Eiji Aonuma hasn’t half been doing the rounds lately. The series producer has been in more interviews than Michael Parkinson (a mild-mannered, British Jay Leno for our US readers) and in the latest one, this time for Game Informer, Aonuma-san has been discussing the nature of dungeons in Breath of the Wild.
They’ve long been a defining characteristic of Zelda games, but much like everything else in the series, they’ve been approached in an entirely different way for the latest entry. We already know that the shrines scattered throughout Hyrule will be more bitesize chunks compared the sprawling, multi-layered efforts we saw in things like Twilight Princess. But that level of exploration has been transferred to the world itself this time. “Do dungeons really need to be that big? Do we have to cram that much stuff into it? We quickly realized that a lot of the fun was actually in getting to the dungeon, and so we focused on getting to the dungeon in this game. We wanted to create an environment where it is fun to find the dungeon in this large world.”
It seems the approach this time around is to have the entire world as one huge dungeon, with various puzzles contained in the multitude of shrines that litter the gameworld. That said, there are dungeons in the game, separate to the shrines too. Game Informer, having gone hands on with one such dungeon, report that the aesthetic is different to that found in the shrines. They also say that rather than a level-by-level 2D map, players are shown a 3D map of each dungeon with specific areas they need to check out highlighted. Sounds like it could be similar to the map system in Metroid Prime.
In another break with convention, dungeons will seemingly no longer be centred around a key item. Nor will the boss fights. Link will instead have to scour the overworld for the necessary supplies in order to ensure he’s well equipped to overcome both the challenges within the dungeon itself, and the enemy lurking at the end.
Aonuma also points out that because these dungeons are shorter affairs than we’re used to, it means you won’t need a compass to navigate them. Just your wits to overcome the obstacles between you and the end. “Dungeons have always been like mazes, so we needed that compass to let the user know where the bosses were placed. But then, as you probably saw, you can kind of see the goal right away. You won’t get lost — you just have to figure out how to get there.”
Dungeons have often been the key aspect of the series, and the shift away from seven or eight sprawling affairs to over 100 shorter challenges and a handful of more traditional, if shorter, dungeons is possibly one of the biggest changes in Breath of the Wild. But having that sense of discovery and the satisfaction of solving puzzles spill out into the world itself should make for a highly enjoyable romp through Hyrule. What do you think of the move towards smaller, more numerous dungeons? Will you miss those classic mammoth challenges, or are you keen to tackle the labyrinth of Hyrule itself, punctuated by multiple, shorter, enclosed conundrums?