The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of my favorite games because it gave me so many unforgettable moments over a two week period. And the story was actually pretty decent. Made me tear up once or twice and the story, to me, is one of the most important parts of a game. However, that is also where my one and only complaint about this game lies.
Breath of the Wild’s story is told two different ways. The first way is that you go to an area, which triggers a quest chain that ultimately leads you to a Divine Beast and the boss of that area. Along the way you meet characters and get to know them... a little bit, but there aren’t many heartfelt moments along the way. The second way is through Link’s lost memories. Each one you regain shows you a moment from Link’s past. In this way, you’re introduced to the Champion’s and Princess Zelda herself. Through them, you get to know these characters who died in the battle with Ganon 100 years earlier, and you see Link and Zelda’s relationship slowly develop from one of duty to a romantic one. And that’s all great. The events of the past give the events of the present more weight. However, my problem lies with the execution.
Past Zelda games have been fairly linear. The world opens up more as you progress through the story and the story is told in a very specific order, you can’t deviate from it. Breath of the Wild eschews this in favor of a more free-form story. While the opening segments of the story are non-negotiable, you can completely ignore the rest of the story. You can even charge up to the final boss right off the bat, missing everything that lends the final battle weight. As a result, you don’t even need to see a third of the story, or any of it. And if you do choose to follow the story, it’s disjointed because you can experience it in any order. You can view the memories in an out of order fashion, and there is seemingly no time limit on Ganon’s imminent return. He’s just perpetually held by Zelda until Link conveniently arrives. All the Divine Beast quests are told in such a way that they could all happen at the same time and nothing would change no matter how long the player takes to get there.
If we judge the story by the length of its cutscenes, then it pales in comparison to the two entries that came before it. Twilight Princess, the first Zelda game I ever played, and Skyward Sword, both clock in between 3 and 3 & a half hours, while Breath of the Wild is less than two hours. It’s not hard to see where the focus was for Breath of the Wild. While the previous two games were narrative adventures where the gameplay was merely a vehicle to progress the story, Breath of the Wild put more emphasis on the world and the gameplay that allowed you to do whatever you wanted in it, with the story being more of an excuse to explore. Even the Divine Beasts were there more to draw you into the larger areas, and of course as cool landmarks that could be seen from a distance.
This, I feel, is something that needs to be rectified for the next Zelda game. Story needs to be brought back to the front and told in a more linear fashion, and last a lot longer. There’s so much that could have been explored with these characters had they only been given more time.