mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Storytelling in Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is now the first game I’ve replayed (on the Switch) within a year of my first playthrough (on the Wii U). The game is that good, especially since I can now play it on-the-go. The game is engrossing and massive. Before you know it, you’ll be a hundred hours in and the world still feels mysterious and teeming with things to do.

Having recently wrapped up The Champions’ Ballads DLC. The DLC included 15 minutes of exposition on Zelda recruiting the Champions; while short, added more oomph to the tragic events that took place 100 years before the game begins. Looking back on the game as a whole, Breath of the Wild told a moving and deep story with a very minimal amount of actual story presentation.

And it did this so well by throwing this expression on Link’s face over and over again.

Next stop: most likely some depressing memories.

The 18 memories you unlock during the main game amount to 31 minutes of exposition. If we apply a more liberal definition that amount bumps up to about 1 hour and 40 minutes. In short, we’re looking at about 2 hours of exposition in an easily 100+ hour game.

Yes, almost all of the content in Breath of the Wild is technically optional, but exploring a vast and mostly empty world serves to emphasize the failure highlighted in the small amount of exposition the game does present. It’s an amazingly large period to the simple story presented in this single sentence: “100 years ago Zelda, Link, and the Champions failed to destroy Calamity Ganon.” The entirety of Breath of the Wild is reconciling the wrong in that sentence.

It’s an effective formula that allows skipping over all the mundane and filler segments a balanced story contains and laser focusing on the truly important pieces. A story delivered in small but dense, heavy doses and given time to simmer with lots amount of gameplay in between: that’s top-notch storytelling in Breath of the Wild.