This should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen me in the last month or read my latest post on the game, but the new Zelda is real good, ya’ll. I thought, instead of singing its praises all year long, I could take a minute to talk about the issues I have with the game after spending upwards of 80 or 90 hours with it. Yes, it’s up there with the most fun I’ve ever had with a video game, but it’s far from perfect. If Nintendo follows up Breath of the Wild with something similar, here’s how it could be improved.
I. The Reward System
One of the biggest issues with Breath of the Wild is its almost nonexistent rewards outside of the shrine loop. Since BotW loads you up with almost all of the permanent upgrades you’re going to get right from the beginning, there’s very little in the way of meaningful progress you make outside of gaining more hearts and stamina. That kinda sucks. The actual *play* of Breath of the Wild is so incredible, it’s easy to let this slide for a very long time. But when you’re dawning on your final hours and wrapping up shrines and sidequests I kept thinking, what exactly have I gotten from this?
The unique sidequests and mini games are fun, and I think Nintendo saw the act of doing them as the real reward, but after getting *another* stash of nearly useless rupees I found myself curious if this shallowness felt as obvious to anyone as as it did to me. Whenever you find a chest in a shrine or dungeon, what’s the best that can happen? You’re forced to drop a lame sword from your inventory to pick up a slightly less lame sword. The *one* occasion where they ditch this is when you get the Zora’s armor. That thing rocks and I couldn’t believe they would give you such a cool ability just as an equippable item. And then they never do it again.
Wouldn’t it have been better if there was a larger variety of equipment to find, or maybe even some kind of equivalent to Heart Pieces, or a larger arrow or rupee bag…or just… something? In trimming the fat from older Zelda games, I think Nintendo cut a little too close to the bone.
II. The Dungeons
-SPOILERS- If you haven’t finished the Divine Beasts you may want to skip past the next two sections . -SPOILERS-
So what’s up with these guys? If you’ve frequented as many Zelda forum posts as I have in the last month, you’ve probably heard the same complaint over and over: The Dungeons Suck, and are the worst thing Breath of the Wild did to the series.
I think I’m in the minority that believes the Divine Beast dungeons are (for the most part) very well crafted and are some of my favorite content in the game. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I do miss the themed levels from the rest of the series, like the Shadow Temple in Ocarina of Time or the Snowpeak Ruins Mansion in Twilight Princess. The closest we get to that is the Salamander Beast, which culminates in you flying into a volcano to explore a giant lizard. That’s pretty awesome.
The Divine Beasts themselves were all exciting to explore, if a little on the short side. Instead of feeling like an expansive “dungeon” of Zelda’s past, they mostly feel like a larger, more involved version of one of BotW’s many Shrines. Each one has a gimmick, with the Elephant’s water spewing trunk being the most unique, but the Camel and Salamander’s level shifting rotations are super cool, too. The bird is the weakest of the bunch from start to finish. Its gimmick is to… slightly shift to the left or right. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely bland in comparison. Do I wish that Zelda dungeons of old were still scattered about? Absolutely. Would I wholeheartedly trade them and lose my unique, weird animal challenges? Probably not.
Would I kill a person to get a spooky shadow temple filled with ReDeads and Poes? Just give me a name and I’ll take care of the rest.
III. Boss Variety
Soooo… like what happened here? The first Blight you fight is fine. It’s not mindblowing, but it gets the job done as your first boss. Then you fight the second one and you realize that this is all the game has to offer. Get ready, because this is when I continue talking about Ocarina of Time’s Shadow Temple. It’s maybe my favorite level in gaming, okay?
This is the mini-boss of one dungeon in Ocarina of Time. Nothing in Breath of the Wild compares visually with how unique and weird Dead Hand is.
Then you ride a spooky ghost ship to the actual boss of the Shadow Temple.
What happened, Nintendo? You remember you use to make incredibly weird stuff, right? Each of the four bosses of the Divine Beast dungeons in Breath of the Wild are almost visually identical. *But* one of them stands out above the rest and helps me forgive them as a concept, if only for a moment.
The boss of the Camel dungeon is Thunderblight Ganon, a flying dude who shoots lightning and teleports quickly around the arena, forcing you to learn how to dodge and parry or be stricken down in moments. Once you master this section, he flies high above the stage, and you instinctively shoot arrows at him to no avail. He rains electrified pillars down at you and you’re forced to sprint around the room and avoid them as you come up with a new strategy. It took me a solid couple of minutes before I even considered grabbing these pillars with my magnet to send them flying back at him to win the fight. It’s one of the most frantic fights in the game that actually ends with a well-crafted puzzle, and I wish I could say that for literally any of the other main bosses in Breath of the Wild.
There are, surprisingly, some other really unique boss fights in Breath of the Wild. They just don’t come at the end of a dungeon. During the Gerudo quest to find away inside the Camel Beast, you sneak through a hidden camp full of thieves and end up fighting their incompetent leader in another of the game’s best fights. You do the typical stabba stabba stabba, but there’s also an element of using your other abilities to take him down. He’s also just a fun character that I wish ended up with more screen time.
Then there’s the giant dragon resting on top of a snowy mountain. You fight it by jumping off the peak and slow-mo shooting weak spots off of it until you bring it down. That blew my damn mind. Same goes for the Skeletal Hinox and the Desert Gobble Gobble Boy (that’s his name don’t look it up that’s just his name ok). These fights are optional in a Zelda game with the lamest collection of main bosses in the series. That’s weird, right?
All of this isn’t to throw unnecessary shade at Breath of the Wild. I’d be hard pressed to say it isn’t tied for my favorite Zelda game of all time. But at times it just doesn’t feel like a Zelda game, which I guess is what makes it such an oddity when compared to the rest of the series. It feels like a bunch of geniuses borrowed Zelda elements and slapped them into an unrelated open world masterpiece. And that’s okay!
Nothing is perfect, but getting pretty close still makes for one of the best games of all time.
(Nintendo, please make a weirder, darker side story using this engine a-la Majora’s Mask and I’ll never say anything bad about you ever again ok bye bye)