The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has never had a shortage of player-created additions. Everywhere you look there's mods ranging from small and strange, like playable Waluigi, to expressive and expansive, like the removal of the game's cel-shaded aesthetic. Breath of the Wild's modding scene is over four years old, with hundreds upon hundreds of mods for both the Wii U and Nintendo Switch versions of the game to pick from. For something to stand out of the pack, it'd have to be truly impressive.
Enter The Legend of Zelda: Second Wind - A Breath of the Wild Expansion. What originally started out as a group of smaller, individual mods for minimal changes to Nintendo's epic, such as replacing out-of-bounds chests, has ballooned into one of the biggest mods I've ever seen. In fact, it's a little unfair to call Second Wind purely a "mod" and not an unofficial expansion pack, because it's bigger than either of the two officially sanctioned DLC packs Breath of the Wild originally received shortly after its launch in 2017.
Building something significant
Second Wind is a fully-fledged expansion to Breath of the Wild, bundling in new regions to explore, new weapons to unlock and experiment with, and even brand new Shrine trials to undergo with Link. There's plenty to parse with the Second Wind mod, which you might've seen written up on Gamesradar. It's so big in fact, that everything mentioned here is only part one of the mod, called Labors of the Hero, with the enigmatic part two slated to arrive further down the line.
"The very foundation of anything we do within this project revolves around creating something cool for a series we love," development lead of Second Wind, CEObrainz, tells me through Discord. Second Wind's development is operating on such a large scale that its dedicated Discord channel has over 12,000 members, approximately 5,000 of which are beta testers for part one, Labors of the Hero. Despite the staggering number of developers working remotely around the world, CEObrainz asserts that this isn't a problem in the slightest, as it's instead allowed for a diverse range of experiences and talents to blossom.
Second Wind feels like an amalgamation of disparate ideas, brought under one roof and bundled into one epic mod. CEObrainz tells me that although Second Wind began life as a group of smaller mods, such as the impressive Hyrule Rebalance mod and the Survival of the Wild mod, these laid the foundations for a lengthy roster of fan-developers coming together for something bigger and better than ever before. "Lylah, one of the lead devs, came up with the Second Wind name and logo – and from that point the expansion truly began to take shape."
The Labors of the Hero part of Second Wind will actually introduce new story-centric quests for Link to undertake, with a flowing narrative embedded within. CEObrainz tells me that the developers recognize that "nothing we do can truly fall in-line with the events that took place in this Hyrule," but they still believe there's interesting ideas to be explored off this beaten path. These include a girl living under the iron fist of her father, who wants to become an adventurer like Link, to the grandson of a Hylian noble who wants to make amends for his family's past misdeeds. There's some genuinely fascinating concepts in here, and they're proof of how Second Wind's developers seek to compliment Hyrule's existing stories, not override them.
It's these quests that allowed new gameplay aspects in Second Wind's Labors of the Hero to flourish. "Things really picked up once quests were figured out and events were experimented on," CEObrainz says. "Currently, we try to ensure that everything we do is related to something else. There are no additions to Second Wind that are added just for the sake of being there, and in doing that we ensure all members who contribute something feel as if their work has true importance no matter how big or small that addition is." As the developer's modding capabilities expanded over the years, so too did the new gameplay aspects being introduced in Second Wind, like items such as arrow quivers for Link to utilize.
"If every weapon gets its own sheath and can magically appear, then I think it's fine if the same applies to bows with their quivers." Two expert modders within the team, DarkGuard and Moonling, created arrow quivers specifically for Second Wind – reflecting something that the developers feel should've been there from the beginning.
Some of the modding team had certain wishes of Breath of the Wild, and Second Wind lets them see those wishes realized. "As much as I love the open world area's and encounters, I really miss the dungeons from classic Zelda games," a modder called Gray tells me. That nostalgic longing for Breath of the Wild to better reflect the history of the series is shared by other members of the Second Wind development community; for example, modder Normies Progress designed new Shrines for the mod that offer different rewards than the weapons and items that would break after a finite amount of uses in the core game. "Second Wind fixes the rewards by making it so you actually get something tangible for the effort you put into the game, the shrines get reworked to look completely different and even become more like classic Zelda dungeons in some cases," DarkGuard says.
Proof in the playtesting
There's a lot to be tested in Second Wind, hence the horde of over 5,000 beta participants eager to try this mod for themselves. CEObrainz jokes that receiving such volumes of feedback has really reminded them just how hard a job Nintendo has of actually balancing their games. "We've learnt how to improve on the intuitive nature of puzzles, mechanics, dialogue and the overall structure of the mod," they say of feedback so far.
Elsewhere, other developers like Sven Cakemann has seen genuine excitement from players upon seeing some of the additions present in Second Wind. "I've gotten a lot of excited comments over the masks from Majora's Mask that've been added," they tell me. "Generally, the feedback has been akin to 'wow, this is really neat!' and some general suggestions on making them act more like they did in [Majora's Mask]. Unfortunately, there are some limitations on what we can do (like, no transformations), but hopefully with some recent developments we can get all the masks/hats to be unique, or at least be useful."
Right now, CEObrainz and the rest of the modding team for Second Wind plan to release Labors of the Hero later this year for the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild, playable via the Cemu emulator for PC. That's not to say they don't plan on supporting the Nintendo Switch version further down the line though, as they plan on turning their attention to the portable version of Nintendo's game once the Wii U version is complete.
As for the future of the mod itself though, CEObrainz is keeping their cards close to their chest with part two of Second Wind. "A lot of Part Two is secret to everybody (even some of the team members)," they tell me. "What I can share is that anyone who is a Ghibli fan will be able to see the things we do and associate some aspects of it with those films… and yes, we do plan on adding at least one proper old-school dungeon." Labors of the Hero might be in the pipeline for release later this year, but part two of Second Wind is further off on the horizon, without so much as even a name to it just yet.
It's clear that there's a lot of love and passion being poured into Second Wind by the development team, scattered around the world. It's fascinating to see a team of over 5,000 playtesters and developers brought together under one roof by the wish to expand upon one of their favorite games. Breath of the Wild has offered player-created wonders consistently over the four years since its launch, but Second Wind might be one of the most noteworthy yet.