Ways That Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Sequel Can Improve
When I think of gaming in the year 2017, it’s difficult for me to think of a game that captured more critical and commercial attention than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game burst onto the gaming scene with an incredible reception from critics (the game currently has a 97 on Metacritic), with a group of critics and fans considering it one of the best games ever made. While for some skeptical individuals, these claims may sound hyperbolic or exaggerated, it is impossible to deny the impact Nintendo’s last epic has had on the gaming world. Even a year after its release, Breath of the Wild is still receiving awards from a variety of sources and the game is a huge commercial hit with a staggering 6 million copies sold so far.
During my 250 hours (and counting) of time spent in Breath of the Wild’s vast and immersive open world, I was awed by the brilliant game design and beautiful art direction of Breath of the Wild. I consider the game one of the most impressive games I have ever played. As a lifelong Zelda fan, the game was a dream come true in so many ways with beautiful art, inventive puzzles, and incredible world design. But with that said, there are several areas that stuck out where I believed the the next game in the Zelda series can improve. While Nintendo has made few announcements about what is next for the Legend of Zelda series, beside that the games will continue to be “open air” (aka Open World), these are 5 areas where Breath of the Wild’s inevitable successor should look to improve.
Spoiler Warning: (There are spoilers for the dungeon bosses and final bosses in the article)
Create a Narrative Set in the Link and Zelda’s Present
The story premise and concept of Breath of the Wild is intriguing and compelling: Link wakes up after 100 years of sleep after being defeat by Ganon. Link’s memories are gone, along with his friends and his kingdom. This story hints at deep emotions and theme like grief, loss, failure, and regret, emotions that could be used as story motivation to drive you to complete your journey. Despite this powerful premise, the realities of open world story telling make it difficult to create a truly compelling narrative. In order to unlock and discover the entire story and important scenes, the player must hunt for Link’s 18 memories, which can only be found by visiting specific locations in game. Some players will choose to discover all these memories and others will chose not to find any memories. This makes it difficult to craft a powerful and involved story since every player will not know how Link and Zelda met or how each champions and other characters interacted with Link.
Another issues with Breath of the Wild’s story is that many of the best characters, including the 4 champions and Princess Zelda, are not present in the present-day game world and are tied to Link’s past. These characters are only accessible through the memory cutscenes and other short moments of game-play. Giving these characters a more active role, especially Princess Zelda, would help the player feel more connected to these characters and add motivation to make it through to the end of the story.
Each villain has an important role to play in a given story and The Legend of Zelda is no different. For Breath of the Wild, the character, or lack of character of Ganon does add anything meaningful to the game’s story. Ganon is presented as a vague threat that looms on the horizon but he never really has any effect on your actions once Link wakes up from his 100 year slumber. Unlike in other Zelda games, the player and Link don’t have a personal/intimate reason to hate or dislike Gaon. BOTW’s Ganon pales in comparison to his portrayals in other Zelda games like Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and The Twilight Princess where Ganon has a clearer and more involved connection to the player/Link.
One area where the game’s story truly shines is in its environmental storytelling. The game is absolutely incredible at using the atmosphere and world around you to help you get a feel for the world. These events occur when Link happens upon a destroyed village or the remnants of a fortress strewn with broken guardians. These moments make the world lived in, with history and depth to the world. Each moment of atmospheric storytelling make the player think about how much this world has been through. In these moments, Breath of the Wild soars. I hope that Nintendo and find a way to blend these moments with a more focused narrative in the next Zelda game.
Improve on the Dungeon Bosses and Final Boss Encounters
One of the few areas in Breath of the Wild where I felt truly disappointed was in the dungeon and final boss designs and battles. With the exception of Thunder Blight, I found the 4 dungeon bosses to be forgettable. Each one of the 4 dungeon bosses is based on a similar design. Additionally, each dungeon boss has the same weak point (the eye) with varieties in their movements and attacks. While the story rationale for having each boss being very similar are clear, having all the bosses look and feel so similar did not help the dungeon bosses to stand out. With only 4 dungeons in the game, there is a huge pressure for every single boss encounter to feel spectacular and unique, which Nintendo did not completely succeed at. Many Zelda fans, who are used to 8-12 very distinct and different boss designs felt underwhelmed with the similarities and repetitious design in Breath of the Wild’s dungeon’s bosses. While Breath of the Wild chose to break from of Zelda’s past conventions, the series should strive to continue the strong pedigree of boss battles from previous installments.
Additionally, the final fights with Ganon did not live up to the high standard that other games in the Zelda franchise has established. From as far back as 1992’s A Link to the Past battle all the way to the epic sword fight in 2011’s Skyward Sword, I have found myself constantly wowed by Zelda’s closing battles. Breath of the Wild was the first Zelda where I was disappointed in the execution of the climatic fight. The first stage of Ganon has a monstrous and intimidating design that combines element of guardians and the dungeon bosses. As a player, I was disappointed that half his health bar was removed/reduced because I finished the Divine Beasts, which makes the battle half as long and reduces the overall challenge of the fight. Additionally, the first stage in Hyrule Castle seems to recycle many of the moves and techniques from the previous 4 dungeon fights, this does not help the battle stand out or feel exciting.
