How Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom Seemingly Fixes BOTW's Divisive Weapon Durability
Breath of the Wild's weapon durability mechanics are one of its most divisive elements, but it seems that Tears of the Kingdom is going to fix it for good.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is generally considered one of the best games of all time, but certain aspects of it are more controversial than others. Though its often-rainy weather, relatively short dungeons, and surprising difficulty have all been marked as particularly divisive, the most frequently debated aspect of Breath of the Wild is almost certainly its use of weapon durability as a core mechanic. However, regardless of where you stand on this raging debate, it appears that Nintendo is making serious changes to how weapon durability works in Tears of the Kingdom, and that might transform the discussion entirely.
It didn't take long for broken sword proponents to declare a resounding victory for their side after Nintendo's recent showcase featured a branch breaking after a scant number of hits. Indeed, those who hoped to see a total removal of durability mechanics in Tears of the Kingdom were betting on a long shot to begin with. The Fuse tool that the showcase revealed appears to be Nintendo's response to many of the problems that fans complained about in Breath of the Wild, and it's certainly a promising start.
Now, though it's probably not necessary to rehash all of the durability debate here, let's go over some of its basic points. All weapons break in Breath of the Wild sooner or later (except the Master Sword), though some are sturdier than others. Some players enjoyed the mechanic and felt that it added a lot to the game. For example, GameSpot's Chris Pereira says that he liked the weapon durability in BOTW, stating that it added depth to its combat. It forced him to weigh his options carefully: For example, choosing to use a high-damage weapon now in order to make an encounter easier, or choosing to save it for a potentially tougher fight down the road.
We need a middle ground for weapons breaking in Tears of the Kingdom that’ll make everyone happy.— Zelda Gif World (@GifZelda) January 29, 2023
For those who didn’t like the breaking mechanic, weapons won’t break anymore. For those who liked it, they can simply drop weapons after a few dozen hits & its the same exact thing! pic.twitter.com/WJ6xv5cQ5J
On the other side of the debate, there were those who found the constant breaking of weapons to be less pleasant. At the most basic level, previous Zelda games rarely featured this sort of mechanic, and some hardcore fans tend to balk at those sorts of major changes on a conceptual level alone. For me, however, my issues with Breath of the Wild stem more from its implementation of durability than the mechanic itself.
When I think about durability in games, there are a number of supporting mechanics that help make the busywork of juggling weapons and items fun and interesting. I'm talking about dismantling weapons for resources, crafting your favorite weapons over and over, and investing resources to repair your trusty sword when you're in a bind. These are the things that let you express yourself as a player and mitigate some of the sharp edges. Breath of the Wild lacks all of those mechanics--it's all stick, no carrot. You can recraft a handful of legendary weapons by bringing resources to specific vendors (which is itself an annoying hassle), but other than that, all you can do is choose which sword or spear is going to break next. That's a feedback loop that can come across as negative in the moment, especially if you're short on viable weapons.
Like a lot of Breath of the Wild players, I saw my way through many hours of the game, expecting the famed Master Sword to be the one weapon in the game that wouldn't break. When I finally lifted it from its pedestal, however, I was quite disappointed to learn that using it enough causes it to "lose power" for a ten-minute cooldown, which effectively renders the supposed sword of legend little more than a useful backup. It's a valid design choice, but it's not one that I loved as a player.
Nintendo's recent showcase made it clear that Tears of the Kingdom will give players more options when it comes to figuring out weapons. Much like how Breath of the Wild's crafting system encouraged fireside experimentation rather than a tangle of menus, TOTK's Fuse tool appears to be wildly intuitive. In the demo, Link combines a weak tree branch with a rock to create a sort of makeshift hammer that deals more damage and lasts longer than the original weapon. Considering how trivial this is, this would seem to give players the option to easily create a viable weapon in a variety of situations. This would also seem to fix a scenario that many weapon durability dislikers complained of: having to run away from a fight because you ran out of usable weapons.
The showcase also shows that you can use Fuse to improve your arrows, from using jellies to apply elemental effects, to using Keese Eyeballs to create homing arrows. A later clip shows Link creating an extra-long spear out of a pitchfork and a long branch. Though we don't know how fully-realized this system will be in the final game, it appears to be limited only by the player's creativity and willingness to experiment with its systems. Finally, players will have a way to deal with the constant hazard of weapons breaking in a more proactive way. I can easily imagine taking time to look around for extra-effective weapons before tackling a particularly tough challenge, for example.
As a whole, though I think it's fair to say that Nintendo can't please both sides of this recurring Zelda debate, I am excited to see how Fuse and other new tools will alleviate some of the issues I had with its predecessor. Based on pre-release materials, it definitely seems that Tears of the Kingdom is a direct follow-up to Breath of the Wild that looks to improve and add onto many of its great systems. It remains to be seen if those efforts are ultimately successful, but right now, I'm excited to see how mechanics like Fuse can fix the problems that so many had with its weapon durability system. For me, though, I still want that eternally sharp Master Sword.
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