I’ve had a lot of time mentally and physically preparing to play Breath of the Wild, as a long-time fan of the series with a triforce tattoo on my arm I knew this would be a game worth waiting for. I have plenty to say on this game so be aware from the start there will be a summary at the end which will attempt to fit in all my emotions.
While I was expecting the game to get a few good reviews here and there I could never have predicted the amount of 10/10s this game got, while it makes me happy to see that amount of praise, you must realise that brings a lot of people’s expectations way up to the top. With all this said let’s get into my review. I’ve played on both WiiU and Switch so comparisons will be drawn upon.
Breath of the Wild is the latest entry in the Zelda series, unlike typical 3D Zelda games, BotW takes place in an open world, yes, I know “oh boy another open world game”, well trust me I’ll get to that bit. With an open world, a lot of tropes have been moved aside for ones that work with the rules of the world. Weapons are found with durability and to survive in the wild you must cook food or find armour to get through certain areas. This open world also brings a sense of an open story. From the start, you wake up 100 years after a great battle that happened in the land of Hyrule. You have no memory of who you are or what your purpose is. You go through a typical tutorial area of the map but once this is complete you have miles to traverse with free will, there is no restriction to stop you going anywhere. If you really want, you can go straight to the final boss. This will likely kick your ass unless you’re on speed running levels of completion. The point is that it’s there, the quest stays in your log from the start as an overarching goal for you to deal with. I love this amount of freedom, with it I tried to sneak straight to the end and was laughing when I made it in unharmed, only to then die multiple times and run away.
If you really want, you can go straight to the final boss. This will likely kick your ass unless you’re on speed running levels of completion.
The more typical route of completion is to explore the world and meet all the typical Zelda races like Goron and Zora, each race has their own story to explore and a main story dungeon with fancy rewards for completion. By completing each story, you make the final boss easier. This is a good incentive in the game to keep exploring and working towards the end, it makes the end feel so much like a culmination of all your actions in the world, almost giving the feeling that the end its self is a reward to the player for working so hard. However, you must understand that these dungeons are really the only main dungeons, and have a sense of repetition about them, they all include you making your way into the dungeon, finding the map and then fighting the boss at the end, they don’t do much to diverse themselves from each other, and the boss is just another variant of the same villain. I do give credit to the mechanics of the dungeons though, they allow you to move portions of the map itself to help solve puzzles.
While I’ve made it sound as if the only puzzles you find are in the story, there’s plenty to do in the open world. Shrines are Breaths mini dungeons scattered around the entirety of the map with a total of 120 to find and complete. Shrines have a lot of variety with puzzle solutions but not with appearance, and serve as teleportation points across the map, this isn’t the only incentive to complete then however, as completing 4 gives you the ability to upgrade your heart or stamina container, yes stamina is a big part of this game. Stamina determines how far you can run, climb or glide, you will need plenty of it to reach some areas in the game or complete a puzzle, meaning that you’ll find yourself choosing between more hearts or more stamina a lot of the time. Aside from shrines there are plenty of side quests to pick up from npcs, most of these are typical fetch quests where you need x of one item. These are typically not necessary on don’t really have a lot of use to the player aside from maybe some rupees as a reward, I found myself ignoring most of these unless it sounded like an interesting thing to find or see. Like side quests, shrine quests are riddle based puzzles mainly that upon completion reveals a shrine to the player, meaning that you will be solving them if you want to beat all 120. The other thing to do aside from what you find yourself is the Korok seeds. Korok seeds are rewards for completing small one time puzzles that can be traded for inventory space, there are over 400 of these in the map so chances are you will find some of them just by playing the main story.
