Despite the overwhelmingly positive reception to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it launched back in 2017, there are undoubtedly those who yearn for a return to what they deem to be a more “traditional” Zelda experience. With its open world, shrines, weapon degradation, and ‘rune’ abilities, Breath of the Wild most certainly made some significant changes to the games that came prior, but we have to ask ourselves here: just what constitutes a “traditional” Zelda game, anyway?
From a story perspective, Zelda games have always followed a pretty similar path: you play as a hero who must embark on a grand adventure to save the land and defeat evil. That’s always been the case, whether you’re talking about the original NES game, Ocarina of Time, or Breath of the Wild. Some titles, like Majora’s Mask or Link’s Awakening, might well feel different in how they approach their respective narratives, but those games still boil down to the same essentials.
So aside from the story, what else can we look at? Well, one of the most prominent narrative and gameplay mechanics in the Zelda franchise is the presence of dungeons. For the longest time, dungeons have always been presented as themed environments that offer up specific puzzles and enemies, most of which need to be conquered by the use of a particular item. Indeed, one of the biggest gripes that some people have with Breath of the Wild is that it doesn’t have any traditional dungeons. But is that true?
No, it’s not. While yes, the vast majority of your time in Breath of the Wild will be spent roaming around the overworld and visiting the 120 shrines dotted about the place, dungeons do still exist in the form of the Divine Beasts. They may look similar to one another in their overall style, but the four beasts are entirely unique in terms of the challenges they present. Heck, they’re even themed! Vah Ruta is water; Vah Naboris is thunder; Vah Rudania is fire; and finally, Vah Medoh is wind. So while you certainly won’t find something that looks like Ocarina of Time's Forest Temple in Breath of the Wild, there’s no doubt that dungeons do exist in the game.
What about themed items, then? Normally, “traditional” Zelda games will grant you access to things like the Hookshot, Iron Boots, and Spinner, for example, but these are most certainly missing from Breath of the Wild. Instead, upon completion of each Divine Beast, we’re granted access to abilities like Mipha’s Grace and Urbosa’s Fury. But really, just how different are these from the key items from the past? If anything, we’d say they’re even better, since you can benefit from their use at any location in Hyrule. We certainly can’t recall many instances of the Hookshot being useful on Wind Waker’s Outset Island, can you?
Our point is that you still gain new abilities throughout your time in Breath of the Wild just like those older Zelda games, only this time, you’re granted access to a whole bunch pretty much right from the start. We know that the runes and Sheikah slate don’t scream “ooh shiny new item” when you’re 20 hours into the game, but Breath of the Wild consistently introduces new and interesting scenarios in which to experiment with your loadout, we’d argue that the runes almost constantly feel fresh.
Now let’s talk about towns. For many, towns in Zelda games offer up some of the most memorable experiences in the entire franchise. Can you imagine Skyward Sword without its cosy starting location, Skyloft? What about Ocarina of Time’s Kokiri Forest? Again, we see the same complaint with Breath of the Wild that there simply aren’t enough towns, but this really doesn’t ring true to us. You’ve got Goron City, Hateno Village, Gerudo Town, Lurelin Village, Rito Village, Kakariko Village, and more. Heck, you can even build an entire town via the ‘From the Ground Up’ side quest.
Our theory with this is that because the land of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild is so vast, time spent in the various towns might feel more fleeting for players, but we’d argue that the settlements themselves are just as vibrant and full of life as any town found in prior games, with just as many opportunities for fun little activities or side quests.
We could go on and on about what constitutes a Zelda game and why Breath of the Wild most definitely fits that mould, but let’s take a look at a couple of other key franchises and see what’s going on there. First up is Resident Evil. When Capcom launched Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, many deemed it to be a return to form for the franchise after the disappointing critical reception for Resident Evil 6. But with its focus on a family of twisted individuals warped by the ghostly presence of a young girl, the entire premise of Resident Evil 7 is about as far away as you can get from the evil shenanigans conducted by Umbrella in the earlier games.
Yet despite this, it’s still irrefutably a Resident Evil game. Why? Because the inclusion of staple items and mechanics from the series, like herbs, typewriters (well, cassette recorders), item boxes, limited ammo, and lock picks are all still there. Yes, the game might look and even feel different from the earlier entries, but it still carries enough of the franchise’s core DNA to be deemed a Resident Evil game.
And what about Final Fantasy? There are many out there who are bemoaning the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI for its lack of turn-based battles and party management, but with the inclusion of Chocobos, Summons, stat management, and Moogles, is it really any less of a Final Fantasy game than, say, Final Fantasy VII? Are turn-based battles really the key identifying feature for Final Fantasy games? We’d argue not, and it’s not been that way for a long time at this point
Going back to The Legend of Zelda, we would argue that, much like Resident Evil and Final Fantasy, its identity can be felt acutely from the very first game all the way to Breath of the Wild. It’s taken some sharp turns here and there along the way, but we wouldn’t deny that Breath of the Wild is a Zelda game any more than we’d deny that Majora’s Mask is one. Ultimately, of course, what you’re personally after from a Zelda game may differ drastically from ourselves, and we wouldn’t dream of denying you the opportunity to experience a new entry that’s more up your alley, but when we see folks claim that Breath of the Wild isn’t a Zelda game, we can’t help but furrow our brows in confusion.
What exactly do you think constitutes a traditional Zelda experience, and do you think Breath of the Wild contains the right elements? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Zelda games are broken anyway as you don’t play as Zelda.
Different people will see elements of a “Traditional Zelda Game” differently, it’s only natural. Some will say a traditional game would be a open overworld with dungeons, NPCs, side quests, epic boss fights, whatever else I’m missing. In truth, a series doesn’t have to stick to its roots for every game. Switch-ups and reinventions of older franchises like this one help them feel fresh and brand new. Let’s be honest, people would be pretty sick and tired of just 2D Mario games and Zelda games that just followed the Ocarina Of Time style for most future entries. I don’t believe a “traditional” Zelda game exists. As long as the the game flies under the Zelda banner and name, it’s a Zelda game. And like I said before, it’s all in how the individual views the series and what they deem as it’s staples.
For me it is just an adventure game with recurring characters. If it had one type of genre it was boxed into we wouldn't be on our 30 Zelda or whatever.
Two things stop me from enjoying BOTW. First, is the weapon degradation. I don't know how many times my weapon kept breaking, especially in the middle of an intense battle. Second, is the choice of life vs. stamina. I don't like the idea of choosing whether to have more life or more stamina at the close of every shrine. Both of those ideas ruin the game for me and that is why I never completed BOTW and not have any interest in TOTK.
Link, Zelda, Key Items, a certain amount of openness, and Dungeons (and yes, Shrines count as dungeons...just a different take on dungeons). Everything else is kinda up in the air.
A traditional Zelda game? A Link to the Past.
Mainly agree with article. Really miss turn based Final Fantasy though. XI, XIV, XV and VIIR just aren't for me and XVI probably also won't be. Maybe I'll try XV again someday.
@Joshie0234 Yes, weapon degradation is annoying.
