Nintendo's big bombshell announcement that surprised even the previously in-the-know select press was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. Okay, Nintendo technically didn't call it that, but there isn't much else we can call it right now.
Development is still apparently so early on that BotW 2's release date isn't even in that vague state of just having a year, and we don't have a clue what to expect, other than a darker story, lots of Malice, maybe zombie Ganondorf, and Zelda with short hair.
With so little detail to go on, it's the perfect time to start speculating and building up big expectations.
These kinds of lists are inevitable given how massively successful the original Breath of the Wild was and the way it subverted almost everything the series had done up to that point. Excellent as it is, there's always room for improvement, though.
Like most open-world games, BotW places emphasis on big, without necessarily having the content to fill that big space and make it worthwhile. Also, since the dust has settled around shaking up the standard, it means the possibility exists of working some more traditional elements back into the formula and refining both even further.
From more content to more people, and everything in between, here are some of the things we most want to see added in Breath of the Wild 2.
A Full World
Breath of the Wild was an amazing new direction for the Zelda series and a more than competent open-world game in its own right. Like many open-world games, though, it suffered from a huge world with not exactly all that much to do in it.
Don't get me wrong: I explored every inch of it, twice. However, after a while, or depending on the situation, climbing up another mountain or venturing off the beaten track isn't quite as appealing, since you know there's probably just a Korok Seed to be found at the end of the journey.
In contrast, traveling over a mountain range (and not being spoiled by a guide) only to find a new village, a massive monster, or a group of travelers gives a thrill like no other. It just doesn't happen enough, but it's the kind of thrill the sequel needs to have.
A big part of making the world more engaging like that is, naturally, adding more places to see. Towns are the first thing that come to mind, but the world did just get wiped out a century ago, so bringing in a bunch of new towns probably wouldn't make sense. However, the seeds of new settlements would make sense. So would having more collectibles that make a bigger difference on gameplay the more you collect (unlike Hestu's poo gift for finding all the Korok seeds).
More mini-games wouldn't be unwelcome either, but one other thing that was definitely missed in Breath of the Wild is the trading game. Adding that to a vast, open world might be the equivalent of finding that one neighbor who wants their tape back in the original Animal Crossing (read: very frustrating), but there's no denying trying to find out what item is needed and who wants it would add an extra bit of challenge and give a reason for exploring everywhere.
Based on the teaser development BotW 2 trailer, it looks like the game's going to have a pretty big focus on story. At least, I hope it does. The first Breath of the Wild emphasized Ganon and the Calamity a lot in promotional materials before launch, when the player found story basically died after meeting Impa.
Now, there's nothing wrong with making the story like something out of Dark Souls or Skyrim, where the player has to search for it or can ignore it and still enjoy the story; but there's just so much material here begging to be utilized.
What's with the elemental dragons? Who are these monks, and what is their relationship to Ganon and Zelda? Why does the Temple of Time exist in this Hyrule? Was there ever a Ganondorf in this Hyrule? What happens to Hyrule after everything's back to normal?
That last one is actually something no Zelda game has ever really tried to tackle, but it has potentially interesting narrative opportunities in Breath of the Wild. It's not just rebuilding a civilization; it's rebuilding a monarchy and its authority as well, while rehabilitating the Shiekah and possibly still dealing with the Yiga clan and other threats to the established authority.
Obviously, the game probably isn't going to deal with all or most of that. The point is just there's a lot of content in the world to work with, even though much of it's optional. BotW 2 has the potential to weave a rich and varied story exploring lore, characters, dramatic happenings, and hopefully the return of everyone's favorite red-haired, evil-eyed, murderous giant.
The one area Breath of the Wild really stumbles is when it comes to dungeons. Gone are the longer dungeons, making up for the lack of sprawling labyrinths with the multitude of smaller Shrines all over the place. The Divine Beasts are creative but too short, and the change they offer in gameplay style is over too quickly.
However, assuming Breath of the Wild 2 is a direct sequel that doesn't take place after some multi-thousand year gap, there's not much reason to revisit or re-use Shrines, nor can the Beasts make a return. They've all been explored; they've all served their purpose.