The whole point of doing all these extra activities is to build your knowledge and arsenal, you are building the ultimate collection of weapons and armour to beat the final boss and you will visibly see this as you start with sticks and rusty swords as your defence until you find yourself wielding elemental great swords and one shotting early enemies. In typical 3D Zelda you will usually have a main sword slot as well as utility items like boomerangs, hooks, slingshots or deku leaf’s, in BotW most of these items don’t exist or are a result of a weapon. You can won’t be finding hooks or slingshots but that’s not to say you can throw a sword or find boomerangs that you could typically just use as a melee weapon. You’ll find yourself irritated in the early stages of the game as your weapons tend to only last a fight or two. This sound frustrating at first but with the early game you will likely be building a collection of low tier weapons, they won’t last long but you’ll have plenty of them to keep moving forward. This talk also brings me to the monsters you encounter, there’s not too many variations of them for a massive open world, in fact you fight find yourself having little interaction with them, this might depend on your playstyle however, as I spent 20% time building towards the boss and the rest of the time exploring areas and completing shrines/quests.
Now you may be aware that BotW released as the final major WiiU game as well as the first major Switch title. Both versions play similarly, the Switch is in fact the port in this scenario. The switch feels and looks crispier, there’s something about the WiiU version that makes the game look blurry or a bit dull compared to the colours of the switch, this might be due to having the 2 screens of the U. This shows a lot when you compare both handheld version of the game, the switch puts out a crispy image across both screens where the WiiU takes hits on the smaller screen with visual fidelity. Frames don’t vary too much between the console, however they both had noticeable drops in the first area of the game which quickly disappeared once I made it to the rest of the map, you still may notice occasional drops however when there’s lots of foliage or trees on screen.
I’m talking a lot about minor negatives, this is because I’ve seen way too many 100%, 10/10 reviews which ignore anything wrong with the game. The game is amazing in no doubt, but I’d like to see reviews talk about the negatives instead of saying it’s perfect, while there’s no problem with a 10/10 I still find it important to talk a lot about what could have been improved, the more time people play the more they notice negatives and may feel differential about their score. So I want to start looking at the things I absolutely love about this game before I try summarise everything.
Breath of the Wild has an excellent world, a lot of open worlds use exciting spaces incorrectly and constantly pressure the player to complete a quest, BotW give the player freedom to explore and interact as they choose, the fact that the final boss quest just lingers over you the whole time feels like the game is saying “here’s this, feel free to do it when you feel ready :)”, which is a really welcome feeling in a massive world like this. The music, while not as massive as previous Zelda games, helps to set an atmosphere, it blends into the background and knows when to turn the volume up and make a memorable moment. I also love uncovering the history of the world through links memories which you find and unlock through the game. The characters are all very likeable and charming even if some of the English voice acting may sounds a bit meh. I loved exploring the vast world at my own pace on handheld travelling, moving around or going to toilet. The ability to change around how I was playing on the Nintendo Switch felt fun every time I did it, even if it was just taking the controllers off the grip.
The main success with Breath of the Wild is in fact the freedom and world, the way the player interacts with it can make for a range of different experiences and even allows new discovers on a second playthrough. As a Zelda game it makes some interesting changes to the existing formula that are completely welcome. While I don’t imagine Nintendo creating another open world experience like this I am glad that they did it with this game and it sits high on the list of my favourite Zelda games. The way it handles progression and failure is all at the hand of the player, you know if you need to work harder or find better gear. I haven’t even mentioned all the tricks you can learn, you might see something online that you could have never imagined would be possible, meaning that you can explore different playstyles and runs of the game. You will feel the impact of all your actions as you begin the final fight against series legend Ganon. Breath of the Wild is an excellent adventure with an open world that is fun to explore and uncover, because of this I have still played on hours after the final boss, with areas still to explore. If you have a WiiU there is no harm in buying it, if you don’t have either console the Switch is the more recommended place to start with an excellent handheld and TV option.
As a Zelda game it makes some interesting changes to the existing formula that are completely welcome.
Whether you’re an explorer, fighter or speedrunner, Breath of the Wild brings an experience that lingers long in your memory, it deserves praise and more than one playthrough. While it does meet the highest expectations, there are still small annoyances that can tick off certain players.
I label this game as one of the best Zelda experiences with a 9/10.