal you and more. Even more powerful are the elixirs you can make by combining monster parts and creepy crawlies. A Moblin horn here and a cricket there can combine to make a very potent formula that can mean the difference between life and death.

A Vibrant World

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Hyrule is a vibrant place, full of life. The world has active weather, each form of which affects Link in a different way. Rain will make rocks slicker and harder to climb, thunderstorms will electrocute you if you're wearing metal armor or weapons, and temperature plays a part in Link's life as well. The cold will make some areas impassable until you find the clothing or items necessary to maintain Link's temperature, too much heat can have the same effect, making Link's wooden items burst into flames if you don't reach cooler climes.

Flora and fauna of Hyrule can be your predator or your savior as well. As mentioned above, you can cook a whole host of items, and you can procure these items around Hyrule in natural locations. Apples grow on trees, meat can be harvested from deer and other critters you see roaming about, and if you so choose you can truly live off the land without the need for Rupees.

More to Come

I regret having to be so vague, but there'll be much more detail in my review of Breath of the Wild. I haven't had the chance to finish the game yet. It's incredibly long, and I continue to get distracted by the huge amount of nooks, crannies, and side-quests that Breath of the Wild has to offer. I can't wait to have to opportunity to open up and share the rest of my thoughts with you on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but this is the sort of game that a thousand words can't begin to explain. It looks to be a game for the ages, and you'll get a chance to play it when it releases on Wii U and Nintendo Switch on March 3.

Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    February 24, 2017 6:33 AM

    Jason Faulkner posted a new article, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Pre-Review Impressions

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      February 24, 2017 7:03 AM

      So weird how they're splitting this out.

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        February 24, 2017 7:06 AM

        not that weird, doubles its presence in the news cycle and makes the full reviews less rushed

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      February 24, 2017 7:20 AM

      All I need to know: is it super lame like Skyward Snore was?

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          February 24, 2017 11:25 AM

          People said glowing things about Skyward back when it came out, too.

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            February 24, 2017 11:37 AM

            True, I enjoyed it too, albeit it's definitely not my favorite Zelda title. It just took waaaaay too long to get to the good stuff.

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            February 24, 2017 12:01 PM

            The game was great once you got past the tutorial.

            ... but the tutorial was 2 hours long.

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              February 24, 2017 12:03 PM

              I quit when the game tried to tell me to mark a spot on my map. Maybe that was 2 hours in but it felt way longer. I had had enough by that point.

              In Link to the Past the NPCs just marked shit for you and that game came out like sixteen years before Skyward Sword.

              Man... fuckin Skyward Sword.

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                February 24, 2017 12:08 PM

                That's why they made it a prequel.

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                February 24, 2017 1:09 PM

                That feature is also in BOTW. You need to manually mark POI's on the map as you find them.

                Everything they are doing with this game is very much focusing on the same level of hand holding as Zelda 1.

                That is to say, none at all. Shit is gonna be amazing.

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          February 24, 2017 11:43 AM

          Hyrule? More like Hyperbole. Jesus Christ.

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            February 24, 2017 11:46 AM

            Especially that GameXplain quote, but yeah, it sounds good so far.

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              February 24, 2017 12:08 PM

              Do you remember where you were when they shot Kennedy booted BotW?????

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          February 24, 2017 11:49 AM

          Skyward Sword has a 93 on metacritic.

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            February 24, 2017 11:52 AM

            Which is higher than Witcher 3

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            February 24, 2017 11:52 AM

            I believe that's because reviewers actually have to finish the game.

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            February 24, 2017 11:08 PM

            Which is exactly why I'm anxious/skeptical. Even shit Zelda games can get a high score.

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        February 24, 2017 10:56 AM

        No.

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      February 24, 2017 11:35 AM

      I am getting excited.

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      February 24, 2017 11:39 AM

      First 15 minutes of gameplay - where we stand in the same place for 3 of those minutes... wtf is up with that.

      Also, does the game actually look that washed out and flat on the actual screen or is it just a byproduct of whatever you're using to do the video/still captures? It looks pretty bad.

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        February 24, 2017 11:53 AM

        Yeah the fog or whatever looks like shit.

