A reader concludes his two-part critique of Breath Of The Wild and looks forward to improvements the could be made in the sequel.
When starting this comparison between Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Ocarina Of Time, I shared my views on the controversial weapon durability systems. Now we shall compare the narrative, what should carry over into the next title, and the games’ overall structure.
Which leads us to the bosses. And not the sub-bosses that you can fight almost constantly, like your Hinox and Lynel, but the main bosses. Now, there’s nothing as bad as Gyorg in Majora’s Mask, but they’re so mediocre. Nowhere near the usual Zelda standard. Except for Master Kohga, chief of the very disturbing Yiga Clan. Kohga is something of an oaf and could be outwitted by a distracted cat. But it does feel closer to the spirit of classic Zelda combat. He is undone by his own weapons, you see. His ultimate end being especially hilarious. Not as great as a Phantom Ganon or Twinrova battle perhaps, but still the second-best boss in the game.
The final boss is the best but that does come with some heavy caveats. I imagine that if you haven’t conquered all four of the Divine Beasts, have the Master Sword, and the Hylian Shield this could be a chore. Leave just one of those Blight-demons alive and Ganon will call on them in the last battle to aid him. That will not mean a good time for you.
I prepared thoroughly, however. The scene where the Divine Beasts and their fallen champions come to your aid is a real air-punching moment as they blast off half of his health! Half! Being the source of all evil in this mythos means he’s still no pushover and I thought I wasn’t doing him any damage during the times he has his shield up. But no, I was – just less. Make sure you bring plenty of bombs and ancient arrows, as many as you can afford. Also, if, like me, you suck at the shield parry, the Goron energy shield will deflect his laser beams back into his big, ugly face. Which is very nice indeed.
On a side note, the Yiga are subtly terrifying. Your first encounters with them are bound to come from approaching regular citizens, hoping for a quest perhaps. But before they strike, their faces contort into these horrible, rictus grins of demonic glee. Then they turn into their ninja forms and you have to fight them. This might not be so chilling you may well argue until you consider their backstory. They are a splinter group of the Sheikah, you see, and when the rest of Hyrule turned against them at one point the Yiga were understandably a little miffed.
What is less understandable is that they then pledge themselves to the service of Ganon and have been around for a very long time and it is very likely that you never see their true faces. Be it the face of an ordinary Hylian or their more traditional garb, I think they’re always wearing a mask and you probably don’t want to see what they really look like. I imagine something twisted and grotesque beneath…
But moving on, as great as some of the shrines can be they become aesthetically boring by the second one. Did they really have to be so blatantly copy and paste? A different background, maybe some in the open would have been nice. I was also led to believe, in the pre-release hype, that the overworld would be more dungeon-like in its design, requiring the same level of guile to unearth all its secrets. This is only somewhat true. It does not go far enough for my liking. Take for example, your ability to chop down large trees. In the Great Plateau you are encouraged to do this at one point to make a bridge. This is the only time in the entire game that this ever comes in handy. And I expected to be doing far more stuff like that.
This could be the fault of the paraglider. It is so useful that once you have it, you never look back. It becomes your main way of getting about. Even to the extent that it renders horses and other mounts a mere novelty that you may never use. Personally, I have probably spent 10 minutes in total on horseback. Not that catching horses, Red Dead Redemption-style, isn’t a welcome addition. It’s just there’s no real call to use them. Other than some horse races here and there. It’s usually better to just walk or glide. There’s never anything in the overworld that only a horse can get you through.
Now, there is one particularly irritating side quest that is very desirable to complete that almost pushed me into dropping the score to a 9 out of 10: lighting the furnace for the Akkala Ancient Tech Lab. It will likely be the second of such quests and will get you access to ancient weapons and armour, including those all-important arrows. Literally after every single torch there was another Moblin to fight! Now, they’re easy to beat, they just make the quest that much longer. And I was unfortunate enough to have it rain on me! Twice! And it can take half an in-game day for the skies to clear! ‘Aargh! Must! Kill! Everybody!’ But the rewards were oh so worth the pain.
Speaking of the Sheikah, the first lab is where you get those lovely Sheikah Slate upgrades. These are pretty much essential in my view. You will wonder how you got by without being able to cast Stasis on enemies. It is a godsend. So is the crafting system. Much like the pictograph quest from The Wind Waker, this has no right to be as satisfying as it is. Other games have crafting systems and they can be a chore, but not this. Making your elixirs, cooking your meals, and Link’s adorable little face when he gets something good (one of the rare occasions he gets to display any sort of personality) is just so great. I can’t tell you why this is, it just is. I personally hope to never hunt down empty bottles again and this system becomes the Zelda norm.
Now, the storytelling in Breath Of The Wild is distinctly weaker than Ocarina, which itself is not amazingly good. But it was okay. It was shorter and had its moments. Breath Of The Wild is longer, has less of those moments and an alarming lack of star power. There’s no equivalent to Malon or Romani here. No Midna. Bolson, the fabulous builder is good, but there’s not enough of him and he kind of gets lost in the vastness of it all. And Zelda herself is definitely not as good as Tetra-Zelda. But don’t be so quick to blame the voice actress, she does her best with the wafer-thin material she has to work with.
