The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s latest entry in the Zelda series, launching on the Nintendo Switch, and finishing off the Wii U. This entry in the series is breaking the conventions we have seen in 3d Zelda games, since Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. The Zelda series to some has become somewhat stagnant the past few years, despite still being considered good games, just not in the vain of how the series used to be seen. Can Breath of the Wild breath some fresh air into The Legend of Zelda? After 3 weeks of playing, let’s find out.
Our story begins in a somewhat similar but incredibly different way. Most Zelda games begin with Link waking up to a new day, this one begins with laying in some technology shrine, waking up to a new life 100 years later, with no memory of who he is or where he is. Which makes for a great connect between narrative and gameplay, you and Link both start off as weak and knowing nothing of this world, but over the course of the game, if you play your cards right, it’s the player leveling up right alongside Link. The fact he doesn’t talk allows you to project all of your feelings onto him, this being the first true HD Zelda title you defiantly feel more of a connection with the beautifully realized world of Hyrule in ruin. Of course if you are familiar with Zelda you will know things about some of the locations and races you come across such as the Hylians, Zora, Gorons, Rito, and Gerudo, but the fact the world is ruin and everyone is trying to stay together means you’ll learn more new things than before, with plenty of callbacks for fans of the series.
The game’s story is told in a non linear nature, but in a smarter way than most titles do it. All of the main quest are optional, which involve the game’s 4 dungeons, getting the Master Sword, and recovering Link’s memories, alongside several smaller main quest. Gaining Link’s memories is where this non linear story telling shines, as it allows players to put the pieces together about what was going on 100 years ago, and gives much insight into the game’s best and well developed character, Zelda herself. Zelda starts off as someone who is unsure of herself and is afraid of challenge, an exact contrast to Link, but over the course of the memories you find she gradually changes, and her and Link develop and bond. I won’t say too much more about the game’s narrative so you can all enjoy it for yourselves. But it is one of the strongest in Zelda history, not being bogged down by needless backtracking segments, due to the game’s open world nature, and having a smaller main cast to follow. It’s a coming of age story for some characters, a traditional heroes journey story for Link, good vs evil with Link against Ganon, who is more of true embodiment of evil this time. But the game is also about the more quiet moments, walking alongside a hill and seeing the sunrise on a village, these are more personal to the player naturally, but makes you feel connected to the world.
The gameplay is similar to past entries in the series, with parrys, blocking, attacking, jumping to avoid attacks, and special moves, it’s decently deep if you’re willing to explore it. The biggest addition to the game, and the most revolutionary thing about it for the franchise and the genre, is the ability to climb anything. Imagine playing Skyrim trying to go up a mountain but you can’t, now think of Assassins Creed, being able to climb buildings but not every building, Zelda solves all those issues by simply letting you climb whatever you desire, it’s hard to go and play other similar games after just climbing everything, plus you can glide off the top of mountains for miles sometimes. Now the game is loaded with different weapon, armor, arrow, and status types, alongside making Zelda a true RPG. You have weapons ranging from sword and shield to one handed heavy weapons that vary between swords, cleavers, axes, etc. You have spears you can use projectiles, alongside your bow and it’s various arrow types, such as ice, fire, electricity, bomb, and ancient. Or you can just hit people with wooden weapons, which help in thunder storms, yes you can get struck by lighting in this game. Your weapons do degrade and eventually break, I like this feature as it is similar to Dead Rising where your weapons break and you have to use your resources to fight enemies, even using different combinations to combat them. Horse riding also returns, and is more grounded and realistic but the horse combat is so much fun. The times where you jump of your horse, slow down time and shoot the other guy then jump onto his horse and slash some enemies with your axe, oh so satisfying.
