i finished twilight princess a few months ago and gave myself some time to think about it. im going to try to keep this as a comparative analysis of zeldas mechanics and the standard gameplay of an mmo. for my first post id like to discuss story elements.
narrative elements of twilight princess tend to focus on using characters and character interactions to tell the backstory. minor characters see a lot of re-use and contain dialogue outside of dungeons and quests.
despite wanting to create a living world with large amounts of history, most of the mmorpg plot is conveyed only in quest text or minor gameplay events that are not repeatable. npc dialogue only weakly reacts to players accomplishments. even in a “story focused” game like swtor, you cant even talk to random townspeople to learn about the game world, which is abundant in twilight princess.
swtor does have an advantage that it has a ‘branching’ style narrative, in that the player has some agency over how the plot unfolds, but i think this is somewhat overblown. swtor excels at hiding the effects of players agency: differences are only found at the conclusion of an event, where cascading consequences are all removed from the players view and interaction. for all intents and purposes, swtor has a linear plot.
world of warcraft has been getting somewhat better about involving lore characters into the gameplay to tell a story. however some lore characters tend to get completely ignored between chapters, as if they had no interest in the events unfolding. theres a very real sense that after you finish an npcs quests, their interest in the world at large becomes a ‘not my problem, maybe you should handle it’. in twilight princess, even the hero team that meets in telmas bar makes a cameo apperance at the final dungeon. in warcraft you only see the very most important lore characters showing up in expansion ending raids, which is really the equivalent of zelda and midna tagging along to fight ganon.
on the whole there are elements where mmos have a stronger storytelling powers than zelda, but thats not to say mmos cant benefit from zeldas world-building and character building techniques. more recently it feels like the trend in storytelling has been about creating spectacle and trying to one-up eachother on how impressive they can create a mini-narrative, rather than working on creating simple and fundamental world building elements.