But a few comments on your second point about choosing life versus stamina. You can swap them out in Hateno at the dark goddess statue. You max out Stamina way before you'll max out your hearts. And it's so easy to cook foods to increase both anyway that it shouldn't affect your exploration or battles until you've completed enough shrines to have ample of both without foods.
Ooo, I hate deconstructing stuff but here goes;
Collecting stuff: check
Hitting stuff: check
Solving puzzles: check
Getting lost/stuck: check
Yep...looks like a Zelda game to me.
I still say calling the divine beasts dungeons is a bit of a stretch. Granted they were the closest things we got to a genuine Zelda dungeon I still feel they lacked the feel of what makes a dungeon in the Zelda games. They also all felt way too similar to each other. And though the author points out they are even themed, that theming doesn’t amount to anything really until you fight the boss. When you are going through the divine beasts it’s not anything like going through a fire or water temple where the elements are actually present within the dungeon. Not saying BotW is bad because it lacks good dungeon design, but I’m certainly hoping we get some actual dungeons in TotK
To me Zelda is an adventure game set in a large world centered around the now iconic mythos. That mythos is set above the player character (hence the multiple links… Zelda at least has an in universe justification with the law that all princesses will be named Zelda and the whole reincarnation of a goddess deal) Nintendo is always experimenting with the formula so for me so long as it is an adventure game set in Hyrule/world of Zelda I doubt I will have an issue.
The ability to throw a chicken
The original LoZ laid the groundwork for LttP, which in turn laid the groundwork for OoT.
But that being said, every game after has just been improved variations on those same blueprints, until BotW. (Zelda 2, notwithstanding)
I dont get nostalgia tingles from BotW the way I did with any other the others, even though I absolutely love that game.
Skyward Sword gave me all the nostalgia tingles but wasn't nearly as fun of an experience, overall.
So, its a weird in-between place to be stuck in the middle of as a lifetime Zelda fan. I do think that TotK might be leaning more into the traditional Zelda vibes, while also staying true to what BotW set up.
Honestly, who are we to say what makes a "traditional Zelda game"? The series has been reinventing itself every 1-2 games.
Just imagine the uproar it would have been if the internet as it is today had existed when they released Zelda 2
A traditional Zelda game is ocarina of time and wind waker. Linear Zelda games are the way to go. Using your hard earned item to solve the dungeon is the right way to play the legend of Zelda games.
Most of the people saying FFXVI isn't recognizable as Final Fantasy to them aren't merely bemoaning the lack of turn-based battles. FF7 Remake isn't turn-based, after all, yet I've never heard anyone claim it's not a "real" Final Fantasy game. Because, even with its differences, it still feels like a JRPG in the same series.
On some level, this discussion is pointless, because a "Zelda" or "Final Fantasy" game is whatever the company publishing it decides to brand it. But, at some point, you alter the gameplay, look, and feel of the game enough that it doesn't feel like a successor to what came before it.
The author says that FFXVI having moogles, summons, and chocobos is sufficient to call it a Final Fantasy game, but I'd argue you could, using that very same logic, argue for something like Hyrule Warriors being a Zelda game, even though it clearly isn't.
@Bobb Eh, no. The Zelda series spent two decades basically iterating on the same formula. That's why Breath of the Wild was such a monumental entry in the series.
A top-down perspective and dungeons are the "traditional" hallmarks. Unless we're talking about 3D Zelda games. Then the lines get blurred. But that's not a bad thing.
Eh, I dont really care what makes a traditional zelda game, there shouldn't be a checkbox that ninetendo has to fill out for every new zelda. On that note, botw is not only my favorite zelda but my favorite game of all time, so I'm not gonna complain
What a weird article. Everyone and their grandmothers can tell that BOTW was a huge departure for the Zelda. That isn't debatable. Some people liked those changes and some people didn't. Obviously, those who dislike BOTW value different elements in Zelda. This article feels like it's just trying to gaslight oldschool Zelda fans.
NL: "Oh, BOTW doesn't feel like a Zelda game to you? Well, you're clearly wrong and here's why".
Very little in the Zelda franchise has ever stayed the same and I suspect your opinions regarding the series will relate to where you started with it.
The first was totally open world, the second much more linear with the item progression trope but had random battles and side scrolling with a developed combat and magic system. Link to the past was much more linear despite a seemingly open world and then Link's awakening totally threw all the characters out the window and created a totally different world and all those changes came before we even moved into 3d.
Majora's, Spirit Tracks, Minish cap, Tri-force heroes and finally Breath of the Wild all deviate from the version of Zelda many have in their heads - one I think is heavily based on Ocarina, but are no less great Zelda games.
So what even is a traditional Zelda game anyway?
@Ralizah What I meant as my point is, Eiji Aonuma made that a Zelda game. Who are we to say he hasn't made a Zelda game?
Personally, what I liked the most about BotW was the nostalgic feeling of helplessness I felt as a kid playing games like OoT. As I grew older as a gamer, games got easier as you develop that "game logic". BotW had me wandering around in useless places for hours just like it had me wandering Kokiri village. Is it a Zelda game? Yes. Is it a traditional one? Who knows
I like Breath of the Wild because it's not a traditional Zelda game. It shook up the series formula when it needed it the most. There will always be those that want the series to "return to its roots" but I'd argue those are the same people holding it back. The series can't grow if it's restrained by preconcieved notions of what a Zelda game is
The puzzles are definitely different from “traditional” Zelda, but are still challenging. You are just more disconnected, with the shieka slate doing more of the puzzle than link.
@Tchunga somewhat ironically I think that you can make the argument that BOTW did return Zelda to its roots.
The original nes game gave you a cave and said explore and find it out on your own BOTW is very similar in that regard.
@Wheatly Very true. But if we're being honest most of us working under the term "tradtional Zelda" probably haven't played the NES original. When most think of traditional Zelda, they likely think of games like A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time
@Tchunga I agree. I very much think that the 'traditional Zelda' idea is based almost wholly around A LTTP and Ocarina for the 2D and 3D games respectively.
I am old enough to have first finished Zelda on the NES and lucky enough to have parents who bought me both Zelda and The Adventures of Link for my 10th birthday. I fell in love with the series then and there.
I still don’t know if I like botw. It’s good but there’s too much missing for me. My favourite is the wind waker. Gorgeous,great story and dungeons and I enjoy the sailing around exploring the islands
@Quarbit it’s just what they do here.
This is a very complicated subject.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still an entry in the series that feels like a Zelda game. I think the term “Traditional” really just means “Formulaic” and Zelda has followed a formula for decades before deciding to deviate from it.
You can’t really compare Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda too much as Final Fantasy has lost all sense of its original identity as a franchise, while The Legend of Zelda has retained its entire identity. All the Zelda series really did was move away from the formulaic design and leaned more into the exploration and adventure aspect the games were originally known for in its earlier years. Final Fantasy has completely changed genres, story tones, and as of XVI, is going to be the first rated M game in the franchise’s history. Quite different from the Train Suplex of Final Fantasy VI. lol
Pretty simple; one defined by linear progression.
