Breath of the Wild 2 showcases impressive scale and familiar environments, but visuals don't hint at anything too ambitious or "next-gen"
Nintendo recently released a gameplay trailer for Breath of the Wild 2, alongside a tentative 2022 release date. While the gameplay looks to be a solid continuation of its critically-acclaimed predecessor, the visuals on display in the trailer hint that Nintendo's rumored "Switch Pro" might be further off than initially imagined.
The most evident change seen in the Breath of the Wild 2 trailer is the increase in verticality: Link falls out of the Sky Crysis-style in the trailer intro. In terms of core assets, however, we're looking at something that looks very much like a polished, late-gen Switch title.
Texture resolution in some of the shots - especially on cliffs and rocks - is very low, suggesting that Nintendo's working around the Switch's limited memory pool. In terms of lighting and 3D assets, we're again seeing something that's very much in line with the original Breath of the Wild, with aliased shadows and low geometric complexity made up for with the fantastic art design.
The 2022 release time frame for Breath of the Wild 2 raises questions about Nintendo's hardware plans. If a more capable "Switch Pro" is on the cards, we'd expect a flagship title like Breath of the Wild 2 to leverage the added hardware grunt - at the very least to boost texture fidelity thanks to a higher memory allocation. We're not really seeing that here. In 2022, the original Switch turns 5 years old. Breath of the Wild 2 will be going head-to-head with a number of ninth-gen exclusive titles on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Nintendo's stellar gameplay and art direction will likely carry BOTW2 forward. But we can't help but think of what could've been if more ambitious hardware was on tap.