Breath of the Wild 2

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the highest-rated games on Metacritic with a critic score of 97 (109 reviews) and a user score of 8.7 (17,699 reviews). To put that into perspective, there are currently 17 other games with a score of 97, four games with a score of 98, and only one game, Ocarina of Time, sitting at a 99, which is currently the top spot. That puts BotW into the category of the 22 highest-rated video games ever made (or at least made since Metacritic became a thing).

Most video-game enthusiasts will agree that BotW is a really good game, myself included. Hardcore Nintendo fans will even say it is the greatest game of all time, myself not included. But regardless of how you slice it, there is almost universal agreement that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a landmark game that seems like a once-in-a-generation achievement.

And so, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel on the horizon — which is a direct sequel this time — hype is at an all-time high, and the general hope is that fans will be able to re-experience what made the original such a standout entry in the long-running series.

Now, I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon here, but is it even possible that Nintendo can recapture the magic that made the original such a behemoth in the games industry? I mean, it seems like a Herculean feat in and of itself for any developer to deliver the goods a single time. But twice in a row? That’s madness!

Breath of the Wild 2

It should be stated that the general consensus, at least so far as I have gathered from my diligent research (by which I mean reading articles and comments sections and social media feeds, as well as watching YouTube videos on the subject), is that if Nintendo simply delivers more of the same with a few small tweaks, that alone would be enough to satiate the masses.

Fair enough. I have in the past fallen into that camp with various sequels to beloved titles myself. And if that were all that Nintendo managed to cobble together, I would probably end up playing BotW2 myself, for at least long enough to experience the parts I find most engaging (in the original, that was mostly the Shrine challenges). But would that make for a worthwhile successor? Would fans really be happy with just more of the same but slightly different?

For the most part, BotW2 looks to take place in the same game world as the previous game, most likely on the very same map of Hyrule. To be fair, it does seem at least marginally different this time around, with the floating land masses shown off in the trailer from last year and the underground section shown off in the reveal trailer. But by reusing the same location, there are going to need to be some tweaks to that world.

For example, there are 120 Shrines in the original game (and more than that if you pick up the DLC). Presumably, Nintendo wouldn’t just reuse those a second time around. So, assuming they replace all 120 — or, even more daring, add several dozen or so more on top of a whole new crop — I would imagine the fatigue might set in much faster a second time around. 

Breath of the Wild 2

I don’t think there has been any direct confirmation that Shrines will even be returning this time, but I would assume they would almost have to be included, since they were such a large part of the original. But just adding new ones, even in possibly higher quantities, doesn’t sound compelling enough to get my hype juices pumping just yet.

So what else, then?

It’s hard to say whether or not there will be a need to dust of the previous game’s Divine Beasts. One would hope that new Divine Beasts — or at least the challenges required to obtain them — would be on the menu. If not new, though, and just the same beasts as before? Well, I’m sure you can see where my trepidation is starting to set in, as this is beginning to feel like a speculative exercise in rehashing the original game. And that would be much to the detriment of not only the original game’s prestige and allure, but also to the hopes that BotW2 will be a worthy, worthwhile sequel.

Let’s take that last supposition one step further and apply it to the game world. Now, I have played plenty of sequels in the past that were set in the same game world as their predecessors. Hell, most games set in an open-world New York City have the tendency to feel very similar geographically by default. This is even true for a game like Grand Theft Auto IV, which takes place in a facsimile of New York.

Breath of the Wild 2

So when this logic is applied to BotW, if the game world is mostly — or even exactly — the same, aside from the aforementioned floating parts and underground parts seen in the trailers, that could prove problematic. Part of the joy of open-world games comes from exploring new areas and discovering new things. And although having an intimate familiarity with a game world from first jump can certainly be advantageous, if you know almost every nook and cranny from the outset, that will most likely mute the joy and wonder of fresh discoveries down the road. And for me at least, those discoveries are often the biggest allure to continuing to venture off the beaten path, or just beyond the hillcrest on the horizon.

Now, this is the point where I usually catch the most flack in all of my criticisms of the original BotW, but I would be remiss if I didn’t paint myself with a bullseye in order to address the elephant in the room. I thought the story was boring and paper-thin, and it almost felt like it existed just to justify the existence of the rest of the game. The story was so light and one-note that every cutscene between the first and last felt like déjà vu from the one before it. We learned nothing new after watching a majority of them, nothing that reframed motivations or shined light on one element or another, thus giving it more context or a greater purpose. It was always: Zelda is sad but needs to get it together, Link is a silent cypher, and the Champions are a single note repeated again and again. 

And look, I get it, not every game needs to have a sweeping narrative or a super deep plot or complex themes. Hell, I enjoyed the first game in spite of its shallow plot. But if that’s all that in store for the sequel, then good lord, is BotW2 going to be an uphill slog for me.

Breath of the Wild 2

But who knows? With so little yet known about BotW2, I could be way off the mark with my concerns. But also, I’m no Nintendo Stan, so it’s not as if this game is being designed with someone like me in mind to begin with.

I’m pretty sure, as much as Nintendo fans are fans because they prefer the nostalgic, comfort-food-style approach to game design, even if all of the concerns I’ve expressed above do pan out across the board, we are looking at a really high Metacritic score right out the gate. And really, even that scenario would be great if it means that a whole swath of game enthusiasts can greatly enjoy another entry in a beloved series.

But as a fan of innovation and meaningful additions to well-made games, well, I guess I am only hoping for something that warrants another go ‘round as opposed to a fan-servicey rehash.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Nintendo will be able to once again breathe new life into a series that already seems so very close to the apex of what some might consider a master class in game design.

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