Stop Comparing Games To Breath Of The Wild

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Stop Comparing Games To Breath Of The Wild
Image: Ubisoft

In 2017, a very good game called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released. It received rave reviews, wound up on countless ‘game of the year’ lists, and was praised for its innovative open world and use of minimalist storytelling. In the years since, many other gorgeous, open world games with a minimalist focus have launched. None of them are Breath of the Wild clones.

It’s a label that’s become a strange catch-all term for any game making use of a stylish open world, climbing mechanics or player-led adventures. First, it was Genshin Impact landing the unfortunate label. Then, Ubisoft’s Immortals Fenyx Rising (once known as Gods and Monsters). In the same way Dark Souls became a flippant term for any gothic-style game with a high level of difficulty, Breath of the Wild has become the measuring stick for all open world action-adventures.

But calling either game a Breath of the Wild clone is unfair.

While they all share bright, open worlds and similar exploration mechanics, the differences are far clearer when you dive into each game on its own. Genshin Impact has a focus on cutesy characters and world-spanning quests. Immortals Fenyx Rising is an dialogue-heavy action-adventure peppered with quests and complex environmental puzzles. In many ways, it plays out like a miniature Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (it is made by the same developers, after all).

The criticism both games faced appears to come from two factors: their open world-style gameplay and exploration mechanics. Like Breath of the Wild, both games feature climbing and gliding mechanics that require the conservation of stamina. They also pepper gameplay with challenging puzzles and collectables. But there’s a core difference between a ‘clone’ and a game that wears its inspiration on its sleeve.

genshin impact breath of the wild clone
Screenshot: Genshin Impact

The developers behind Genshin Impact acknowledged their love for Breath of the Wild when initial reports suggested the game was trying to profit from Zelda‘s major success. But they also made clear the game would build its own identity through an original story, an intriguing cast of characters and different styles of gameplay. Reviews for the final release unanimously decided the critics were wrong to draw comparisons between the two titles. Many reviews, including Kotaku’s own, made clear it wasn’t the shameless clone it was previously made out to be.

Video games have a long history of iteration and building on formulas that work. Modern innovations like the nemesis system found in Shadow of Mordor later appeared in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. The idea of a ‘sanity metre’, first found in tabletop RPGs like Call of Cthulhu, has become a staple of the horror genre. As the saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun — and the same is true for video games. Popular mechanics often find their way into newer and different games.

Calling Genshin Impact and Immortals Fenyx Rising ‘clones’ does a disservice to the passion and thought behind both games. It also sets up false expectations for their audiences.

If you’ve yet to dive into Immortals Fenyx Rising, you might be surprised to learn it’s actually a strongly narrative-focused adventure about the struggle of the Greek pantheon against a monster known as Typhon. While it shares DNA with Breath of the Wild in that it’s an action-adventure set in an open world, the combat and environmental puzzles differ drastically. As does its combat system and quest-based gameplay. Outside of the game’s cartoonish visuals, there are only rare similarities. Players looking to dive into a Breath of the Wild-like game will be sorely disappointed.

To be clear: it’s a fantastic game and superbly entertaining, but it’s not a Breath of the Wild clone by any measure. The same can be said for Genshin Impact. They’re both great games in their own right, and cynical comparisons between them and Breath of the Wild only discourages players from experiencing the fun (and wildly different) adventures they offer.

Video games will always build on what came before. Breath of the Wild was a game with huge significance. It changed what players expected from open world games. Arguably, it also changed how players viewed the function of narrative in gameplay. Its influence can be seen strongly in the latest iteration of open world games, and it’s likely it will continue to change how video games are made. That’s a good thing.

Iteration is how we get great games like Immortals Fenyx Rising and Genshin Impact. It’s why Fortnite is still seeing such incredible success. Building on what works is how video games get better. It’s why they’ve come such an incredibly long way in the last few decades.

To discount that progress by labelling games ‘clones’ is wrong.

Comments

  • I agree with this completely, but let’s not forget, it took a long time for the words ‘Doom Clone’ to disappear.. Basically ANYTHING that was an FPS was a doom clone for years..

    Wait.. am I showing my age?

  • Both developers of Genshin Impact and Immortals Fenyx Rising mention Breath of the Wild as influences on their games so…

  • I feel like this article isn’t being completely honest… Genshin Impact was called a BOTW clone when it was first revealed because the world LOOKED ALMOST IDENTICAL (at least the outdoor areas). Later on Genshin Impact was able to differentiate itself from BOTW with it’s diverse areas and different combat, but it honestly seemed like they had copied and pasted BOTW’s outdoor areas into their own games, it was blatantly similar.
    Immortals Fenyx Rising, meanwhile, does not share the same visual style to it’s environments as BOTW, and I have never heard it be called a BOTW clone.

