Thursday, April 14, 2022

Breath of the Wild 2: What Should Change?

Link in the sequel running on a golden sky island, promotional screenshot

Nintendo takes their sweet time with refining the next major installment in the Zelda franchise, the sequel to Breath of the Wild. And that's good, they should strive to make the game the best experience possible. But while Breath of the Wild was a milestone to both the Zelda series and the open world genre, it's far from a flawless game, where the sequel should learn from the mistakes. So, let's discuss some of the basics that need to be improved.

The first thing that will come to mind for most players is the whole weapon system. "Don't make the weapons break or add a way of repairing weapons!" is probably the most common suggestion you will hear about Breath of the Wild. However, while various of the suggestions in this article are related to the weapon system, there are some merits to how it worked...

For once, you don't obsess over finding the best possible weapon(s) and it gives any weapon you may find some potential value, because your super duper Savage Lynel Sword is going to break eventually and you don't want to waste it on small fries. A means of repairing weapons would only lead to people cluttering their inventories with nearly broken weapons that they want to repair later, instead of throwing them at the heads of their enemies and using the next best weapon they'll find... A repair system could make things as annoying as the breaking tools in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, where you constantly get distracted by crafting new ones.

So, the fundamentals aren't actually bad, whether you enjoy the system or not, where it's likely that this will be kept largely the same in the sequel. But there is some fine tuning that will need to be done if they are keeping it as it is. This and more will be discussed here.


Weapon Variety

Having lots of different weapons in the game doesn't actually mean much when those weapons work mostly the same. You have bows and arrows, one-handed weapons with shields, two-handed weapons, and spears. There is some variety thanks to the different elements and some weapons with special usages, e.g. boomerangs and rods, but for the most part those are the four basic combat styles. And it's somewhat disappointing that Link would use a battle axe in the exact same way as a two-handed sword.

The sequel will probably expand upon what Breath of the Wild already had, so there is no reason to believe that battle axes work differently now. But we've already seen new types of shields in the trailer that can be used offensively, which is an interesting idea. Elemental shields instantly come to mind here, which can burn, freeze, or fry your enemies when they touch them.

Link using a shield with an artificial, fire-breathing dragon head attached to it in some cave

It would be good if there are some entirely new weapon types as well, where two of Link's additional weapons from past Zelda games are the Ball & Chain and the Whip. However, whips or flails would most likely turn into another variant of the one-handed weapons, similar to rods. And it's probably the same with ball & chains as two-handed weapons, where you swing the ball via the spin attack. They could also turn out more sophisticated and as their own thing, but they don't necessarily have to.

An idea for an entirely new weapon type could be something that's dual-wielded, like daggers, for faster attacks. This could not be replicated with any of the current weapon types, so that's a category with high potential and many additional weapons. Some of them could even be used as boomerangs, where you can throw two in succession.

Weapon Availability

If any weapon in the game can break, then you should be able to get them back at any point later in the game. Otherwise this creates an incentive to hang on to weapons that are either entirely unique or that can grow extinct, like a Hylian Shield with buffs or some of the Lynel weapons in Breath of the Wild. This is especially problematic when there's something like the Hyrule Compendium, where you document every weapon in the game. Having potential omissions was a bad design flaw and shouldn't be repeated in the sequel, which also goes hand in hand with the next topic.

Level Scaling

Breath of the Wild was a game about you constantly growing stronger, but so did some of your enemies, which went against a true sense of progression. While it's not as bad as in some other open world games with an actual experience and leveling system, the game did replace enemies with stronger variants, while also upgrading the tiers of the weapons that you will obtain randomly. By the time you feel like taking on one of those Blue Lynels you saw at the Faron Grasslands, they will have turned into the white-maned variants, and so on.

the new Eyegore enemy from the E3 2021 trailer

It's taking away the successes you have made, where you don't really feel like you've become stronger for a while, because your opponents became stronger as well. Of course the game doesn't always do this, but ideally it would never do this. The difficulty and tiers of your enemies should be entirely regional, as obstacles that need to be overcome, just like in the original The Legend of Zelda. And while Breath of the Wild partly does this as well, it's a weird mix that doesn't really work out all too great at all times.

To make things worse, the aforementioned Blue Lynels can (almost) disappear from your game entirely, where their weapons will be gone as well, which created the previous issue of limited weapon availability. So, overall this is something that Nintendo should rethink or at least optimize in a way where it doesn't get in the way of your progress and goals.

