BREATH OF THE WILD is a masterpiece. It brought ZELDA back to its roots while thrusting it into the modern era. It was critically acclaimed, a commercial hit, and won almost 20 awards so far. By every metric, BREATH OF THE WILD is a great game.
But there’s still room to grow.
For all the game’s accomplishments, it’s not quite a perfect game. There are always ways to expand, to improve, to make a game even better than it already is. Eventually, this game is going to have a sequel, and that’s what I want to talk about today.
How do we make the sequel to BREATH OF THE WILD even better? What can we learn from the game’s accomplishments and short-comings? Well, let’s take a look!
Larger, More Diverse Interiors
BREATH OF THE WILD’s main draw is its sprawling, beautiful overworld. ZELDA is meant to be an open-ended experience, with a sprawling world full of adventure and mystery, and BREATH OF THE WILD more than achieves this goal.
That being said, there’s more to an open world than the wilderness. The next game should place just as much emphasis on interior-space. Like many, I loved the shrines and divine beasts in BREATH OF THE WILD. Each was like a living puzzle, complete with a beautiful, science-fantasy art style that set the game apart from its predecessors.
But after a while, they got a little repetitive.
The majority of interior locations share the same basic style. It’s gorgeous, but I can only look at black tiles and blue lights for so long.
Put simply, we need more places to go, more spooky dungeons to find out in the wild with treasure and unknown horrors within. Imagine if the same amount of diversity given to the open world went into these interiors. Forgotten tombs, sprawling caves, underground sheikah cities — the possibilities are endless.
Exploring the open world is only one part of an adventure. You also need interesting, diverse, well-designed dungeons. In the future, each primary dungeon should be more diverse, larger, and more important to the game. There should also be a number of smaller dungeons to explore in the wild, much like an ELDER SCROLLS game.
Unlike an ELDER SCROLLS game, each interior should feel hand-crafted, with unique puzzles, challenges, and level design. Given the quality of the open world, I have no doubt the ZELDA team can put the same amount of effort into the dungeons.
Time for Civility
But not all interiors are hostile. I hope future games retain BREATH OF THE WILD’s sense of exploration but leave room for a bit more civilization. We all remember the first time we reached Castle Town in OCARINA OF TIME, or Clock Town in MAJORA’S MASK.
Despite the restrictions of their time, these cities felt alive, bustling, a friendly hub full of mini-games, conversations, puzzles, and side-quests. I want nothing more than to see a city in the next ZELDA game.
While not technically “interiors,” cities in Zelda games are typically regarded separately from the overworld. Cities help remind the player that they’re a small part of a living world. They provide a “human” element to the game, reminding you who you’re fighting for and why. More than anything, it’s just a nice change of pace from the quiet serenity of the wilderness. BREATH OF THE WILD features various villages and small towns, but nothing on the level of previous games.
I don’t just want to walk around a beautiful landscape. I want that feeling you get in an RPG when you stumble across a howling cave, or fall through the floor into an ancient tomb, that sense of relief when I approach a new city, eager to explore every nook and cranny before returning to the wild.
ZELDA is more than capable of providing these experiences. Nintendo just needs to put a little more time into the interiors.
Revamp the Durability System of BREATH OF THE WILD
Like all survival mechanics, I love durability when it’s done right. These features add real stakes to the experience, forcing you to think ahead, manage your equipment, and make choices about how you approach combat. Durability can turn a trivial experience into an immersive adventure.
But for the love of God, BREATH OF THE WILD got it wrong.
The speed of decay, coupled with the breakable nature of most weapons, drained my enthusiasm for the game’s combat. After a while, I did my best to avoid conflict, so I wouldn’t waste my favorite weapons. I shouldn’t feel punished for fighting enemies. I shouldn’t feel disappointed when I find a new, powerful weapon, knowing full well it’s a consumable resource.
BREATH OF THE WILD is all about experimentation. Some think the durability system forces the player to experiment with different weapons, but I think it does the opposite. In general, I found myself treating weapons like currency. Do I “spend” my hard-earned gear on trash mobs? Or “save up” for a boss fight? If anything, this system discourages creativity.
Think about it this way: Imagine if Link’s powers were consumable as well. Would this encourage experimentation? Or would it make you hesitant to use your abilities at all?
How Do We Fix This?
Put simply, anything above a stick should be repairable. Let us grow attached to our gear as we did in previous games. Let the player decide which weapons are worth keeping, and which are worth discarding. Link should be able to pay a blacksmith to fix his weapons or fix them himself using materials he finds in the wild.
In general, weapons should take a lot longer to break. A sword should last more than just a few battles. Stronger weapons will give us more time to experiment with each, encouraging the player to bring the right weapon to the right situation. This allows for more varied enemies that are vulnerable to different styles of attack.
To balance the new system, decent weapons should be a bit harder to find. A bokoblin may drop a rusty ax or a nearly broken sword, but mid-tier equipment should be restricted to chests, shop-keeps, and mini-bosses. Players should be excited to find new weapons and seek them out across the world.
In general, combat becomes deeper and more enjoyable when the game lets us keep our weapons.
More Powers and Gear
ZELDA games are all about the gear. Link is like a fantasy Batman, equipped with all sorts of gadgets, artifacts, and enchanted items. This gear forms the core of Link’s progression and allows the player to feel more powerful as the game goes on.
Except in BREATH OF THE WILD.
Rather than focus on linear progression, BREATH OF THE WILD opted to give us everything we need at the beginning of the game. Sure, we get a few powers and weapons for completing the dungeons, but that’s about it. It’s clear the developers wanted a more open-ended experience, where the player could tackle any challenge at any time, without needing to rely on additional equipment.
But I think you can have it both ways.
The Best of Both Worlds
To retain the spirit of BREATH OF THE WILD, it should be possible to complete the entire game with only the powers given to you at the beginning. But we need a greater sense of reward and progression. Link should gain new abilities, new gadgets to help him on his journey. These should not only help in combat or puzzle-solving but in traversal as well.
The simple act of climbing is incredibly important in BREATH OF THE WILD. Because you spend so much time doing it, there should be a sense you’re getting better at it. The climbing gear was a good start, but there’s room to grow. According to Eiji Aonuma, they considered bringing back the hookshot, essentially an automatic grappling hook. This would be the perfect end-game reward, given to you right before you face Ganon. Imagine combining the momentum of the hookshot with the paraglider. You’d basically be flying.
Experimenting with your abilities is integral to BREATH OF THE WILD. What better way to reward the player than by giving them more toys?
BREATH OF THE WILD marks a new beginning for ZELDA. Like all beginnings, it needs to be built upon. No matter how good a game is, we should always look for ways to improve it. I’m looking forward to the next ZELDA game. Hopefully, they expand upon this new formula, experimenting with new features, while fixing the problems of the previous title.
BREATH OF THE WILD should already be seen as an object lesson for the industry. It’s an example of everything right with game development. It’s innovative, unafraid, and ambitious. If they can carry this mindset into the sequels, who knows what they can accomplish?