I for one am glad that Breath of the Wild moved away from the formula handled since A Link to the Past.
That's not to say I don't like the prior games! In fact I very much want to see Wind Waker and Twilight Princess on Switch, or even a new 2D entry or remake. However, I don't want the big entries to regress to a level of "unfreedom".
I did play the NES games in the 80s on a friends console, but I wasn't a big fan. I didn't have a SNES but Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess impressed me greatly. Skyward Sword is one I rushed out to buy at launch, but didn't enjoy as much as the previous games. I'm currently replaying on Switch and the HD version has really improved the game for me. After so many open world games, Skyward Sword feels refreshing. Breath of the Wild, I stopped playing, I just was not enjoying the game.
I like the semi open world, linear progression, intricately constructed environmental puzzles, dungeons, bosses, metroid style item progression, a memorable and varied soundtrack. Pretty much the the formula since Ocarina. I didn't enjoy wandering around a massive open world or breakable weapons. Not that I think Breath of the Wild is bad, but it is such a different experience to Skyward Sword by design, which is almost all dungeon.
I appreciate Nintendo not playing it safe with Breath of the Wild, and I'm still interested to see how Tears of the Kingdom turns out, but I certainly prefer the earlier 3D Zelda games.
Whats wrong with articles like this and BOTW fans in general is … why do you defend the abscence of things?
There isn’t a single excuse as why not to have all the things that constitute a traditional Zelda in a BOTW formula.
Why wouldn’t you want a mix of both things? 🙄🙄🙄.
And the more you defend the abscence of items, themed dungeons, music, bosses, iconic and zany NPCs, side quests, etc …. The less we will get them in the future.
That’s exactly why some BOTW fans come off with toxic positivity. They defend the abscence of all those things. Who wouldn’t want dungeons or items or everything I listed?
Resident Evil is a pretty bad example too.
The new formula works masterfully because they went BACK TO ITS HORROR ROOTS… and then designed a new experience around it. But what constitutes as an old RE game is still there.
Herbs? Check. Puzzles? Check. Horror instead of action? Check. Items and save points? Check. Enclosed spaces like mansions? Check
BOTW has like 50% or less of what constitutes as a Zelda game. That’s why, with time, it has come to be divisive (compared to the first months when it was released)
Also: I NEVER opened a chest in BOTW that was meaningful or a surprise like in the old Zeldas.
Yey…. Rupees for the 1000th time … Yey! Another ore …. Sigh… another ingredient …. Another breakable weapon… another ANYTHING I can get any other place in the game. It’s the equivalent of getting bombs and arrows in an old Zelda… but EVERY … SINGLE…. TIME!
Give me meaningful quests with pieces of heart!
Give me unique and useful items to traverse dungeons and new lands to keep things fresh.
I don’t want to use the same four runes during a 60 hour run. Feels cheap, repetitive and unoriginal.
Give me characters which I can get interested to help and develop their backstories! Not generic NPCs.
Give me epic music!
Give me bosses that make me think how to defeat, they were puzzles by themselves… not BOTW hit sponges 🙄
Give me dungeons that feel like I’m actually progressing and feel unique!
But no! We can’t have all that … am I right? Let’s have some Nuts and Bolts instead! And… weapon fusion? Yey?
Let’s pander to the Minecraft generation because…. It sells…
Breath of the Wild is much closer to a traditional Zelda game than the likes of Tri Force Heroes. All of the features that are included in a Zelda game are in BotW, but re-ordered, re-purposed, and they no longer bar progression besides getting out of the Great Plateau.
Botw definitely doesn’t feel like a traditional Zelda, but that’s why I think it’s unique, and that’s also why I can see people not liking the game.
@ModdedInkling well, you’re comparing it to the worst game in the series…. That’s not really a good argument 😅.
Nobody likes that game as a Zelda game. Sure, it was fun… but it’s not a good Zelda game either.
I think the problem a lot of folks have with BotW is that they always felt a Zelda game was almost exclusively defined by its dungeons and the variety of locales they sit in; but over the years it feels like a new section of the audience just like the Link/Zelda/Ganon designs, storylines and overworlds more.
Neither's right or wrong, it's just been two ways I've noticed Zelda fans gravitate to their favourite games in the series.
For those who feel dungeons and their design are the singular-most important part of a Zelda game, one could only be disappointed by BotW's approach, even if they did end up liking the game overall.
This was a good article to read but I seem to disagree on most of it. The comparisons to FF and Resident Evil included. (FF really has lost their identity from a long time now and Resident Evil only regained it after going back to its horror roots in resi7).
My opinion on Botw is that its a great game, really one the most creative and fun games I have played! But it is not a great Zelda game. The lack of themed dungeons tied to key items that worked as mini puzzles is what I find lacking in Botw. Again not a bad game, just not a good example of why I like Zelda in general.
Personally I don't understand people that say BotW isn't a Zelda, much less the people that say FFXVI isn't a Final Fantasy
I wouldn't call it traditional or that this is what constitutes a Zelda game, but what I've come to expect from Zelda, after playing basically all of them, are: unique dungeons, many different enemies, diverse puzzles, rewarding exploration and side quests, great story set pieces, and a way less ambient soundtrack. I just didn't get that from BotW. And the thing is, some of the older games don't even have all of that. But BotW managed to have basically none of them
I love BOTW, but for all its beauty it`s by far the most bleak, brutal, plotless and repetitive Zelda. I miss twists and surprising otherworlds and lovable eccentrics and a sense of coherence (yes, the divine beasts are dungeons, but without any brillance). Everything is hard work in BOTW, almost everything is war. The joy of wartching pieces falling into places, of paths which are suddenly accessible is lacking, the satisfaction of mastering a fairy tale with a strange sense of meaning and magic.
I just completed Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland for the first time. It fits well within the framework of what we consider to be a Zelda game, and it happens to be a spinoff of a major Zelda universe character. So I think Rosy Rupeeland at the very least qualifies (maybe the dating simulator sequel less so....).
IMO, Nintendo EAD is what makes it a Zelda game. For me, thats most important. Sure Capcom and some 2nd party developers have helped along the way, but the constant has been R&D4 and its subsequent acronyms.
I would say legend of zelda was just enough...zeldaish to be considered a Zelda game still, While I wasn't expecting such a huge change it was definitely a welcome one (except breakable weapons) the Zelda formula so to speak was already getting old by twilight princess...and definitely felt repetitive by skyward sword and even link between worlds... Ocarina was my childhood, Wind Waker became my favorite for years until Botw became the greatest Zelda ever... Not sure if the same wow factor will apply to totk, which feels like Zelda 1.5 the same way with Majora's Mask... Like seen it already, next! But also would like to add... Most Zelda experiences try to break the mold...minish cap, wind waker, even the 2 stylus based ones on ds...heck right from the beginning the first one was way out there comparatively, and the second game in the series was way different...so its always been a thing with Nintendo to do that
Anything from Zelda 1, a Link to the Past, or Link's Awakening fit the bill of traditional. Ocarina of Time POSSIBLY, though it's super dated and a pain to play in 2023, whereas the others are aging much more gracefully. Anything else is a deviation. They may be Zelda games, but they really lack the heart and soul of those core originals.
