Zelda’s Sword Breakage Is Some Garbage

Zelda’s Sword Breakage Is Some Garbage

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a damn good video game, but still. Here is a bad thing about it: I don’t like that for the first 10-20 hours of the game its weapons disintegrate just by looking at them.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild: The Kotaku Review

Early in The Legend of Zelda. Breath of the Wild, I discovered a puzzle shrine containing a small maze. Inside that maze was a little ball. The goal, I realised, was to manoeuvre the ball out of the maze and slide it into a nearby funnel. To do this, I'd have to rotate my Nintendo Switch controller, using motion controls to turn the maze around and let gravity move the ball through each corridor. One wrong move and the ball would fall out, forcing me to start again.

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This post has been retimed following the release of Skyward Sword HD on Nintendo Switch.

Like most other aspects of the game, the way you own and use weapons in BotW is very different to older Zelda games. In Wind Waker, you get two swords, and the second replaces the first. In BotW, you have an entire melee weapon inventory, meaning you can pick up, use and drop weapons as you see fit.

On paper, it’s a cool idea! Liberating, even, as you can run around grabbing any old lance, sword, boomerang or club you find and just… use them. But the way it’s been implemented, at least early on in the game, is a nightmare.

See, every weapon (even the bows!) in BotW degrade, and when they’re done, they shatter and they’re gone. Some might take an hour or two, some might only last a few swings. How long they last depends on the inherent durability value of the weapon, as well as what you actually use it for (using a sword to cut down a tree will smash it up real fast).

I think this is bullshit.

Gif via Dunkey

Gif via Dunkey

I’m not against the idea in principle; plenty of my favourite games feature a similar thing, from Far Cry 2‘s rusted AK-47s to The Witcher 3‘s broken gear. But the thing about both of those games is that they offered practical solutions to their weapon’s temporal shortcomings.

The problem with BotW isn’t that things break, it’s that for too long in this game, they break just too damn fast. Now, people who have finished the game, before you butt in here and tell me, I know: Things get better. That’s fine, and it’s cool that this isn’t an issue for the entire game. But it’s still an issue.

If you were stuck using brittle swords made of brittle toffee for the first, say, hour or two of this game, just as long as you’re on the elevated platform that’s home to the Temple of Time, I think that would be fine. That section of the game is a tutorial, there aren’t any tough bad guys to face, and it would have been a solid introduction to the mechanic of durability and the notion of swapping your weapons around.

But the issue persists way too long after that. I get what Nintendo are trying to do here: They’re trying to get you to improvise, to experiment with indirect ways of dealing with enemies (bombs, rocks, fire and so on), to learn to use the game’s vast arsenal of weapons through necessity.

And they succeed! But at the same time, they also make early-game combat a tedious scrap, and remove a lot of the joy of receiving good loot. I’m about 20 hours into the game (though not that far into the story as I like to explore), and am almost at the point where I avoid direct combat altogether, because I just can’t be bothered with the grind any more.

Making the weapons so disposable also removes a lot of the joy in earning them in the first place. I’ve completed some shrines that had “boss battles”, and upon completion have earned some bad arse swords as a reward.

These are more powerful than the weapons I had! And they do cool stuff! So I start to use them and oh. They’re broken. And gone. And now I’m back to Traveller’s Swords and random spears. Having stuff break so fast removes any sense of ownership or achievement you had in getting them, and makes you wonder why you’d bother getting that stuff at all when you’ll be back to the common crap in a few minutes’ worth of fighting anyway.

I’ve spoken about this with other folks at Kotaku, and they have all given excellent counterpoints to my complaints beyond “well this isn’t a problem in the back end of the game”. Stuff like it’s a nice little statement on permanence, on how everything in this game is built on physics, on how sometimes you need to sacrifice something you love to accomplish something you need to do.

Which is all fine, but I still don’t like it. If I earn a flaming sword in a video game after five hours I want to use that flaming sword. If it’s going to break, I want it to break after some serious use, and when it breaks, I want to be able to repair it.

I know this is nitpicking an otherwise almost flawless video game, but then, maybe that’s why its bugging me so much. It’s a tiny bump sticking out of an otherwise mirror-smooth surface. Everything else about the game is pretty much perfect, so of course I notice the not perfect thing.

But whatever. It sucks. Swords should last longer.