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          February 24, 2017 11:57 AM

          turok'd

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          February 24, 2017 11:58 AM

          Looks bad on IGN's gameplay video too https://youtu.be/r2JtSXXY_WY that sucks.

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            February 24, 2017 12:09 PM

            nothing about that looks bad O.o ok maybe some of the shadows.

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              February 24, 2017 12:12 PM

              Really? It looks pretty bad. Everything is washed out.

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                  February 24, 2017 12:15 PM

                  Yeah, exactly this. It really does look like shit.

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                    February 24, 2017 12:36 PM

                    I really really disagree: https://youtu.be/S-jmGy3LcZo

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                      February 24, 2017 12:40 PM

                      Yes, it looks very washed out. Are you blind or something?

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                        February 24, 2017 12:53 PM

                        It looks like they turned Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind into a game. It looks great.

                        I've argued with people here about the look of Arrival, motion interpolation on TVs, HFR for movies, and even the use of Best Buy torch mode for their HDTVs, so I guess people arguing over this shouldn't surprise me.

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                          February 24, 2017 1:05 PM

                          What? No really, the colors are washed out. It looks objectively worse than if it wasn't washed out.

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                            February 24, 2017 1:12 PM

                            An obvious design choice then? I don't really see the big deal.

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                              February 24, 2017 1:14 PM

                              It's not a big deal, other than it doesn't look very good.

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                                February 24, 2017 1:15 PM

                                Which is completely subjective anyway

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                                  February 24, 2017 1:20 PM

                                  In this case it isn't.

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                                    February 24, 2017 1:22 PM

                                    Are you only a fan of photography with high contrast and saturation?

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                                      February 24, 2017 2:19 PM

                                      No, but every time I see a zelda screenshot i think "man that looks washed out an shitty, I wish they would take that stupid filter off"

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                                    February 24, 2017 1:30 PM

                                    How are opinions of artistic appeal not subjective? I may not like Diablo 3's pallette, but other people have different opinions. It's subjective, like the appeal of the colors here.

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                                    February 24, 2017 1:36 PM

                                    Nah, it is subjective. I don't know how anyone could actually like that style since it makes everything harder to see but it is what it is.

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                                    February 24, 2017 1:49 PM

                                    Claude Monet only uses soft colors, Claude Monet is shit

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                                    February 24, 2017 1:49 PM

                                    lol.

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                  February 24, 2017 12:18 PM

                  yea that doesn't look awesome. but most of my admittedly quick scan through the video did not look that bad. definitely going for an ethereal painterly type aesthetic tho.

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                  February 24, 2017 1:06 PM

                  I dont know about any of this washed out business but that 2nd pic you posted looks terrible. way too busy and the colors are mish mashy

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                    February 24, 2017 1:12 PM

                    It's an edit of the first one, but it's pretty obvious how shitty and washed out the first one looks. All of you have gone and lost your damn minds

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                      February 24, 2017 1:23 PM

                      Hate to say it, but your artistic taste is kinda shit

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                        February 24, 2017 1:29 PM

                        Like, I think some of the actual models in the game look a little weak, and Links animations can look a little janky in places. But in no way is the low contrast filter a bad artistic choice.

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              February 24, 2017 12:12 PM

              Yeah, serious WTF there

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            February 24, 2017 12:19 PM

            GRAPHICS

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              February 24, 2017 12:28 PM

              Yes that's what we're talking about.

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            February 24, 2017 12:22 PM

            This is the first gameplay video I've seen and regardless of the fog (which is unfortunate), it just looks...boring? That boss fight looks tedious as fuck. Find it. Throw bomb at it. Climb it. Smash weak point until you fall off. Throw bomb at it...

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              February 24, 2017 12:23 PM

              The music and sound effects are great though

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                February 24, 2017 12:35 PM

                What's up with the walking sound effects? It sounds like an empty bottle clanging around constantly.

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                  February 24, 2017 12:36 PM

                  Haha I actually like that sound. I think it's his shield clanking.

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              February 24, 2017 12:30 PM

              I'm fairly certain that's not actually a boss boss, but a mini-boss.

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                February 24, 2017 12:34 PM

                Okay. There's another mini-boss encounter at 11:15ish that also looks tedious as hell. Shoot it in the eye for miniscule damage. Fuck up and it one-shots you? That's awful.