It's just the problem with remaking the same franchise every couple years. It grows super stale for us long-timers.
There is no such thing as a traditional Zelda game. Each new game evolves the formula in it's own unique way.
I disagree with every point of this article, barring the comparisons to other series, which I can't really speak on because I haven't played them.
Saying that the story is more or less the same because it's still about a hero defeating a great evil is ridiculous. You basically just described the hero's journey, probably the single most common narrative in fiction. What can be said more specifically about Zelda is that it usually follows a fairly linear main narrative, with events unfolding as a result of the player's actions, along with various optional side-stories that become available as you continue through the main story. Breath of the Wild clearly does not follow this structure. More than half of its narrative takes place in the form of flashbacks from long before the beginning of the game, so rather than seeing the results of your own actions, you're simply observing the lives of a group of people who you never have the opportunity to interact with, and who you have no reason to form an attachment to, because most of them are already long dead. Aside from that, there is no requirement to experience this story in any particular order, or to experience it at all for that matter, before "finishing" the game.
I suppose you can call the divine beasts dungeons, but even still, they fall short of the dungeons the series is known for in every respect. Aside from the lack of visual diversity that you mentioned, they're also lacking in length, difficulty, mechanical variety, enemy variety, and obviously in number. In my opinion, half the playtime of a Zelda game should be spent inside its dungeons, and the best aspect of them is the unique elements that set each of them apart from the rest of the game, so this is unacceptable as far as I'm concerned.
The obscenely long cooldown timers on the champion powers make them completely unreliable, turning them into "special skills" to be used when absolutely necessary rather than the versatile tools you normally get in a Zelda game. Even if that issue was resolved, Mipha's Grace is barely more useful than a bottled fairy and Daruk's Protection can flat out be a hindrance depending on what you're trying to do. If anything, they're all closer to the spells from Ocarina of Time than they are to conventional items. And the runes are just boring. Aside from the few thousand copy-pasted puzzles you need them for, there's barely any reason to use them in normal play. While smacking around enemies with magnesis and stasis is fun for the first few hours, it's generally more of a hassle than beating them up the old fashioned way. Cryonis is unusable most of the time, and bombs don't offer anything new aside from remote detonation. The weapons are about the same, with only a handful of distinct weapon types that are more or less equally effective against the majority of the game's enemies. A couple enemies have interesting elemental weaknesses, but most are either equally vulnerable/resistant to eveything or just take more damage from one element and less from another.
The towns don't feel lacking just because they're smaller compared to the rest of the world. The problem, as with most other aspects of the game, is the lack of variety. In previous games, there was a huge emphasis on making characters distinct, with completely different models, animations, clothing, and personalities. Breath of the Wild not only has fewer characters like this, but they're also lost in an ocean of more generic ones. I can't even remember a tenth of its sidequests or the people who gave them because most of them didn't even try to be memorable.
For me, the core elements of a Zelda game are essentially the same as those of a metroidvania: exploring, finding new enemies and allies, overcoming challenges, and gaining abilities that then allow you to explore further. The most important thing is that you're constantly experiencing something new. That's what makes it an adventure. A game like Breath of the Wild, that hands you the whole world right at the beginning, and spreads that world as thin as possible just for the sake of making it bigger, is antithetical to my vision of what Zelda should be.
It's not the musical item per say, but the music itself is far too low key throughout the entire game.
I don't really consider BOTW a traditional zelda game, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Exploration was cool and the flexibility with the rune mechanics was super interesting. Though tbh, I'm honestly sometimes more entertained watching youtube videos of some of the most interesting ways to take out a bokoblin camp, etc. I'm not smart enough to figure out some of the coolest tricks!
Hoping TOTK has some more extensive dungeons and maybe a bit larger population/better incentives for side quests than just more kinda mediocre disposable items. Like maybe key items or some real interesting story ramifications for completing the quest. I just didn't feel myself motivated to do any of them after doing a few.
I wouldn't really say Breath of the Wild is "missing" something, but the fact that you get all four runes right off the bat and can basically complete the rest of the game in any order you choose is certainly a departure from the traditional formula of linear progression through a series of dungeons, each containing a new item or weapon when then allows you to reach the next.
My take on it is that too much has been thrown away, for no good reason. Zelda has always developed game by game, trying things that worked and things that didn't, until we eventually had masterpieces like Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker.
For various reasons, there was a slight drop off in quality with Twilight Princess. The Wii threw a spanner in the works and, though it was a very good game, we suddenly had no Magic Meter, shield control or Mirror Shield (the first two of which were present in the early demo versions when it was GC-only).
The slightly disappointed reaction to Twilight Princess, in my opinion led to a massive overreaction and many claims that Zelda needed to be more "fresh", when the truth is that TP just hadn't kept to the ultra-high standards of previous games. Skyward Sword followed, which had its moments but arguably was an even bigger fall from the series' heyday. Again, there was an (in my opinion) misguided call for freshness, when really it was the drop in quality that needed to be addressed.
Breath of the Wild was, in many ways, absolutely stunning and at first looked like the solution to most of the complaints. However, it soon became clear that too much had been lost compared to what had been gained.
It was overly massive, with little consideration given to the balance between optional exploration and mandatory tasks. There was an emphasis on survival and cooking, rather than simply getting better tunics, for example. The rune abilities opened up an un-Zelda-like level of creativity, rather than granting the satisfaction of getting a new item such as the Hookshot or Lens of Truth at well-paced intervals.
Mastering the fairly difficult combat had much more importance placed on it than other ways of progression, such as levelling-up your weapons. Sure, I could beat a Lynel, but what was the intended challenge of it? Doing it without needing a health replenishment, or two, or three? How many of my own weapons was I meant to destroy in the process? I could do it, but it wasn't enjoyable.
The core thing to me is that the more Zelda becomes sandbox, the less it appears "designed". I'm not asking for a completely linear game, but I would like a more designed adventure, with moments of magic and charm like the series had not so long ago.
Who cares, play the game and have fun. Or don’t have fun. Go play a different game.
I’m glad to read so many good arguments and analysis in this comment section and not just
“TotK is GOTY! Suck it old timers! BOTW formula F yeah!”
@YoshiF2 thus sums my feelings up perfectly. It saddens me that all the aspects of Zelda that I love have either been diluted or completely absent.
we need a link to the past type zelda game..
I would have said musical instruments and a certain very Zelda style of dungeon (not super long, puzzles, keys, huge boss at the end, special items needed and obtained) but BotW doesn't have the first and has only a partial stand-in for the second. Not on the list, I would have also said heart pieces which again BotW only has a stand-in for.
Also, Link being completely silent. I realize Nintendo just likes doing this with their characters, but I feel like Link in particular is especially silent and generally impressively personality-free. BotW kept this aspect for whatever that's worth.