  • I’ve been pretty much avoiding all combat situations because of this, I’m probably around 20 hours into the game as well. Mainly what I’m doing is climbing moutains, scouting the terrain looking for shrines and sheikah towers, then just do as much gliding as possible to get to them. My goal at this stage is to knock out enough shrines to get my hands on the master sword which I’m pretty close to doing.

    • Master Sword also breaks and then takes time to recharge its durability, just FYI

      • Yar, I knew this was the case, I’m ok with this though, it would be more of a pain if you had to go and get it repaired like you can with a few of the other weapons.

  • I wasn’t sold on the idea initially, but have come to love the concept and implementation – it forces you to adapt on the fly and makes the grind of combat less predictable and more nuanced.
    Now if you were to replace durability with rain, a la Patricia’s article:
    I am in total agreement this facet of BotW is the worst – that rain frequency!!!! arrgh!

    • Wouldn’t it just render the whole process of looting cool weapons irrelevant. Why bother getting that special sword if it is going to break after killing a few enemies with it?

      People get attached to special weapons. I love my +10 Chikage and +10 Evelyn combo in Bloodborne.

      • I understand your point @zambayoshi – I was the same with WoW, but in BotW the “cool weapons” aren’t a once off or unique (at least in my very limited anecdotal experience) there’s always another shiny over the next mountain.
        For me anyway, it gets boring carving my way through all the mobs knowing I have their measure because of a set piece of gear, I prefer the slight anticipation of coming up against a Lynel and thinking, “oh crap… that ++ sword is about to break, better come up with something here Clay….”
        but horses for courses I guess.

    • well, you can to a point. The Ceremonial Spear and the Lightscale Trident are both repairable if broken by the smith in town. I’m not much further in than that so am unsure if this is replicated further along in other townships with other weapons

      • Each major race has a repairable weapon/bow/shield. Not to mention most weapons respawn after a blood-moon. Just stamp a weapon when you find it and it’ll usually be there if you come back.

  • I remember when Nioh’s first beta came out and had weapon durability that depleted quickly. That was removed really fast and the game was all the better for it. I honestly can’t imagine the game being as fun if you constantly had to switch to new weapons after every few battles.

    The alternate abilities and methods of getting past enemies seems to alleviate the issue somewhat for BotW but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a well implemented durability system. Most of the time they’re just a minor hindrance and add no value to the game.

    • Dark Souls 2 had terrible degrading issues on PS4 I believe. That wasn’t by design though.

        • Oh yeah, I remember that. It was because the frame rate had been doubled to 60FPS, I believe.

          Therefore for every frame of contact that the weapon would have ordinarily degraded in the 30FPS original, it now degraded twice as fast.


  • Durability isn’t a bad thing. Weapons that break too fast and permanently is stupid. The boss battle weapons are a perfect example. You’ll either use it and have it break after an hour, or sink in to the typical RPG “I better save this powerful item for when I really need it AND NEVER USE IT” trap.

    • I was watching a friend play it last night and he went through four weapons within two hours. It was absolutely ridiculous.

      • Wow. Yeah, that’s just absurd. I don’t mind weapon durability as a mechanic, but at least in Soulsborne games and The Witcher, they have a reasonable lifespan and you can repair them.

        This sounds like it’d be a fun sink.

        • Honestly after watching more of it it doesn’t seem that bad. The weapons basically are thrown at you like there’s no tomorrow and you don’t seem to ever get really attached to one weapon.

          I dunno. I’m conflicted. After watching more, it doesn’t seem so bad; on the other hand, I hate really tedious weapon ‘problems’ (for lack of a better term I guess) like this.

          • Yeah, I’ve been watching a few Let’s Plays and as you say, the weapons are thrown at you. So I don’t think you’d ever need to worry about not having a weapon. That’s not so bad.

            It’s just the concept of getting sweet unique/boss/whatever weapons but knowing they won’t last long, and I’ll be back to using the same old Bokoblin club again.

        • It a bit late to say. just reflect ur shield all day( u dont lose durability of ur shield, u get loots which in turn u can buy bad ass swords in ancient smith..) especially with guardians.

  • Jim Sterling complained about the weapon breaking, he lived the game but hated f2fthat and a few stale mechanics and decided not to give it a perfect score… death threats and DDOS attacks.

