Monday, February 2, 2015

Make it better: Hyrule Warriors

© Nintendo

I've been a fan of Dynasty Warriors for years. I got my start with the franchise in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 3 for the SNES. So I leapt at the chance to play one of my favorites with the cast of one of my favorites. I mean, I have two Zelda tattoos for crying out loud (Triforce and three-and-a-half hearts if you're curious).

And as predicted, it's super-fun and addictive. But no one is clamoring for it to be named game of the year or even talking about it as more than filler between main adventures. So here is a list of things they could have done (or could do in an expansion/sequel). Some are more feasible than others and I really don't think would require much in the way of programming while others are more of a wish list:

The game already has some level of orders behind the scenes, when X happens, have Y do Z. In fact, part of the fun is dealing with unexpected (during first playthrough) developments, but right now you're stuck running across the battlefield to handle everything yourself. How much more fun and how much depth would it bring to the game if you could give objectives and destinations to your troops? Having wounded units retreat and reserve forces advance? They could either open up a new commander badge set for each character or have one set for all characters. You could then have new challenges centered around being a good commander and actually have some control over morale. For a game that is superficially about leading armies against each other, this makes the most sense and technically appears to mostly just give players access to the decisions that the computer already makes.

I imagine that it is possible that there is individual code written for every single event in Hyrule Warriors, but what makes more sense is to have code written that allows the game to control units, and sends units to different areas based on X happening. If that is the case, then other than writing the interface, it's just a matter of making X happening being a player choosing X.

This should be an optional facet of the game (for stages that aren't commander challenges) and maybe wouldn't be part of the main storyline battles (see Consequences point).

When the first DLC was announced and it was revealed you could play as Cia, Wizzro, and Volga, I was thrilled because one of my favorite things to do in the old Dynasty Warriors games was to play battlefields from different sides and different characters.

So long as the character you were playing was a character on the battlefield, then you played from their starting point, on their side, and the game was set up to have semi-unique experiences from each side and depending on what happened in certain battles.

Now, I understand that we have to rely on writers for Zelda instead of a piece of classical literature, but it seems like this was very underdeveloped. For most battles, you only have the option to play as one or two different characters and what they do plays out practically exactly the same no matter what.

Playing the Yellow Turban rebellion from the side of the Yellow Turbans remains one of the standout experiences of Dynasty Warriors in my opinion. Here you have the standard first battle of every Dynasty Warriors/Romance of the Three Kingdoms game that is ridiculously easy as first stages are required to be, but then you play on the other side and all of a sudden the fact that EVERY SINGLE ELITE CHARACTER IN THE GAME IS ON THE OPPOSING SIDE freaking matters to you. The characters that made it so you could pretty much stand there and have your side win now make it so that if you don't destroy them as quickly as possible, they will annihilate everyone in their path. There was nothing like that in Hyrule Warriors.

Playing as Ganondorf or Cia meant stages designed entirely for them and not playing the opposing side. It was a welcome surprise to have new stages in Legend Mode for Cia, but it wasn't something that I was expecting. I would have rather fought the original stages from the side of the bad guys.

This one is for the main storyline and probably wouldn't happen for this particular iteration of the game as it's a bit too late to be feasible or cost effective, but it makes sense, especially with how very heavily scripted every stage in Hyrule Warriors was.

In different stages, things happen, those things should affect future stages. Maybe if you are bad enough or slow enough that Impa is forced to retreat, then she's injured for the next few battles or killed for the remainder of the stages. Maybe you can lose a stage and be pushed back to a different stage and have to fight back through a different route. One thing I found absurd playing through the game was (very, very minor spoiler), in the first stage King Dodongo breaks through walls of keeps; if you don't stop him, he continues to advance.

Apparently, the game expected you to have him advance at least as far as the second keep because in the last stage that wall has been repaired and you use the fact that King Dodongo broke through it to break through it yourself. When I played that stage and Darunia said, "I think King Dodongo broke through here," I went, "WTF?" because that had never happened to me and didn't happen until I played the first stage on Hero difficulty.

If consequences were a thing though (such as losing, winning super awesomely, injuries and deaths to characters, foiling plans, plans coming to fruition), then instead of a mostly linear Legend Mode, you'd have a spiderweb of stages subtly different and with your actions actually having an impact on the events that occur. THEN you could have multiple endings! Maybe you stop Ganondorf so hard that he never has time to consolidate his power base or return to power? Maybe you prevent Cia from opening the portals in time in the first place? Maybe Lana becomes evil or Link succumbs to the Dark Links? Maybe Sheik never reveals her identity or Zant overthrows Midna?

Tons of possibilities that could have been explored in a non-canon game like this but never were.

This is relatively minor, but you should have more choices both when it comes to color schemes (besides just unlocking preset ones in the Master Quest), costumes and other superficial things, as well as to some extent the moves of your character. If you could at least mix-and-match which combo triggers after which button press, then you could make every character your favorite character. I love path clearing combo finishers, so Link's final combo is awesome, but I sure wish I could switch Fi's out for her path-clearing third combo.

Watching the actions of enemies, you notice that certain moves are reused (the Darknut throwing a boomerang exactly like Link comes to mind), so then this implies that the animation move is independent of character model. Does this mean that it would be relatively straightforward to swap out moves? I'm not saying all moves should be swappable, and I can understand having to unlock stuff like this, but it sure seems like it is feasible and should have been included with the Day 1 patch.

Not being able to delete skills from weapons (or add slots), maximum of 10 weapons per character, and other arbitrary constraints really feels like a needless reason to grind at end-game for the power-obsessed players and not something that adds fun to the game. I'm not saying it should be easy to add slots or delete skills, but players shouldn't be beholden to blind luck to get that ultimate weapon for their favorite character.

I really think that if Nintendo and Koei would have gone this route that Hyrule Warriors would have been heralded as a great Zelda game instead of as just mindless fun suitable as a stopgap between main franchise installments.

Thanks for reading. Do you agree with my list of improvements? Have some of your own? What are your thoughts on Hyrule Warriors? Comment below.

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