After Breath of the Wild, where does Zelda go from here?
by on May 3, 2017

Breath of the Wild has obviously made a big splash in the video gaming community at large. It’s selling consoles, bringing Zelda fans back from “retirement,” reinventing the series, and rekindling the love that some have lost for the franchise. Some are even saying it is the quintessential Zelda game. So after such an amazing release such as this… what is next?

I’ll be the first to say that Breath of the Wild is a breathtaking game. The systems blend together seamlessly, the world is beautifully hand-crafted with sight lines and vistas, the gameplay is tight, there’s just a sense of wonder that flows throughout the whole game… the list could go on and on. I loved every minute that I played. When I was going through the honeymoon phase with the game, I honestly thought to myself, “I don’t see how they can top this.” But after my initial hype died down, the flaws of the game did start to poke through more and more. There is room to grow and improve.

Now, mind you, I would still give this game a 10/10; it is truly brilliant. In fact, part of the reason I’m writing this article is to force myself to look critically at this thing that I really do love. So while this thread is going to look at the shortcomings of the newest Zelda game, I hope to do it in a positive way that looks toward a bright future for my favorite gaming franchise.

Production

o dispense with the easiest one first, there are obvious improvements to be made on the technical end. Anyone who has played Breath of the Wild will notice that there are significant frame rate drops at times, particularly in grassy or wooded areas. The stability patch a few weeks ago has helped this issue, but it hasn’t solved it completely. I also had a recurring problem that the game would hitch, sometimes heavily, when I laid a heavy hit on a Moblin. (This only happened with Moblins. Why that one specific enemy?) Now that it’s not the ‘90s anymore, Nintendo has stopped focusing on being the cutting edge of technology and instead focusing on quality gameplay experiences, but games are, by nature, technical, and the next Zelda game should definitely pay attention to consistent frame rate. Hopefully the next game can improve in that area while still providing us with beautiful imagery.

Another common criticism for the game is the voice acting. I was personally skeptical of voice acting in Zelda in the first place since I am somewhat of a traditionalist — but don’t worry, this isn’t an “I Told You So.” I thought the voice acting was a welcome addition to Zelda. But Mipha’s voice, in particular, is terrible. This is a shame because I liked Mipha as a character, but she was just hard to listen to. I’ll personally defend Princess Zelda’s VO, but that performance has room for improvement as well. In a world where Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us exist, any sub-par voice acting quality will be exposed in the gaming community. Should Nintendo choose to employ voice acting in the future, they may need some better talent scouts. (Note: I have only played the English version of the game, and I’m not aware of the quality of VO in other languages.)

In a world where Uncharted 4 and the Last of Us exist, any sub-par voice acting quality will be exposed in the gaming community.

Writing

or years, fans have been asking to have freedom and for Nintendo to stop holding their hands all the way through the game. Skyward Sword was the epitome of over-explained and over-guided narrative that dictated the game’s progression. As a very clear reaction to that, Breath of the Wild offers freedom unparalleled in the 3D Zelda universe, becoming the truest sequel to the original Legend of Zelda to date. And yet, in spite of giving the player that freedom, Nintendo still managed to piece together a compelling narrative, ironically, perhaps the most compelling narrative that Zelda has had to offer since Majora’s Mask.

In the end, though, the story fell pretty flat. The four main characters of each race (Sidon, Yunobo, Riju, and Teba) were built up well, and yet they went absolutely nowhere when you were done with their respective areas. I realize some sacrifices had to be made to keep the non-linearity of the game intact, but these four characters represent a pretty big area of missed potential. Honestly, if it weren’t for the slide show during the staff roll, I might have forgotten about them completely. Heck, I had to go to Zelda Wiki to make sure I got their names right. This game handled the Hyrulian races better than any game in the past, but their main characters ended up amounting to very little. And while the Champions themselves were cool, it did get tiring to hear the exact same lines of dialogue in every dungeon. Again, I get it — they wrote the dungeons so you could go to any of them first. But all four dungeons were essentially the same in form, function, and progression. Next time around, I’d like to see stronger side characters and more interesting dialogue across the board.

