It’s time to wake up Link.
Breath of the Wild is in a lot of ways a very un-Zelda like Zelda game. It doesn’t feature a linear story, you don’t unlock new items as the game progresses and you don’t even have to do any of the dungeons if you don’t feel like it. By sacrificing many traditions of the series Nintendo has created a very memorable game that is certain to be recognised as the most unique game in the series, but is it any good?
Story wise the game actually follows a pretty familiar formula with you playing as Link, the hero, and you must rescue the princess Zelda from the clutches of the evil Ganon (this time being called Calamity Ganon). On the surface this seems to be the same old formula however from the very start things are not as they seem as you find yourself waking up from a 100 year slumber after, surprise surprise, you already lost the battle and Hyrule is in ruins. It’s up to you then to recover your legendary sword,recover your lost memories, meet new characters and gather as much help as you can to defeat Calamity Ganon once and for all this time. Of course this is only the main story, and if you wish you can completely ignore it and just do side missions, explore the world, or even just go fight Calamity Ganon yourself if you’re feeling brave and/or mad enough. The general theme of this new game is choice and freedom and by giving players control over not only how the main story progresses but also how you spend your time in the game it helps you to develop your own stories and tales alongside a generic fantasy tale of saving a princess. Changing the strict format of previous games to a more open ended fable has most definitely helped this game to tell a more interesting story.
The presentation is extremely impressive for the technology being used. While it may not be the prettiest game developed or may not have the best looking textures or even the smoothest framerate the art style and general presentation of the game helps to mask what should be a lesser graphical experience. True to the name of this game the open wilderness and nature is very much a prominant theme throughout the game, making use of bright colours, epic lighting and a softer tone of the world to bring to life a much more believable Hyrule than we have experienced in the past. Of course this also contrasts with the heavy ancient technology theme of the game that helps to mix with an almost apocalyptic feeling when you adventure. The game is huge, but also rather bleak and empty and yet due to how the game is presented it doesn’t ever feel overly depressing or out of character for a game all about adventure. The music while not exactly the most stand-out of the series does match the themes presented as subtle ambient music or quiet jaunty tunes play in the background to help you feel more immersed in the world while still also providing a nice tune to hum along to as you ride on horseback. As a first for the Zelda series too some cutscenes include voiced dialogue and while it is a bit jarring to hear normal voices in some scenes and then going back to mute text I do like the performances shown in this game, especially the newly designed Zelda who turns out to be the most interesting and most relatable iteration of the character to date. However as mentioned before the framerate does eventually become an issue and while it isn’t exactly a dealbreaker it does take you out of the experience every once in a while, especially when the game momentarily freezes at times due to the amount of particle effects on screen.
The gameplay is where this title really differentiates itself from the series. Yes this game is now a full open world meaning you can go anywhere and do pratically almost anything. Go cook all the fruits in the world to make delicious meals, catch insects or hunt animals, buy a house and decorate it, quest like the normal series, focus on grinding enemies for the best gear, the choice really is yours to make. It feels like it took a lot of inspiration from other games over the past few years. Shadow of the Colossus (perhaps once of the biggest influencers), Dark Souls, Skyrim, Portal and many other games are represented in a very Zelda-like way and serve to help make the game stand out more. There’s a much bigger emphasis on survival this time around with you having to keep an eye out on your temperature, where enemies are and ensuring that your weapons are properly maintained otherwise they will break. This game is also probably the hardest entry in the franchise as I found myself frequently dying in a single hit to normal monsters that I wasn’t prepared for. You need to approach each encounter with the right equipment and be ready to parry, dodge and block your way to victory. I like the bigger emphasis on skill and swordsmanship in this title meaning that you really need to get better in how you engage combat, perhaps even opting to focus on stealth and archery instead. The new dungeons too are very unique and exciting every time you go into one. Not only do you have Trial Dungeons that are scattered around the land that test your skills on solving puzzles or combat and give you rewards for doing so but the actual main dungeons are very different from previous games being much smaller scale but providing the same amount of complexity and diversity of other entries.
Life isn’t all peachy however and I did find some faults with the game that frustrated me quite frequently. Firstly I’m not sure if it was just the controller I was using but moving Link around was an absolute pain, especially for making precise and small movements. Tilting my analog stick ever so slightly in a single direction would send Link flying off that way and possibly falling off a cliff. This is especially frustrating when in the water as the swimming mechanics are way too slow and feel incredibly clunky to use. In a particular boss fight I was frequently killed due to simply not having enough control over Link while in the water. These issues are also compounded by the camera that frequently aims to plot against you. Especially in small environments the camera likes to be at incredibly awkward angles making it difficult to see where you are facing and I feel as though this game may have benefited from having the ability to go into a first person perspective to solve these problems, even if it was just to help focus on an enemy while fighting them in an enclosed space. Finally I’m not a huge fan of the weapon degradation as while it may be realistic in some ways and help force you to use the diverse set of weapons available to you in the game there’s no way to repair many of the weapons in the game, even when you get into the late game stages. This is an absolute shame as there are some incredibly well designed weapons that I basically don’t use unless I am forced into an incredibly difficult encounter so that I can conserve the durability on them.
Despite all this however I still enjoyed playing the game immensely. While I may not praise it as highly as some other publications by giving it a perfect score it still is well worth your time to play it if you are a fan of Zelda, Open World Games or RPGs in general. Also if you are wondering about getting a switch just to play this consider just playing the Wii U version as the differences between the games are minimal at best. I still have plenty more to do in the game and I am not even close to being finished so you will most definitely get your money’s worth out of playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.