The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is currently bathing in well-deserved accolades. You're happy. I'm happy. We're all happy!
OK, maybe we experience a temporary drop in happiness when the GAME OVER screen pops up again and again (conveniently color-coded to reflect the manner in which Link bought the farm – there's that "Nintendo touch" again). For the most part, though, Nintendo gives us the means to survive, and it's our job as players to be cunning and full of tricks.
I'd go as far as to suggest Breath of the Wild's challenge is perfectly balanced, but there's one problem that sticks out like an arrow in a Gohma's eye: Weapons break. And for the most part, they break way too quickly.
I welcome Breath of the Wild's disregard for well-trodden Zelda "traditions" that made previous games since A Link to the Past predictable. Pleasant, to be sure, and legacies in their own rights – but predictable. I like the fact Link got his most important tools up-front, and he uses them over and over throughout his adventure. I like the fact vanilla bows are found on the ground, and aren't a whole separate item you eke out in a dungeon. I like the fact Link buys his armor from merchants, or finds them through quests. Heck, I can even dig Link's new default baby blue ensemble in lieu of going green yet again. We complained about Zelda becoming too familiar. Nintendo listened.
But I haven't learned to appreciate weapon degradation, and I honestly don't think I ever will. It's a real problem early in the game when your inventory space is very limited, and necessary tools like the woodcutter's axe and torch take up their own weapon slots.
What's more, the cheap bludgeons you nick from Bokoblins early in the game break in two seconds, so you're always stressing about where your next weapon is coming from. It's not a good kind of stress that makes you feel alive elsewhere in Breath of the Wild, like dodging lightning bolts in a thunderstorm or praying you'll reach the top of a peak before your stamina meter runs out. It's just an aggravating, gnawing stress that never leaves the back of your mind – like bills you need to pay, or mulling over a phone call you'd rather not make.
You may even find yourself weaponless for exhausting stretches in Breath of the Wild. I've yet to find a merchant who sells swords and shields; whatever you arm yourself with comes off the ground (or out of the Great Deku Tree's roots, if you have the stones). Quests and treasure chests sometimes dish out pointy rewards, but it's rare.
But what really burns my simmered fruit is that Breath of the Wild's weapon degradation discourages you from fighting at your absolute best in a world that demands you do so. Have you ever found yourself cornered by a member of the Yiga clan with an inventory full of nothing but two-handed clubs recovered from Moblins? You may as well hope to tag a cheetah in full sprint with a bowling ball.
I appreciate why Nintnendo included weapon degradation in Breath of the Wild: Nothing tells you "You ain't ready for this, kid" like having your rusty broadsword break against the iron hide of a Guardian. But there should be an easier way for me to stick to the weapon you're most comfortable with. I favor one-handed swords, for example, but they're ridiculously hard to come by. Let me buy them from Beedle, or at least let me buy twine and chewing gum so I can repair the dumb things myself.
Well, I guess I don't have to kill everything in my path. It's not like monsters stay dead for good, anyway…
TOMORROW: I see a Blood Moon rising.