WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and minor spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2.
For months now, I’ve procrastinated on completing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While I’d very nearly run out of quests to complete and bombshell secrets to discover and began to let the game rest in my case for many months, these weren’t my central reasons. In a weird way, I was trying to save some of the game, having enjoyed it so much. I didn’t want my adventure to wind down. Then E3 happened, and Breath of the Wild 2 was announced.
Despite being enthralled by the medium of games, I don’t tune in for E3 because it just feels like a corporate hype train at the end of the day. Hype hasn’t really gotten to me since the narrative failures of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Fire Emblem Fates. I’m still holding myself back from the urge to preorder Fire Emblem Three Houses, but regardless of all of that, I like to keep tabs on Nintendo, so naturally I watched their Treehouse broadcast.
The trailer itself is indicative of very, very little, particularly with the statement “A sequel to Breath of the Wild is now in production.” But considering its predecessor was teased back in 2013 for the WiiU and wasn’t actually released until 2017, two years after it was initially promised, I expect a great deal of patience will be imperative now. All the same, the internet at large has been buzzing with theories and what little is let on about the game’s development is already exciting…
While it was open knowledge that Breath of the Wild was influenced by Skyrim, it’s more fascinating to search for the similarities. The cooking, the open world, the random encounters (put a pin in that). Skyrim has its myriad of issues and Bethesda is losing crowd favor in droves these days, but as I previously discussed, the game contains design elements and mechanics that make the world more alive and fun to explore. The Yiga clan encounters, for example, echo the thieves and assassins that occasionally run up to you in Skyrim.
It would be great if random encounters returned in the Zelda sequel. I think it would be better for them to be a bit more diversified, which leads to the subject of Breath of the Wild 2’s alleged influence, as reported by IGN‘s Colin Stevens and Samuel Claiborn: Red Dead Redemption 2.
Personal scrutiny tells me that this isn’t necessarily the hard truth, as the most this article holds up to suggest the Zelda developers are indeed taking influences from Yeehaw Simulator™ is the following:
Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma revealed this information in an interview with IGN. When asked what games the younger staff on the Zelda team were playing, specifically what inspired them, Aonuma replied “[Something] I did hear that a lot of people were playing was Red Dead Redemption 2.”
Still, the team really wouldn’t go wrong if they truly were to take notes from Red Dead 2. It would seem a lot of the online reaction to the E3 reveal was thrill at the chances of another, creepier Zelda game a la Majora’s Mask. Red Dead Redemption 2 may not strictly be horror, but it does contain some unique encounters and discoveries that I’d love to find in this particular Zelda setting.
To backtrack for a moment, part of what’s generated so much interest in Breath of the Wild 2 are the implications of the reanimated corpse of Ganondorf. (Here come the spoilers…) Once Calamity Ganon is near death, the gnarled mess of body parts spew dark sludge when the floor collapses and the near lifeless form falls to the depths beneath Hyrule Castle. Leading to the final battle on a grassy plain with a giant “Dark Beast Ganon,” Princess Zelda’s formless voice states that “Ganon has given up his immortality”… Is this to say the corpse is remnants of the male gerudo? Many hope this leads to redemption and rescue of Ganon himself (see #RehydratedGanon on Twitter.) Whatever the case, a reanimated corpse opens the door to some unique possibilities…
It might be interesting to see the Night Folk, Red Dead 2’s unintelligible swamp people that create traps and lure victims. While Nintendo perhaps wouldn’t have a mainstream property like Zelda contain entirely lifeless corpses or gory severed limbs, unique situations could be developed, not unlike the nameless travelers that reveal themselves as Yiga Clan members.
For example, players of Red Dead have discovered unique points of interest, such as “the crying woman in white.” It’s a spooky visual reminiscent of the Mexican folktale of La Llorona, the ghost of weeping woman who steals children after having drowned her own. The woman in Red Dead, however, lulls you into a false sense of security and either she or a hidden member of the Night Folk attempts to slice your cowboy face off. That’s the kind of unique setup I could see an unsettling Breath of the Wild doing.
Red Dead could also have some involvement in the future of the horseback combat as well. The slowdown and mild autopilot mechanics seem to allow for easier control, while I struggled more with my horse’s direction while aiming a bow and arrow in Hyrule Field. Additionally, it would do well for the horses in Breath of the Wild to take orders to stay where they are or follow behind you. That makes quick getaways easier while also making exploration and gathering less tedious. This can backfire in cowboy adventures by way of glitching: a horse can feasibly pursue you right off the edge of a cliff to its own death, but Breath of the Wild already created a solution to this with the great fairy Malanya. And while Link has access to a huge inventory, it might be cool to have some inventory connected to the horses: small camp setup, special quest items, even fellow riders like captured thieves or rescued townsfolk… Princess Zelda herself joining the journey may warrant that as well!
Speculation of Zelda becoming a playable character arose now that she is seen exploring with Link, plus some have pointed out the shorter haircut would be easier to animate. As much as I would love to play as Zelda outside of Hyrule Warriors, perhaps even fighting with a rapier like some iterations, I’d gladly take her as a general companion. Think of Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. Despite being a NPC, she was vital to the story and maintained a constant presence. And being so integral, she remained unharmed amid combat segments, occasionally happening upon ammo and elixirs she tosses you to raise health and power. Could Zelda be like that? This is to say nothing of her potential use of “sealing magic” in puzzles and boss battles as Elizabeth tore rifts in reality.
For now, all we have to go on are whispers and speculation. As mentioned, Breath of the Wild took an unexpected four years to develop and release. Link may lose his arm, gain an ancient bionic extremity, perhaps command a force to open rifts to a demonic world like the Inquisitor of Dragon Age, with Zelda as your partner to close them. We’ll just have to wait for the slow drip feed of details and analyze together.