Back almost a year ago in one of my debut editorial here at Zelda Informer, I penned a piece outlining the five things that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild could learn from Skyrim. The Elder Scrolls V was, and in many ways still is, considered the benchmark open world game. Every new open world game will inevitably draw a comparison to Skyrim at some point. Take a second to read that article to get an idea of what I wanted Zelda to learn from Skyrim and come back after so we can see how Link’s latest adventure did.

 

There seemed to be a special connection between Breath of the Wild and Skyrim, from the similar styles of gameplay, to the concurrent debuts in the Switch’s announcement trailer, to the DLC detailing Link’s Champions Tunic in the Switch port of Skyrim. It seemed especially fitting then to closely compare the two, and it seems even more fitting now.

 

Five things I said Breath of the Wild could learn. Now, almost one year later, with Skyrim making it’s long awaited Switch debut this week and Breath of the Wild’s Champions’ Ballad DLC set to be released imminently, let’s take a look back and see exactly what lessons Breath of the Wild successfully implemented from Skyrim.

 

1) When It Comes To Side Quests, Less Is More

Lesson Learned? Kind of.

 

Breath of the Wild succeeds or fails in this category depending on what your definition of a side quest is. My main gripe playing Skyrim, and almost every open world game for that matter, is that side quests often boiled down to either “kill this” or “collect that”. Unfortunately, Breath of the Wild is no different, as side quests that you get upon interacting with characters largely fall into these same two categories.

 

That’s not to say that these types of side quests are always terrible – they’re not. But when compared to some of the greatest side quests of all time, they can feel a little uninspired. Breath of the Wild does offer some neat quests that go beyond the realm of kill/collect, but by and large, I wouldn’t rate them as anything spectacular.

 

On the flip side of that, if one considers finding all 120 shrines, completing their puzzles, and grabbing the orbs a side quest… mission accomplished. Thinking of ways to enter these shrines, exploring the land to find them, completing the shrine quests, that was the most challenging yet rewarding part of Breath of the Wild. If we define that as a side quest, the latest Zelda knocks it out of the park with a fresh formula that favors interaction with the land versus running errands for people to offer rewards. So this gets a kinda-sorta grade from me since the eyes of the beholder determine what should and shouldn’t be deemed a side quest.

 

2) Auto-Saving Is The Devil

Lesson Learned? Well, they didn’t have that Nintendo seal of quality for no reason.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been worried about this. After all, you can say whatever you want about Nintendo and some of their outdated practices, but dammit if they don’t ship a technically sound game every time they publish something. Breath of the Wild never froze, never crashed, rarely lagged, and generally functioned perfectly, keeping me immersed in that world. Playing Shadows of Mordor or Skyrim, I can remember feeling uninspired to finish them at times since my game would freeze over and over.

 

Perhaps it was silly to worry about this, but hey. Nintendo’s first giant first-party open world game had me a little nervous going in. While not a game without flaws, Breath of the Wild on a technical scale is a wonder that functions perfectly docked, perfectly handheld, and keeps you immersed in its amazing overworld. What more could you ask?

 

3) Voice Acting Helps, But Not When Everyone Sounds the Same

Lesson Learned? Definitely!

Voice acting was probably one of the most controversial parts of Breath of the Wild. Putting aside the whole ‘no Japanese voice acting’ thing (which frankly, wouldn’t have made a difference to me), it was a tough pill for some to swallow for such an iconic character like Princess Zelda to now suddenly have a voice that wasn’t like the one players had imagined in their heads the last 30 years.

 

Some will disagree, but I think Breath of the Wild handled voice acting well. Only the important characters were voiced, with everyone else receiving text dialogue. I know it’s 2017 and some gamers think we should move beyond that, but I don’t have a problem with it for the fact that it adds gravitas to the characters with voices and allows Nintendo to go the quality-over-quantity route.

