A Breath of Fresh Air
The Legend of Zelda is undoubtedly one of the biggest names within the gaming industry, and for extremely good reason. It pioneered the adventure genre, and with each release of a new Zelda game, the bar is seemingly set higher and higher. Zelda is a franchise I’ve grown up with over the years so it’d be unfair to say there isn’t a small degree of bias behind this review, but I’m going to try to be as honest as possible while reviewing the latest entry into the series. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Breath of the Wild seeks to break the standard conventions of the Zelda formula, creating a brand new experience within the same universe. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but I was incredibly excited regardless of my concerns for a few of the systems that were supposedly in the game. Nonetheless, it goes without saying that all my worries were swept aside, because The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible experience that will be remembered as a classic for years to come.
100 Years Ago
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s narrative is definitely one of its strong points if you’re willing to invest the time and effort into uncovering it. It’s told in a way that’s never forced upon the player apart from a few expositional cut-scenes. I found it was a refreshing way to tell a story in an open world setting, and for the people who don’t want to invest in it, they don’t have to (but you should because it’s just that good if you do). It never reaches the narrative complexity of Twilight Princess or Majora’s mask, but the characters, voice acting, and premise of Breath of the Wild is unrivalled by any other Zelda game. It makes for a truly incredible experience as you play through the game. Breath of the Wild follows a Link that has been awakened from a 100 year slumber in order to destroy Calamity Ganon, and save Hyrule. It’s a fairly simple plot, but its characters and ideas are further fleshed out through optional cut-scenes. I was constantly intrigued in what had happened to Hyrule that some 100 years ago, and that drove me to uncover everything I could about the game’s narrative, and I was rewarded with some truly emotional and well executed story moments and set pieces. It’s a simple plot, but the characters are incredibly likeable, and Zelda is so well done that I feel as if Breath of the Wild was more worried about its characters than actual plot, which definitely isn’t a bad thing because the plot is still decent.
A Wild Hyrule
Breath of the Wild’s biggest departure comes in the form of its gameplay, changing and revolutionising the formula that has long since been the staple for Zelda games. Gone is the hand holding of past games, Breath of the Wild throws you into the world, gives you an objective and leaves you to your own devices. It’s a refreshing change of pace for a Zelda game, and it didn’t take me long to get lost in the countless things there are to do in the world. Once you clear the Great Plateau which acts as a tutorial area, the game opens up incredibly, and you can go and do whatever you want. I made it a priority to go and do one of the dungeons first, but I consistently ventured off the beaten track to inspect something that caught my eye, whether it be one of the many puzzle shrines, an enemy fort, a lookout tower, or a batch of collectables, Breath of the Wild never ceased to grab my attention. This world is begging to be explored, and 35 hours in I’m still finding new things, which is a massive achievement in its own right. Breath of the Wild is all about survival and nothing screams this more than its systems. Link can only restore health by eating food, which can be gathered and cooked in order to create meals through recipes. Different items lead to different traits and stat-boosts from food, and experimenting with all kinds of weird and wonderful goods never got old, and I often lost myself doing it now and again. The environment is also integral to Link’s survival, as temperatures rise and fall you’ll have to equip different armour accordingly, or eat specific foods that increase temperature resistances. Weather hazards such as rain and thunder also pose a threat too, because if you have any metal equipment on you at the time, thunder can strike at a moments notice, killing Link very quickly, but the same applies to enemies. Rain makes it harder to climb surfaces, which by the way, almost every single surface in-game is climbable, making for a refreshing sense of player freedom and exploration. Once you use Link’s superb climbing capabilities with your limited amount of stamina (which can be upgraded by completing shrines, along with heart containers) you can take in the sights of the breath-taking open world (no pun intended). One of Link’s new tools is the glider, so once you reach a high point in the world, one of the funnest things to do is jump off and glide over the landscape. It’s