From its immediate introduction, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ensues a feeling of wonderment that carries on through the rest of the game. You begin with Link’s awakening, a hundred years have passed since the hero of Hyrule was laid to rest by Princess Zelda, in the Shrine of Resurrection. After a century’s sleep, it’s rude to keep a princess waiting any longer — she’s been preoccupied keeping Ganon at bay after all this time. As promptly as Breath of the Wild begins, you soon find yourself venturing out into this immense open-world. There is a sense of discovery waiting to happen when you first step into Hyrule. The vast landscapes across the distance seem to make Link feel small in comparison. As soon as the title for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild drops, you truly begin your long awaited adventure.
There is an overarching story to follow along, with the main quest line leading you to ultimately defeating Calamity Ganon. How you reach the end of the game is entirely up to you; if you’re up to the challenge you can even speedrun yourself to Hyrule Castle to face Ganon head on with little help. I found myself ignoring the story frequently, which isn’t a bad thing here. You’re so caught up with the world around you that you’ll forget to advance through the story sometimes. Did I mention there’s now voice acting? It’s definitely weird hearing Princess Zelda speaking to Link in cutscenes, and occasionally the voice acting will feel out of place. There were instances were it was great for certain characters in the game, but generally okay for the most part. Thankfully Breath of the Wild now supports dual audio, with multiple languages available. This is considerable for those who didn’t like the English voice acting all that much.
With a ton of side quests and shrines to distract you with, there are plenty of activities for you to keep busy with. Exploring is without a doubt the most fun in Breath of the Wild, the wilderness comes alive with the various types of animals and plants you’ll run into. There is an abundance of resources to gather and hunt, with Link never leaving empty-handed anywhere he travels. With so many ingredients available to use, you’ll feel like a master chef when you whip up a cool recipe. Preparing and cooking a meal replenishes your hearts back, and even gives you in-game buffs to get a foot ahead. A greatly welcomed addition to the game!
Breath of the Wild is a charming game, and quite a looker in its own right. Its not the sharpest looking title by any account, but artistically it stands among the many games I’ve played this past year. There is something delightful about the aesthetics found in Breath of the Wild. The townsfolk are all designed well and are altogether fascinating. Even enemies are appealing in their own way, everything is nicely put together and perfectly matches the tone of the game. Another pleasant design choice is the game’s interface and menu, everything is laid out nicely and organized in tabs. With how much you’ll horde, having a clean layout helps navigate through your items faster. Although I wish you could favorite tabs to a hotkey, that way you have access to items even faster. Something I found bothersome in the gameplay was the combat, there were instances when the frame-rate would dip, slowing down the pace of the fight to almost a halt sometimes. This is unfortunate in a game so incredible, but fortunately it doesn’t happen all that much and Nintendo has been great with their steady updates to Breath of the Wild.
Gone are the ways of linear progression found in most of the Legend of Zelda games. Breath of the Wild gives players access to every ability very early on. From the start, you uncover the most important tool in the game. The Sheikah Slate, a significant key item that allows you to access your abilities and map. There are four abilities to use in the game, each with a different function and element to the gameplay. These are called Runes, which serve to replace the traditional tools found in earlier Legend of Zelda titles. This really opens up different kinds of possibilities of playing the game. Some of the creativity that comes from the use of runes are very unconventional in the best kind of way. You’ll find yourself coming up with all sorts of ways to manipulate your abilities, oftentimes on unsuspecting enemies. There are no boundaries to how you explore, fight, and overall play Breath of the Wild. Freedom and creativity is your ultimate path to victory, and Breath of the Wild gives you the necessary tools to succeed.
There is very little handholding in Breath of the Wild, and a lot of climbing. You’re really just tossed into this grand world and have to make your way with little help. Some will find the game a bit daunting at times, but perhaps the biggest satisfaction comes from delving straight into the game, without any guide to see you through your journey. The difficulty will mostly come from how open-ended Breath of the Wild really is. Since there aren’t much tutorials outside of the starting area in the game, The Great Plateau. You mostly learn the ins and outs by just playing and figuring out as you move along in the world. But the bulk of the frustration comes directly from the combat and weapon system. When you first get into the game, you’ll probably find the combat a bit troublesome. The weapon degradation certainly doesn’t help when you haven’t yet mastered the mechanics of dodging and fighting. I can’t count the amount of weapons I’ve broken in the middle of a fight, only to find out I’ve used up my best weapons earlier in battle. Some will love or hate this new system, but Breath of the Wild does a great job of providing you with a copious supply of weapons throughout Hyrule. You can loot any enemy you kill, which provides you with a constant stock of equipment to use against your foes. There’s never a shortage of something better to find, with loot around almost every corner.
