Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or sleeping for the last year in The Shrine of Resurrection, you are no doubt aware that Nintendo have bought out a new console and along with it a new Legend of Zelda game. The first Legend of Zelda appeared on the original Nintendo system in 1986, with nineteen main games since then (including Breath of The Wild) and a few spin off titles, it’s arguably as important in Nintendo’s brand and marketing as Super Mario.
The Zelda series has come a long a way since the beginning. Zelda has always had big worlds with lots to explore and side quests to achieve. But BoTW has taking it to the extreme. This world is massive; The Great Plateau where you start seems about the same size as Hyrule in Ocarina of Time. After unlocking several other areas of similar size that gives you a bit of perspective as to just how big this game is. Was it worth getting the Switch just for this?
I’ll avoid giving away major spoilers for the game so don’t worry. But a bit about the story below, so if you don’t want to know anything skip this section.
As Link you wake up with no memory of who you are in the Shrine of Resurrection, armed only with a device that looks strangely like the Switch Tablet called the Sheikah Slate. As you leave the shrine and enter Hyrule you get a vision of the landscape and just how big this place is. You then meet an old man (This references the original game) who tells you have been asleep for 100 years and it’s up to you to save Hyrule, Princess Zelda and defeat Calamity Ganon, a strange floating phantom like entity floating around Hyrule Castle.
The Great Plateau is where you start and The Old Man guides you to 4 other shrines where you will unlock tools for your Sheikah Slate. These allow you to manipulate your environment in particular ways to help you in other shrines and quests. After completing these four it is time to explore the rest of the world by jumping off the plateau with a paraglider The Old Man gives you.
When you first enter a new area you can’t see anything on your mini map, you must climb a tower in the area to unlock the map and see particular locations and geography in each section.
The exploration in this game is one of the major elements. After the Great Plateau you feel like a bird leaving the nest for the first time. The Old Man gives you brief directions of where to go but other than that the game never really holds your hand or tells you where to go. You learn from the beginning that you must visit 4 temples and complete them but you don’t actually know where they are.
Many NPC characters scattered throughout the world will give you advice on where to go, or even give quests to help you explore the world and distract you from the main quest. There are actually three different types of quests in BoTW;
- Main quest; these are quests central to the main story.
- Shrine Quests; these are particular quests you must do to unlock hidden shrines. After completing four shrines you can trade these in for more hearts or stamina.
- Side Quests; these are quests giving to you by NPC characters and range from collecting certain bugs to defeating a troublesome monster. All vary in reward and some are simple others may take longer and include numerous steps.
It is so easy to get distracted from the main quest of defeating Calamity Ganon in this game. Every rock and mountain you see is climbable, you’ll want to explore every last corner of this world looking for shrines, hidden treasures or even easter eggs. Traversing around the game is easy enough. You are able to catch and tame wild horses and leave them at one of the many stables located around Hyrule. Although if you don’t want to ride from East to West then you are able to fast travel to any tower or shrine you have discovered and glide off the edge of them to your next destination.
Combat and weapons in this game have also undergone a major change. Now you have room for multiple weapons in your inventory allowing you to change which one you wield. You’ll find weapons scattered throughout the world or can even take them from defeated enemies. You can even get fire arrows early on in the game. Nothing is locked to particular dungeons or linked to defeating a particular boss. However over time all weapons and shields will break so it is a good idea to stock up with similar level weapons when you go fight a boss or tackling an enemy camp. How you tackle enemy camps is totally up to you. You can go in sword swinging, picking them off with arrows or my personally favourite just burning their camp down.
Breath of The Wild also has a changing weather system, which affects the way you move around in the game. If it is raining it makes it easier to sneak up on enemies but the cliffs and mountains become slippery and impossible to climb. Think a thunderstorm is cool? Well try walking around in it with metallic objects! Along the way you discover clothes that help you in particular environments such as cool clothes in Gerudo Desert and warm clothes in the snowy mountains.
Making food and elixirs also comes into play with the environments. Scattered around the world you’ll find many ingredients to mix together to make recipes to give you hearts, protect you against climate or even boost defence, attack and stamina. A lot of this is just trial and error but you can also learn recipes from posters on walls or NPC’s. I got into crafting late after constantly being killed by a boss I couldn’t defeat, I just mixed random ingredients hoping for the best and to my surprise I actual created some half decent food.
