Warning! Some spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are included in this article.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave the Switch a perfect start in March 2017, and depending on your perspective also gave the Wii U an extraordinary send-off. It was a breakthrough for Nintendo and the Zelda team in development terms, as it delivered an exceptional physics-based engine and introduced open-world design ideas and refinements that have set a new standard in the genre. There will always be some fans for whom the more conventional Zelda format is preferable but it's undeniable that millions of gamers were blown away, with the game jumping onto a lot of 'best game ever' lists.
Well, the sequel is potentially — or supposedly — less than a year away, and there are plenty of reasons to be very excited. Nintendo's work will have been helped and streamlined by utilising the same engine, plus potentially aspects of the same world, characters and so on; yet unlike Majora's Mask, which sped onto market (in Japan) just 17 months after Ocarina of Time as a similar direct-sequel concept, BoTW2 will have had a gap of over five years when it finally launches. Even accounting for Nintendo developing a decent amount of post-launch DLC for the original, Eiji Aonuma has nevertheless given his team breathing room to take its ideas to the next level.
While Breath of the Wild is one of the most acclaimed and loved games of recent years (arguably of all time), no game is perfect and there is, of course, scope for improvement and evolution. Not only has the development team had time and learnt from its previous experience, but this time around it's Switch-only with no Wii U original to consider; optimisation of the engine will have no doubt been a focus. Beyond that, as fans we can certainly think of key features and ideas we'd like to see in some form in the sequel — and not just more, more, more of the same.
So, here are some things we hope to see in Breath of the Wild 2 later this year. Or early next year. Whenever it's ready! We're still mopping up Korok seeds anyway...
#1 - A Return Of More Conventional Dungeons
Let's do this first just so everyone can get it out of their system. Even among advocates of the first game (and there are more than a few), there are friendly debates around the dungeons — in addition to 120 Shrines (mini dungeons / challenges) there were four divine beasts (five with DLC) that were the closest thing to dungeons in the traditional sense. Some loved that approach, others make the entirely reasonable assertion that the divine beasts lacked visual variety and the really magical moments you get from the best dungeons in the series. It was still excellent gaming we'd say, but undoubtedly some would prefer a more conventional approach in the sequel.
The most recent trailer, in particular, gives a sense of the possibilities here. We see Link up in the clouds in new areas. There's scope for dungeons on Hyrule, of course, and that's before we even think about the ominous area from the original trailer (which some believe is beneath Hyrule Castle). In any case, notably large dungeons with multi-layered and clever puzzles would definitely be a very welcome inclusion.
Not at the expense of Shrines, necessarily. We loved the Shrines! But we also love a good Temple.
#2 - Evolution Of Towns And Side Quests
Breath of the Wild has some excellent side quests, town locations and characters. Examples that spring to mind include the 'theft' in Kakariko Village, the long-game side quest(s) with Kass the Bard, and aspects of Tarrey Town. There was quite a lot of filler too, though, even in that Tarrey Town quest line, such as fetching a lot of wood or tracking specific bugs. Those sorts of challenges will return, of course, but the memorable moments blended gameplay variety with storytelling, going beyond the "collect these things and I'll give you 50 rupees" angle.
As we say, Nintendo's team generally did an excellent job with side quests, including a number we haven't mentioned, so a focus on fleshing out characters and personalities in this way will hopefully remain. Nevertheless through it all a lot of towns and characters were mostly passive, sending Link off to do a thing and then thanking him on return. The Kakariko Village and Kass quests in particular were a little more involved, and we'd love to see more of that. After all, Hyrule may be in the process of rebuilding, so why not give the smaller characters more agency and involvement? Have Link work with people a little more.
This could also apply to the impact of major events on towns and how the people respond. In the original Nintendo taps into this with some fantastic set-piece moments prior to divine beasts, so sequences like that, or occasions where a town and its people are more involved or threatened, could add an extra dimension to Hyrule-based parts of the new game, in particular.
Assuming there's Hyrule-based parts, that is.
#3 - Adjusted Weapon Degradation
One of the strengths of Breath of the Wild is the possibility for improvisation, both through its impressive implementation of physics and the way you'll likely be swapping between weapons plundered on your adventure. This is encouraged — or forced, depending on your perspective — with weapon degradation, with swords, shields and bows breaking unnaturally quickly. You get so used to weapons breaking that you're always on the hunt for more, looting with merry abandon and in the process trying out all sorts of loadout combinations.
It'd be surprising if Nintendo drops this mechanic, but it can be divisive — we can see both sides, as while it makes the gameplay fun and exposes you to tools you may never have touched otherwise, it is a little heavy-handed in implementation. In the sequel we would like to see some adjustments to make it a bit more natural.
For example, Link could have swords that — similar to the Master Sword in the original — don't 'break', but simply lose charge after excessive use and become weaker, necessitating a rest (think of the Thunderblade and other elemental swords, just without the breaking bit). Degradation of looted weapons could also be pared back a little — we're ultimately talking about balancing, rather than dropping the concept entirely.