Holding out hope for DLC that involves these guys more.

The end of the game was also not as fulfilling as it could have been. I understand that Calamity Ganon is now essentially the embodiment of evil and malice, but would it have killed them to add just a few lines of dialogue? On top of that, the final boss is completely neutered if you go complete all the main quests. Instead of just cutting the final encounter down to 1/5 of its content, I would have liked to see a different ending based on what you did and did not accomplish throughout the game. Perhaps an ending that involves the new “Champions” rising up to their rightful positions? I hope the next Zelda game has a stronger ending that better takes into account the actions of the player throughout the game.

As a final note on the writing: Nintendo, you have played the Amnesia card. You cannot play it again. It was well-done, but the challenge is now to present a similarly compelling narrative without using that crutch. I believe in you. I adored the Memory cutscenes and the fact that the player could find them in any order that they want, but next time has to be different.

Gameplay

ombat is a huge part of Breath of the Wild despite the game not being necessarily “combat-focused.” Since it plays such a major role in Zelda games in general, I think there are aspects of the combat that could be made more interesting looking forward. Flurry Rush and Shield Parry are great techniques, but throughout the game I realized more and more that they were my only really interesting melee options. I don’t think any game has quite replicated the combat progression that Twilight Princess had to offer, and I’d like to see another attempt at it.

I don’t think any game has quite replicated the combat progression that Twilight Princess had to offer.

This entry in the Zelda series puts game physics in a much more prominent role. Physics interactions were some of the most-highlighted features in the press cycle leading up to this game, and rightfully so. Overall, they nailed it. In fact, I don’t really have a criticism here — I just want to point out that game physics have near limitless possibilities, and I hope that we see the catalog of crazy interactions increase more and more as the series progresses.

I’m a little concerned that Nintendo backed themselves into a corner with the climbing mechanic, because every Zelda from this point forward needs to have free climbing. To go back now would be crippling. This requires a ton of design work, because the climbing surfaces in this game are so amazingly hand-crafted and would need to be matched. For an example of the brilliance of the climbing, I’d recommend climbing the Dueling Peaks after you’ve finished the game. Remember climbing Dueling Peaks after leaving the Great Plateau and barely making it to the hand-holds to rest and get your stamina back up? Go back now, and it’s a cakewalk. That mountain was intended to be an early-game climb, and it is designed as such.

In the reverse, if you ventured into the Hebra Mountains early in the game, you might not have had the best time. That kind of artistry is necessary for all future 3D releases, including the well-placed sight lines and the importance of vantage points. Breath of the Wild made climbing exciting and rewarding, and anything less in the future will be a step back.

A certain developer of the game told us that “You can go straight to Hyrule Castle and beat Ganon if you want to.” And, by golly, you can! I think this is a fantastic feature that should also carry into future games in some fashion. I did this myself and found it to be a fun, satisfying challenge. What could use refinement, though, is how the endgame is affected by when you choose to go to Ganon. I touched on this in an earlier segment — I don’t think the reward for completing the dungeons should be a neutered final boss experience, but a different final boss experience. Games have had multiple endings for years — Chrono Trigger, for instance, has a similar mechanic to beat the final boss very early, and features a very different ending for doing so. Assuming the next Zelda game has a designed speedrun, it should flesh out multiple endings. The speedrun route should most definitely be harder and more challenging, and overcoming that challenge should be the reward in itself. On the flip side, the full-game route should reward you in a different way, either with a new final boss experience or a more fully satisfying postgame sequence.

Finally, I hope the next game has more interesting swimming. Not only is swimming pretty slow and laborious, causing me to basically avoid it at every opportunity, but you couldn’t dive or explore the water at all. Maybe Skyward Sword’s terrible underwater sequences scared them off from designing submerged areas, but I’d like to see those return if they’re done well.

Unfortunately for us, Nintendo’s official art looks way more fun than the actual mechanic.