First of all, VOICE ACTING! That’s right, we were teased this with the narrator in Hyrule Warriors but this game actually has cut scenes with full voice acting. For a Zelda game this works well, and is brilliantly executed. Naturally our protagonist Link does not have a voice. During non-cut scenes you are giving options of what to ask so he does talk to a certain extent. But during cut scenes he is silent and only talks through facial expression.
The music will be familiar to any Zelda fan. With rehashed versions of the classic themes all being included, I personally love the new main theme song that plays whilst you are travelling around the countryside and it adds that extra nostalgia to the Zelda games of the past.
The graphics are very similar to other games of the series; you’ll see the regular bright colours and character design. Some of the races of Hyrule have been given an upgrade and changed slightly from other games. Although Ocarina and Majora’s still had main characters from all the major races looking different a lot of the NPC’s still looked the same. Not this time, every person you talk to will be different to the last and even have their own name shown above them. Considering the amount of characters in this game that is an amazing feat. Playing this on the switch on both the television and tablet I noticed no difference in quality. Even the WiiU version is said to remain pretty close in standard.
You’ll be saying “wow” in this game a lot. When you first walk out of the shrine in the beginning and see the landscape, knowing you can go to those far off places is amazing. The little details you’ll notice are also amazing. One minute you’ll be travelling along and see something in the distance that catches your eye and you are just drawn to it and must go there immediately.
Thought I would add this section considering the switch is a new console and talk about how Zelda runs on it. I’ve heard that many people have had issues with their switch such as dead pixels on the tablet, one of the Joycon’s not working, etc. I experienced none of this, nor did I experience any frame rate drop. It ran smoothly on my television with no issues. I mostly played with the Joycon’s attached into the controller that comes with the Switch. I feel this is the best way to play it, the controller makes the Joycon’s feel like a N64 controller and it was quite comfortable to use. At first I thought I would have problems having big hands but this wasn’t the case. It was also weird going back to my Playstation shortly afterwards The Playstation controller felt so alien, whereas you’d think it would be the other way around.
I played on the tablet a fair bit too. I’m yet to take my switch out of the house as of yet but when my partner wanted to watch T.V I would play the switch. This felt a bit more odd. It didn’t feel as natural as the WiiU gamepad did. I think this has to do with the joystick placement. It took a bit of getting use to.
If you are considering getting a Switch but still on the fence I would recommend trying it in store or at a friends place first. The configuration isn’t going to be for everyone, but as a Nintendo and Zelda fanboy I had to get it day one. I have no regrets on this and I’m actually really enjoying it and interested to see how future release games run and use the controls.
So to answer my opening question, was it worth getting the Switch just for this? Short answer yes. Long answer yes, but if you aren’t a huge Nintendo or Zelda fan like myself I might suggest waiting till more games are out and there is a price drop. These seem to be the major reasons I have heard people not buying the Switch at launch. I’ve never bought a console at launch before and I’m not sure I will again, not that I regret my purchase in anyway. I just don’t think I will be this excited about a new console again for a while.
Back to Zelda, This game was amazing! It is everything I expected and so much more, I am not a huge fan of big open world games. I never finished Skyrim or Witcher 3 as I found some of the missions tedious or difficult. When I first started playing BoTW I started to think I wouldn’t enjoy this knowing it is such a big world, but then after I came back to it again and explored a lot more I started to really appreciate what they had done here and how they have made such a huge game yet it still has all the elements of a classic Zelda game. My only issue with the game really was that the final fight with Calamity Ganon seemed too easy and anticlimactic. There was one dungeon boss that I struggled with and died several times. Ganon however I died once and then on the second attempt managed to defeat him. The way in which you fight him is innovative but you are left with a feeling of “Was that it?”
- Amazing graphics
- Voice acting is great
- Immense landscape
- So many activities
- Great use of making recipes and elixirs
Really difficult to fault this game, but if I have to.
- Calamity Ganon boss fight is a bit lackluster