Well adventurers, I did the thing. I beat the bad guy, saved the princess, and restored peace to the kingdom. Of course, I’m not the first one to wrap this game up – it’s been out for four weeks now and plenty of folks have experienced the full story of Breath of the Wild during the month of March. As the dust settles and we look out over the vast kingdom of Hyrule, there’s really only one big question left:
Breath of the Wild is a massive game, and just beating the main quest line is not the same as completing the game. I’m still making a lot of discoveries and getting a lot of stuff done that I didn’t wrap up before heading to Hyrule Castle. But once Ganon is defeated the game is pretty well closed. Unless Nintendo is making this the last hurrah for Zelda – which I don’t believe for a second – there’s going to be another game in the franchise. Today I’m going to ponder what exactly that might look like.
A quick note about this article: there will be Breath of the Wild spoilers. If you haven’t finished the game, best to skip out on this one until Ganon is no more.
One thing we definitely have to look forward to is DLC for Breath of the Wild. The first “season pass,” so to speak, is already available for purchase. Now much of the DLC with that pass isn’t available yet. In the summer we’re getting hard mode, a cave of trials, plus something else added to the map (at this point it’s unclear whether that’s a new map function similar to pins or stamps, or a new location on the map). In the winter a new story segment and dungeon will be added. These features will definitely expand the game and squeeze some more life out of it.
I think hard mode in particular is actually going to really add something to the Breath of the Wild experience. Right now the beginning of the game is very challenging, but once you have some heart containers under your belt and a couple of Champion powers the game becomes pretty manageable. Particularly, bosses aren’t all that challenging, and defeating Ganon is a simple matter of having a couple of good meals on hand. Once you’re that kind of powerful there’s really very little motivation for you to explore every nook and cranny of the world in order to gain hearts or stronger weapons. However, with the game difficulty increased, suddenly the extra heart containers and offensive/defensive power would be necessary. The harder Breath of the Wild is, the more exploration becomes a necessity in order to survive. And that, I think, is the balance that the game thrives off of. I LOVED exploring for shrines and upgrades in the early game. It was only when those upgrades had little impact on the game that I really stopped caring about them.
I think the additional story is an interesting addition as well. Is the new dungeon promised with this DLC going to be similar to the game’s existing dungeon? As in, a fifth divine beast? Or will this dungeon be totally different from the others in the game? Will this story reveal more memories of the past, or will it be focused more on the modern, devastated Hyrule? I’m excited to see new story added to the game and to see what it means for the overall narrative.
A SIMPLER TIME
I think the aftermath of a massive undertaking like this is actually a great opportunity to step back and try something on a smaller, more intimate scale. This is the perfect time for the Zelda team to switch their focus and work on a handheld title, maybe something similar to A Link Between Worlds that hearkens back to a simpler, more familiar Hyrule.
The big snag with that is that we don’t realistically know what the Switch is going to do to Nintendo’s handheld market. At least in 2017, the 3DS has no plans to slow down, with a number of games coming to the system, including New 3DS titles that will also be available on the Nintendo Switch. Are these two systems going to compete with each other? Or is the Switch enough of a console that the 3DS can still stand strong on its own? We don’t know what the company is thinking yet, but if the 3DS is on its last legs, then the next “handheld” Zelda is still going to be on the Switch. And if it comes to the Switch, folks will expect it to be more like Breath of the Wild and less like a typical portable Zelda game.
Personally, I loved A Link Between Worlds and I could definitely see myself enjoying a new handheld game that builds upon that formula. In a way, Breath of the Wild took some ideas from its handheld predecessor. Getting everything you need to navigate each dungeon early in the game, items based on a cooldown mechanic rather than a magic meter, being able to complete dungeons in any order – definitely some similarities between the two. I think it’d be cool to see how Breath of the Wild could influence a smaller-scale title.
WHAT NEEDS TO GO
Breath of the Wild was a brilliant game, but as near-perfect as it is, it still misses the mark in some ways. Certain experiments in this game work alright for a standalone title, but I don’t think they necessarily need to be Zelda staples. Here are a few ideas that I think we could really do without next time around.
First off, I don’t think the open world needs to be QUITE as big as it is. I know that’s sacrilege in this era of Pretty Skyrim and FF9-Billion and Horizon and yada yada. But seriously, a massive open world is only as compelling as the content you can reasonably fit inside it. Look at Majora’s Mask. That game had a small world compared to Ocarina of Time, but every inch of it was packed to the gills with content, making it feel full and vibrant in a way that OoT didn’t necessarily achieve. Bigger isn’t always better, and I think the next Zelda could stand to be scaled down so the developers can really focus on making the world engaging from start to finish.
Next, shrines. I don’t want them back. I like the idea of them and I think they work just fine for this game. But my main issue with shrines is that they are supposed to be aggregated together to count as extra dungeon content. These isolated puzzles do not (at least for me) replicate the experience of a legitimate Zelda dungeon. There’s also a boringness to the shrines that results from the repeated aesthetic. While each shrine works really hard to stand out with unique puzzles, their odd names and similar appearance make it very difficult to legitimately differentiate between them. They feel very “same-y” after awhile, and it makes doing over 100 of them a serious chore.