Lack of actually being able to play as Zelda is another standard Zelda trait, though one I hope they change.
You could argue it is or isn't based on various elements, and that is one thing, but for me it doesn't feel like a Zelda game. I very much enjoyed my time with it initially and then it just petered out and I put it down.
Aside from twilight princess its the only other Zelda game I didn't play to completion. Every other Zelda I've finished with absolute joy.
I’m not crazy into Zelda, but I’ve been playing Skyward Sword, and it just clicks for me more than BOTW did, and I think it’s all down to what I am doing in a set gaming session.
In Skyward Sword, I am doing things. I can say that I beat this dungeon, or made it to this point in the overworked, or got this heart piece. In BOTW, if I wasn’t beating one of the divine beast quests or doing something crazy important, which is few and far-between when you’re not going for the mammoth task of 100 percent completion, I wasn’t really having fun.
I think it’s something that’s just in me as a gamer, I need to be told what to do somewhat in order to have fun. It’s why no other open-world games stick out to me, and why I can’t get into most nonlinear Metroidvanias such as Hollow Knight, which has an amazing world of characters.
All I know is that one style of game hooks me and makes me happy to play more, while the other only makes me happy when I get to the points where the game pulls out all the stops. A similar thing happened to Pokémon for me, but to a much lesser extent as there is a bit more of a constant structure that keeps me going. I also know that I am in the minority here, but games should appeal to all types of gamers, not just the ones that enjoy roughing it alone.
If I was given Miphas Grace and told to solve puzzles and beat a boss themed around it, I would return my zelda game to the zelda store
So sad we won't be seeing a real Zelda game for ages... but rejoice in a $70 expansion pack for a game that's just Zelda aspects thrown into a generic empty world... I guess?
If we look at the original, you had a game that tossed you in the middle of a sprawling kingdom with no real instruction on where to go and what to do. You'd find items along the way and stumble on dungeons, but it was totally possible to wander into a place where you weren't ready and get destroyed.
In that sense, Breath the Wild was more like the original than any other Zelda game since.
@Pak-Man yeah.. if you ignore the fact that that game had unique items, dungeons, bosses and a sense of progression….. Then yeah… it’s EXACTLY as the first game Lol…
Now imagine the first game… with only four dungeons that are exactly the same, no bosses except Ganon …. No items… but in place you have four abilities from the start and throughout the whole game… bombs, ladder, flute and bow …… No new ones to discover at all….. what a BORING game that would have been.
Regardless of how Zelda BotW is, I just found it bland. I like when bosses are puzzles; that's why I love Mega Man X and Zelda games. BotW had united boss battles and the game just felt tedious to me. It seems that this is the series new path and not one I'm particularly interested in. Zelda is the series that's kept me in Nintendo platforms so I'm not sure what the future holds in that regard.
I have to solve puzzles with the tools I got early in the game instead of using the item I got from the dungeon three minutes ago....my brain hurts.
You spend far too long faffing around selecting weapons in BOTW compared to any other Zelda. A lack of heart quarters to collect as well means this game breaks the mould for me.
@MetalKingShield How was there a dissapointed reaction to Twilight Princess? Certainly not on Nintendo's end. It was the best selling Zelda game until BotW. If anything, it was an overcorrection from the failure of Windwaker in the US, which is still the only Zelda game that sold worse in the US than Japan.
@skeets Zelda is the mix of both things. The sum of all its parts.
If only exploration is what makes a Zelda game, then I guess The Witcher, Elden Ring and any other Souls-like game is a Zelda game.
You can’t have exploration only without the dungeons, and everything else that was described in the comment section.
Because then BOTW isn’t anything unique.
BOTW is not a traditional Zelda game, but I don't see it as a negative. I'd say a traditional Zelda game needs the 8 dungeons and items used for traversal gained either in those dungeons or just before them. Using weapons other than your trusty sword and shield also breaks the mold. But those elements that innovate make it such a good game. I even like weapon degradation, sure, it's annoying early on when all you have is tree branches and easily breaking Boko weapons, but it adds playstyle variety. It's one of the few action games where you can use a spear. I would hope the sequel would let one charge with a lance like a knight would, but I don't expect it.
I've been playing Zelda games since 1987 and have completed almost every game in the series. I'm so glad Zelda has continued to progress and not stagnate. BOTW isn't perfect by any means, but I'd hate to see the series become overly formulaic and repetitive.
@YoshiF2 But that's exactly my point. There are Zelda games out there that are even less like Zelda, but people either don't know or refuse to admit it.
@ModdedInkling yeah… but are they a mainline Zelda? Or got sequels to them?
A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time are two stellar examples of a traditional Zelda title. Straying from the dungeon + boss + defeat boss with dungeon item was a bit refreshing in BOTW, but I don't want to face another 100 or so shrine puzzles and a few kind of but not really dungeon levels
That was a long read.
Either way I played the Zelda game on SNES but I didn’t finish it and didn’t think much of it tbh. Nintendo 64, GameCube were consoles that never made me even slightly interested. 3D games there looked horrible and Zelda games were no different. Wii made me slightly interested but nah.
As I have stated in different discussions, when I first saw and tested Breath of the Wild at gaming festival, I have ordered Switch next day just to play it. It’s graphic is lovely, gameplay unique (comparatively even with games across platforms) and the game world is beautifully crafted and ripe for exploration. The story is even believable as you can certainly finish it without dying once. BotW sits in my list of the best 3 single player games since 80ties and my first gaming experience with Atari.
So I will go against traditionalists opinions and I will declare BotW misses absolutely nothing and I certainly do not want it or it’s sequel to be different in any key aspect. For someone who waited since the SNES Zelda to take a second look at the series again, it was well worth the wait.
@Gorlock if you’ve never played a Zelda game since the SNES one (which you didn’t even finish) and only BOTW…. How do you even know what’s missing and what is not?
Lol this logic.
This is exactly the blind BOTW fanatism that is diluting the series down.
See you guys on the 12th. Hope TotK is a great game and added all the things we are asking for… if not… it’s time to move on from this style. It had enough time in the spotlight
@YoshiF2 You are completely missing the point. If a game rings all the right bells in such a spectacular way like BotW did and it makes me spent over 1100 hours on a console with a CPU and GPU from 10 years old microwave oven when I have a top notch gaming rig sitting next to it, than it is certainly something. It will kindly stay in my memories alongside with few other grand titles of the past. Its hard to imagine even TotK can live up to it but we shall see.
@Gorlock that it’s a fun game, it is, no doubt. But you can’t say “it misses nothing” if you’ve never played another Zelda game, because you don’t know what IS a Zelda game in the first place. Your only complete experience with the series is BOTW.
That’s the equivalent of saying that “The 1993 Mario movie is a true Mario movie just because you liked it a lot, although you’ve never played the games”.
I mean, sure, you have fun with TotK… we are all hoping it’s a good game. Nobody wants a bad Zelda tbh. In a way, we are all trying to analyze what it’s missing from the core series that made Zelda a Zelda game and hope it can steer into that direction.
