Before you read the full post, I just want to say that I wasn’t sure whether to publish this post. Ever since the trailer for the new Zelda was shown at E3 I wanted to get some things off chest and give my honest thoughts and opinions on Breath of the Wild as a long time Legend of Zelda fan. I try to see the positives and negatives in everything, however, this post does come across more of a rant than any previous thing I’ve written. I hope you understand the points that I make. Hope you enjoy!
While it is clear that critics and many people love BotW, I am not one of those people. In my opinion, it was not a good Zelda game and not a good open world game. It ruined a lot of things that make the Zelda games so memorable and beloved, from incredible music, smart and varied dungeon design, and a unique charm that sets it apart from other games. It did things that any other game from another developer would be heavily criticized for, but because it is Nintendo, gets a free pass and no one bats an eyelid. As someone who is a massive Legend of Zelda fan, BotW was a huge disappointment and hoped future games would go back to what made the franchise great. However, knowing that the next game is a sequel has me worried for the future of the series.
I want to go through the things that were bad about BotW alongside the aspects I really liked. First things first, the biggest issue that I and many others had was the terribly bland and uninspired main dungeon design. When anyone thinks of there favourite Zelda dungeon, I guarantee that no Divine Beast from BotW will ever be on anyone’s favourite list. There are only 4 main dungeons and they all look and play almost identically to one another. You run about the inside and outside, moving a certain part of the Beast to allow you to progress. This sounds interesting at first and it is, but the novelty wears off very quickly, and the dungeons can be completed in about 30 minutes where the final bosses also suffer the same problems and are extremely forgettable. While the ideas here would be great for a single big dungeon, stretching it out for all of them was a bad move.
The other main issue was the move to an open world. It’s large, beautiful to traverse but filled with such repetitive and dull side content. The missions you get from NPC’s are cookie-cutter fetch quests, some of the worst I’ve seen, such as gather 60 iron ore’s etc. The mini shrines can be great fun and offer some much-needed puzzle solving that the main dungeons fail to have enough of. However, half of these shrines are literally just copy and pasted of the same fight against the same easy to fight enemy. Any other game would have been torn apart by critics, but was never addressed, it is a weird double standard where Nintendo games get given leniency on poor design, where others don’t. The story is bland and told mostly through flashbacks, which is not the best way to tell a narrative.
So much of this game feels like hardly any effort or passion went into it. Where the side content has been subjected to quantity over quality and the main content has neither quality nor quantity. Overall, the game feels extremely rushed and people seem to ignore all the clear flaws of its design. There were aspects I did really enjoy, the stamina system and the fact that you could climb on anything. I loved how the weather affects your traversal of the world, such as rain makes surfaces slippery, therefore it is more difficult to climb up them. The physics were great, however, the developers were clearly a bit too proud of it, as it was the basis of nearly all the puzzles. If I did a full review of it and gave it a score, I would probably give it a 5 out of 10 at most.
The trailer for the sequel did look amazing, with a more dark and creepy tone. However, because of the many flaws of the original, I am worried for it. If it is going to impress me, there needs to be some changes and improvements. The main thing for me is to make the dungeons feel unique to one another, something nearly every Zelda game in the past managed to do, and to make them longer and more difficult. They were simply way too short and simple in the original and honestly thought like an afterthought in an already underwhelming experience. Similarly, the bosses lacked that unique and intricate design, where they all felt so similar and boring to fight. While the first time you see and enter a divine beast is awe-inspiring, the feeling quickly fades to be replaced with monotony.
They also need to put a greater focus on the story, a darker tone has so much potential and hopefully have the story actually told in the present instead of mostly flashbacks. Twilight Princess remains the entry with the best storyline in my opinion, with memorable characters and honestly very emotional moments, something BotW lacked. I would also like to see a smaller and denser world compared to the beautiful but empty one before. A smaller world would benefit from a greater focus on quality rather than quantity. Where very few open world games have been able to do both (The Witcher 3 instantly comes to mind).
Overall, I have faith that Nintendo can correct the blatant problems that BotW had and deliver something of the quality and memorability of earlier entries like Twilight Princess and WindWaker. I do not think that it’s fair to have double standards when it comes to critiquing games. If some games get complains of repetitive side missions and bland design, then so should others. Nintendo should not get a free pass on clear issues in their games, as constructive criticism can only lead to better crafted ones. However, if they do not improve the areas I mentioned, then I fear that the sequel will once again fail to live up to the franchise’s high expectations in my opinion.