10 Aug 2021 6:53 PM +00:00

New Mod Adds Ray Tracing and More to Breath of the Wild with Mixed Results

Modder Digital Dreams created an 8K version of Breath of the Wild complete with ray tracing and showed off a nine minute overview detailing some of Hyrule's hotspots with their new look.

Digital Dreams' specialty is modding games to make them look photorealistic, and while it has some interesting effects in Breath of the Wild, the smaller details that benefit the most.

The dappled light shining in the area surrounding the Deku Tree and Master Sword's resting place highlights small details such as the lantern grass and falling leaves.

East Akkala in the Breath of the Wild ray tracing mod
click to enlarge

Elsewhere, grass again takes center stage as the sun ripples across Hyrule's fields in waves, and Akkala's stark contrasts stand out better than ever.

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Other places are surprisingly less outstanding, though

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New Mod Adds Ray Tracing and More to Breath of the Wild with Mixed Results

Lurelin Village looks drab by comparison, and not just because the sun is setting. It seems... game-y, less a tiny village tucked away in a distant cove and more like another setpiece location showcasing the power of an engine.

Of course, Nintendo's reliance on cel shading is partly a workaround to not having impressive graphics engines. Like Wind Waker before it, though, the style adds a unique soul photorealism can't quite capture or reproduce.

You see the same thing in East Akkala Stable. Sure, the enhanced lighting and fluid framerate look incredible, but there's a sense of disconnectedness in the environment.

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Part of Breath of the Wild's charm is in the landscape's harmony. Stables stand out not for their impressively rendered, heavily shaded horse heads jutting into the sky, but because, well... because they don't stand out. They're small havens pieced together from the same materials you find in the wild that offer respite from danger, and that contrast gets lost when the photorealistic versions look so imposing and domineering.

How much of the difference lies in Nintendo's chosen style versus the limits of photorealism is another matter.

A Breath of the Wild built from the ground up with ray tracing and that level of graphical detail, though - that would be legendary.

Or at least one that retains the original character. Digita Dreams created a similar mod a few months ago that looks truly glorious.

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