There’s nothing bad to bring BOTW elements and add them to the next ride too. There’s just no valid excuse to sacrifice everything else in the process. 👍
Sorry, but as much as I enjoyed Breath of the Wild I disagree about most of these points so I'll comment them one by one:
-the story of BotW is quite different because it takes place both in the past and in the present with the most interesting moments being in the former which isn't playable and also how much less frequent they are compared to most Zelda games because of it being an open world game;
-the Divine Beasts, while definitely the "dungeons" of this game, are almost identical visually (even the original Zelda gave each one different colors to distinguish them) and also quite similar structurally with the exception of Vah Rudania at first thanks to the darkness: massive central rooms that you manipulate in a similar yet specific to each Beast way and peripheral smaller ones with your objectives always marked on the map. Plus, the themes in more traditional dungeons weren't just part of the aesthetic, but also of the specific mechanic of each one;
-the Champions' abilities are barely comparable to dungeon items since you get them after instead of during and none unlocks new areas of the overworld, in fact only Revali's Gale is used for exploration at all, the others are all related to combat;
-the Runes, being available from the start of the game, don't unlock new parts of the overworld, you just need to get there and figure the puzzle out. Funnily enough some of the weapons, arrows etc. are more similar to traditional Zelda items in that sense than Runes even though you don't obtain them in a specific location (except for Shock Arrow during the Vah Ruta quest);
-I completely agree about the towns, plus it makes sense with the game's theme of post-apocalyptic and ruined Hyrule after 100 years unlike previous games where much, much less time passed after whatever catastrophe (except for Wind Waker, but there the change was way more drastic);
-you didn't mention them in the body of the article, but boss (even if you include getting on most Divine Beasts, although they luckily still included at least some puzzle elements like traditional Zelda ones), mini-boss and especially enemy variety is lacking in general, not just compared to other Zelda games.
TLDR I voted for Themed Elemental Dungeons, Key Items and Unique Boss Characters (but I'm including also and even more so mini-bosses and regular enemies in it) so while Breath of the Wild is part of the Zelda series it's one of the least traditional games in it if not the least being a departure in more aspects we're used to in most games ever since A Link to the Past (even the original Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link are more similar to those in progression through items etc.) than others which changed fewer of them while adding "gimmick(s)" specific to each game (can't compare it to Resident Evil and Final Fantasy effectively since I barely have experience with those series)!
My hope is that Tears of the Kingdom combines the best of Breath of the Wild with the best of more traditional Zelda games and from the little we've seen it certainly looks promising, fingers crossed that's the case!
@NewAdvent @Desrever @Baler @MTMike87 @YoshiF2 @Snatcher @Wisps @Judal27 @SpentAllMyTokens @RedRaven723 @sleepinglion I'd like to hear your thoughts about my comment if you feel like reading it all or even just my conclusions!
@YoshiF2 Not sure if the tag worked so I'm writing it again in this comment, I'd like to hear your thoughts about my comment if you feel like reading it all or even just my conclusions!
For me the "traditional" formula was stuck to pretty thoroughly from A Link to the Past all the way to Skyward Sword, which worked well as a vehicle of storytelling and presentation. But bracketing these games and perhaps either as a new formula or as a breather before the next is the open world, where your hand isn't being held at all. Zelda, Zelda II and Breath of the Wild.
You get to explore a largely depopulated world with some settlements separated by miles of wasteland and the occasional hidden dungeon or item that you can complete or collect in any order, really.
I'd like to see some incentive for backtracking to dungeons with explorable nooks that you can only access with items from somewhere else in the game map and these items should be discoverable at least in a basic form on the game map with more powerful/efficient versions in specific thematic dungeons. This'd allow catering to both free exploration and a "recommended" linear experience.
@JohnnyMind just read it. And I completely agree with you as its most of my same arguments.
I would partly agree with the towns. The thing is… I understand the quantity of towns… (because of the post-apocalyptic theme as you mentioned) but not the quality.
Every town feels generic. The people living in them are as generic as they come. The people living in them are not really characters, they don’t have motivations, backstories, anything. They are generic NPCs.
If you compare those towns to something akin to Majoras, or Skyward or any other Kakariko…. They feel lifeless, they don’t give you any reason to help them, to see more about them. And in the meantime, get some meaningful quests with worthwhile rewards like items or heart pieces.
Nothing feels like the towns in previous Zeldas.
We have seen iconic side characters, zany and weird, sad and tragic. Anju and Kafei feel like real, living characters. Malon, Talon, Mido, each with their own story, among many others feel important to the living world. (There are complete enciclopedias just for characters in the Zelda games)
Because the world shouldn’t be just topographic variation with ecosystems. It needs to feel alive. It needs characters living within it. Not just your 5-7 main and secondary characters.
In this regard, BOTW is a complete failure.
I mean I AM ERROR has more personality than any other NPC in BotW… and that is saying something.
Every NPC feels inconsequential. I don’t care if they live or die. They don’t need saving. They feel just like a bunch of code walking around the towns.
Everything else you said I 100% agree.
I’d also add that BotW bosses are a bit generic and just hit sponges. There’s no strategy, there’s no activity to defeat them that made you think about using that new shiny item you just got.
Just use the same four runes that you’ve been using for 50 hours straight … and hit A.
Also.. as @tounushi said. There should be incentives to backtrack. Let’s say a bit of Metroidvania to the mix. You can get an item at the north of the map that will give you access to an island, a cliff, cave or a mountain or whatever at the south of the map. That gives you the element of “wow! I discovered something new! Something inaccessible before! This feels good, it’s a good reward!”
I shouldn’t even say Metroidvania…. That’s been part of Zelda’s DNA from the very first game. How the hell could they eliminate that?
But this is lost in BotW because, you can go wherever you want from the start. I’m up for freedom, but too much freedom gives the feel that nothing is really DESIGNED. It’s just a big random sandbox with things randomly sprinkled on it.
Also… building modern vehicles? What the hell Nintendo? Stick to a theme FFS.
@YoshiF2 I'd say the quality of the towns and their NPCs are definitely not at the same level as the best ones in the series, but better than in other games which had mostly throwaway NPCs (A Link to the Past for sure, even Ocarina to some extent except for their design).
Plus, I think it's worth mentioning that BotW has also Stables which are miniature town and some quite memorable NPCs in other locations, mostly related to Shrine quests.
About the bosses I agree with you, but like I mentioned they at least retain some puzzle element for which you have to use a specific Rune (no wonder since those are practically that game's items).
Yep, the "Metroidvania" element is definitely a key element of traditional Zelda games, the original had it despite its more open exploration compared to later games and even A Link Between Worlds which makes most items available after the intro (although for a price so at first you can't have them all at the same time and you can lose them all if you die) has it in the form of the Sand Rod.
Like I said, I enjoyed Breath of the Wild in its own right and I'm really looking forward to Tears of the Kingdom (yes, even vehicles which I personally don't feel are that out of place and even if they were I don't care that much because of the gameplay possibilities), but also hope that it will combine what BotW did best with the best of the more traditional Zelda games at least to some extent!