 

By this point, you’ve probably made up your mind about Patricia Sommerset’s performance as Zelda and if it’s to your liking or not, but I thought the main cast all came off well. Using Breath of the Wild as a template for voice acting in future Nintendo games is something I think would be a good idea, as it was a solid start, albeit with some improvements that could be made. As a choice between styles though, I’ll take the careful selection of Breath of the Wild’s voice actors over the constant nattering in Skyrim any day.

 

4) Strike That Fine Line Between Awesome Music and Tranquil Ambience.

Lesson Learned? Tough, but I gotta say no.

 

I’ll get a lot of shit for this, but I have to say it anyways: the music in Breath of the Wild is incredibly underwhelming. The most memorable theme in the whole game wasn’t even used in the game -it was only used in the trailer. I understand that Nintendo was going for ambience instead of a traditional score, but when your series has such a pedigree for great music that there’s literally a symphony that travels around the world playing your music, Breath of the Wild’s score seems fairly… quaint (to put it politely).

 

I don’t dislike the music of Breath of the Wild, and I liked the ambience for what it was, but yikes. I’ve said it before – I’ve been to the Zelda Symphony three times now (with a fourth coming in December); I cant imagine what they would fill a 20 minute Breath of the Wild set with. There are some great tunes, to be sure – the said trailer music, the dragon theme, Rito Village – but compared to the music the Zelda series has given us in previous games… I can’t help but feel a little letdown.

 

5) You’ve Got A Giant Open World? Great, Fill It With Bosses!

Lesson Learned? Ehhh…

 

This is another that falls on the sorta-kinda scale. Fighting Hinnox’s and Guardians’ was exciting, but it wasn’t fighting a dragon exciting. There was something special about seeing a dragon swoop down in Skyrim – you knew you were in for it and the reward for beating one was awesome. It felt like a heavyweight battle. Conversely, the fights with the Guardians feel a opening night scrap on the undercard – exciting to be sure, but missing the same weight that Skyrims dragon fights had.

 

I would actually say the closest comparable feeling to Skyrims dragon showdowns is hunting down Breath of the Wild’s own dragons and farming parts off of them. While not a fight, you still get that rush from being so close to something that majestic. Now, imagine if you could battle them. That would be something.

 

In the end…

 

The two games are both open world masterpieces that will draw inevitable comparisons to each other and be used as measuring sticks for other open world games to follow them. So while Breath of the Wild took some of the best parts of Skyrim and made them it’s own, it also didn’t exactly take every lesson Bethesda’s RPG taught us to heart. At the end of the day, it didn’t have to. Breath of the Wild took some of that inspiration and carved out its own trail, in the end becoming a modern day classic.

 

Now we go full circle back to the beginning, as I will once again be playing Skyrim, but this time with an eye as to what the next Elder Scrolls game can learn from Breath of the Wild.

 

Andy Spiteri is a Managing Editor at Zelda Informer. If you hate his thoughts on Zelda, Skyrim, and life in general, make sure to follow him on Twitter!
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  • Jebradiah Drake

    How about 5 things Breath of the Wild could learn from pure Zelda games?

  • Dylan

    I disagree about everything there. minus voice acting. Summerset is a great actress, while I didn’t like the voice direction, it wasn’t terrible.

  • Rob N. Hood

    The VA was terrible, most of the accents didn’t match the characters and some felt like they’re just reading the lines, not acting.

  • Dylan

    I disagree but to each their own.

  • Andy Spiteri

    Shots fired, but not without merit.

  • Definitely RobNHood. I switched the voices to Japanese with english subtitles. Without even knowing a lick of Japanese you can instantly tell there was much more emphasis on the acting quality. It just felt more real

  • JessterK

    I totally agree with you about the music, it was disappointing.

  • Rob N. Hood

    Uh… No. I tried listening to the Japanese version as well, Zelda’s voice was awful. I haven’t listened to much of it, but she was really overacting in the part where she’s crying.

  • Sam Sibilski

    I loved the music. The main theme, Hyrule Castle, clamity Ganon, divine beast vah medoh, ruta, naboris, molduga, and all the champion themes were amazing!
    The ambience fit perfectly as well

  • Sam Sibilski

    Pure Zelda games? Breath of the wild is the best one!

