In the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, most would have noticed that the large Dungeons of yesteryear’s game have mostly been replaced with small Shrine. In fact the whole of Hyrule is littered with Shrines while only 5 Dungeons (if you count Hyrule Castle) appeared in the game.
There is quite an explanation as to why this is so too. In the latest Nintendo Power Podcast, Breath of the Wild’s Director, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, explained that due to the now larger overworld, they wanted people to spend some time looking for the Shrines too instead of spending a lot of time inside Dungeons. He explained:
So in the past Zelda games, one dungeon was very, very long and because this game had a very wide field to explore and one of the themes we had was finding things, we were thinking about what the ratio is for finding Shrines while players are wandering around the field. And when we calculated that, we kind of ended up with 100 or more Shrines. And as for size, we thought about perhaps making long, big dungeons, but that would take long, and players would dedicate their time too long in the dungeons, so we thought perhaps one Shrine is maybe 10 minutes. We’re thinking play would be a good amount.
But what about the Divine Beast you say? Fujibayashi also explained that because they thought that the Shrines may not live up to the Dungeon feel, they should make a few big Dungeons. Since the Divine Beast were already well positioned to be Dungeons, why not let them be. As Fujibayashi explained:
When we considered that each Shrine would take around 10 minutes, we thought maybe for a Zelda title, it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t meeting that dungeon feel for the game, so we thought maybe for this game, we could incorporate a big dungeon and perhaps one that moves or one that incorporates a gravity movement system and so we considered a big dungeon and that’s how we thought about the Divine Beasts. And so initially when we were thinking about the Divine Beasts, we thought about something that could be seen from afar, and maybe like a humanoid form, but then because these Champions were controlling Divine Beasts, we thought well maybe it would be interesting if the Divine Beasts themselves were a dungeon. And so then that met the requirement of a moving dungeon and also something that could be seen from afar. That’s how we kind of came up with the idea of the Divine Beasts.
Overall the new Shrine and Dungeon combo was a fresh new take on the Zelda series’s gameplay. In fact, I find myself favouring this system better as it provides a sort of constant excitement throughout the game instead of periods of “nothing much” between Dungeons. Ultimately, the Dungeons and most of the Shrines within the game can still be skipped if you feel that you are strong enough to face Ganon from the get-go but doesn’t hurt to slow down every once in a while to solve a Shrine puzzle.