Breaking news: literally. Weapons don’t last long in Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. They tend to shatter, often at the most inopportune moments.
A lot of people don’t like that.
Maybe it’s just a tremendously loud vocal minority but everyone seems to be complaining about the impermanence of Zelda’s weapon set. It’s been the first port of call for your garden variety Angry Man YouTubers. Even those who love Breath of the Wild often love it with that caveat — “I wish the game wouldn’t break my favourite weapons so much”.
Me? I’m the opposite. Despite being completely in love, I’m of the view that Zelda is far from perfect. The world is a little too empty for my liking (although I respect that pacing), the technical issues (pop-in and frame-rate) are frustrating. And surely we can agree: Zelda’s inventory management is a complete mess, particularly when it comes to weapons and shields.
But dear lord Jesus Christ I fucking love it when Zelda’s weapons break.
I love everything about it.
I love the noise they make when they shatter. Surprise motherfucker, your sword is GONE.
I love the light from the implosion. I love the additional damage weapons do when they explode in a mess of light and noise.
I love that I can literally throw a damaged weapon in a desperate last bid for survival and have that throw do even more damage. BOOM.
I love it all. I love it all so goddamn much.
I love that I can’t grow too attached to my weapon set. I love that all things must pass.
I love that last night I was in a boss battle. I had all these weapons stashed for a rainy day — a fire rod, a blizzard rod, a lightning rod. All the elements. All these weapons I intended to keep for very specific moments. I love that the game was like, nah fuck you. You’re going to have to use every. last. weapon. in your inventory to beat this bastard. I love that I made it with the skin of my teeth and my own ability to improvise.
I love that I now have to start all over again from scratch.
I honestly love that.
Maybe you’re different, but in video games I often find myself relying on one single weapon, particularly in RPGs. I get too comfortable and don’t use the full spectrum of tools available to me. I deny myself the ability to experiment and just plough onwards. I’m particularly guilty of this in games like Dark Souls or Bloodborne.
Zelda forces you to use different weapons, to ruminate on what makes them different. It forces you to experience the extremities of its combat system. If weapons didn’t break I’d never have figured out that hammers do a tremendous job of sending Moblins flying off cliffs. I’d never have taken full advantage of ranged battle with spears. I’d literally never have learned how to throw and catch a boomerang.
I’d never have had that one insane march in Gerudo. Upwards towards the tallest tower in Hyrule. You start at the bottom and literally fight your way up a spiral path to the top. I wanted to preserve my weapons so I started throwing bombs until the moblins started kicking them back at me. I had to adapt. I used my weapons sparingly and used a heavy axe to launch the big guys head first into the abyss.
I continued upwards, using a variety of different arrows to thin the baddies out. Then the bigger moblins started throwing the little Moblins at me. Then it got dark and the skeletons came out. Then I grabbed a bony arm from the skeleton I’d just dismembered and started swinging it around like the Star Wars kid.
In that one journey from the bottom to the top I experienced such variety — in physics, in systems, weapons, AI. It was a series of pitch perfect moments that literally would not have existed, could not have occurred, without that pressure. My weapons might break. I need to think. I need to improvise. I need to adapt.
I love it. You fight so hard for these weapons. You fight so hard to protect them. But then you have to use them.
Then they explode in a perfect blitz of noise and light and shards.
And secretly you love it.