As I type this, my son is downstairs playing Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom. When he’s not playing it, he’s watching videos about it. The rest of the time, I’m probably playing it.
It’s a very good game.
The controls are great, but not entirely friction free. The puzzles are great, but not entirely satisfying. The construction is great, but occasionally tedious. It’s pretty close to a perfect game. I think it might be that “pretty close” that makes me want to play more of it.
When Breath of the Wild came out, a lot of people got very angry about weapon and shield degradation. It’s true that having a bow or sword shatter mid-fight is annoying, but it very quickly reached the same level of annoyance as having to reload in a shooter. It only slightly breaks your flow and, if you are ready for it, you can easily switch weapons to keep swinging. So what that teaches you, is to be ready for it.
In the previous game, weapons shattering meant that you would have to sample all the weapons the game had on offer. At some point you would be up against a tough enemy and you would have to pull out that club or spear that you would never otherwise use. I thought it added some fun to the game, but some people, by virtue of being forced into it, were not as interested.
In Tears of the Kingdom you can essentially create new types of weapons at any time by fusing items together. This flips the weapon breakage mechanic on its head. Instead of requiring that you use different weapons, you will want to try all of them. What happens if you fuse a stick to a rock, a sword to a glowing flower, an arrow to some monster parts? Who can say? It doesn’t take long before you are just hitting things with a badly fused weapon to break it intentionally so that you can try one of your new ones. Testing new weapons has become part of the game that you will want to engage with.
Other than that one small change, the weapon degradation system is mostly intact. One simple change. Fusing weapons to create new items turns a mechanic that could be tedious into an opportunity to play.
There is a school of game design wisdom that says you should always be building toward whatever is the most fun. When people bristled against the previous design, rather than tossing it out, Nintendo built toward something more fun. I think it worked.