The conventional Legend of Zelda dungeons are mostly replaced by Shrines, there are 120 to discover and solve. Each shrine offers something different each time, but ultimately leads you to solving some sort of puzzle. There are differences between the look and layout of each shrine, all vary in difficulty. Some test your strength and willfulness to fight, having you defeat a stubborn guardian scout. Other times you’ll find yourself stumbling across a quest in order to complete a shrine (these were usually my favorite to do). Some will miss the memorable dungeons from past Legend of Zelda titles, but shrines are greatly implemented here. With so many to complete, they are scattered across all of Hyrule for you to discover at your own pace. If you have trouble locating them, the Sheikah Slate does a modest job at giving you a general idea of where one might be hiding. Completing a shrine gives you a Spirit Orb, collecting four of them allows you to exchange them for either a heart container or a stamina vessel.
Saving Hyrule can wait when you’re free to roam around anywhere you please. Breath of the Wild is colossal in size, not just in the open world, but in how much thought and detail was put into this newfound Hyrule. The present elements around you change the way you play the game. Fires will go out in the rain, you begin to lose hearts if you’re not properly equipped for the various types of climates you’ll face. You’ll soon learn to plan ahead on your adventures before trekking out to an undiscovered area ill-prepared. The stamina bar returns, reminding you to sometimes enjoy the scenery ahead and catch your breath. Much like the hearts, stamina can be upgraded. It’s really your choice on what to upgrade, but I recommend increasing your stamina early on. If you’re any decent at combat, you won’t miss an extra heart or two earlier on in the game. It isn’t until you progress further on that you’ll get to encounter more difficult enemies. As they progressively get a lot tougher to take down, with Lynels giving you a run for your money.
Much like the dungeons, boss fights have been revamped in Breath of the Wild. Instead of your zany and unique bosses found in previous Legend of Zelda games, Nintendo opted for a more modest design here. Not to say the boss fights in Breath of the Wild aren’t enjoyable, they’re just not that remarkable or distinctive from one another. The bosses you’ll fight through the four Divine Beasts are all a form of Calamity Ganon, each with almost identical appearances. After your first encounter with one, you’ll feel like you’ve already fought them all. Seemingly the most engaging puzzles are found within the four Divine Beasts, dispersed around Hyrule. These mechanical giants were once ancient warriors piloted by champions, now overtaken and corrupted by Calamity Ganon. They act and operate much like a dungeon, and all feature different layouts from each other. They’re all structured after different animals, in fact. Freeing a divine beast returns them to their champion, which unlocks a charged ability that Link can use to his advantage. My favorite one is of course the most overpowered one, Urbosa’s Fury. Freeing all four champions trapped within the Divine Beasts aids Link in his battle against Calamity Ganon. This makes the looming fight with Ganon much more effortless, and honestly even without the the help of the champions, the fight is pretty straight forward and isn’t much of a challenge. Maybe it’s because by the end I had about twenty hearts and every weapon worth wielding, and I’ve had enough practice with various types of enemies leading up to the fight.
There isn’t much I can complain about my time spent with Breath of the Wild, through my fifty hour adventure I explored as much as I could. Searched out various shrines across Hyrule, fought countless enemies, died too many times to count, and genuinely had the most pleasant Legend of Zelda experience to date. The sheer scale and scope of the game truly outshines any Zelda title before it, maybe the story isn’t as memorable or traditional as past games in the series, but Breath of the Wild really captivates you and won’t let you put the game down. I really let myself get absorbed into the atmosphere and took my time with my first playthrough. From its seamless exploration and the incredible discovery waiting to happen when you first begin your adventure. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the absolute pinnacle of what a Zelda game should be.