The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a modern masterpiece in gaming. It isn’t without its critics, but most everyone can agree that it has already achieved an impact on gaming that few others in the entire history of the media can hope to match. It remains one of the most expansive single player experiences to date.
The game was my personal choice of Game of the Year when it debuted in 2017, and I wasn’t alone in my decision. Despite this, you cannot deny the numerous shortcomings the game had that could have made the experience even more epic.
As we eagerly await more information on the already announced sequel, I want to highlight some of the biggest flaws and suggest ways that they should be approved upon going forward.
1: Enemy variety. The Legend of Zelda series has been known to offer loads of loot and an even greater amount of enemies to guard said treasures. Breath of the Wild has more dungeons (if we count the shrines), more treasures, and more secrets than any game in the franchise’s history; thus, it would be no surprise if Nintendo dialed up on the amount of villainous creatures to keep these secrets safe. Alas, it seems that despite boasting such a massive world, the inhabitants of this Hyrule just don’t match up to those of the past. Quintessential foes such as Tektites, Armos, Skulltulas, Poes, ReDeads, and Darknuts are all absent from this fantasy adventure, and long-time fans will certainly note their absence. Sure, Moblins, Lizalofos, and Lynels all offer a good challenge, but Hyrule just isn’t the same without some of its most classic baddies.
The sequel needs to further pull from the rich history of Hyrule’s fiends. Foes of new types will require new strategies, feature new weapons, and offer overall new experiences for Link to undertake. Unless the developers want the sequel to feel like an expansion, then enemy variety is one of the first steps in crafting a brand-new adventure.
2: Gear durability. I had a love/hate relationship with weapon durability. I can understand weapons and shields breaking after a lot of use. I like the idea of having my sword break and scrambling to find a replacement while in the heat of battle. But I think that weapons are far too weak and collapse much too quickly, especially early on. For the first five to ten hours of my journey, weapons were reduced to dust sometimes after a single battle, and because of this, I was fearful of using any of the more powerful weapons that I had acquired simply because I didn’t want them to shatter.
The sequel can keep weapon durability but make it much more user-friendly and realistic to boot. Choosing to discard or keep a depleted weapon would allow the player to repair a favorite blade at a blacksmith or with a repair kit that they have on hand. Customizing a weapon with damage-increasing gems or tempering it with rare metals to increase its stability could further extend the life of the armaments found in Hyrule’s wastes. Crafting powerful oils made from ingredients gathered in the overworld could also temporarily transform a generic sword to the bane of monsters everywhere… until something even greater is found.
3: Quest rewards. This is a continuation of the thought above. Many of the rewards for finishing a shrine, raiding an enemy camp, or completing a quest would be a powerful weapon or shield, which would inevitably break not long after I employed it in battle. Thus, a lot of these just sat in my inventory until I had either found better equipment or was forced to use them. I would have loved it if these rewards felt, well, more rewarding. The sequel could further draw upon the inspiration of The Elder Scrolls and other dungeon crawlers, providing unique, one-of-a-kind weapons with special abilities. Maybe a shield that repels magic back to the caster or a hammer that specializes in destroying bone armor? Pairing that with the repair and customization system I spoke about earlier would really make these rewards something special.
4: Dungeons are underwhelming. The dungeons are some of the most memorable, most epic moments of any Legend of Zelda game, and in Breath of the Wild, they could have met these standards. The thought of each dungeon being a massive, walking (or flying or swimming) battle tank just makes my palms sweat from the excitement of what may lie within. Unfortunately, each dungeon takes approximately a half-hour to finish, is filled with enemies that can be found just about anywhere, and include no unique tools to collect like in previous games. It doesn’t help that while each boss fight is challenging and entertaining, these bad guys all look the same physically from one dungeon to the next. I’m all for changing up the Zelda formula, but this feels like a step back rather than a move forward.
I suspect that the sequel will have us exploring new areas, either Hyrule’s underground labyrinths or the regions that neighbor this version of Hyrule. These should bring about all new experiences: puzzles we haven’t seen before, weapons that cannot be found elsewhere, and a boss monster that is unlike anything we have ever seen. Even a series staple like Queen Gohma or King Dodongo can present a whole new challenge utilizing the Breath of the Wild mechanics. This would be a return to Zelda form without sacrificing what made Breath of the Wild so special to begin with.
5: Rain, Rain, Go Away. I understand why rain makes Link lose his grip while climbing. It makes sense that a wet surface would be much harder to climb, and I appreciate Nintendo’s immaculate attention to detail in this game. But this “feature” made me rage more than any battle against an over-powered foe ever did. Too many times to count, I was near the top of a tower or cliff, making my long climb steadily upward, when the clouds suddenly burst. There was nothing I could do anytime this happened other than watch helplessly as the Hero of Time just slid down from where he was climbing and all that progress was lost. There’s no item to use to make climbing in the rain easier or even simply doable. Instead, I either had to come back at a time when it was fairer weather or make camp and wait until the storm passed. This could have been handled so much better, but apparently Hyrule is situated in the middle of a rainforest during monsoon season. If the sequel is to keep the rain mechanic, then we need gear to withstand it or maybe just have it consume our stamina faster, forcing us to reach into our preserves, else risk a terrible fall.
With all this said, Breath of the Wild accomplishes so many other things right that it can honestly feel like a perfect game. Yes, there are problems, but despite the lack of enemies, lackluster dungeons, item fragility, and the torrential rain, Hyrule has never been more enjoyable to explore. Nintendo has arguably crafted the greatest open world of all time, with a seemingly endless amount of places to explore and secrets to uncover. No place on this large map seems to be wasted, as there’s always something to discover, and that is the core of the Zelda experience. Nevermind saving the princess or the kingdom: Zelda is about discovery, and Breath of the Wild has that in spades.
But its sequel could be even grander.