  • Dragonmaster 150

    Same here, mostly.

  • Dragonmaster 150

    Well the entire concept of the game was to *break* the conventions and formulae of the series.

  • Jebradiah Drake

    It’s a great game, but a piss poor Zelda game

  • Sam Sibilski

    Not true! It’s definitely up there with ocarina of Time and twilight princess!

  • Jebradiah Drake

    It breaks the formula too often to be considered a great Zelda game. It doesn’t have memorable music, decent dungeons, and the world just feels so empty. They focused too much on the mainstream gaming lore right now of “Open World” and weren’t able to fit in the classical elements of the Zelda formula.

  • Vados

    How was that overacted? With the exception of Link, everyone she knew literally died because of her incompetence. People cried harder for less.

  • Vados

    5 years ago people said the same thing about Skyward Sword, despite of it following the Zelda formula. At this point, I don’t even know what people consider as ”Zelda” anymore, because apparently the title of the game doesn’t mean anything.

    I also disagree with ”It doesn’t have memorable music, decent dungeons, and the world just feels so empty.”.

  • Vados

    Fighting dragons in Skyrim was awful. The battle is boring is hell and unless you have strong ranged attacks, you’ll have to play the waiting game a lot.

  • Rob N. Hood

    Because it didn’t match the rest of the scene.

    By the way, Impa and Purah also survived.

  • Jebradiah Drake

    Well plenty of people would disagree with your disagreement. For starters you could watch that video “Breath of the Wild with a side of salt” to underline a lot of what it’s missing.

    But the issue with Skyward Sword was more along the lines that it added new elements of gameplay some gamers didn’t enjoy, whereas all the games since then have TAKEN AWAY classical elements of Zelda games. Big difference.

  • David García Abril
  • David García Abril

    “I cant imagine what they would fill a 20 minute Breath of the Wild set with.”

    I had prepare a list of 25 YouTube videos with over 40 minutes worth of music they could use (hint: “Orchestral” and “Bombastic” are NOT the same thing)… but then I saw my message was so long that it would be deleted for sure…

    In any case, while I also prefer the old style and think the soundtrack isn’t as memorable, that doesn’t mean it’s bad in the slightest. And like it or not, it just fit the tone of the game.

  • Sentinel

    I can rest easy knowing there is at least one other person out there who agrees with me that BotW’s OST is underwhelming.

    The worst thing I can say about an OST is that it didn’t make me feel anything emotionally, and that’s what happened with BotW’s OST. Nothing that made me happy, or sad, or scared, or adventurous….or anything really. Not even the battle themes did anything for me as they were so subdued and simplistic compared to the tracks of old.

    As for the voice acting…sorry but in no way should this game be used as a future template. I’m probably one of the biggest defenders ever when it comes to English dubs and even I can’t defend how bad the English voice acting was. Zelda’s voice had next to no emotion and the accent never sounded like something the actress was comfortable with. Revali and Urbossa were the only ones I’d consider to be okay at best.

    Nintendo has done great voice acting before, like Kid Icarus Uprising. That should be the standard.

  • Sentinel

    1. Actual dungeons
    2. Actual music
    3. Item variety
    4. Enemy variety
    5. Zelda not being a brat.

    Just to name a few…

  • Zenzen00

    see the thing about actual music there, is that this one has actual music 🙂

  • Zenzen00

    you could watch a video analyzing the music of breath of the wild and why is such a genius level composition, but hey, your taste dictates the opinions

  • Dylan

    -.- of course you do.

  • Dylan

    lol.

  • Randroid

    Not only did her accent not match, but Zelda’s accent was obviously faked, which is what I hated about it so much. Making Zelda British is fine… if you can get a British voice-actor (or even someone who can do a good fake British accent.) But her faked accent was absolutely terrible.

