The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a smash hit when it released on the Wii U and Nintendo Switch back in 2017. This was to be expected of a Zelda title, of course, but praise for the game was less a result of it being an entry in the Zelda franchise and more simply because of what it did right as a game on its own. Opting for an open world approach, Breath of the Wild was as much a departure from a series' conventions as it was a return to form, mirroring many of the concepts that made the progenitor of the franchise so popular in the first place.
I, personally, had an absolute blast with the game and it will, until something unseats it, remain the greatest example of how to create an open world game where exploring and interacting with said world is fun by itself, something games seldom do correctly. I could sing the game's praises all day, but as with any game, Breath of the Wild has flaws, and as the series intends to continue with a similar approach going forward it seems only right to spotlight what it can do better and comment on how it can be a better game.
Shrines are one of the most prominent aspects of Breath of the Wild and they have been received with mixed reception. At their best, shrines are filled with fun and interesting puzzles that will make the player think seriously on how to solve them or work around their intended completion method. At their worst, they're repetitive fights or mind-numbingly slow time-wasters. Shrines are generally of a rather high quality, however the problem with them is less how they are designed and more how they are integrated. Traditionally in Zelda titles you'll venture through a dungeon and solve a series puzzles to collect rewards along the way, but that satisfying feeling of opening a large chest to that very familiar jingle is rarely matched in Breath of the Wild.
Shrines rarely offer anything in the way of interesting loot. This is a real shame as while many of them have interesting puzzles and various shrine challenges make for some of the best content in the game (Eventide being a very popular example), the payoff feels lackluster, especially for what one would come to expect from the Zelda franchise. Ironically most of the best items in the game come from simply exploring. One has to wonder if shrine puzzles and orbs wouldn't have been better off integrated into the world itself rather than walled off by these instanced areas to complement the game's emphasis on world interaction
4. Lack of Weapon Degradation Solutions
Breath of the Wild is absolutely brimming with interesting and fun ideas. Never have I seen any game surprise me with something new after tens and dozens of hours of gameplay. As a result, it seems odd when expected elements are absent from the game. For instance, weapon durability is generally handled well as the game is designed with it in mind, but it makes no sense that one can't fix a near broken weapon at a forge or a similar junction. In this same line, shield surfing is one of the more unique features of the game and the developers seem pretty proud of it given how often it is mentioned by NPCs. Despite this, shield surfing degrades a shield very quickly, and while it can be hilarious watching Link wipe out and ragdoll around, it is nonetheless frustrating that one has to make a decision when they come to a tantalizingly smooth grassy hill.
This is a problem because these two things actively work against the system that was so carefully designed. Having repairable weapons doesn't make the game easier or harder, it simply gives the player a choice as to whether they should save a weapon until they reach the next forge or use it to its last. This encourages the player to not only develop a relationship with the different play styles of the different weapons, but it also gives them a bit more room to be reckless with weapons knowing that they can be mended, albeit at the cost of traveling to wherever a forge might be and paying the fee involved with repairs. Similarly, with shield surfing, the quick degradation essentially makes the feature a moot choice of travel as it can only be done in short bursts, which is mind boggling considering the game's many hilly areas and sleek mountainsides.
3. Enemy Variety
One of the biggest reasons Breath of the Wild is easy to play through the first time but is far less interesting down the line is that discovery is its most powerful tool. In open world titles wanderlust is the strongest motivator for a player to explore and consume what the title has to offer, especially when said game puts more emphasis on its exploration than it does its story. Breath of the Wild is fortunate in that its world is so finely crafted and densely filled with details and secrets that even on subsequent playthroughs a player is likely find a bevy of new things.
Despite this, fighting moblins over and over again in different colors can tend to make new feel old again. Oftentimes games will alleviate this by making the individual encounters interesting, usually by tailoring the environments to present specific difficulties based on how the game is designed. Breath of the Wild does this on occasion and, just as often, will create scenarios where the player can have fun killing enemies in interesting ways. However, Hyrule is a large expanse and these scenarios are very few and far between. There is, of course, another way to fix this besides adding more enemies (although that would be ideal).
2. The Combat System
Back when I first played the game I loved the combat. From the addition of parries to the variety of weapons and how they were utilized, the game felt very fresh, expanding on ideas introduced in Wind Waker while also adding its own flavor. The combat system is by no means bad and in fact it complements the overall design of the game and how it controls excellently, offering plenty of unique ways to fight and deal with encounters.
However there isn't too much that's interesting about smacking an enemy over and over and over again without any real dynamic to the combat. Compared to its predecessors (Skyward Sword excluded) Breath of the Wild's swordplay feels loose, slow, and somewhat inaccurate. With Link's signature roll being gone in favor of jumping and sprinting, dodging is limited and combat is less snappy. It can also be very easy to misjudge the distance between Link and an enemy and swing wildly in the air before being countered and killed. This is made more annoying by the fact that, as you progress, enemies become tougher by means of having raised health and attack power but little else. With all of this in mind, however, the combat does not need to revert to how it worked in other Zelda titles so much as it simply needs to be looked at and spruced up. Introducing new enemies, bringing back old favorites, and expanding on the movesets of existing enemies would add a huge layer of depth without sacrificing the system's simplicity.
1. The Divine Beasts
When a player enters their first divine beast, in most cases, they will usually be met with awe followed by utter confusion. The confusion isn't particularly bad, the Divine Beasts are essentially giant puzzles in the forms of dungeons. All four of them. Each of them tasking the player with doing the same thing through different structures. While one could argue that the divine beasts are spaced out enough that it keeps the content from becoming stale, the lack of creativity here is very disappointing for what might be considered the game's (or at least the story's) main attractions.
I make a point to compare Breath of the Wild to its predecessors if only because the game is a testament to the idea that a series can grow past its conventions without losing its identity in the process. Still, it is also important to consider why those conventions worked in the first place when leaving them behind. Traditionally, each dungeon in a Zelda title is unique from the others and offers a bevy of challenges, both in the way of puzzles and combat, as well as rewards that may or may not permanently impact the rest of your journey. In Breath of the Wild, however, gone are mid-bosses, most combat of value outside of the the final encounter, meaningful rewards (with the exception of the reward for killing the boss), or any sort of personality in its dungeons. Instead, the divine beasts act as glorified shrines and are just as optional.
Despite all of these flaws, glaring as they may be, Breath of the Wild still manages to be a masterpiece and an icon for open world games of any series or genre to look to for inspiration. This list is not meant to lambaste the title so much as it is to create hope for future Zelda titles that follow a similar formula. Given how experimental and strange the development of Breath of the Wild was it would be no surprise if its successor ended up surpassing it by a fair deal. That said, if neither the fanbase nor the developers acknowledge what the game does wrong, what chance would there be of a title that does those flaws justice?