The first 10 minutes of Breath of the Wild cemented my feelings about this new iteration of the Zelda franchise. Never has Nintendo undergone such a massive scale open world title like this and if this is just the tip of the iceberg I am unabashedly excited for what comes next. From your first few moments in Hyrule you truly begin to understand just how “open” this world really is and the choices you can make are seldom limited. With past entries in the franchise giving a very linear feel in terms of progress and choice, BotW gives you all the tools you need in a very short time frame and offers you the world at large in whichever way you choose to tackle it.
The story behind it all is very well thought out but doesn’t make you feel in any way like you have to follow the path to progress or enjoy and at no time in my 70+ hours in the game did I feel I was missing out by not doing the main quest line. I was lucky to be 35 hours in before I even attempted the first main dungeon. The design of the main and miniature dungeons (shrines) that you come across in your travels through Hyrule have a great thought process to them and the greatest reward from these are not so much item based but knowledge based. Through figuring out methods of completing these shrines I was also taught how to use certain items in different ways which opened up a myriad of secrets for me in the overworld.
Areas that I had known had hidden gems about them now popped into mind with how to unveil them. This is also where the stamps on the map come into play. At any point during your travels if you see something of interest but aren’t quite ready to tackle it head on, or are in the middle of something more important, you can stamp the map screen with a variety of different markers, up to 100 times, so that you can return the area with the weapons and/or knowledge to complete your task.
Right off the bat you are introduced a fresh new system for Breath of Wild in regards to almost everything. Fan favorites are scattered throughout but in very different ways. The first time I got my hands on a boomerang I was pleasantly surprised to realise that if my reflexes weren’t fast enough to catch it on its way back around I would be weaponless in front of a group of enemies which never bodes well. Weapons are scattered throughout the world in many different shapes and sizes and everything handles in its own unique way from a simple sword and shield combo which is fast with good defences to a two-handed weapon such as an axe where you have to be quick to sheath the axe and bring up your shield if you want to defend or have quick enough reflexes to dodge at those crucial moments for a flurry attack. Towards the harder areas of Hyrule, enemies will begin to throw and fire projectiles which will force you to learn effective ways to use your shield to deflect and return fire.
The ability to climb almost anything is at first a cumbersome experience but as the game progresses you learn quicker ways to climb or even ways to reach the peak of an area without ever climbing at all. The use of the Sheikah slates abilities, which are all given very early on, is the key to uncovering a myriad of hidden areas with Breath of the Wild but are also great for preserving weapons among many other things. The game mechanics work within the confines of real world reactions such as firing a lightning based arrow in sunny weather compared to a rain storm or lighting a fire too close to dry grass with disastrous effects. The weather can also be very dangerous such as during a lightning storm, trees can be set ablaze by lightning strikes to Link being struck by lightning if he is equipped with any metal objects. This can also be used to your advantage. Sneaking up on an enemy camp and planting metal shields is a good laugh during a lightning storm.
Cooking is a great addition in BotW and has many practical uses early on for those willing to explore. Anything from haste elixirs to help speed up climbing to elixirs that help you brave the freezing peaks of Mount Hyrule. The perks and concoctions seem to be endless and it is a rewarding experience when you find the right recipe to help you overcome some of the challenges this sometimes brutal landscape can throw your way.
The side quests that can be found and tracked throughout the game add a lot of knowledge similar to the shrines in that it gives you more perspective on how to use the items and abilities you already have at your disposal but in new and exciting ways that will help you uncover so much more of what this rich, vast and awe inspiring landscape has to offer.
With combat feeling natural, the exploration being unencumbered by “having the right song, weapon or upgrade” and even the NPCs having a diverse range of reactions based on time of day and sometimes even attire, everything feels right from the moment you step into this world.
As you can see from the screenshots, which were all taken with the Switch screen capture function, the art direction is stunning. The vast changes in scenery and landscape from area to area feel like a natural progression. Travelling from the steaming peaks of the Eldin Mountains to the Icy peak of Mount Lanayru has a great transition and you even begin to notice subtle differences in the weather in each area. So many times throughout my travels I was stopping and taking in the awe inspiring landscapes. Watching the time progression and seeing a sunrise so beautifully rendered felt like it had no right being as amazing as it was.
The overworld of Hyrule itself is stunning but it’s the subtlety that really does this game justice. From watching a light breeze pass through grassy fields and seeing the wind ripple the lake beyond it to seeing leaves on trees and rocks laid about a forest be peppered by raindrops. The work that has gone into making Hyrule feel like a living, breathing place is awe-inspiring to say the least.
As with every entry into the Zelda series, the game is nothing without its rich soundtrack. Some of the music throughout the game has subtle throwbacks to old songs prevalent in the history of the franchise but it is all used to perfection. Boss fights in shrines have their own unique theme in comparison to the overworld bosses you can stumble across and each enemy has their own little indicator in the way of a perfectly executed score. The wildlife all have their own unique sounds and identifiers and, as I previously mentioned, all of these subtle additions really make this world feel alive and vibrant.
Many a time I found myself humming songs and not realising what they were until I encountered a certain enemy or scenario once again. I will always remember the first time I heard the Lost Woods theme in Ocarina of Time and the first time I heard the sunrise theme in Wind Waker and I am positive I will remember many moments purely by their soundtrack from Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild is a great entry point for new comers to the series as well as a great addition for those hardcore fans. With such a diverse range of items, weapons and abilities as well as even more ways than you can think of to use them it is hard to run of areas to explore and new ways to play. The fact that, from very early on, you can go whichever way you chose means every player will create their own unique experience which is what the basis of a great open world title should be. This is a must have game for any Zelda fan, open world fan and Wii U/Switch owner. I dare say this is the new generations Ocarina of Time and we will be talking about Breath of the Wild for decades to come.
- A more personalised experience due to non linear gameplay
- The level of content is more than any previous entry has had by a huge margin
- The story is well played out but doesn’t feel like it is forcing you to follow it and no sense that you are missing key elements of gameplay by not doing so
- Motion puzzles can be difficult depending on your control style (pro controller doesn’t do well for motion)
Reviewed by Troy