  • Tripp Dinger

    While I agree that most of the voice acting was less than stellar in Breath of the Wild, I think a lot of that came down to the voice directing, so I don’t blame the actors that much. That said, when the article said future Zelda games should use the voice acting template from Breath of the Wild, the author was not referring to the quality of the voice performances. Rather, the author was referring to the idea of only having voice acting for story important characters and not for NPCs, which was a good choice. They do need to improve their voice directing though, absolutely.

  • Rob N. Hood

    Making her British was the right decision, it’s the American characters I didn’t like.

    The Gerudo and Gorons were especially annoying, especially after the Gorons call you “Brudda” in a previous game.

  • Randroid

    Making her British might have been the right decision, but as I said, if you’re going to make her British get someone who has a natural British accent. Not someone who is going to do a terribly faked British accent. It sounded awful because it was so obviously not natural for her to speak that way.

  • Jebradiah Drake

    Lots of people didn’t like the music choices in Breath of the Wild. It’s not like it’s just my opinion.

  • Andy Spiteri

    I agree. I wouldn’t say the music is bad and that it fits the tone of the game. It’s still disappointing though.

  • Andy Spiteri

    ^^ exactly

  • Andy Spiteri

    More of a personal thing, but I can’t stand listening to Japanese dubs most of the time. The style of acting popular is Japan is talk and yell really loud to convey emotion. There’s hardly any subtly, which is something I appreciate. That’s why I have a hard time watching anime, I feel like I’m being shouted at a good chunk of the time.

  • Rob N. Hood

    Maybe they should’ve just let NoE handle the voice acting.

  • Rob N. Hood

    The music in Hyrule Castle and the Ganon fights was great.

  • Rob N. Hood

    This exactly.

  • Zenzen00

    Lots of people like Twilight Saga, doesn’t mean is the best movie ever. If you think my statement about your opinion being based on your taste is meant to tell you that just because you like or dislike something (or many people), it doesn’t change the fact of something being inherently good or bad (in this case, the music is good)

  • Jebradiah Drake

    Ok but the problem with your philosophy is that, just because an “expert” or someone of title says something is good, you instantly disregard what a vast majority says. If a lot of people love Twilight movies and think they’re great who’s to say their wrong? Just because they don’t fill the random, arbitrary quota of some “expert”? Yea no thanks. Bring back the real Zelda music. Introduce some memorable new melodies that I can hum at work.

  • Realm25

    Masses is not truth

  • Jebradiah Drake

    Yea of course its music was nominated, it’s one of the most popular games of 2017. Plenty of people have heard it, that’s the whole deal with the masses. But while none of the songs are bad, the only ones that are memorable are the ones that reuse old Zelda music.

  • Realm25

    BOTW wasn’t nominated for best story despite being popular, so that argument doesn’t really work.

  • Jebradiah Drake

    Well that can’t be helped. It’s story is pretty cliche and empty. You can’t get nominated for something you don’t have lol

  • Realm25

    It has a story regardless of what you think of it, and it wasn’t nominated in that category despite being a popular game. Yet it was nominated for it’s music, even tho you’d claim the music was also ‘weak’.

    In other words, the ‘popular game’ argument to explain why it was nominated in music is debunked immediately.

  • Jebradiah Drake

    Zelda games always have a pretty cliche story, but most at least try to add in extra layers either through the relationships between characters or the implications of Link’s journey. But BotW was pretty cut and paste with the biggest difference being that the real story happened 100 years ago and we only got to see bits and pieces of it. It was a pretty ridiculous idea from the get go.

    Whereas with music they pretty much completely gave up on making memorable new tunes and decided to just hammer it in on fancy piano music. It’s nice to listen to, but no one is going to bring those melodies up 10 years from now. They had the same problem in Skyward Sword to a lesser degree and unfortunately it seems like their moving in the wrong direction. Making Legend of Zelda more in line with popular RPG games but taking away the elements than the old fans loved about it. It’s no longer about making a great game, just trying to reach that limelight through boring mechanics like “open world” that mindless gamers just flock to like birds for some reason.