  • You’ve completely convinced me that the comparison needs to be done away with.

    However, in the absence of a conveniently brief short-hand for describing the aesthetic and openworldishness distinct from the more traditionally-western/ubisofty brand of openworldishness, all I can say is… I WILL CHANGE NOTHING!

    • I liked TotalBiscuit coined the term rogue-lite and called out anyone using “like” to describe their games for being randomly generated… cause unless its a fantasy based dungeon crawler, its nothing like Rogue.

  • Its like all those fun people who spent a decade calling every MMO a WOW clone seemingly unaware there was at least a decade of MMO’s that lead to WoW.

    Who cares if something is a Dark Souls experience, BOTW, Rogue-like, Doom-clone, Destiny-wanna-be, only lazy people think in such absolutes. The world of music, movies, classic literature are all full of such histories of particular mini-genres. Within them all, there are cheap knock offs, and ones that transcend the original experience, in different ways. BOTW is great but Fenyixneks (shrug who knows how its spelt) improves on its style but going in a completely different way of a deeply rich story full of great and silly dialogue and voice acting. To saying of weapons you dont to keep replacing every two fights. Each exists and each is valuable and lovely in its own way.

    When I finished Dark Souls i didnt want a clone, I wanted other games that understood its worth and ran with it. Likewise BOTW,when done, I wanted another game that used the world as it had done, Fexthihjy took such elements and saw a way to be inspired but within its own sense of individualism.

  • The only huge similarity is the art style. Gameplay wise the only things these games have in common with BotW is a stamina gauge (but just about every single ARPG on the planet has a stamina gauge for abilities so BotW isn’t special) and the ability to climb (Shadow of the Colossus did it first with its landscape sized enemies and included a stamina gauge). The puzzles are different. The core combat is different. The mechanics of what you do in the game are different (Fenxy’s puzzles feel more old school Zelda than BotW’s ever did).

    The landscapes themselves and how you navigate them are still different again despite claims of copying (there are only so many ways to construct a clearly climbable cliff folks). BotW also did not invent cel shading. Cel shading is used as a style to work around weak hardware since you basically have no reliance on complicated textures. As is important given all three games have Switch ports (Switch only in BotW’s case) and can look pretty while still working on the hardware.

  • True fact:
    My 9 yr old daughter called Fenyx a Zelda rip off within 15 minutes of seeing it. That’s a pure opinion from someone who reads zero online material.

    No, it’s not a literal “clone”, but playing it does feel awfully reminiscant of BotW. e.g. the Hercules Gauntlets are so clearly a reproduction of the Magnesis power.

    I’ve been trying to enjoy it but it’s a bit of a mixed experience. The combat seems more fun. I like that the world is a bit more densely packed. I like riding my horse off a cliff, gliding to the otherside, then teleporting the horse back to me.

    However, a lot of the puzzles verge on tedious too often. Sometimes the physics engine goes crazy. E.g. trying to pick a box up and hurling it over my head and into the void, forcing me to start over. And considering BotW is 3 years old, Fenyx looks noticably worse on Switch (though mostly fine).

  • Add Suikoden to this list. Any game with a base and some form of recruiting is immediately compared to Suikoden

  • I think Immortals is incredibly comparable to BotW. It has a similar game structure with 4 regions surrounding a big bad that has destroyed the world, shrines to go through, systems built around a stamina meter and many other similarities. Movement sets are also very similar with gliding mechanisms, the way climbing works, and some of the object manipulation options. These then feed into the puzzles, which many could be straight out of BotW.

    The game very much can be compared on countless aspects. But it’s a comparison and comparisons are also about identifying differences.

    As noted Immortals has a much more guided story to it. You’ll interact with others often and unlike BotW, you’ll have quest markets permanently up.

    Gameplay wise there’s also two changes that very much mix up aspects. Firstly, weapons don’t break which in turn removes a bit of the survival feel of the game. Secondly it introduces a skill tree. That skill tree really changes the pace as unlike BotW where you can instantly go and do any of the 120 shrines, Immortals can and will gate wall content in shrines that require specific skill sets to be unlocked.

    I feel Immortals absolutely can be compared to BotW and for me in more ways than not it feels like BotW by Ubisoft. Comparisons can still look at where the games differ but. Ultimately it’s a fun game and I think it stands on its own too feet, but I don’t see why avoiding comparisons is required when there is so much that is alike. If you’re drawing comparisons to one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, it’s not necessarily a bad thing anyway.

  • Saying the nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor was used in AC oddessy is a bit of a stretch though. It was very much a pale comparison

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