Design

his game is a masterful open world, but it is still Nintendo’s first real foray into that type of game design. There’s room to grow, and that’s exciting!

If I could change one single thing about Breath of the Wild, it would be its dungeons. I thought the Divine Beasts were fascinating–I loved how the maps controlled the dungeon layout, and all four of them had fun and unique mechanics to them. But just imagine a Zelda game with an open world as fantastical and sprawling as Breath of the Wild’s… but then has equally fantastical and sprawling hidden dungeons to explore, with item rewards and awesome variety of bosses. In other words, I’d love to see the next game incorporate the more classic approach to Zelda dungeons. Now, classic Zelda did get pretty stale in this area, I’ll admit. Items were rarely useful outside of the dungeon you found them in, and the dungeons themselves were not always the most interesting. But with some refinement and care, real dungeons could add so much to a game that is already bursting at the seams with great experiences. It would allow for more environments, more items (Can you imagine this world with a hookshot?), more bosses, more enemies, more gameplay, and just more in general. The development time and resources to achieve this dream would be sizeable, but worth it.

With some refinement and care, real dungeons could add so much to a game bursting at the seams with great experiences. Can you imagine this world with a hookshot?

Speaking of enemies, surely I wasn’t the only one who got sick of Bokoblins and Lizalfos by the end of the game. You can change their color palettes all you want, but they’re still just Bokoblins and Lizalfos in the end. I thought it was great to see the return of Lynels, but Zelda has so many enemies in its history that the sameness got really disappointing about halfway through the game. Like-Likes, Iron Knuckles, Beamos, Dodongos… hopefully we’ll see some of these in DLC, but we need to see them it the next game at least.

Cooking was an interesting addition to this world, but the system could use refinement. The balance is a little wonky — for instance, hearty items are ridiculously powerful and meat is fairly useless. But even if the balance were perfect, the main problem with cooking lies in the interface. It took me a bit to even understand how to hold items and put them in a pot. (I kept trying to interact with the pot in some way instead of diving right into my inventory screen.) Why is there no “recipe book” where you can select what outcome you want and then choose the ingredients to go into it? Why do I have to keep pressing +, sometimes LT/RT, both sticks, X, A, and B to make one simple meal? If cooking returns, as it probably will, it needs to be streamlined.

Shrines are awesome. Dedicated, Portal-like puzzle rooms with multiple solutions and multiple challenges, all for a nice, tangible reward. Shrines are one of the things that make Breath of the Wild as special as it is. But if Nintendo decided to use the same Shrine structure in the next game, I might roll my eyes. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with the traditional Piece of Heart model from previous Zelda games, and while a break from it was nice, it could be done again and done very well. There could even be shrine-like mini-dungeons all over the next game, and that would be awesome. But if that design effort is also split into more thorough dungeon design, I think it would be a worthy trade-off. Keep the idea of Shrines, but don’t just go directly back to that well.

Changing up the Shrine structure would also allow for more variety in aesthetics.

Changing up the Shrine structure would also allow for more variety in aesthetics.

In the end, Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece, and there are so many awesome lessons learned that Nintendo can carry forward into future games. I hope to see the DNA of this game throughout the rest of this series’ lifespan. But if the next game is simply Breath of the Wild 2, I’ll be disappointed. There are places to go from here, and I’m excited to see Nintendo go to them. I’ll gladly go right along.

Jared Natsis
Jared Natsis is a student, husband, father, Greninja main, and lifelong Nintendo fan. You’ll see him posting in various corners of the internet as Marilink. Follow him on Twitter for his thoughts on various video games and his suffering over Detroit sports teams.
  • Miguel V

    I agree on everything, except cooking. I thought it was a nice addition, but in the end it made the game easier. Don’t get me wrong, I died a thousand times, but it was mostly of overconfidence (especially at the early game, when you had fewer hearts). After some hours playing, you started to better anticipate how many hearts an attack would damage and healed accordingly before you took it. But with the addition of cooking, being able to carry 21,386,712 Hearty Mushroom Skewers in your pocket took out the challenge in defying bosses.

