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How do you feel about The Depths in Zelda TotK?

Posted: Fri Jun 09, 2023 3:08 pm
by RobertAugustdeMeijer
I was writing a letter for Edge, but before I send it, I was wondering what others thought of The Depths in the latest Zelda. It's a brave concept, surely to divide players. What do you think?

Here's my thoughts (as written in letter form)
Dear Edge,
My letters on cryptic games have been published multiple times, and it's great to see more games embrace this design. But now that Zelda TotK has attempted this too, I have to weigh in.
Zelda started out as a series attempting to make adventures like The Tower of Druaga and The Black Onyx more accessible. With every iteration, more npcs would tell you what to do, until Breath of the Wild let the player loose, and in turn, sold four times better than any of its predecessors. It seems that Tears of the Kingdom has literally doubled down on this concept by introducing The Depths: an underground area doubling the size of the game.
The flag bearer for contemporary cryptic design is the Souls series, and like many have commented, The Depths give similar vibes: dark, difficult, and most of all, mysterious. It also has a few ideas that are so brilliant yet so flawed, I couldn't help but speak my mind.
First, why does this area have to be pointed out by any of the characters? It's almost entirely optional, but it would have been all the more intriguing if no quests or maps told you to go to certain areas. I love it when games have features which make me wonder what the designers are trying to say with them (like the flying dragons). I like to believe that many things in the last two Zeldas are aiming for this. Nintendo could have run wild with this here. Imagine going underground while the rest of the world simply doesn't acknowledge it. Perhaps the gloom is so horrid, characters are too afraid to speak about it?
Second, removing the darkness is too easy. You can throw seeds to reveal areas, but they are in abundance. You can also wear clothing and eat meals. Had the game demanded you offer a valuable resource, a sacrifice if you will, going through The Depths would have been a more exciting decision.
Third, you really shouldn't be able to save or teleport there. Like a rope leading back to the entrance, these tools guarantee you won't regret venturing forth. Difficult areas demand making a choice whether or not you should go. The fun is trying to figure out if you're capable enough. This means paying attention to what the developers are trying to say. Which brings me back to the core concept of The Depths: it tries to be cryptic. But because you're so safe, you can casually decipher it one step at a time.
TotK is still a 10/10 for Ultrahand and its machines. It's just a shame that half the game isĀ  8/10 experience for playing it too safe.