If there's one thing I learned playing the Resident Evil 4 Remake, it's this: don't use a shotgun for a pistol problem, as tempting as it is. Yes, the riot shotgun sounds like god slamming a car door and can instantly paper the walls with any pitchfork-wielding grandma foolish enough to cross Leon 'Kill Them Grandmas' Kennedy. But as much as I never want to put the shotgun down, I know in my right mind that I have to save it for special occasions. It wouldn't feel special otherwise, right?
That grandma is what we call a pistol problem. A quick Punisher headshot and a roundhouse kick and she's wallpaper, folks. A shotgun problem looks more like a demon spider barreling down a hallway, wet fangs glistening in the torchlight as you scrounge around for an herb while Ashley mutters desperate praise like "good scrounging, Leon" from within the gym locker you nobly asked her to guard. That's when the shotgun comes out. That's when spending this limited and powerful resource is justified according to the scientific grandma-spider hierarchy you've constructed in your mind like any sensible human being.
So anyway, I've been playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and I've been having very similar, extremely normal thoughts about weapons and enemies pretty much the entire game. This line of thinking has officially won me over on the weapon degradation that's been igniting capital-D Discourse since Breath of the Wild.
To better explain my theory: Link's coveted 40-attack battle axe is the shotgun, a dinky Zonai sword is the pistol, that bokoblin is a grandma, and a lynel is functionally a demon spider. Link is just the Leon of his own, brighter survival game, so of course his weapons need limits. Durability is to swords what ammunition is to guns. If we didn't have it, Link, like Leon, would just use the shotgun all the time, and it wouldn't feel special anymore.
You've convinced me, Leon
I was never an ardent opponent of weapon degradation, but I wasn't an enthusiastic fan either. It was just fine. Sure, it's annoying for your trusty broadsword to shatter in your palm right as you start a flurry rush on a boss with 4% health remaining, but the system is a respectable way to gate and balance gear progression while encouraging continual scavenging out in the open world. Sometimes you just have to be in the right mindset to truly appreciate things, and it was only after playing the Resi 4 remake just before Tears of the Kingdom that this system started to feel oddly familiar to me and, dare I say, good.
Tears of the Kingdom with unbreakable weapons would be like Resident Evil 4 with infinite ammo. It just wouldn't work because the broken resource economy undermines the combat experience and, through it, the entire purpose of searching for resources. With no limits, you could – and inevitably would – get one thing that does the job and then never touch anything else until you found an objectively stronger version, and that would make for a much weaker moment-to-moment loot grind.
You see, it's much more interesting for Link to be the Hylean equivalent of a wood chipper, constantly eating through weapons and hungry for more. This not only makes you eager to find those weapons to replenish your arsenal, it also forces you to consult the aforementioned grandma-spider hierarchy, or in this case, the bokoblin-lynel tier list. Is this regular-ol' bokoblin worth a swing of my strongest greatsword? Of course not! That is not a shotgun problem. In fact, it doesn't even deserve my strongest short sword; I'll sort it out with just this stick I found.
Build a better shotgun
On top of friction in the resource economy, this system creates additional and enjoyable choices for the player. It turns you into a cocky anime villain by giving you the smug satisfaction of winning when you aren't even fighting with your full strength. I beat that bokoblin with a stick and I had the in-universe equivalent of a nuclear warhead in reserve. May its entire bloodline know how trivially I dispatched it.
Every time you deliberately don't reach for your strongest weapon – remember, special occasions only – you're setting a challenge for yourself by dynamically determining the difficulty of a fight. You know what? I can handle that lynel with only my second-best sword, just in case I find a stronger lynel, and not at all because I'm a hopeless hoarder. Setting and achieving personal goals, no matter how small, is on the shortlist of foundational reasons that I, and I think a lot of people, enjoy games in the first place, so of course it feels good in one of the best games of all time. Oppositely, there's the thrill of pulling out the proverbial big guns and using your best weapon to utterly atomize a major threat, or something that simply really pissed you off.
In what may be its greatest game design masterstroke, Tears of the Kingdom doubles down on this by adding another layer of resources to weapons through Fuse. Suddenly every horn, tail, fang, and claw is a shotgun in the making, and that means the monsters unlucky enough to have grown those appendages are walking shotgun dispensers. I never thought Tears of the Kingdom would give me the Monster Hunter experience of killing a dragon and making a sword out of its limbs in order to kill another dragon, but I'm not complaining.
Imagine if enemies in Resident Evil 4 were all walking around with their loot physically stapled to their forehead. On sight, you know for a fact that if you kill this thing, you will get these extremely useful items. I was gonna kill grandma before, and now she's got free shotgun shells on display? Wouldn't anyone be doubly eager to get over there and paper some walls? This goes to show why Tears of the Kingdom's visual language is so powerful, and in particular, this makes its underground more appealing because you know it's filled with strong monsters brandishing rare parts.
That's the genius of Fuse, and it's not even the end of it. It also allows for yet more decisions by asking players how they want to spend their hard-earned monster drops. I didn't kill the Ice Gleeok while laughably undergeared just to tie its valuable horns to a branch; I'm holding out for an extra durable hilt for these bad boys.
At this point, I can confidently say that I truly love the breakable weapons in Tears of the Kingdom. The frustration is worth it because the principle of scarcity enriches so much of the game, and like Ultrahand or the Recall rune, the ripple effects across multiple systems are irresistible. All it took for me to finally articulate why was an unintended lesson from Mr. Kennedy.