    I think revisiting the good ol’ formula of 20 heart containers + 4 bottled fairies wouldn’t be so bad. Even though, it was fun coming up with strange recipes.

    And dungeons… 4 were just not enough. If possible, for the next Zelda I’d like a minimum of 7 long dungeons, with compelling story quests & plot twists between one and the next. Because, let’s face it, this game’s story, while having interesting and developed characters, was waaaay too simple.

  • Elven_Ariaera

    This article pretty much explains how I felt about the story perfectly. I wanted more from the side characters that kind of just got tossed aside when you were done with them. I thought, like you had mentioned, that they would become the new champions, or something of the sort– just play more prominent roles. I also find myself having to google the names as well! They had so much potential!

    A lot of it is also what my friend and I always discuss when we talk about botw as well. I literally thought it was one of those discussions again when I got to the combat style. They should make another system like Twilight Princesses, it’s the most memorable and fun combat system, and I think with the weapon variety in BotW, it could offer many unique fighting styles.

    Then the underwater feature– I completely agree! Now I’m not usually one to ask for an underwater level, but the scenery was so gorgeous and there’s so much water throughout Hyrule it definitely would have made a huge difference. It would have also made a lot more use of the Zora armor– Though to be fair I use it every time I’m in the water because swimming is such a chore otherwise.

    And lastly the enemies– My goodness, I’m so glad someone pointed it out. At first you don’t realize it, but then all of a sudden it hits you and all you ever seem to be fighting are the same 4 types of monsters. I’m glad they brought back things like Lynels, and even Chuchu’s, but there is so little variation. Redeads and Darknuts would have been amazing to have in this game!

    It’s interesting to see these points brought up. Good read and thanks for sharing!

  • David

    I agree with the other comments and the blog. However, two big points missed are the weapons breaking and the rain. The weapons break way too quickly and the good weapons are too hard to come by. While I get the idea was to make the player be strategic in weapon use, this just became downright annoying at times. Additionally, the concept of the Master Sword becoming unusable for 10 minutes is ludicrous. For the all powerful weapon to have such a weakness tarnishes its mysticism and legendary status. Also for the amount of effort it takes to obtain it, the reward should be an unbreakable weapon. As for the rain, it seemed to rain more than it didn’t rain. The weather added such realism to the game, but the frequency in which it rained simply made it an annoyance keeping Link from getting places.

    I also want to bring up another HUGE bug in the game… The Z Targeting did not seem to like locking onto enemies off camera. Past Zelda games would snap to face the next in-range enemy even if off camera. This should be patched.

    • Matthew

      I actually disagree about weapon breakage. If you were able to find a weapon (be it the Master Sword, or something else) that wouldn’t break, it would become the ultimate weapon and you would never need anything else; you’d then have no reason to attack enemy camps, or explore new areas, as there wouldn’t be any need anymore.

      Having weapons that break rapidly forces you to explore and attack enemy camps in order to gain their weapons, and without this I feel as though the game would be a lot duller. For example, there’d be nothing stopping you from going straight to this “ultimate” weapon, and using it from the beginning of the game.

  • Cemile Ve Ledeyna

    I would like to see the music book back from ocarina and majora’s mask I like the way you could always play the music and there was always new beautiful music that you could learn along the way I was thought that was beautiful also want more of a love story between Link and Zelda more passion to me the game still doesn’t beat ocarina and major mask in that way there was so much touching stories behind it and then everything else you said The dungeons In this games where way too easy and lacking in the adventurous mysterious side it was very plain oh and I really didn’t like the fact we couldn’t swim underwater at all

  • RiaJ

    “I don’t think any game has quite replicated the combat progression that Twilight Princess had to offer, and I’d like to see another attempt at it.”

    What? Twilight Princess had an awful combat system. The techniques were a good idea but added nothing to the gameplay, because the enemies died with 1 or 2 strikes, so the only reason to use the techniques was to look cool.