This issue with aesthetic extends to the few dungeons that do exist in this game. While each divine beast can be manipulated in different ways and it gives each dungeon a distinctive core mechanic, they all look the same, feature the same enemies, include the same dungeon challenge (activate five terminals), and all feature a painfully generic final boss. I miss dungeons that had a unique look and feel based on their region, whose puzzles really drove home a theme that stuck with you and made that dungeon stand out. I don’t necessarily think the next Zelda needs more dungeons (although if there are only 4, they need to be longer), it just needs dungeons that take the best features from older Zelda games.
I mentioned bosses a moment ago, and this game SERIOUSLY dropped the boss ball in my mind. Five versions of Ganon to fight in this game? Really? Each one is differentiated somewhat but none of these bosses have the character of the typical Zelda dungeon masters. The only “boss” in this game that I really felt captured the Zelda vibe for me was Master Kohga of the Yiga Clan. Even though his appearance was brief, he had personality and was lots of fun to fight. I miss that about villains like Zant and Ghirahim, and even more minor (yet still very memorable) bosses such as Goht or Twinrova.
Finally, I am SO tired of the typical tired Zelda story. Ganon is becoming a seriously predictable and boring boss. His first Calamity Ganon form was somewhat interesting and, at the very least, a unique interpretation of him. However, you soon find yourself once again riding on horseback shooting conveniently placed arrows of light at him, and his pig form became a prominent part of the fight yet again. He had no character, no drive other than mindless hate. It always drives me crazy when the series introduces a compelling and disturbing new villain and replaces them with Ganondorf suddenly at the end – this game didn’t even give me the compelling villain to be distracted by first. The next game, in my view, seriously needs to take a break from the same old story. If you really want me to be disturbed/intimidated/compelled by Ganon as a villain again, leave him out of a few games and then bring him back with a radical new interpretation.
WHAT NEEDS TO STAY
While there were certainly some aspects of Breath of the Wild that frustrated me and I’d prefer to do without, there were also those that I really would love to see stick around for awhile. This section is all about the good stuff.
I love the more realistic elements that were added to this game. Finding materials to cook for healing or sell for rupees rather than just cutting grass for hearts and money was a big improvement. I also enjoyed that Heart Pieces fell away in favor of the Spirit Orbs, and while I don’t want shrines to return I think it would be good for the next Zelda title to continue this trend of having better justification for Link’s upgrades.
While I don’t really want the massive open world to come back, I still love the emphasis on exploration and the freedom to do events in any order. This is something that was present in A Link Between Worlds and worked really well for that game, and it could continue to be done in Zelda. In my mind, the ability to approach the same situation from different angles and still find a solution is what really makes exploring in Breath of the Wild special. That aspect of the game should definitely stay, and in a smaller world more packed with content, being able to do what you want when you want it would feel even more special.
While Breath of the Wild wasn’t as difficult as the original Zelda, it still offered a challenge that hasn’t been seen in a long time. And I loved that. I’m not the kind of guy who plays Dark Souls for fun, but I think there’s something to be said for a game that pushes your limits and requires you to actually utilize everything it has to offer in order to succeed. If you encounter an obstacle that you can’t overcome, explore the world to make new discoveries and then come back with better stuff and new skills. Overcoming a challenge I couldn’t face before was really satisfying in this game, and I think the Zelda world benefits from tougher challenges. Zelda has always been a game with some mild strategic elements in combat due to needing to find the weaknesses of bosses – by making the combat more difficult, those same strategic elements are present in a way that’s also less gimmicky.
Finally, I really want the next Zelda title to keep the character development that this game began. Zelda herself enjoyed more growth through this game’s storytelling than she ever has in the series, and it really made me care about rescuing her. I empathized with her emotional plight. And while many of the side characters didn’t get as much in-depth treatment as the princess, the lore of the game world and the small bits of story with each tribe did wonders for character development of side characters like Sidon or Yunobo. While Breath of the Wild’s main story arch was dull, the side stories were very engaging and I want to see that quality of storytelling in the next Zelda’s main quest.
SO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT
Everyone naturally has different opinions on what they want from this franchise, and I have expressed mine pretty vocally here. I’d love to see a smaller-scale Zelda title that holds on to the freedom of exploration and world building of this game while also returning to some of the series’s more traditional elements. More thematic dungeons with bosses that have unique and challenging designs would pair well with the sense of exploration and trying different approaches to the same problem. Finally, I want to see the storytelling prowess demonstrated in this game utilized to tell a story about a villain other than Ganon, and to develop the characters in that story with depth and complexity.
Now I turn the conversation to you, adventurers. What do you think the next Zelda game will be like? What do you WANT it to be like? Let us know in the comments and contribute your voice to what is planned to be the last Breath of the Wild post on Adventure Rules for a little while – at least til the DLC comes out!