The second stage of the final battle, fought in Hyrule Field, was truly baffling to me. The Dark Beast Ganon didn’t seem to do any damaged what so ever and it simply lumbers around aimless. Despite an incredible musical score urging the player on, the fight does not provide excitement. While the use of slow motion when shooting arrows made moments feel exciting and epic, most players were never challenged d by this form of Ganon, so it is difficult to feel challenged or excited during it. It is disappointing because the battle doesn’t hit the emotional or game-play heights that it should provide the player. There were so exciting potential ideas for great battles with Ganon, whether it would be a small in scope (like a one on one sword fight), or large scale battles (think Shadow of the Colossus) but what Nintendo ultimately gave to players was a thoroughly unspectacular final battle.
The Number of True Dungeons
The Divine Beasts had some of the best puzzles and game-play moments found in all of Breath of the Wild. The journey to each Divine Beast pushes the player to engage with a variety of characters in the present day world, including the stand out new character Sidon of the Zoras. Once the player makes it to each divine beast, the players are put through an elaborate chase before you could enter the divine beast. Divine Beast Vah Ruta’s sequence, where the player rides across the water on Sidon’s back, dodging blocks and spikes of ice, was anto incredible spectacle and my personal favorite moment from any of the Divine Beasts. These chases were epic and Breath of the Wild’s game-play and design truly shines in these moments.
The insides of the Divine Beasts are primarily puzzle based, with very little combat. Each Divine Beast is one large rubix cube that needs to bewe manipulated and move in order to complete. While I think that each Divine Beast was memorable in their own right, I believe that the successor to Breath of the Wild would be better suited to have more than 4 true dungeons in the world. One solution to this issue would be to combine some of the shrines into smaller dungeons. While I enjoyed playing through many of the Shrines (in each playthrough I completed about 100 of the Shrines) I did not find the Shrines as meaningful as the 4 Divine Beasts in the game, nor did I feel as accomplished as I did when completing the Divine Beasts. Eliminating 10-20 Shrines and creating at least 2-3 more dungeons would help give the game more of those special moments inside dungeons.
My recommendation would be to merge the old and the new styles of Zelda. Include some of the mammoth Divine Beast style dungeons while also including more traditional dungeons that might be elementally (fire, forest, water, desert) themed. These dungeons might play more like the Yuga Clan Hideouts with a balance of puzzles and combat. There could still be a large system of shrines in the world, but the number of shrines might not be as high as the 120 in BOTW. This compromise of styles would give both old school and new fans what they want.
The weapons system
In the early hours of Breath of the Wild, the weapon system gives the game an air of tension that I had rarely have felt in a Zelda opening. I felt truly threatened when my weapons broke. I felt that each weapon was valuable and essential to my survival. However, as the game experience wore on, I found the frequent rate at which my weapons were breaking a nuisance. Upgrading and finding new weapons felt extremely exciting at during my first 20 or so hours of game-play. During these early hours, I would take a lot of time looking at the designs and aesthetics of each new item. However, eventually this feeling wore off as my cool items continued to break quickly, often after only two or three fights. Soon enough, finding new items wasn’t as rewarding as it could have been, as I knew that the awesome new sword, shield, or bow I found would break quite quickly.
Even the Master Sword, the weapon that should be the most powerful and dangerous in the entire game, felt like it was being short changed by the weapon system. Obtaining the Master Sword is a highlight of many Zelda games, but I felt very shortchanged the first time my master sword ran out of energy and I had to wait for it several minutes to recharge. I found myself using the Master Sword less and less throughout the game against normal enemies (besides Guardian encounters where it is powered up).
Ideally, for the sequel, Nintendo should focus on striking a balance between durability and breakability. Finding and collecting different powerful weapons should be an exciting part of the experience (especially early on) and I hope Nintendo thinks of a system that can keep up some of the tension of breakable items but alleviate the frustration around weapons breaking too often. Perhaps some items will break only when encountering a especially powerful type of enemy or only after a long period of use. Perhaps there could be a way you could maintain/upgrade the durability of your weapons like going to blacksmith or another shop keeper.
The majority of your combat in Breath of the Wild will be spent with three different enemy types: the Bokoblins, Lizalfos, and Moblin. These 3 species of enemy have some variations in health and ability depending on when/where they are found, but in general, these fights follow the same pattern and rhythm every time. When I played, I would get into a clear rhythm for how to deal with each type of enemy and repeat that strategy over and over again. Except for a few situations (as well as the challenge DLC) many of the groupings and types of enemies I encounter follow similar patterns and styles. Early on, enemy encounters are thrilling, often requiring creative solutions due to your low weapon and supplies inventory, but as the game continues, some of the encounters become repetitive and are no longer challenging.
While enemies like Wizzrobes, Lynels, Guardians, and the different over-world bosses present challenging or new combat situations, it would be exciting to see even more enemy variety in the new Zelda game. With such a rich catalog of enemy types to chose from, there are plenty of candidates for inclusion. Iconic enemies like Dark Knuckles and Darknaughts could be added as challenging enemies that test your combat skills in new and exciting way. Additionally, there could be regional enemies for different areas. Despite the visual differences in settings in BOTW, you still fight many of the same enemies in different parts of the world. Variety in enemies would help each place feel distinct and special. For example, Dodongos could inhabit fiery areas, where as Wolfos might existed in wooded or icy areas.
Having a great enemy variety would force players to face new patterns and groupings of enemies. Since one of the key components of Breath of the Wild is player choice, providing a diverse group of enemies would require players to vary and change up their strategies for defeating them. This would add another layer of challenge and nuance to Breath of the Wild.
Those are my five ways that Nintendo can improve on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for its eventually successor. What do you think? What else could Nintendo do to improve or tweak the next Zelda game!
What do you think? Leave a comment.