For over a year, YouTube critic Mark Brown has been exploring the dungeons in each Legend of Zelda game. His series concluded today with a look at Breath of the Wild outlining how the design of the game’s Divine Beasts is great but also frustrating.
Brown’s gone to great lengths investigating the design of dungeons in his series Boss Keys, which mixes analysis of individual puzzles with in-depth outlining of each dungeon’s complexity. Some dungeons, like Ocarina of Time’s infamous Water Temple, are complex, while more straightforward dungeons like The Minish Cap’s Palace of Winds are very linear. Brown’s last video takes everything he’s learned from playing the rest of the series to analyze how Breath of the Wild gets plenty of things right but also goes overboard in other cases.
Brown concludes that the ability to transform Breath of the Wild’s four Divine Beasts might lead to creative navigation while also making some puzzles a bit too easy. Throughout his series, Brown has stressed that strong dungeon design helps build a mental map of the space through a combination of backtracking and branching paths. The Divine Beasts allow players to tackle objectives in any order but don’t always encourage players to acquaint themselves with the entire space. It’s an astute observation, since most players will remember the main chamber of the Forest Temple but can’t say as much for rooms in the Beasts.
Brown had previously put an emphasis on puzzle solving and path-finding when comparing “find the path” dungeons to “follow the path” dungeons, the former granting many different pathways to explore and the latter guiding the player throughout the experience. The Divine Beasts get rid of small keys, a series staple that helps structure dungeons into a sequence of challenges. As a result, Divine Beasts are freeform but occasionally poor at showing the player what to do next.
The analysis also looks at shrines, which feel like small rooms ripped from dungeons, and Hyrule Castle. It’s an interesting watch and a strong conclusion to a really great critical video series. I highly recommend sitting down and checking it out. It’ll give you plenty to think about the next time you’re in Hyrule.