The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was notable for reinventing the Zelda formula in a significant way, shaking up the basic template and trying something entirely new. One such thing was the removal of the usual dungeon system, replacing it with 120 smaller shrines scattered about the landscape. Considering the heavy emphasis on exploration, it makes sense that this decision was made, but some fans still missed having that familiar dungeon system in place.
In the recent Nintendo Power Podcast, the developers of Breath of the Wild explained the reasoning for the shrines, and why traditional dungeons largely disappeared. Though the Divine Beasts were sort of an exception, the staff didn’t want the players to spend too much time searching around dungeons, so they went with the shrine system to keep players moving around the overworld. Here’s what was said by the game’s director, Hidemaro Fujibayashi:
So in the past Zelda games, one dungeon was very, very long and because this game had a very wide field to explore and one of the themes we had was finding things, we were thinking about what the ratio is for finding Shrines while players are wandering around the field. And when we calculated that, we kind of ended up with 100 or more Shrines. And as for size, we thought about perhaps making long, big dungeons, but that would take long, and players would dedicate their time too long in the dungeons, so we thought perhaps one Shrine is maybe 10 minutes. We’re thinking play would be a good amount.
When we considered that each Shrine would take around 10 minutes, we thought maybe for a Zelda title, it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t meeting that dungeon feel for the game, so we thought maybe for this game, we could incorporate a big dungeon and perhaps one that moves or one that incorporates a gravity movement system and so we considered a big dungeon and that’s how we thought about the Divine Beasts. And so initially when we were thinking about the Divine Beasts, we thought about something that could be seen from afar, and maybe like a humanoid form, but then because these Champions were controlling Divine Beasts, we thought well maybe it would be interesting if the Divine Beasts themselves were a dungeon. And so then that met the requirement of a moving dungeon and also something that could be seen from afar. That’s how we kind of came up with the idea of the Divine Beasts.
What do you think? Did you appreciate the shrine system? Would you like to see the return of traditional dungeons? Share your thoughts in the comments below.