    Breath of the Wild has a great combat system where enemies are challenging, so you have to make decisions about which weapons to use (knowing that you’ll lose them forever), and your good reflexes are awarded with a flurry rush.

    • TheWotch

      I disagree. “Twilight Princess” did have cool flourish, but for certain bad guys, learning those combat moves was practically essential. I quite enjoyed the progression and learning how to take down the Chilfos and Darknuts. Combine a few more of those types of attacks with BotW’s enemies with their HP systems, and you’d have an amazing result. Fury Rush is cool, but toss in some Helm Splitting and even some Wind Waker dodge-rolling, and you get some awesome combos that can be used to vary up the combat experience.

    • Brad Wood

      you needed them for darknuts and for lizalfoes.

    • Rust

      Enemy design and difficulty is not the same thing as a combat system. A combat system is the way Link functions in battle.

  • Brad Wood

    I just finished it last night. All the criticism is valid. At the same time the only ones that are a threat to the reputation of the series are story and shrines.
    Its the weakest story in the series outside of the SNES and portable games…i take that back, minish cap and phantom hourglass had a better more satisfying story.
    If i had one major complaint that could be fixed, it would be a lack of closure with hyrule at the end. The world has been emboldened by your actions, they are free of the calamity in their respective hemispheres, the tyranny of the divine beasts is over, and they now have their protective guardians presiding over the land again.
    Im not saying the champion descendants should pilot the beasts again, but when the time was to come, they should have been rallied to hyrule field for a final conflict, the swelling of the land with the pride of the people rushing towards the end of Ganon.
    And of course, Ganon himself, so much is implied by his appearance, he could have had some dialogue. What would he say to the hero he despises, whom he thought he killed, he has taken on the ancient sheikah tech as a crutch to his lifeforce. I am left in awe that nintendo couldn’t write something about that… why couldn’t we have ganon dialogue!? I understand the choice, i just think its lazy.
    I used to look at twilight princess with a bad taste in my mouth for something similar, but over time i began to realize that they did something incredible with that sequence at the castle, where ashei shad and telma and russl rise to the ocasion and bring the might of hyrule to bare against ganons forces, they really made you feel like you could do this, and the characters you knew the whole playthrough that you wanted to protect, and the people you met along the way who spurned you on…that was great zelda writing, ganon himself was my complaint back then, but now i can almost forgive his depiction, because this is far worse.

    The shrines were great, just needed to be longer, and have a different aesthetic. If you could cut out 40 or so shrines and put that development time into 4 actual dungeons with some sort of metroidvania progression that would be great. The map can be non linear all day, but if the map of a dungeon is a puzzle in itself then you have figured out good game design. see darksouls 1.

    • Brad Wood

      Im gonna say what we all are thinking. Thank god[ess-s] for Tarrey town.
      That and the 3 spirit dragons really made this game magical for me.

  • DimensionalRanger

    Thanks a lot for that article! This really sums up my thoughts about the game. As a really, really big Zelda fan, I found this game to be… oddly alien.

    When I finished the game and took a step back, all these flaws popped out at me. However, I do not want anyone to take this the wrong way: this game is a masterpiece. But I think it’s normal for this to happen, since this is the first modern open-world game Nintendo has done.

    I really believe the next game will be better, I just want the story to be good, that’s what really bothered me about this game. Despite my gripes about this game. I applaud Nintendo for this outstanding achievement.

    • Film Rewind

      I wouldn’t want Nintendo to think we were complaining at all but I agree with the listed issues. The only thing NOT listed that I want changed is when Link get hits. His arms go inward like he’s paralyzed and he buckles and… just… slides… away… forever. It’s technically realistic I guess but I found myself wanting a recovery option. Like, let me pound “A” repeatedly so I maybe bounce back.

      Also, I would like them to balance out the Mini-Bosses with the Temple Bosses. I’m fairly maxed out as it is and have beat the game and yet I’ve only fought Lynels twice because they have 4000 hp! I literally beat both Gannon’s forms quicker than I did 1 Lynel.