  • Man I keep reading this from people and it totally shocks me. I’ve put in 120 hours, and not once have I ever not had at least 3 decent weapons on me at any given time. I actually have the opposite problem – I agonize over coming across new cool weapons, because my inventory is always maxed out. I’ve upgraded my slots on weapons to be able to hold 18 (!) weapons, 12 bows and 11 shields, and I’ve had to sacrifice carrying the big leaves, torches, axes and hammers because there’s just too many sweet weapons. Even from the start it was the same – always full and needing to drop something cool for something cooler.

    • I love the durability system. I like managing what weapons I have and using the best ones only when I need it.

      When I do the Major Test of Strength shrines, I make sure I have the whole fight planned out. When do I want to have a 1-hand and shield, when do I want to pop my Attack Up potion, which weapons am I gonna use first. Then when it hits the last phase and I want to smash it out, I’ll switch to the Master Sword and take it out quick.

      • I like managing what weapons I have and using the best ones only when I need it.

        Spoiler: you would still be able to do this without the crappy durability system – you’d instead be picking the best weapon type for specific fights or uses, and replacing lower-quality weapons with higher-quality ones.

        • But the best weapon is pretty much just the one with the biggest number. If there was no durability then I’d just be using the Guardian Axe++ I picked up ages ago to one-shot everything and any other weapons I picked up along the way would be irrelevant.

          • Which is why you build a better combat system around that. Add in extra abilities, elemental stuff for example. Different enemies vulnerable to and strong to different types of weapons, like maybe you need to use crushing attacks on skeletons, or piercing attacks on. You put more added effects on weapons, and you expand the stat range so that attack goes from 1-1000 instead of 1-100 or whatever the max is. You don’t vomit dozens of bits of gear at players constantly. This isn’t rocket science, hundreds of games have figured out how to have a meaningful gear progression system before.

          • We have that though. Big weapons like great swords are slow and leave you vulnerable to hits, but they can overcome a shielded enemy. Spears have greater range so you can keep out of reach of enemies with no or short weapons. Swords allow you to use a shield but you have to get closer to enemies to hit them. There’s plenty of depth to be found in the combat.

            I honestly like the non-permanence of this system. Like others said, it makes it constantly interesting to see what new weapon you get or find and gives value to finding duplicates as well as weapons weaker than what you’re currently using.

    • I think it’s fantastic as well, personally – now we have to put considerations into how we strategically keep & save particular weapons while using the trash ones against simple but tough opponents. It’s a fun balance to manage

  • Seconding everyone else here saying they like the durability. It keeps things varied and it forces me to try lots of weapons. Also it makes finding weapons rewarding, and stops it being totally game breaking if you find a powerful weapon really early (like how the first shrine I found outside of the tutorial area gave me a 50 damage weapon).

    Or maybe I’ve just forgotten just how fun it was in Skyrim when you found the same sword 2000 times and loot felt almost entirely inconsequential.

    • Pretty much this, the first bow you get is like 4-5 damage, the second one i found was 38 and i was so glad when it broke because i was 1 shotting everything with it in the starting area and it was boring.
      I love the panic moment when you know its about to break, but you think.. can i get 1 or 2 more hits in and kill this mob before it breaks? NOPE… OH SHIT RUN/!!!

  • I like the durability, I always end up with too many weapons and need to drop them to pick up a new one. It’s cool in battle too when you break a weapon and can pick up their’s to finish them off.

    I have the master sword now which is a change up but even early on i didn’t mind it because you just found so many weapons, almost every single fight someone is dropping a new weapon for you and the current system prevents you getting one awesome weapon early then smashing the whole game with it.

  • Just travel everywhere at night.. I found that some of the better weapons spawn with skeletal moblins anyway, and by the time you do enough exploring, you have a whole inventory full of them. after enough exploration you have enough korok seeds to keep a nice supply.

    I do agree with you though, the cooler weapons should last longer.. I have a stash of weapons that I want to use because of their elemental magic, but I don’t want to use them until i NEED them because i know they’re just going to die if i abuse them.. problem is I dont know when ill need them most, so i just sit on them and dont use them.

    there are several of the special weapons at least that you can go to a blacksmith in one of the major towns and have reforged with the right materials, however this could (and should) be available for many more weapons.

    What I don’t understand is WHY DO THE ULTIMATE SWORD AND SHIELD BREAK!! why is there even a durability stat on the Master Sword and Hylean Shield? these are the hallmarks of the game and are hard to acquire in the first place. I don’t want to use them because i want to use them.. IT DOESNT EVEN MAKE SENSE!!