To me it comes down to hand holding. Less is more:
Less hand holding equals a more "traditional" Zelda game.
Breath of the Wild was the first Zelda game that "felt" like a modern extension of an "original Zelda" game. It had very little hand holding and just threw you into a fully functional world with minimal set up, that allowed the player to "just figured it out". Similar to, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this." and/or Link wakes up from a dream and it is a dark and stormy night. Both of these ideas seemed to have been woven into Breath of the Wild. Everything else contained within BotW seems like natural progression from previous games.
For me, a traditional Zelda game is similar in nature to games including and prior to Links Awakening on the Gameboy. So Zelda 1, Zelda 2, ALttP and Links Awakening, and now Breath of the Wild. Hardware limitations of the past forced constraints that the creators had to stay within, but modern hardware removes many of those. I feel if those original constrains were not a thing, the game might have been similar to what we got with Breath of the Wild.
On a side note, per the manual, the very first Zelda on the NES has labyrinths. And to this day, I believe labyrinth is a much better word to describe the maze like structures instead of dungeons. People get hung up with Dungeons, but Dungeons are where you keep prisoners. Zelda games include Labyrinth style elements, but the games are much more than just that.
Personally I really enjoyed the bite sized Shrines. Many small puzzles that felt complete after I finished them. Where as the Champions were much longer and drawn out. They just took more dedicated time and 4 was enough.
Weapon breaking was necessary, because if I always keep all my weapons, it would make the game become too easy. There needed to be some limiting factor and it brought about some small strategy for battle. Once I had access to the Master Sword, I just used that all the time.
@YoshiF2 I’m really worried about the building vehicles idea. I hope you don’t have to build to progress the main story or whatever.
People that get stuck on details like dungeons don't understand what a traditional Zelda game even is, game design wise. Yes, on a more aesthetic level, dungeons have always been there, but the lack of traditional dungeons is not why Breath of the Wild does not play like a traditional Zelda. After all, it has the Divine Beasts, which are not entirely different to dungeons of old. However, the entire game is designed with completely different sensibilities. Dungeons are not even the tip of the iceberg.
Likewise, people that say Breath of the Wild is following the footsteps of the original Legend of Zelda also do not understand basic game design principles. They are just misquoting and/or misunderstanding what Aonuma and the team said about it. That game was actually a lot more similar to A Link to the Past than it will ever be to Breath of the Wild, it was just a lot more unrefined. Both are very much lock-and-key design.
Breath of the Wild is the only completely open ended Zelda game, and one of the very few open ended open world games in the entire medium. You cannot blame people for not considering it traditional Zelda, it has little to nothing to do with Zelda design outside aesthetics. However, it does FEEL like Zelda in many regards as well, despite the overall design of the game being completely different. Visuals, audio and story play a major part in that.
@JohnnyMind Up until 2016, Zelda games came in 2 flavors: Top Down Zeldas (og LoZ, LttP, et all) and 3D Zeldas (OoT, WW, TP)
Breath of the Wild truly is a new type of Zelda game. I think at one point Reggie called it "Open Air" genre. But because it is IN 3D, though, I do feel like this is going to replace the 3D type of Zelda games.
And as for Top Down Zeldas, I also fear that they may fade into obscurity. We got Links Awakening which was a fantastic port of an amazing Gameboy game. And before that, we got Link Between Worlds, which was ALSO based on a previous entry.
(And In my not-so-humble opinion, Link Between Worlds is actually the best "Zelda" in regards to what a 'traditional' Zelda game is. I love that game so much)
And as far as Breath of the Wild goes, during my first playthrough while I was slowly figuring out what the game was like, the one thing I felt in regards to previous games was a strong relation to the open-exploration of the original Legend of Zelda on NES.
And again, I really DO love BotW. Its not perfect, and I certainly have my gripes about it. But the physics engine is nothing like I've ever played before. I'm honestly hoping TotK ends up bridging the gap between traditional 3D Zeldas, and this new "Open Air" genre.
@Desrever A fusion of the "Open Air" and 3D style is what I hope for since like you said the former would probably completely replace the latter otherwise.
And yeah, unfortunately I fear Top Down Zeldas might fade into obscurity which is why I hope they'll keep it alive at least through remakes (the Oracle games would particularly benefit from getting one) if not completely new ones (especially considering what they did with A Link Between Worlds which while I'm not sure I'd call it the best myself is certainly brilliant and at least among the best)!
@NewAdvent Yeah, didn't go enough in detail in my previous comment because of its already considerable length, but it's not just the theme per se, it's how the theme influenced the dungeon's structure and obstacles inside it.
Excluding the completely flat dungeons of the originals starting with A Link to the Past and so much more in later games we got dungeons with rooms of different shapes and sizes, on several floors and complex layouts with obstacles and puzzles specific to them and all that combined with the visuals constituted each one's theme.
I feel that the Divine Beasts kind of fall flat (pun intended) not only because of their aesthetic, but also almost identical general layout etc.
Other than that, couldn't agree more with everything else you said about the Divine Beasts, Shrines and Hyrule Castle and yeah, I also still really love BotW for what it does well and feel that Tears of the Kingdom has the potential of being much better in that game's weaker aspects!
People want Zelda games to be little cult classics for dumb Nintendo fans who "don't know better", rather than being huge AAA king of the open world games like BotW and most certainly TotK.
It's salt from people who don't even play Nintendo games.
@Switch_Pro Couldn't agree more with what you said and I'd like to know your thoughts about my point by point analysis in my previous comment if you feel like reading it!
Great Boss Battles
@Joshie0234 Choosing between life and stamina is surely not a deal-breaker for me, but it's a shame that it's such a brainless decision. It's obvious from the get-go that the second stamina ring is a hard requirement for any kind of serious exploration so you got to get it first. Then the Master Sword has a hard requirement of hearts so you got to go for that. After that? Well, it doesn't really matter because at this point you're already pretty well equipped for any situation, the rest is gravy.
I kind of regret they streamlined character progression so much through the usage of Spirit Orbs. I miss the traditional heart container hunting of the previous games, which would incidentally give some real incentive to complete the otherwise pointless mini-games of BotW. Same with bosses. Getting the heart container from the Divine Creatures' bosses does not provide quite the same excitement and feeling of achievement as in the previous games.
@JohnnyMind I agree on a lot of these points, aptly put. I'm very curious how they're gonna handle the story and ToTKs version of Divine Beasts. The thing about BotWs story is that it really didn't need to focus so much on the past. A few cutscenes at the beginning where you meet the king and impa would have sufficed and if people wanted additional context and lore, the memory hunt would have been a good way for them to expand upon the past. But instead they chose to entirely focus on the past, where even clearing Divine Beasts just led to more cutscenes about the past. This just made the present story weaker. But now that we know about the past, I'm curious to see how TotK will handle it's story. Will it be a more straight forward story with cool set pieces like the older games, now that they can't really use the memory hunt structure?
Same with the DBs. We've already explored them and got rid of the blight inside, so what's gonna replace BotWs version of dungeons in TotK?