truly magical stuff, and this along with shield surfing makes for incredibly enjoyable modes of transport. Speaking of which, horses are very prominent in Breath of the Wild, and they must be mounted, calmed down, registered, and named before you can use them, and much like other things in the game, they can die. Great fairies are also scattered around the world and are used to upgrade your armour, if you’re willing to give up the materials. The Sheikah Slate is Link’s new navigating buddy, just less annoying this time around. It provides you with objectives, the world map, and a number of tools such as bombs, magnesis, cryo powers and more. It’s a unique little idea that really works within Breath of the Wild’s gameplay loop. Lastly comes combat, which is in my opinion, is the best the franchise has ever seen. It’s robust, but has so many little things to it that need to be taken into consideration. Almost every single weapon in the game eventually breaks after a certain amount of use, making combat encounters tense and strategic. Some people may hate this feature, which is fair enough, but I think it contributes to Breath of the Wild’s gameplay tremendously once you get used to it. It teaches you to become comfortable with other weapons you wouldn’t normally use, and that good weapons are scarce within the world. It doesn’t help that some enemies hit really hard, but that’s where parrying and dodging comes into play. Last minute dodges are awarded with flurry strikes, where time is slowed down and Link gets repeated attacks in, it’s not necessary, but there for those who are willing to risk it, it creates a unique little risk-reward system. Some weapons have elemental effects, some can catch fire, they all have different stats, and most can be thrown at enemies for a critical hit,. it creates so many options in combat and that’s without the use of sheikah slate runes and a bow. Archery in Breath of the Wild is the most refined it’s ever been, which can be controlled by gyro or control stick. Arrows are fairly scarce to begin with, and using them sparingly is probably for the best. Eventually you’ll develop a surplus, and come across elemental arrows which also need to be carefully maintained. Mid-air shooting or jumping off of a horse creates a slow motion mode where Link can get a precise shot in. The last thing I want to talk about is dungeons. Without spoiling anything, they’re innovative, unique, refreshing, and brand new concepts for Zelda. They’re some of the most fun I’ve had in a Zelda game, and I truly hope to see them return in some form in the future. Each dungeon caps off with a boss fight, which are fairly challenging in their own right, with weaknesses and weak points. Bosses can also be found in the over world, which was a weird change, but one that I got used to and one that I have come to appreciate.
A Beautiful Wilderness
I played Breath of the Wild on the brand new Nintendo Switch, and it was a graphical marvel. The game looks absolutely stunning with detailed character models, beautiful textures, incredible animations and level design. It is easily one of the prettiest games I have ever played, and the Nintendo Switch was an awesome console to play it on. The game runs at 900P in console mode and 720P in handheld mode, while running at 30fps with occasional frame drops, but they were never enough to hurt my experience with the game. The soundtrack is also absolutely amazing, with some incredible themes for different characters, situations, and environments. It also has the level of polish we come to expect from a Nintendo game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is everything I want and more from a Zelda game. It has an incredible open world that’s just begging to be explored, and experimented with. It’s plot is simple, but effective, with extremely lovable, mostly well voice acted characters. It’s gameplay systems fall nothing short of fantastic and create for an incredible survival experience where even the smallest details come into effect. This is all while the game looks and runs for the most part perfectly. The Legend of Zelda has once again set the standard for not only adventure games, but survival games too. Nintendo have really outdone themselves, and if it only gets better from here, we have one hell of a console generation on our hands.
-Strong plot with even stronger characters, and a Princess Zelda that has been extremely well done
-Robust, unique combat systems that keep you on your toes at all times
-Detailed, beautiful open world that’s begging to be explored
-Cooking and gathering of items
-Dungeons are well crafted and innovative
-Strong survival elements
-Incredible visuals and mostly strong performance
-Intricate character models and animations
Thanks for reading guys, sorry this one took so long. Up next is NieR: Automata, then I’ll do my Horizon review. I got caught up in Zelda and still haven’t finished Horizon.
Thanks again, Harry.