February 7, 2018
Don’t let the negative title fool you: I enjoyed Breath of the Wild immensely. It’s a fantastic game and is currently tied with Skyward Sword and Majora’s Mask as my favorite Zelda title. But it has its fair share of flaws. Some, like the barebones plot, are understandable given the nonlinear structure of the game. There is, however, one downside to the game that I don’t understand: the sidequests suck.
Open-world games such as this THRIVE on sidequests. Look at something like Skyrim or Xenoblade Chronicles X, and you’ll find that the sidequests make up the meat of the game. While the main storylines are on the weaker side due to the lack of linearity, the sidequests can help rectify this by allowing for numerous engaging subplots as well as some worldbuilding. Sure, some will be mere fetch quests with lackluster rewards, but there’s still a great deal of worthwhile content to be found. Breath of the Wild’s weak main quest could much more easily be forgiven if it had a strong selection of sidequests to supplement it.
Yet it doesn’t have that. When I first found out that Breath of the Wild would only have 76 sidequests, I was slightly underwhelmed, but still optimistic; they must have decided to go with the quality over quantity approach, right? NOPE.
If you were to boot up Breath of the Wild right now, navigate over to the Side Quests tab, and start scrolling through your list, you would conclude that there are only two sidequests that could qualify as being “good”. These are Hylian Homeowner and From The Ground Up. The former has you constructing a house for Link, and the other has you helping to construct a town from scratch. These two were actually handled fairly well; they managed to provide some nice worldbuilding, give life to certain characters, and provide us with unique rewards. The problem is that there’s only two of them. The rest are all forgettable fetch quests given by equally forgettable NPCs with rewards that aren’t worth your time. 2/76 is an absolutely horrendous ratio. Like I said, Breath of the Wild’s poor plot could be overlooked if it had decent side content as a crutch, but it simply doesn’t.
Now, one might point out that I’m overlooking the Shrine Quests, which could be seen as sidequests in their own right. Well, see, most of the Shrine Quests make for lackluster side content as well. First off, most of the Shrine Quests are just an excuse for having filler shrines: more often than not you’ll end up with a “Blessing” shrine that leaves you totally underwhelmed. Rather than getting a cool shrine to play through as a reward, you’re just given the Spirit Orb. And second, there’s not really any element of worldbuilding or character development to be had this way, so the potential to supplement the main story isn’t there. Granted, there is one exception to this: The Stolen Heirloom makes for some fantastic side content that gives us further insight into the Yiga Clan and their relations with the Sheikah. So I’ll grant that one.
But then that just leaves us with three sidequests that are worth a damn. Hopefully the development team is able to build upon the groundwork laid by Breath of the Wild so that the next game actually has a decent selection of sidequests.