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Every Legend Of Zelda Game Now Has The Same Problem

"The Legend of Zelda" series takes place in one of the most consistently imaginative worlds ever created by Nintendo. Over the decades since the franchise began, Hyrule and its inhabitants — in particular, Link and the titular Zelda — have evolved in ways that players could not have possibly foreseen. The "Legend of Zelda" timeline is famously convoluted, but captivating at the same time. Even so, the franchise is not without its flaws that keep it from being totally perfect.

In every "Zelda" game, Link is charged with the task of saving the kingdom from some great darkness, and he usually ends up saving the princess along the way. That formula has sustained the series for years now, so it's probably not going anywhere. The thing that drags down the proceedings, particularly in the newer entries in the series, is the fact that many of the smaller quests that make up these grand adventures are just not that satisfying. 

We're not talking about questlines that figure into the main story and expand the lore, like the mission to find all of the geoglyphs in "Tears of the Kingdom." No, the side quests that take players off the beaten path in "Breath of the Wild" and "Tears of the Kingdom" typically fall into one of a couple of different categories: (a) bring me this or (b) kill that. It can get a bit tiring, even if you're a superfan of the series. 

The lack of innovation in side quests feels especially noticeable if you're moving from one game to the next in quick succession, as many gamers did when getting ready for the release of "Tears of the Kingdom."

Unexciting fetch quests persist in Tears of the Kingdom

For all of the things "Tears of the Kingdom" does right — and there are certainly many — the game isn't entirely perfect. Link's latest adventure gives players the chance to do so much that previous games could only dream of, offering in-depth building mechanics and new combat possibilities at every turn. One place where "Tears of the Kingdom" still feels like it's stuck in the past, however, is in the overall structure of the title's side quests. 

There's still not a fantastic story-to-errand ratio when it comes to the missions Link undertakes in this game. Many of the characters you meet have a bare bones desire that essentially translates into "I need you to fetch 1,000 of this item because of reasons," which makes the ensuing side quest feel less interesting as a result.

For instance, players will eventually come across Kotlin, a shopkeeper who dreams of one day becoming a Satori. "Wow," you might think. "Maybe I'll get a chance to help this character fulfill that dream, learning more about him as we embark on a quest together." But no, the meat of the quest is to simply scour the earth and bring Kotlin every Bubbulgem in Hyrule. You'll earn some fun armor and a paraglider variant, but you won't get to know much more about the guy beyond his desire to become a magical being.

The game is full of similar interactions and ultimately underwhelming rewards. Collect hundreds of Korok seeds and get a piece of golden poo as a reward. Reinforce dozens of signs for an annoying kid and get some rice balls in return. There's still a place in future "Zelda" games for these kinds of simple quests/errands, but the rewards need to be more substantial or lasting.

Zelda games need better side quest incentives

Side quests most certainly have their place in the grand scheme of things. An RPG without little tangents like these can feel empty. The problem isn't the quest themselves, but rather the incentives offered for completing said quests.

Future "Legend of Zelda" games could make these quests a lot more palatable by offering better rewards, and we're not just talking better equipment. Although an experience point system has been absent from most entries in the series, it may be high time to bring it back. One of the common complaints against the more recent games (besides the side quest structure) is the fact that even standard enemies are likely to one-shot kill Link, which can seriously set players back in the middle of a quest. 

If there were some kind of incremental increase in power and vitality every time Link crossed something off his to-do list, players might be more likely to see these lengthier quests through. As it stands, it's difficult to justify searching in every last cavern and well to find every Bubbulfrog, just to get some armor — which is, quite frankly, a hideous bit of kit.

Many of Zelda's NPCs are lacking in distinguishing characteristics

That doesn't solve all of the problems, of course. There's still the issue of the majority of the quests themselves not being particularly exciting or distinct from one another. It would still be nice to see a bit more depth of character from the various NPCs Link encounters, especially since most characters besides the main sages are lacking in personality. Sure, this is still Link and Zelda's show, so it makes sense that they get the bulk of the development (such as it is). But imagine how much more likely you'd be to dive fully into a side mission if it meant you'd get to learn some real juicy backstory or see a real transformation from the person who gave it to you.

If fleshing out the citizens of Hyrule a bit more is still too tall an order, greater side quest completion incentives could still smooth over quite a bit in the minds of gamers. At the end of the day, gamers love to say that they completed a game and bested everything that it threw their way. Adding a little extra spark to the side missions in "The Legend of Zelda" would certainly make 100%-ing the newer games more of a manageable and enjoyable feat.

But also, let's move on from Korok seeds. Nobody on Hyrule or Earth has time for all that.

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