There’s a lot of divisive splits in the gaming industry, but few are as bitter as the topic of weapon durability in Breath of the Wild. The 2017 Legend of Zelda game is often considered one of the best games of all time, but a contingent of players bristle at that assertion. In their litany of complaints, the most frequently cited grievance always seems to be weapon durability, specifically about how easily weapons break after hitting enemies or throwing them at things.
This group has been vocal about their desire to see this mechanic lessened or even outright removed from the still-unnamed sequel to Breath of the Wild. I think they’re wrong. I hope the game still has it. I hope it expands on the idea.
I know the very idea seems nuts, but to articulate this position, I have to start with the assertion that everyone that hates the weapon durability doesn’t care for how important that system is integrated into Breath of the Wild. They’re still free to dislike it, but rather than it being a capricious choice to annoy the player, it exists for the same valid reason everything else in the game does: to make the player try different things.
Every single encounter that you don’t stealth around in Breath of the Wild requires you to do one of two things: 1) lose something in terms of weapons, health, food, etc. or 2) think your way out of an encounter. While you have weapons available to you — swords, spears, bows, etc. — using them consumes a resource. If you’re looking downhill at a Bokoblin encampment, you could absolutely go in there with a broadsword and mess it up before the Bokoblins know what hit them, but doing so means that sword is one more encounter close to breaking. You could also roll bombs downhill, take their metal weapons with magnetism, or drop a metal treasure chest on the leader’s head and invoke a lightning bolt during a storm to cause further damage.
Some of the best moments in the game involved me running out of resources and having to think on my feet, a situation that becomes somewhat moot when I’ve learned every enemy’s dodge window and relied heavily on the strong counterattack mechanic. Breath of the Wild is not a power fantasy the way we typically think of one, it’s an empowerment fantasy that gives players the tools to approach encounters from multiple directions. When you’re given one item that has both the ability to dispose of enemies fast with no downside, it’s a de facto better choice than anything else.
This is why I hope the sequel to Breath of the Wild keeps this controversial design. I understand why people don’t like it, but I also think they don’t like it for the very reason it exists. People who feel like they’re constantly stocking up on weapons aren’t understanding the reason they ran out of weapons in the first place. The weapons themselves are ephemeral, resources you suck dry and throw away as you’re figuring out the more efficient method. Before Link fell into his 100-year sleep, he relied heavily on his weapons and lost and Breath of the Wild is a reinforcement of that failure.
Breath of the Wild asks players to leave something of themselves behind every time they get in a fight. It tells players not to get attached to any one piece of your kit, whether it be weapons or armor, because no one piece of equipment is good for all situations. Are there aspects there that the sequel could improve upon? Sure, that’s always the case with any game. But I sure hope they don’t wholesale abandon the durability concept because of a vocal minority.