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?

  • Shinigami King

    I’ll be honest, this is a huge bummer for me. The world is already something that I was looking forward to but I’m the kind of player that loves dungeons. This kills the mood and the hype for me. Of course I will still love the world and enjoy the plentiful shrines, but with no unique sprawling locations littered with puzzles and encounters I’m not sure if I can get my fix.

  • Pedro Alvarado

    Im worried.
    Every Zelda has a reason for the people to say that is not the best Zelda, except for Ocarina of Time.
    I think this could be “Tha thing”…
    Im all for this new manner to distribute the gameplay, but as i said, im worried. For me not only was the finding the dungeon part the exciting thing, i also love to walked through the dungeon, see its design, unique for every one..i have said this to my friends before, and this fear is growing….i dont want everything to be Sheikah tech, regarding dungeons, bosses and puzzles 🙁

  • Rukariouzu

    I wish they would have made at least 12 main dungeons, with even larger size than we’re used to. Not this… but I guess we’ll see how it’ll turn out. But as other say, it really kills the hype. :/

    • my booths

      Same here. I love the unique dungeons of Zelda

  • Fabrizio Silveri

    This is honestly the only piece of information released so far about Breath of the Wild that I don’t like.
    I like MASSIVE dungeons, and I like getting lost in them, and I like digging every bit of them to find the precious items I need to go on in it.
    I might like the fact that you don’t have item related dungeons, but the dungeons themselves are THE MOST IMPORTANT thing in Zelda, are THE ONE THING in which Ocarina of Time is unsurpassed in the history of videogame.
    What’s the point in them, if they’re short and you can’t get lost?

    • Rohan Willoughby

      The point is to make you think, that’s always been the main point of dungeons, they’re always puzzles. This time, instead of say 8 or 10 huge puzzles, we get 120+ smaller puzzles and 4 larger puzzles, and I love it

      • Fabrizio Silveri

        Yeah…. but I want the larger ones.
        I want to get lost in the dungeons and pray that the next chest I open gives me the map because I’ve no idea where I am!
        I want to spend hours in them, until I’ve found every single treasure the temple hides.
        I want MASSIVE dungeons, because they’re Zelda as well.

        • Rohan Willoughby

          True enough, although I personally never got lost, I do understand what you mean. I’ll miss the monster dungeons, but personally I feel they compensated nicely

          • Fabrizio Silveri

            I’m not saying it’s not going to compensate, I love the overworld, the freedom this game gives you and I’m getting it on D1! Actually, too many and too big dungeons might even be too much, because the game will already be massive and if you have to distribute a story over 50 hours you’ll have a hard time making it work, so this idea of smaller or fewer dungeons can work.
            That said, though, I’m worried because if rumors are true we only have 4 dungeons, and 4 dungeons the size of the Deku Tree are simply not enough. Plus, all the dungeons are optional in some sense, since you can slay Ganon without completing them, so reducing their number and size doesn’t make much sense. 8 small dungeons? I’m ok with it. 4, massive dungeons? I’m in! But the Deku Tree was a tutorial…

  • Ulises

    They should have left at least some (two, maybe three) big dungeons in the game, so they could get all the diferent tastes satisfied.