Another option could be to have a very small number of consumable gems or some such rare obtainable items that you really have to earn. Perhaps this special limited material could be used to make a finite number of weapons / shields / bows 'permanent'; again, this is a tweak to the original's mechanic where you could get Champion's weapons repaired. The difference here would be that you get to choose, so if you find a weapon you truly love you can make it a permanent part of your inventory.
#4 - Sections Played With Zelda
This has been widely discussed since the initial trailer for the game, so we'll add another upvote to the conversation. The series is named after Zelda, of course, with many of the tales seeing Link tackle adversity with the goal of saving or working with the titular Princess. Breath of the Wild (and Skyward Sword, which we'll come back to) put the focus on Link and Zelda as teammates and colleagues. The memories of BOTW (not to mention the prequel story of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity) show a young Zelda struggling to discover her power and broader role, while being leader of the Champions and spearheading efforts to understand and utilise ancient technology like the Divine Beasts and Guardians. They make a good team, with Link a courageous Knight accompanying Zelda as she prepares for the coming Calamity.
Likewise in Skyward Sword, recently re-released on Switch, Zelda is playing a key leadership role away from Link's swashbuckling adventure. Her actions are vital in the eventual victory. We're hoping that in BOTW2 we'll have — for some parts at least — playable sections in which Link and Zelda are together. The potential for utilising a co-operative setup where you alternate between the characters or are in control of Zelda are rather obvious.
In dungeons, particularly, Zelda could come into her own. In the first game she shows an inquisitive mind and intelligence working alongside the Sheikah. Her grasp of technology could make for some fascinating dungeon and puzzle design, and she could of course utilise her power or a weapon like a bow to hold her own in fights, too, as we've seen her do in Age of Calamity.
Based upon all of the trailers, Link looks likely to be the primary character again, continuing the series tradition, but that doesn't mean there can't be sequences in which Zelda is playable and offering a different set of skills. There'd be no better way to shake up gameplay and satisfy a long-held fan wish.
Speaking of which...
#5 - An Evolution Of Zelda And Link's Relationship
One thing that struck us when we first played Skyward Sword on Wii was that it was a love story. No really, it is — teenage Zelda and Link are clearly very close, sharing tender moments together along with emotive story beats later in the quest. The opening sequence of the game shows a lovely, slightly awkward teenage romance in progress, and before he learns much about the potential end of the world, Link is nevertheless leaping below the clouds after Zelda simply because he is devoted to her. That devotion, and the suggestions of reciprocated feelings, can also be found in some of the older games, to a degree.
Then we have Breath of the Wild, which is blunt about it. Link's heroism is evident, and the lengths to which he goes suggest more than a simple sense of duty. In Zelda's case, though, the game is crystal clear on her feelings for Link, albeit the most telling lines and cutscenes can be missed by players that don't complete the 'memories' main quest or the Kass sequence of side-quests. It's told tenderly but leaves absolutely no doubt about Zelda's feelings; we suspect Link is in the same (love)boat, and even in the 'standard' ending the bond between them is clear.
This is a sequel, so will that relationship progress further? We've mentioned our hope for co-op aspects (in single player, we hasten to add) to some of the gameplay design, and if Link and Zelda have sequences as a team, the storytelling could go there, and formalise that Zelda and Link are together — a proper item.
Frankly, it'd feel improbable if that isn't part of the story at some point.
#6 - Tingle
We got Tingle's outfit in Breath of the Wild — now we need the man himself.
Nothing more to say really. Get on it, Nintendo.
#7 - Easter Eggs, Of Course
Thanks to player experimentation of the past five years there have been a number of extraordinary discoveries and tricks shared online. We have little doubt Nintendo's watched various speedrunning strategies and other shenanigans with interest, and no doubt will have enjoyed seeing some of them.
It'd be fun if there are some little nods and easter eggs to this glitch-finding industry that's given the first game such life. For example, if someone successfully catapults across the map or uses a bunch of octo-balloons to fly, the game could have secrets and little nods and winks to acknowledge the feat. Not to mention those fearless warriors that have defeated Lynels in the most outrageous of fashions, similar feats could earn a knowing wink from the game.
And who knows what will be discovered when the sequel is in our hands; we can't wait to see how crazy it gets.
#8 - Time To Take Sail
This last one is the least likely, but was a fantasy of this scribe before 'Champions' Ballad' was revealed as the main DLC story content of the original.
If you go to the extremities of the original map, you reach the sea and, in the distance, can see land. Even if the main story of Breath of the Wild 2 takes us above the clouds of Hyrule or deep into caverns, it'd be wonderful if we could also set sail for other lands, even if it's further down the road with some post-story DLC. Perhaps a short side adventure that could set the scene for future settings away from Hyrule.
Yes, a modern take on Wind Waker-style sailing that doesn't involve wafting a big leafy stick — with this game's physics engine — could be utterly glorious.
Those are some of our thoughts — let us know in the comments what you'd love to see in Breath of the Wild 2.