The proof of that comes in one of Link’s ‘Memories’ you can hunt down that shows her out in the field happily cataloguing insects and plant life. She really comes to life in that scene, the only time it happens. And it was the only time I could see what they were going for: depicting her as a bookish dork. Which kind of makes sense, she is the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom after all. But her arc doesn’t reflect that. She doesn’t earn her power by being wise but in a last chance saloon sort of way. In other words, the writers didn’t follow through on the character’s potential. Which is a shame, as we know Nintendo are more than capable.
However, that doesn’t mean that there are no good characters. Prince Sidon, Princess Mipha, and Chief Riju all have charm. Actually, is it Chief or Queen Riju? Her exact title isn’t all that clear to me. I even felt a pang of emotion in all the Mipha scenes, despite the fact that Link is usually as expressive as a plank of wood. I saved Gerudo Town until last, as I felt they were sorely missed in and conspicuously absent from Twilight Princess – and boy was it worth the wait. My favourite settlement in the game by far.
Most of the Gerudo tower above Link with the kind of abs that The Rock would be jealous of. And all of them are super-glam! Why the majority of them walk around in about three-inch high heels when they’re already so tall is a mystery. And while all these guys are good, they could have had more impact on the story. Zelda usually separates its regions into their own isolated bubbles and it feels like a mistake this time. Makes the world feel less cohesive.
Also, only the nominal ‘first’ Divine Beast, the one bothering the Zora, is any serious threat. Before you got there, their big stone elephant was in danger of cutting the region off from the rest of Hyrule, killing any chance of trade. Once that’s taken care of, the rain finally stops and Zora’s Domain no longer faces the risk of being submerged underwater. Which is nice.
The other Divine Beasts seem much less pressing. Nor does getting them back under control seem to affect the region all that much. Which is disappointing. Yahtzee Croshaw hilariously said of Majora’s Mask that all the temple bosses were ‘leaning on a lever labelled make surrounding area crummy’ and killing them makes it not crummy again. He didn’t actually say crummy, I can’t actually use the word he did. But, as on the nose as that is, it did mean that clearing out the temples had serious, narrative weight. That’s not really the case in Breath Of The Wild.
In fact, the Divine Beast ‘threatening’ the Gerudo is doing nothing of the sort. It seems like it’s miles away, just wandering around in a circle. Don’t get me wrong, if that oversized rock camel ever decides to head town-wards, then they don’t stand a chance. Except that never happens. As you and little Riju set off in her adorably over-sized Thunder Helm to go get it, it’s headed in the opposite direction to the town and nearby Oasis.
Had it have then, at that moment, decided to turn around and stomp its way toward the town, that would have given the task at hand some genuine stakes. But, as it is, there are no stakes. Not really. No peril. No tension. Riju won’t even let me walk around freely in town after I’ve retaken it! Thanks, Riju. You’re the best. Now give me your hat! I need it a lot more than you do!
Let’s wrap this up now, as even I didn’t think I could potato waffle for this long. Breath Of The Wild 2 will be coming at some point, only the fourth time this very old series has had a direct sequel. I do not want to have to climb another bloody tower. I’d rather buy a map from Tingle, to be honest. Or just fill it in automatically as and when you get there like Ocarina did. Keep that crafting system. It’s lovely.
Capturing horses is still a good idea, but don’t hide Epona or some other significant mount behind an amiibo. By the same token, make them more important to the main and side quests and have more reason to use them. The teaser for Breath Of The Wild 2 implied that we might be traversing the skies (don’t put too much stock in that, I reserve the right to be completely wrong) so will we have sky mounts? Riding on the back of a giant eagle like Gandalf? That would be awesome.
I do like the idea of different weapon types, but for the love of the Three Goddesses, ditch the durability system! It’s always annoying and it is simply not true that it encourages or forces experimentation – get players to switch between types as the enemy design dictates! And limit the variations to three at the most, please. You’re not making an Elder Scrolls game. Link is a crafty hero, I don’t want to have wars of attrition in a Zelda game! He isn’t Dante!
The bosses must be of a higher standard, the last batch felt rushed. Don’t do that again. Challenge my mind more, give me more meaningful opportunities to use Link’s bag of tricks to interact with the environment. Please give Link some actual personality! I don’t know why this has been so difficult since The Wind Waker did it. Okay, he was a cartoon, but he can have more facial expressions than two, you know.
Oh, and the Master Sword should always be the best, or second best at the very least, weapon in the game and not just in special situations. Against blighted enemies like Ganon, other bosses, and Guardians you face out in the wild the Master Sword has a damage rating of 60. But they’re the minority. Against the majority of enemies that value is halved! Unless I buy some DLC. Don’t do that again, Nintendo. And, needless to say, the notion that the Master Sword has to ‘recharge’ is the epitome of stupid. All other arguments are invalid.
So, in short, there are too many irritations in Breath Of The Wild and Ocarina Of Time still has some crucial and clearly defined advantages, like its bosses, for it to be considered the better game. But it came oh so very close. And it will not take that much tweaking to use the templates founded here to create what could and should end up being the best game ever made. Now, we just have to wait for it. That should be easy…
By reader DMR
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