It's always possible Nintendo will give us new Shrines that exist for story reasons, but the general consensus is that the series needs its dungeons back. They'd be better than Shrines too.
True, BotW shook the formula up by using non-mandatory mini-dungeons, but there's no reason dropping a handful — not necessarily 8, maybe more, maybe fewer — of dungeons in the massive open world would detract from that sense of freshness. In fact, it'd be an excellent contrast to that open world and expand the promise the Divine Beasts left hanging, since they'd require a longer break from exploration and put players' skills to the test.
That could be done with some traditional gear-based puzzles or even with just the Runes. The few Runes Link wields in BotW are brilliant in their simplicity, and even after 100+ puzzles in the Shrines based on them, there's still so much possibility for further use. Much as I'd like to see some key story items return, I'd be perfectly happy with some major — and completely breakable — puzzles built around expert Rune use.
They don't even have to be "dungeons" in the usual sense. Breath of the Wild's Hyrule Castle is an excellent example of a non-traditional dungeon; just add more traps and puzzles, and there you go.
Expanded NPC Interaction
Pretty much all Zelda games have quirky, lovable NPCs that range from the cute to the downright creepy (yes, Poe Collector, I am looking at you). Breath of the Wild is no different. In fact, Hyrule's chock full of interesting characters, from ill-fated travelers constantly beset by Bokoblins to a Zora priest who wants to help people be happy in marriage.
But that's sort of where it ends. Apart from giving Link a quest or an item, they don't serve too much purpose, nor do they change over time as Link solves problems or makes headway in, y'know, saving the world.
It's a missed opportunity to really make something of all the effort put into creating interesting NPCs.
One thing it would be nice to see is how things change for them, especially if Link (and maybe Zelda?) help them out somehow earlier on. It doesn't have to make NPCs and their lives an additional plot, like some games do, but open world games thrive on dynamic characters and how they interact with the player.
Lurelin is a good example of why the game needs this change. It's a gorgeous, interesting coastal town, where absolutely nothing happens, and it could just as easily never exist.
Rather than leaving people with the same dialogue and circumstances regardless of what the player does, some of them should move around, actually reach their destinations, fulfill their goals — something, anything. Tarry Town gives us a taste of what that might be like, and it's one of the most rewarding sets of character interactions in the entire game (see the next section for more on that).
I lied when I mentioned Breath of the Wild already has the open-world part down pat, plus all the ingredients for those kinds of immersive interactions anyway, because there's actually one missing, crucial thing:
Tingle. We need Tingle.
The above image is a bit misleading, since building Tarry Town is one of the best and most rewarding sidequests in BotW. Other quests don't have quite the same impact, though.
Most games fall victim to the usual quest types: fetch me x, go kill y. Breath of the Wild is mostly no different. Even if exploring the world to accomplish these tried and true tasks is a joy in itself, the materials are there to make something even better.
A good deal of it revolves around the characters (see previous slide). Many of them request something unique sounding or different, like the desire for seeing specific gear sets or obtaining special ingredients. But then nothing really happens.
Then there are those characters who should have some kind of quest associated with them. For example, Paya has terrible self-esteem, so why not let the player do something to help her out?
Then there's the aforementioned Lurelin Village. A situation where Link's choice to help eliminate monsters resulting in some kind of change in the village would be nice. For instance, opening up new shopping opportunities or somehow having an effect on the world.
The world and people are so dynamic, and the quests do have the potential to be interesting. They should also have some kind of impact on the world.
That kind of cause and effect setup where the game can change based on the player's choice does require a lot of work. However, the core of BotW has the concept built into it anyway, and the sequel is being built on the same engine. With the backbreaking, trial-and-error work out of the way, this is the time to really dig into how the player can interact with Hyrule and its people.
Bring Back the Gear
One of the major breakaways from traditional Zelda gameplay in BotW was how Link only got a few Runes to play with and no permanent gear or key items (aside from the completely missable Master Sword).
