I replayed the first 30 minutes of Rise of the Tomb Raider the other day. In it, I scaled a mountain, leaping from platform to platform while the environment around me crumbled. I then headed into a tomb, worked through a few puzzles, and triggered a high-octane escape sequence. A year ago, I enjoyed those opening moments immensely. After playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, though, they felt lifeless and stale.
From Tomb Raider to Uncharted, the modern adventure game is a tightly choreographed charade, a 20-hour quick time event (QTE) with a clearly defined path. When I jumped to evade an avalanche, Lara landed exactly where the game’s developers wanted her to. When I needed to solve a puzzle, the game began pointing, beckoning me to do what the developers wanted me to do. In Breath of the Wild, I had heart-stopping, adrenaline-filled moments, I solved complex puzzles, but through it all, I walked my own path.