The world is littered with various enemies to fight and mini bosses, some are easy, some are hard to match, the more skill and level you gain, the easier some enemies become that were a challenge at the start of the game. The game has a cooking system that allows you to make elixirs and meals that provide you an extra boost in categories like attack, defense, even going as far to protect you from the hot and cold regions in the game without the correct attire, this helps big time in the first so many hours. The game’s “level up” system is interestingly attached to collectibles. You can find koroks across the world that give you seeds, which you bring to a giant plant person that plays music to make your inventory for weapons, shields, and bows bigger. To increase your hearts and stamina is a different story. The game has over 120 shrines that are what you’d call mini dungeons. They provide puzzles, combat challenges, riddles, etc to test your might, these shrines can take anywhere from 1 minute to 30 minutes in my experience. Of course dungeons are still in the game, providing 4 of them, technically 5 if you count Hyrule Castle, but I don’t. All of these provide much longer challenges that at the very least will take you 30 minutes. The first one I did took me 2 hours, but after that I noticed I was getting better at figuring at the puzzles with the tools that were provided to me. You see instead of finding items in specific dungeons that will help you complete them, the game gives you all your items fairly quickly at the start of the game, which I do prefer this. Your items are bombs, a magnet, stopping time, and even being able to take pictures. It means every shrine and every dungeon can be designed to incorporate all of your items if they wish to, which the dungeons defiantly do. Every dungeon ends with a boss fight, some of these are a challenge, especially at the start of the game, but as you progress and become more powerful it comes down to figuring out how to beat them when their health drops to half, so towards the end the challenge decreases, but they are still fun bosses to fight. After clearing every dungeon you are given a power, ranging from self healing to being able to jump really high, these greatly change gameplay and make for new combat and puzzle solving ways. I think the dungeons in this game are all very good and well designed, some being difficult and some being easier, none of them are my favorite dungeon in the series, but do to the team focusing on just a few in this game, they are quality.
The game’s sidequest can range from being great with interesting stories, objectives or combat set pieces. To collecting bugs for people, and even a quest ripped straight out of everyone’s nightmare, escort/follow close behind mission. Thankfully these types of quest are optional and don’t make up the bulk of the title. Some of my favorite sidequest are the shrinequest, especially the one’s involving a Rito named Kass. Theirs even a quest where you have to help a man startup a town, and you bring in people from various races and backgrounds to help start the town up, the quest ending in a touching wedding that was probably the quest that spoke to me the most. Of course for smaller side actives or things you see in the distance you can pin them or stamp as personal markers to tell you to go them, for your own little quest of adventure.
Zelda has always been known for amazing scores, and the score in this entry is perfection, specifally the track for Hatneo Village, the main theme, and a song that plays during the final boss fight are the stand outs to me. The game looks great, I prefer art styles more so than photo realism in games, they have a longevity of looking good years later, although some of the rocks in various areas look somewhat low resolution. Buildings look nice, the characters across the world look like paintings, or anime characters brought to life, just in that classic Zelda style. The world and areas blend seamlessly, going from a hot scorching desert, to the top of a cold snowy mountain makes you feel as if you are truly exploring Hyrule. Just looking out over grassy plains after the game has finished a rain storm, then looking up and seeing a rainbow in the distance, it’s dynamic and beautiful to look at, regardless if you are playing on your TV on playing on the go. On the TV the game runs at 900p 30fps and in handheld mode it runs at 720p 30 fps. It looks great regardless of what mode you are playing in, although based on the systems specs, I don’t see why the game isn’t running at 1080p possibly because it’s a port of the Wii U version with some additions, such as a more vibrant skybox? Regardless due to the art style you don’t notice much of a difference, it’s a gorgeous game to look at. In some areas, especially the starting area the framrate drops from time to time, especially in areas with heavy foliage. Now this is an issue sometimes as it hinders the experience, but I noticed this happening more often on the TV and usually never in handheld mode, so just be warned when the game drops to 15 frames. But that is really the only glaring technical issue I could find. The game has a great psychics engine, plenty of great rag doll effects, and being able to send objects flying through the sky, even being to render incredibly large enemies and hordes of enemies at once for Link to deal with. Their are defiantly impressive things to see here technically, especially how well the game runs in handheld mode. Of course the control options are two joycons and a pro controller, personally I think for the TV the pro controller is the way to go. But surprisingly the most comfortable to play it is handheld mode. Although using the dpad on the pro controller to manage the inventory is the biggest advantage that setup has. The motion controls you can use for aiming are good but I turned them off after a few hours, preferring standard aiming.
Of course I thought long and hard about this whilst playing the game which score I would give it. But after finishing the game, after beating the final boss, which the whole game builds up to, everything you do in the main quest builds to it, and looking out most of the time and seeing Hyrule Castle and knowing Ganon is there waiting for you, just one of the greatest buildups in gaming history. Then seeing those closing credits, seeing “The End” pop up, being one of the best games I have played in sometime, and making me feel young again. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gets a 9.5/10. Now who’s ready for that Mario game?