                Plus the player routinely runs for 30-60 seconds at a time without finding things to do. This is the emptiest open world I've seen in a long time.

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                  February 24, 2017 12:38 PM

                  Probably because they're not supposed to be fighting those things yet. Much like in the original, there are places you're not supposed to go from the get go.

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                    February 24, 2017 12:55 PM

                    Man, I dunno. I've seen Link get attacked like maybe 6 times. Three of those resulted in one-hit kills. That seems...excessive.

                    At least loading times are very short?

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              February 24, 2017 12:47 PM

              Haha it turns into Metroid/Dark Souls at ~27:00 and I find myself excited to watch this for the first time.

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            February 24, 2017 3:41 PM

            That's from July 2016 too.

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          February 24, 2017 12:00 PM

          yah my sister who saw it a few days ago said the color and everything looked very washed out

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        February 24, 2017 12:04 PM

        First people complaining about the same thing re: Arrival the other day and now this. The soft colors are great, I guess Shackers like saturation and high contrast?

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          February 24, 2017 12:07 PM

          Yup, I prefer things to not look like I've got vaseline over my eyes

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          February 24, 2017 12:11 PM

          I would prefer a bit more color saturation, actually.

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            February 24, 2017 12:35 PM

            This looks great: https://youtu.be/S-jmGy3LcZo

            I disagree

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              February 24, 2017 12:41 PM

              Some of them do look a lot better and he tends to be higher. Maybe it's an overutilization of the fog effect.

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              February 24, 2017 12:42 PM

              It looks pretty good when things are in the immediate vicinity of the player but once something gets just a little bit away it all falls apart.

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              February 24, 2017 1:47 PM

              Never heard of Easy Allies, but that's where the GameTrailers guy ended up? Kind of surprising.

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          February 24, 2017 1:17 PM

          I'm mildly color blind (deuteranopia), so better contrast definitely helps me see more details. However, with the stylized visuals of Zelda I'm usually cool with their art choices.

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          February 24, 2017 1:19 PM

          Shackers? I know you know that's SOP for millions of TVs sitting in thousands of stores right this second waiting to be sold as people walk by them.

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            February 24, 2017 1:31 PM

            Yeah, I mentioned Best Buy torch mode and motion interpolation above.

            Shackers are a small subset of millions of people I guess?

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          February 24, 2017 1:26 PM

          I think some people basically regard low contrast with being shit. Which, artistically, is entirely false.

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            February 24, 2017 1:40 PM

            Low contrast and muted color palettes are like dynamic range compression in audio to some people. It's a loss of fidelity in some people's eyes/ears. In others, it's an artistic choice. *shrug* I think it looks like crap but if you like it, then more power to you.

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              February 24, 2017 1:47 PM

              Technically speaking dynamic range compression in audio is equivalent to boosting the color balance and the contrast. Doing that results in a loss of information in the shadows and highlights.

              This is why RAW image files or high end digital formats like ARRIRAW or Log-C look flatter than anything you've ever seen. It preserves all of the information, everything after results in a loss in information.

              You're trying to make a point via technical terminology but it is absolutely and completely incorrect.

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                February 24, 2017 1:54 PM

                We could argue semantics all day about why your example is also wrong and my example isn't as incorrect as you suggest but it's not worth it. We'll agree that it is a stylistic choice and that I don't like that choice.

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                  February 24, 2017 1:59 PM

                  Its not a semantic argument, I'm technically and empirically correct.

                  As you said, if you don't like the way it looks then it clearly comes down to personal taste.

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                    February 24, 2017 2:07 PM

                    You make it sound like good contrast and color has to result in some loss of significant source color information.

                    Anyway I agree with the sentiment that the contrast leaves something to be desired. I don't want the picture to drown in blackness against overblown patches, but it could be a bit expanded.

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                      February 24, 2017 2:24 PM

                      Not exactly. He talked about how low contrast and washed out color is the equivalent of dynamic range compression. It is exactly the opposite. Now, you'd never use a RAW or Log-C image for final output, but the point is that increasing contrast is literally throwing away detail in the shadows and highlights. This is the same as dynamic range compression in audio where information is only kept in a very narrow range while most of what was originally there is thrown out.