    But for the staples, i find myself running around with a Knights bow, Lizafos Forked boomerang and Knights shield, and only because they’re the most powerful common drop.

    • There is a way to recover the Hylian Shield though. You have to do a really long quest but when it does break (which takes an incredibly long time) you can repurchase it from a merchant in a specific town. I’ve broken it once so far. I got it at 8 hearts and it broke at my maxed out 27 hearts. I used it faily often too

  • Maybe you are just garbage at the game. Weapons are plentiful and easy to come by, I’ve saved a few of the more powerful ones in my house for later on but you need to just think of them as a resource the same as your arrows or your money or your food supply. Keep moving, keep using them, keep gaining more.

  • The breaking weapon system is good, because it makes weapons into a resource. If you get some amazing weapons, you actually need to make a decision on when you want to use it rather than using it all the time. It’s a great way of making sure that all weapons are relevant, because even the shitty ones are still valuable because they help you avoid breaking the good ones.

  • The fragility of them is a bit lame, but the inability to repair is what really bothers me.

    Like I get a fancy flaming sword as a reward, and want to use it but can’t because it’ll break before long rendering the time spent getting it somewhat of a waste.

    I wouldn’t even care if all repair costs were rather excessive, it’d mean repairing my fire sword would become a mission to go hunting for fire chu’s and stuff, and as long as I’m willing to do that I can be the hero of fire sword.

    I’m not worried about running out of weapons or using up my strong ones, I just want to be able to keep using cool ones.

  • I don’t hate this mechanic but I wish they had of improved on it. I’m 60hrs in (mostly exploring) and this becomes less of an issue in the game because it scales with you the more you progress through the story, maybe? or based on collectibles, or Hearts and Stamina? probably the Hearts and Stamina.

    Anywho, the grade of weapons you start to find changes and you’ll start finding augmented weapons (+Durability, Quickshot, up Critical Hit) it cool, they last an extra 5 or so hits. my only issue it why can’t I go and find a blacksmith and have these augments added to weapons I already own?

    better yet why can’t I find a Blacksmith (whos making all these Weapons in Hyrule?) to make weapons that I’ve already had in my possession? or (throw back to OoT) when a weapon breaks I’m left with the handle and crossguard that I have the option of keeping and taking to a smith to repair at the cost of crafting materials and some Rupees. it would retain it’s weapon slot making it a choice to find something new or hold on to a useless scrap until I can get it repaired.
    Which brings me to arrows, why can’t I craft arrows? it seems like it should be as simple as cutting down a Tree, holding Wood, Feathers and Flint and dropping them on top of each other, Add some elemental Chu Chus for different arrows.

    They’re my only Issues with the game, oh and the Rain. Otherwise I’ve loved every minute of it and lost many hours sleep.

  • It’s one of the many things that’s been an enormous barrier for me for getting into the game. That combined with the tiny inventory space. The weapons break easily so I don’t want to use them and do stuff like lobbing bombs instead, because the game’s telling me I can’t use the cool stuff I find. So why even bother looking? Half the time I get a chest as a reward for clearing a group of enemies or something, I can’t even pick up the content because my inventory is full because the game is telling me I should hoard everything and never use it because it’ll break. It becomes no reward at all, I don’t value anything I pick up. And I never know how quickly it’s going to break either, until it’s a hit away from doing so. It’s not a bad idea but it’s a shitty implementation of it. Like a lot of stuff, it feels like it’s been implemented in the game by someone who talked to another person who heard from a friend about a mechanic in a game their roommate’s brother played.

    Don’t get me started on how easy it is to accidentally throw your weapon when you’re trying to do something else, as an aside, and how when you do so it just fucking explodes.

    • You have to literally hold the throw weapon button for a a few moments, you get a windup animation and then you can throw.

  • These are more powerful than the weapons I had! And they do cool stuff! So I start to use them and oh. They’re broken. And gone. And now I’m back to Traveller’s Swords and random spears. Having stuff break so fast removes any sense of ownership or achievement you had in getting them, and makes you wonder why you’d bother getting that stuff at all when you’ll be back to the common crap in a few minutes’ worth of fighting anyway.

    And thus, weapons become the new Final Fantasy 99x unused Phoenix Down.

  • I honestly hate games that implement weapons that break so easily (wrenches don’t break in like two swings, looking at you dying light)

    Why not have a weapon sharpness level, As in the weapon does less damage with use and can be sharpened with a grinding stone or by a blacksmith.

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