The Food

No matter how difficult the fights may get, you can always make things a lot easier for yourself with cooking. This feature is ridiculously overpowered, where the worst offender are the "hearty" recipes that give you additional hearts on top of fully healing you. This needs to be nerfed very badly by only giving you the yellow hearts, because otherwise this makes any other healing recipe completely obsolete, given that you have collected enough of the right plants. It's the same with "enduring" recipes and stamina.

a food inventory with 17 Heart Fried Wild Greens

Then there's the problem that you simply can have too many food items, 60 in total. No other Zelda game ever gave you this many healing opportunities, maybe four or five bottles with potions. An easy fix would be limiting the food stash in the same way as weapons, shield, and bows. You start with a hand full of slots and then can slowly upgrade them to a maximum of 20.

In addition, there should be some sort of cookbook that let's you remember any recipes you've found. It could even provide shortcuts for cooking, so you don't have to pick the materials out of the inventory by hand.

The Loot

When your weapons keep breaking, they are simply a resource, same as Rupees, materials, or arrows. And this makes finding weapons in treasure chests about as exciting as getting Rupees or arrows. After solving an optional puzzle in a shrine or clearing an enemy encampment, you don't want things that you could easily obtain from anywhere else. You want to find something that's either unique or limited in supply.

The remake of Link's Awakening understood this by putting its additional Secret Seashells and Pieces of Hearts absolutely everywhere. There is now no cave in the game where you don't find anything of value. And if Breath of the Wild ever gets a "Definitive Edition", a lot could already be improved by putting some of the loose DLC armor pieces into skull chests or the optional chests in Sheikah Shrines.

Armor pieces were actually the only major "collectible" in Breath of the Wild that could be found in a variety of ways in different places. Otherwise it had the Spirit Orbs and Korok Seeds, but those were always gotten from finishing Sheikah Shrines or solving Korok puzzles respectively. For other activities the rewards were rather limited, where the sequel will need a more universal collectible, similar to the Spirit Gems from Phantom Hourglass or the Secret Seashells in Link's Awakening. Those could be obtained from treasure chests, minigames, sidequests, and so on. Maybe this collectible can even replace the Korok Seeds in the sequel for something that lets you upgrade your inventory stash.

Map Completion

Whatever collectibles there might be, the map completion rating should this time be visible for each major area, like the Great Plateau or Necluda. This will help to narrow down things whenever you're still missing something, instead of searching all over the world.


Raul said...

I'd love to see a crossbow added to the weapons as an alternative to the normal bows. Would be cool if every weapon had at least one unique attack. I'm thinking like the way the wizzrobes can do the normal elemental projectiles w the rods like Link and their own special attack where they have elemental projectiles rain down in an area of effect.

For the food maybe they can take the AoC approach too where you can only eat cooked food and not the raw ingredients like the various meats and fruits. I rarely ever had to even use recipes since i had hundreds of apples and prime meat (killed so many animals in Hebra).

TourianTourist said...

@Raul: Good ideas!

TourianTourist said...

On second thought... It does make sense that you can eat the apples or bananas you've found. They don't heal as much, so it's not a big deal. But maybe you shouldn't be able to eat raw meat.

Tim said...

Good points. I'd like to add a few ideas of my own, if I may:

On food: In addition to the ideas you proposed in your post, I think there should either be some kind of eating animation that will leave Link vulnerable to enemy attacks or the game should just lock you out of eating food whenever in combat. The way it is, even if hearty food is nerfed, it's still way too easy to just heal to full whenever you get hit because you can heal from the inventory without penalty.

On merchants: I think merchants should be limited in what they buy and how much they pay instead of just buying whatever. There's this guy selling dragonflies outside Gerudo Canyon Stable who comments on how what he does "is a living" (hinting that he's not exactly making much money) yet if you offer to sell him your diamonds he'll have all the money in the world. I always thought that was unrealistic, not to mention making it way too easy to make money. As far as I'm aware, Beedle will pay double for beetles but other than that every merchant will pay the exact same prize and will have unlimited funds. Having to make "good deals" by selling your materials to the right merchants would be much more interesting in my opinion.

TourianTourist said...

Thank you for the input, Tim, some good points there!

It would certainly be more interesting if you couldn't just sell everything you have to absolutely anyone. Well, there was also the one Gerudo at Goron City who paid double for ores and minerals, so there were some merchants to spice things up a little, but it would make more sense if the merchants were more specialized with what they are buying overall.