      And yes, the water mechanics were pointless. It felt like they added it as an after thought because they couldn’t build the world without water. And the Zora Armor did nothing.

      Lastly, as stated, the story needs work. There was better set up in this one but once the beast was completed that was it and all it got you was half of the first Gannon’s life gone. And once beat the game does end very abruptly. Because the game had an “end of all things” finality to it I hoping that there is a story “reboot” of sorts. I want to see better continuity going forward design and story wise where the games feel like one whole series kind of like how the Halo games grow and develop but are all one story. And also maybe keep similar map layouts. ALTTP and ALBTW showed that this could be done and yet be different while respecting each other.

      I guess that’s it. But again, BOTW is a MASTER PIECE through and through. I want them to just keep adding stuff so that I can keep building my Link. I don’t want to be done with it. I want hookshots and more maps! I would love a Link’s Awakening expansion with a full fledged island or something like that. Keep it coming Nintendo!

  • Darkstar

    The overworld is truly amazing and full of wonder, but the combat system could have been better (as mentioned by other, using Twilight Princess’ “Hidden skills” would have been amazingly helpful towards enemies in this game). Overworld music would have been nice in some fields (I can see why they didn’t put it in as it would have become really repetitive as you explored Hyrule for hours) but there is some music subtly played in certain areas in the fields.

    To be fair, the guardians (both big and small) are technically Beamos as they shoot lasers from their eye like the originals did. I would have enjoyed a bigger variety of enemies too like past games, but the Hinoxes and other big enemies scattered across the country were an interesting inclusion.

    I’m not sure how much of the game I’ve completed (I’m don Vah Ruta and a bunch of side quests from Kakariko and Zora’s Domain) so perhaps almost a quarter way through? It certainly is a very long game, and there is much land to explore just like Xenoblade X (without the help of a Skell, which I could easily use to scale high mountains). Overall, the game is quite entertaining and I really enjoy the amount of exploration it provides.

    Let’s hope that the DLC gives us an interesting “original story, new dungeon and trial of the master sword” content.

  • Completely agree with the dungeon criticism. So stale after the hundredth shrine, even if all the puzzles are different it’s the same beginning and end.

    I’m thinking of writing up my own feature zooming in on the Lost Woods and its fascinating role in BotW as its own trial and how it is the closest thing to a typical Zelda temple without being overcumbersome like the labyrinths.

    I need DLC with Dampé and the hookshot right now please and thank you. I mean, I only want the hookshot with videogame logic, not real life physics that would pull your arm out of your socket. Game Theory talked about it: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LplSnXQMf38

  • Sasha Plisko

    There’s a typo!

  • Phineas T. Ratchet

    Would you like my honest opinion? I thought Breath of the Wild was a huge masterpiece in its own right, and making the format of this game the future of the series would spoil what made this game so special and unique to begin with. A lot of aspects from this game could and should be incorporated in new games, such as the free climbing and the streamlined cooking that you mentioned. But I would not like to see the next games be like this one. No scattered Shrines; more proper, unique dungeons, please. And a more coherent story; making everything optional presented an honestly, in my opinion, badly-held-together narrative.

    I think the next game should somewhat return to the format of the original series but should also carry over some open-world aspects from Breath of the Wild, if that’s really possible. I might seem idiotic for saying this, but I hope that in the next game, there is at least some form of linearity. A Link Between Worlds level linearity, to clarify. Because if they can combine the best of both worlds, and even add some new mechanics perhaps, we will have a new, great, unique game that will not paste Breath of the Wild as the future of the series and take away that game’s uniqueness. But rather as its own entry in the series, while still bringing amounts of its gameplay into the future so that it still has some impact on the series as a whole.

  • Miguel Arturo Palomares

    miphas voice acting in spanish and japanese was beautiful !!!!!

    but yeah…. in english was….was… just sad

  • Sean Pazdera

    I want a Hyrule Warriors 2 that actually has Groose in it.