Having just purchased a Nintendo Switch last month, I’ve been indulging in a good number of quality titles, from Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Snipperclips…However, no other title has been able to captivate me quite as much as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild…
Now, I feel it’s important to state right off the bat that I’m no Zelda expert – I’ve played a little bit of Ocarina of Time, about half of Twilight Princess, completed Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, and a small amount of Link to the Past…So delving into the “New Re-imagining” of the Legend of Zelda formula was a bit daunting, to tell the truth. I hadn’t grown up with the past games’ stories and adventures, nor had I built a connection to Link, Zelda, or the reoccurring villain of the franchise, Ganondorf – All I knew was to go in blind, and to experience this title as it came to me.
And hoo boy, what a god-damned amazing adventure I’m having so far.
Starting off awakening to a magical light in his dreams, Link arises from a pool of glowing liquid inside of a sort of tomb, known only as the Shrine of Resurrection – Guided by the voice in his head, Link adventures into the outside world, the large open expanse of Hyrule Kingdom to meet an old traveller who tells him of the threat bearing over the entire kingdom – Calamity Ganon – At first, I did think the name was rather…Silly…I mean, if my parents named me “Calamity Gribble”, I’d probably expect to be bullied quite a bit…Safe to say that Ganon here probably was tormented quite a bit…And as such has enveloped the legendary Hyrule Castle in his dark energy, transforming into this bizarre snake-like creature of pure malice – Entombed inside of Hyrule Castle remains Princess Zelda, last of a band of warriors known as the “Champions of Hyrule”, where she contains Ganon, alone.
Our goal is set straight from the get-go, escape the Great Plateau, find the ancient sage Impa, a descendant of a tribe of technologically supreme individuals known as the Sheikah (We’ll get onto this in a minute), and claim control of beings known as “Divine Beasts”, ancient Sheikah weapons created to guard Hyrule, from Calamity Ganon’s clutches…
…Or not – For the first time in Zelda history, you could very well just waltz up to Hyrule Castle, Tree Branches in hand, with nothing but the bare cloth on your back and somehow beat Ganon. Or you could ignore everything and just commit to a life of pilgrimage – Thankfully there’s no time limit, so you really can do as you please. This also applies to the Divine Beasts, whom you can tackle in whatever order you desire – This feeling of true freedom really did bring back memories of one of my favourite titles, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind for me, as whilst I was just mindlessly exploring, I would find various Shrines (This game’s form of dungeons, of which there are 120 of them in the world which grant you Spirit Orbs to upgrade your Hearts or Stamina), Korok Puzzles (Of which there are 900 of, used to purchase upgrades to your storage) and other little minigames and distractions – There’s also a total of 70 side quests for players to enjoy, with a few more added on through the game’s two DLC packs.
Gameplay in Breath of the Wild is extremely fluent, fast and methodical, with a huge array of weaponry from spears, javelins, swords, broadswords, pitchforks, wands and more, including your trusty bow and elemental arrows for that added tactical advantage – Every enemy has weak spots, every boss has some form of breakable part, and every situation has unlimited ways to combat it – Sneaking around a complex base where guards are patrolling around? Throw an item like a set of bananas or a rare gem on the floor to distract them and get the advantage, or take them head on – Perhaps use one of your Shiekah Runes attached to the game’s main key item, the Sheikah Slate to gain the upper hand? On the topic of Shiekah Runes, Link can make use of regenerative bombs (Both spherical and cuboid), magnetism, cryogenic freezing of liquids, and time stasis for an interesting mix of fresh abilities – Being able to plant a bomb in a cart, detonate it, magnetise a metal block and stop time to drop that block on unsuspecting enemies before leaping off the cart, forming a platform for you to step on in a river is just one way to use the most out of your abilities – The possibilities and applications of these unique powers is truely impressive, and simple to learn.
With the world of Hyrule, there are a large number of varied locations to navigate, preventing any form of true stagnation from forming through pure exploration – From the dry sandy expanses of the Gerudo Desert, to the flat ruins of Central Hyrule, to the marshlands of the Zora Highlands, volcanic cliffsides of the Goron Range and Death Mountain, all the way to the large canyons and snowy peaks of the Rito Village; these unique locations each have a special form of hazard to deal with, be it roaming autonomous turrets in the form of Guardians in Central Hyrule, to trying not to die of overheating and underheating in the blazing days and freezing nights of the Gerudo Desert, to just trying not to spontaneously combust around Death Mountain – Things like food, elements and weapons are all effected by the weather, with some being stronger in one area, and weaker in another, or food freezing or cooking in their respective environments – The attention to what would normally be a hugely annoying mechanic is astounding, and how in the hell they prevented it from being unfriendly to users is beyond me.
Food is another important part of Breath of the Wild, with nearly everything you gather in the game being able to be cooked in some way, shape or form to create lively dishes for Link to eat, heal from, and get benefits and buffs; since there’s no outright health potions, knowing what ingredients to put with which other parts is surprisingly important, and teaches you to understand what you’re cooking, where you’re cooking, and not to neglect your items. It’s certainly a hell of a step up from something like Skyrim where you just click a string of characters and your item pops out like it’s just come out of an Easy-Bake Oven.
However, Breath of the Wild isn’t without it’s fair share of faults, either – A lot of the plot and background story is very well hidden in specific locations or characters, through Memories that Link has to ‘unlock’ by finding a specific area of the map – So far I’ve played Breath of the Wild alongside my partner, Clarice, for a total of around 75 hours with two playthroughs, and not only haven’t we beaten the game yet, but we’ve only found around 55 Shrines, 130 Korok Seeds, and 3 measly Memories – This does mean the game lasts a heck of a lot longer than you’d expect, however trying to find these Memories without a guide can be excruciatingly painful.
Enemy variety, or rather the lack of enemy variety is another important complaint Breath of the Wild faces – Despite Hyrule being absolutely massive in size, there are only the following enemies:
- Bokoblins (And their skeletal variants)
- Moblins (And their skeletal variants)
- Lizals (And their skeletal variants)
- Tiny Talus’es
- Guardians (Broken)
- Guardians (Walking)
- Guardians (Flying)
- Guardian Scouts
- Yiga Soldiers (Melee)
- Yiga Soldiers (Ranged)
- Yiga Soldiers (Heavy)
- Skeletal Heads
That’s it. 18 main types of enemies throughout the game. Yes, these enemies do have alternative versions that increase their damage and health, like Red, Blue, Black, White and Gold Bokoblins, but you do get rather bored of them the 10,000’th time you’ve faced them. It’s a shame that most enemies in this title weren’t region-based, as the amount of variety that could’ve provided us would’ve been absolutely more than substantial.
Other than those few points, though, it’s extremely difficult to try and even find a single other complaint with Breath of the Wild – The game is exactly what the Switch needed to get out of the gates extremely fast; a system seller that not only proves the value of the system, but even outperforms other systems’ exclusives (Barring some notable examples, like Horizion Zero Dawn) whilst it shines brighter than them.
For these reasons, I’ll be giving The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a 9.5 / 10.