October 12, 2018
The biggest star of Breath of the Wild is, without a doubt, the game world itself. Breath of the Wild’s version of Hyrule is massive, beautiful, and an absolute joy to explore. More than the story, characters, or quests, the land of Hyrule is what I will remember most about the game. The greatness of this take on Hyrule begs the question: should Nintendo reuse the BotW game world (or most of it) in the next 3D Zelda game?
I’ve long believed that Nintendo should set the next Zelda game in the same world as Breath of the Wild. However, in a recent discussion with fellow TGPZ writer Lyle over on our Discord server, he mentioned that having a new game world to explore helps make the release of a new Zelda game feel like a bigger deal. So with that as our kicking off point, let’s take a look at why I believe Nintendo should reuse the Breath of the Wild game world in its next 3D Zelda game.
1. Focus on Story
I can already hear scores of Zelda fans screaming, “But Red! Exploring a new world is half the fun of a new Zelda game!” And while I agree that part of the appeal of a new Zelda game is getting to discover all the secrets of a brand new world, Breath of the Wild took this to the worst possible extreme: exploring the world was almost the ENTIRE POINT of the game! The plot, quests, and characters are so paper-thin that Breath of the Wild is little more than an elaborate tech demo to show off a beautiful new world and engine. Nintendo has a chance to make a massive course-correction by taking that world and populating it with interesting characters, engaging sidequests, and a deep story. A huge number of people who play the next 3D Zelda game will have already explored Hyrule, so take the focus away from exploration and put it back on story!
2. Fill the Empty Spaces with Secrets
“But Red!” I can hear fans screaming next, “I’ve already explored every inch of Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule! There are no secrets left to find!” As I mentioned in the intro, BotW’s Hyrule is absolutely MASSIVE. But it’s also absolutely EMPTY. The vast majority of Hyrule really had nothing to find, other than Korok seeds and the occasional shrine. Nintendo has plenty of tools at its disposal to make sure that these formerly empty areas are now chock-full of secrets to discover, which in turn makes it worthwhile to explore the entire world all over again! Heart pieces and stamina vessels could be found out in the wild instead of being prizes for completing shrines. Unique weapons, armor, and equipment can be scattered all across the land, hidden in ruins or deep in grottos. Mini-dungeons with puzzles, enemies, and mini-bosses can be added, with powerful or valuable prizes for completing them. There are all kinds of ways Nintendo can fill the existing game world with new secrets and explorable areas.
3. Quicker Development Time
But the most important reason for Nintendo to reuse the Breath of the Wild game world is simple: it would allow the game to be developed and released in a much shorter time frame than we are used to for big Zelda releases! By using the existing game world and engine as a framework for the next game and building upon it, Nintendo should be able to cut development time for the game significantly. Nintendo was able to achieve similar time savings when they reused Ocarina of Time assets to create Majora’s Mask, cutting development time from four years to one. A similar approach to the next Zelda game could get it into our hands far quicker than building a new world and engine from scratch. And since Zelda games are almost always massive financial successes, I’d say that would be a win for Nintendo as much as it would be for the fans.
I get it. There would be some Zelda fans out there that would be disappointed that a new Zelda game doesn’t come with a brand new world to explore. But I think the benefits – shifting the focus from exploration to story, a chance to fill in the world with all kinds of new secrets, and the quicker development time – far outweigh the downside. But what do you think? Would you rather get an entire new Hyrule to explore? Or would you rather Nintendo add to and build upon the beautiful world it has already created? Let us know in the comments!