Zelda II obviously
Nintendo considers Tri Force Heroes to be mainline, and while it never got a sequel (it'd be a bit early for one), the game itself is a direct sequel to A Link Between Worlds, featuring the same Link.
@ModdedInkling I think you’re confusing ‘canon’ with ‘mainline’
But then we would need another article for what is considered mainline in Zelda hahaha and I don’t want to keep arguing on technicalities.
Breath of the Wild was designed with the massive pillar of non-linearity, something that has never been done before in Zelda and even this type of game in general. With that in mind, I think the Zelda team did a really good job preserving as much of the identity as they could.
The story is simple, but handled very cleverly. Given that you can encounter the story beats in any order, there are not a lot of ways to tell a great story; there is no guarantee a player has seen scene A before scene B. That said, the storytelling is hardly a major point Zelda traditionally. Some titles have very minimal story. BotW has quite a bit of it, despite the different form factor.
The Divine Beasts and Shrines are pretty much the replacement for dungeons. I would say they work great in the context of the game, maybe except aesthetically as they are too similar. In-universe, it makes sense that they would be nearly identical, but this makes them less memorable. The sheer amount of them is the main reason behind this.
Something great about this dungeon design is that you have bite sized content with the Shrines, and getting stuck is hardly a big deal. You can just abandon it and tackle another. Prior, some players would spend hours in a single dungeon to progress. The longer form Divine Beasts fill the more standard dungeon niche, albeit not completely. We've seen better dungeon design before, but these fit this game very well, and its more physics-based sensibilities. There are also a some combat/stealth based dungeons, like the Yiga hideout, as well as some smaller overworld puzzles which mix things up a bit more.
As mentioned above, the biggest pillar of Breath of the Wild is non-linearity, ergo, you won't have to tackle content A before content B, you can tackle those in any order. Thus, powers such as Champion abilities inherently cannot act as keys to major content, or they would compromise this fundamental design pillar.
In a way, the game does have all the key beats of a Zelda game on an individual basis, however, they are rearranged in a very different way. You never need to unlock something to progress in the main objective. The shrines are very much representative of this whole design. A traditional Zelda dungeon would very much be like a chain of Shrines, arranged in some tricky manner, but it was a very linear Room A -> Room B -> Room C progression, with a "key" (sometimes literal) preventing you from accessing the rooms ahead before you beat the previous one(s).
The enemy variety in the game might be lower, however it is made up by the much higher variety of actions that each enemy can perform. In previous Zelda games, the majority of enemies were one-trick ponies. In this one, even the humble Bokoblin has an entire array of moves they can perform dynamically based on their awareness. Basically, this time the enemies have a lot more AI states and don't just chase the player down. This is a lot more fitting for an open world game as you'll be encountering them for dozens of hours, and being simplistic would make them boring even if they had half a dozen more.
The bottom line is, Breath of the Wild is definitely not a traditional Zelda title in its core concept and design pillars, but they tried to keep as much of the identity as they could otherwise. Zelda games are traditionally strictly linear, and based on the same lock-and-key content progression as Metroidvania titles, even if some segments allowed for a degree of freedom. Thus, fundamentally Breath of the Wild is going to feel different in its core game loop, which is what you'll be engaging with in the majority of its runtime.
While I personally agree that I would like to see Tears of the Kingdom dial back the non-linearity just a little bit, so we can have some more traditional Zelda elements, I do not expect this to be the case. From what we've seen so far I think the game is doubling down on what made Breath of the Wild different. Either way, my mind is open and I am very excited.
Huge disagreement on linearity - OG Zelda didn't at all have it, and even Link to the Past opened up fully once you got the hammer, you could exit L1 and go get the Titan Mitt and do just about anything in any order.
Exploration is really the key thing, and while I would have liked more formal dungeons than just the Divine Beasts, I think BotW definitely qualifies.
@Switch_Pro Great analysis, you nailed the different gameplay at the core of Breath of the Wild, how they applied the traditional Zelda elements to it etc.!
I do feel Tears of the Kingdom will be an improvement in most if not all aspects, including having some more traditional Zelda elements while still having the distinct design behind Breath of the Wild from the little we've seen, but I'm also keeping an open mind and am very excited regardless!
@DemonKow Yeah, exploration and non linearity are not the same thing, exploration gives the illusion of non linearity though. Pretty much all open worlds involve exploration to a degree, but also most of them are strictly linear. In many cases, this can make the open world feel like a chore that you have to slog through to get to the actual content, which is usually the main campaign missions or quests. I would say The Elder Scrolls games handle this very well. While their story is linear, there are so many different threads you can start along the way, which gives it a very open ended feel.
A "traditional" Zelda, whether 2D or 3D, is basically a Metroidvania, even if most people wouldn't describe it as such. That's probably where the descriptor of "linear(ish)" comes from- an attempt to pin down what OoT (etc.) does that separates it from an open world.
BotW was basically a western open-world RPG, with the typical Zelda trappings to give it a distinct flavour. Those things are welcome, but BotW is still fundamentally not a Metroidvania, and so it's not a traditional Zelda.
Poll: "Yes, it has all the key hallmarks" : 27%"
Whaaat. How can you honestly objectively say it has all the key hallmarks?
1. No interesting Hyrule world that is actually worth exploring. That is, unless you want to find every Korok seed which really doesn't make up for the lack of interesting content in the world...
2. No dungeons to speak of! Where are the temples, ruins, and interesting places to explore. Replaced with copy and paste shrines with nothing unique or memorable in them.
3. Following on from dungeons. No find the map, compass and key gameplay either obviously. This was another massive departure from a series tradition.
4. Bosses. There are no unique bosses. Everything, including the general mobs, is just a variation of another creature: Windblight Ganon, Waterblight Ganon, Blue Bokoblin, Black Bokoblin, Silver Bokoblin, you get the idea!
5. Items. Where are the traditional items that were often used to access and explore dungeons and to reach parts of the map you couldn't before? The slate powers are really generic.
6. Lack of any real story. There is literally no engrossing story in BoTW. Just some flashbacks voiced by some pretty underwhelming voice acting IMO.
5. Jingles. Where are the traditional sounds and music that previous Zeldas had? Replaced with bland (but nicely atmospheric TBF) music.
Zelda games had many of these elements for 20 years. Genshin replicated this game so well not because it was Zelda but because it was easy to copy the big pretty superficial world.
Awaken --> Get three mystical items --> Master Sword --> Final boss fakeout --> Parallel world of some sort --> 6-8ish more dungeons (***** WW's 2) --> Largest portion of what story there is to dump --> boss fight (usually Ganon/dorf).
That's what most people are referring to as traditional, since a lions share of the games after Link to the Past emulated its exact same structure repeatedly.
State of some of these comments....
If TOTK gives me anything approaching the enjoyment I took from BOTW then I will be a very happy man. BOTW was my gateway game to get back into gaming, bought a used Switch during lockdown and it blew me away, genuinely one of the best games I have ever played. May 12th cannot come soon enough.
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