Despite their absence, it was pretty difficult to miss the Hookshot and various magical sticks Link's used over the years because the Runes are put to such good use. That doesn't mean it has to stay that way, though.
Aonuma mentioned the goal for the Breath of the Wild sequel is building on the world that was already established with the first game. That's a pretty open-ended statement that leaves all kinds of things to the imagination, like more obstacles in the overworld, more puzzles (see Dungeon slide), and generally more ways for Link to interact with the world.
Relegating some items like the hammer and boomerang to normal weapon status and then basically replacing the Hookshot with Magnesis (sort of) would make key items rather redundant — unless we got a whole new set of items. Or a whole new set of Runes to let players experience the game in yet another completely new and malleable way.
All of Hyrule's many high places and open spaces would lend themselves naturally to a Rune like the Cane of Somaria from Oracle of Ages as well, granting the option to make blocks or platforms, maybe even moving platforms.
But there's something even more important:
Zelda has magic, Link's controlled the weather before, and the rain sucks.
Put it all together and you've got a desperate need for a Rune that gives the power to control the weather. It wouldn't have to be limited to rain, either.
Giving the option to create a storm and control lightning, at a cost, would help vary combat options a lot. Plus you could save time by not dying when caught in a thunderstorm, or it could even be used to open doors or solve puzzles. Egads!
More Combat Variety
Breath of the Wild changed Zelda combat in a tremendous way by doing away with almost all permanent weapons and gear. Other than creating a much more tense experience, the decision forces players to weigh each combat scenario and decide whether it's worthwhile or if they even have the right gear to handle the challenge.
But I want more.
Once Link gets access to more powerful weapons on a regular basis, or if you get the Master Sword and undergo the Trials associated with it, combat's edge is taken off just a bit.
Lynels can still kill you with one look, of course, and require some strategy, but you develop a rhythm in how you approach enemies, especially the Hynox. Shoot the eye, slash, slash, slash, run away, repeat.
That's why there should be more enemies and enemies with different strengths and weaknesses. Certain weapon types could be more effective against specific enemies, or there would be more monsters with elemental weaknesses. Given the apparent theme, there could be more of a light-and-dark motif as well, with Link getting the Light Arrows from the start that enemies might have a weakness to.
It wouldn't be a bad thing to see the Darknut make a return either.
Another possibility relates to Malice, the creeping purple mist associated with Calamity Ganon. Malice played a big role in BotW originally, and it looks like it's still going to be important in the sequel. Malice-altered monsters could be another way to change up combat, for example, where a normally easy Bokoblin suddenly becomes a lot tougher or acquires new abilities.
If Malice can change the entire landscape, it could certainly change monsters.
Playable Zelda in BotW 2
Everyone's talking about it. We've all wanted it for years, and Breath of the Wild only made it worse. It's time to play as Zelda in Breath of the Wild 2.
Zelda in BotW is a completely different take on the princess we're used to. She gets captured of her own accord, trying to save the kingdom; she might seem helpless, but it's the helplessness born of an identity crisis. Otherwise, she's got more determination, spirit, and ability than we've seen in any previous game.
That alone should be reason enough to let us play as Zelda in the upcoming sequel, since there's so much potential in her character, to say nothing of how it would change up the way players need to approach enemies and puzzles. Magical she may be, but Zelda's emphasis in the series (even in Smash Bros) has always been on speed and distance attacking.
Could it be Aonuma teasing fans or is it just because Zelda's on a journey with Link this time, instead of waiting at the end of the journey?
If it's the latter, that could still open up plenty of new gameplay possibilities, even if Zelda isn't playable as the primary main character herself. Chief among those options is making Link work together with her to solve puzzles, ideally in a way that lets you play co-op or switch control of characters somehow.
Even a masterpiece can be made better, even Breath of the Wild could do with some quality of life and content improvements. From more to do, more ways to interact, and hopefully more characters to play as, the sky seems like the limit for what we can expect from the sequel of the Zelda entry shattered the series' foundations the way it did.