Fatal Flaws: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

There have been many good games that have been held back from achieving their full potential for greatness.  Some aspect of their design leaves a stain on the experience, forcing the player to question what in the world were the developers thinking.  Fatal Flaws examines these scars that are left on games, whether they are a mere blemish that holds a game back from perfection or something major that comes close to ruining an otherwise quality game.

While this is a year that is already been loaded down with high quality titles, there is one that manages to hold sway at the forefront of gamer’s minds. For the astute, or at least those that read the title of this very piece before clicking on the link, it’s obvious that we’re talking about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In a year that includes Persona 5, the next mainline entry in the series following my all time favorite game, Persona 4, I find myself in shock that BotW is likely to beat it out on my personal game of the year list.

Through a series of misadventures and bad luck, I’ve only recently been able to dive into this fresh take on Hyrule and dearly want to write about it. The problem is that it’s already a four month old game. Most anything I can contribute would no longer have relevance, having already been covered by other writers better than I. When considering this predicament, I noticed that the deadline for the Fatal Flaws column was coming up like a Lynel on PCP. Sensing an opportunity to solve two problems at once, it seemed time to kvetch about the less than stellar aspects of Nintendo’s masterpiece. After all, what better way to honor such a well put together title by covering it in muck? It’s not like there aren’t any issues. There are things like:

Motion Controlled Puzzles:

Taking Link across the sand blasted plains, ruinous valleys, and snow covered mountain peaks can lead the player into many challenging situations. Link needs more power, power that can be found in completing the 120 puzzle shrines that dot the landscape like flecks of gold in a Goldschlager pancake. Finding one, and delving into the depths is always a minor event. Watching as Link descends the elevator always gives a sense of anticipation as visions of power equipment, such as another piece of climbing gear, dance through the head. Most often, these shrines yield a short series of puzzles of varying difficulty to solve using powers earned early in the game. Some are less interesting combat challenges that at least can be cleared quickly. Then there are the motion controlled ones.

By now, there is one in particular that is infamous. The player must roll a ball through a maze by tilting the entire maze. It’s like the old wooden game Labyrinth, in that there are multiple pitfalls to drop the sphere into oblivion, requiring a fresh start. The famous solution to this was to just flip the entire board over. The ball drops and it’s a “simple” matter to tap it over the final gap onto the ramp where it will reach the goal. Even that was a pain in the ass. No body is arguing that motion controls haven’t improved since the original Wii. That doesn’t mean using it is always fun.

Remember those dollar store puzzles that require rolling a bunch of balls around in hopes that they will all land in separate slots? Those things were only marginally more interesting than listening to the adults gossip about an absent family friend at the get together these were typically given at. Yet, Nintendo decided to make that a mechanic. These are parts meant to be slogged through and forgotten when done.

“Apparatus” is now a Hylian swear word.

Disposable Weapons

To be entirely honest, I warmed to the idea of the constantly breaking weapons as my time with the game rolled on. The trick is to think of it more as ammunition in a shooter, something that is meant to be spent. However, the inability to gauge how far gone a weapon is still remains maddening. All that needs to be done is to an indicator on the menu screen showing how much “life” is left in it. It doesn’t remove realism, as a warrior like Link has eyes. He certainly has the ability to differentiate a ding from a scuff. Allowing players to be able to plan their arsenal’s use would have added more depth to the game.

For the record, I do understand that people do get frustrated when losing a harder to obtain weapon. Considering that there are specific weapons that can be forged again using other hard to find items, it does seem silly that this same process cannot be introduced for the rest of the options. I’ve only found one mop to swing during the journey to calm the four Divine Beasts. If I want to keep that on me, constantly taping it back together, that should be an option.

Of course it did.

The Voice Acting. Good Gravy, The Voice Acting

Outside of short sound bites, it’s unusual for Nintendo to utilize actual voice acting in their games. Based on the quality of the actors in Breath of the Wild, it’s easy to see why. Lots of people like to bag on Zelda’s English actor and her wavering English accent. She at least managed to deliver a few good scenes in the Lost Memories that Link finds. The truly terrible acting lies in the hands of the four Champions, particularly Daruk. Man, it’s as though they hired somebody based solely on the ability to sound simultaneously flat and boisterous. It shouldn’t be possible, but it has been done. So, there’s a pull quote for a Game of the Year edition: “The voice work…shouldn’t be possible.”

The bad news is that I exist.

Thunderblight Ganon

Screw that boss fight. Screw it so much. It’s not like it was particularly difficult to figure out what to do to defeat this creature, but it does require some difficult timing to pull off the Perfect Dodge. That’s fine. The problem is getting stuck in a stunlock loop where Link goes flying, losing his weapon. Before Link can slowly get back up again, TBG is right there again to deliver another electric shock to send Hyrule’s Hero tumbling again. That’s just bad bossing is what it is.

One of the most remarkable things about Breath of the Wild is the fact that it rises above these missteps. Once a garbage portion is cleared, it’s back to the fun. Indeed, there are probably some other situations that didn’t particularly please me at the time that were washed away by the rest of the game. So, good job Nintendo. You can piss me off and make me love it. Like marriage.

Curious about what other games we love but have an element about them we hate? Read about all the other Fatal Flaws here.