                      Clearly there are adjustments that are made, but I also wouldn't compare BotW with a Log-C or RAW image either, that would be much much flatter.

                      Anyway, I'm looking at this video Polygon posted and I think it looks great: http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/24/14723308/pre-review-the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild-nintendo-switch-wii-u

                      They're clearly combining the pastel color palette of SS, the cel-shading of WW, and the proportions of TP.

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                        February 24, 2017 4:06 PM

                        Alright I guess we'll do this. Your argument about RAW only makes sense if the colors in the game are an accurate representation of the colors that would be seen otherwise. That is not the case. They are actively removing color detail to add an effect. As objects get closer to the player they gain color depth. Which is why it's similar to DRC. They are actively altering the volume of the audio so there aren't quiet spots and there is less depth to add an effect.

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                          February 24, 2017 4:24 PM

                          Well said.

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                          February 24, 2017 4:28 PM

                          "Which is why it's similar to DRC. They are actively altering the volume of the audio so there aren't quiet spots and there is less depth to add an effect."

                          DRC is compressing the source so that detail, generally in the highs and lows, is thrown away. A low contrast source image by definition has a much wider range of detail in the shadows and the highlights.

                          If you started out with a contrasty source there is no gaining back detail in the highlights and shadows. As shown by the contrast boosted image posted earlier, its very different going the other way since you're just throwing away detail in the highlights and shadows.

                          Have you seen a tree a mile away and then walked towards it? The same thing happens there, its green is much more washed out compared to when its right in front of you. Its the product of atmosphere and distance, not "actively altering the volume of the audio".

                          You're completely incorrect with the points you're making and its magnified when you try to bring technical details and terminology that you have no understanding of into the conversation. Its honestly better when you chalk up your dislike of the visuals to a matter of taste.

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                            February 24, 2017 4:37 PM

                            I guess I'll just lol you and move on

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                              February 24, 2017 4:43 PM

                              I mean, everything you said shows fundamental ignorance in the differences in dynamic range between low contrast and high contrast images while trying to improperly apply DRC to that.

                              You're using terminology and concepts that you lack even basic understanding of, so yeah, lol and move on I guess

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                                February 24, 2017 4:53 PM

                                Would it make you feel better if we talked about color saturation rather than contrast since that's really what we should be talking about?

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                                  February 24, 2017 5:08 PM

                                  I'd rather we didn't make any technical comparisons between BotW's visuals and DRC at all. Its a fundamentally incorrect comparison whether we are talking about color or saturation.

                                  If this was purely a taste discussion I'd be way more into it, but then again you also had similar beef with Arrival, a gorgeous film that has ASC and Oscar nominations for best cinematography, so I think we'd still be talking in circles.

                                  All that said, BotW already looks so vibrant in broad daylight so idk what your and JohnnyRey's complaints are about: https://youtu.be/So0QgL7AaAc?t=10s

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                        February 24, 2017 4:19 PM

                        I think the low contrast gives it a lovely soft feel, which is the exact opposite of what every game seems to aim for now, with the exception of The Last Guardian.

                        Team ICO have been using that technique since the beginning though.

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                          February 24, 2017 4:22 PM

                          To follow that up, will anyone have the gall to claim that Team ICO games look like shit?

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                            February 24, 2017 4:25 PM

                            Yeah they have a similar vibe/feel and I love them. That's a good comparison.

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                              February 24, 2017 4:37 PM

                              With the risk of sounding like an elitist, people that have shit artistic taste always seem to think that detail and fidelity = better, which is simply not always true.

                              There's more to this kind of look than just being "washed out".

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                                February 24, 2017 4:44 PM

                                Same thing happened when people were defending that shitty Hobbit movie.

                                Man, HFR sure took off!

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                                  February 24, 2017 4:55 PM

                                  You realize your hypocrisy here, right? You piss all over HFR but praise a washed out filter. They are both artistic choices. You can't have it both ways.

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                                    February 24, 2017 5:02 PM

                                    Oh right, the "all opinions are correct" argument

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                                      February 24, 2017 5:20 PM

                                      That's not my argument That's literally YOU'RE argument. YOU SAID THAT. I'M USING YOUR WORDS.

                                      My argument is some things work and some things don't. In this case, the washed out look doesn't work for me

                                      You argue that this works, but all kinds of other artistic choices don't, as if somehow you're opinion means anything.



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                                        February 24, 2017 5:40 PM

                                        I think his point is that sometimes opinion doesn't matter, and it's only good or bad because it goes for or against the principles of what good art actually is.

                                        It's the same reason why rules of composition exist, or the 12 principles of animation. People figured out what "clicks" in the human brain to regard these things fundamentally appealing and good.

                                        The people that don't get this, just have shit artistic taste. It's the reason why tone deaf people think they sound good when they actually sound shit. Its the reason why we have so many beautiful creative butterflies that make garish, ugly crud that goes on the walls of bad cafes all across the world. Its the reason why people buy and wear ugly gaming tshirts, or put mass produced pop culture IKEA art on their walls.

                                        In other words, sometimes you're just wrong, and that's okay because not everyone has the natural ability to get it. And that's also why art wankers exist too. Or people like me.

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                                        February 24, 2017 5:44 PM

                                        "the washed out look doesn't work for me"

                                        Earlier in the thread you said that it "objectively" looks bad. If you're trying to argue something then stop changing your points in the middle.

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                                February 24, 2017 4:51 PM

                                I'm with you, but in this case I think they went too far, to the point that the world looks bland and foggy.

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                          February 24, 2017 4:46 PM

                          Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and other Ghibli films also feel like huge influences. Good call on the Team ICO stuff.

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            February 24, 2017 10:15 PM

            Why are you getting so defensive over this game dude? You act like what you're spitting out is correct when in fact all of these statements are opinions.

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              February 24, 2017 11:40 PM

              Huh? If anything I'm getting defensive over artistic merit more than the game.

              Sure, let's say that what is classified as good art is completely up to the individual. Except sometimes that's just wrong because you have shit taste, no artistic knowledge and a narrow frame from which to base your opinion on. Its the reason why cinematographers aren't just some random guy off the street, or why good artists aren't everyone that can pick up a pencil.

              I'm not saying you can't think that low contrast is a bad thing, you can think it looks shit all you like. But you're wrong, and 200 years of successful, professional, award winning photography says you're wrong.

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                February 25, 2017 12:05 AM

                I don't see somewhere where it tells me this is what looks good, so ill say you're just as wrong as everyone else.

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          February 24, 2017 2:16 PM

          I thought people liked Arrival

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            February 24, 2017 2:25 PM

            There was a thread the other day where everyone was complaining about it being too dark, low contrast, and soft.

            I've wasted hours arguing about HFR and motion interpolation with TVs back when that shitty Hobbit movie came out a few years ago. I should know better.

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              February 24, 2017 3:27 PM

              So let me get this straight, you LIKE motion interpolation? This explains some things.

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              February 24, 2017 4:07 PM

              Funny thing, I made that Arrival thread too.

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                February 24, 2017 4:35 PM

                Wait, you're the guy who also complained about the look of Arrival?

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                  February 24, 2017 4:44 PM

                  On a scale of 0-Trump how triggered are you right now?

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      February 24, 2017 12:20 PM

      Something about the footage is hard to look at. Like I'm Squinting through vaseline. Kind of reminds me of the fable games with their heavy filters

    • Zek
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      February 24, 2017 3:34 PM

      Guys I want to get a Switch at launch. I signed up for a bunch of availability watch email lists and have gotten hardly any bites. I'm willing to show up somewhere at midnight and maybe wait a couple hours beforehand. What's my best course of action?

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        February 24, 2017 3:37 PM

        Gamestop is supposed to have a few units for the midnight launch. Target advertised that they will have some units when they open on launch day. Best Buy might also have some but who knows.

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          February 24, 2017 4:49 PM

          I kerp seeing Toys'r'us mentioned since they don't do pre-orders, and everybody forgets them.

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        February 24, 2017 5:20 PM

        Camping out at midnight is probably your best bet. I highly doubt there will be much stock though

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      February 24, 2017 6:38 PM

      Nice preview, Jason. Sounds like Shack has formed a consens... oh my god!

      This thread.