Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
You wake up after 100 years of slumber. You don’t recognize the land or its inhabitants but everybody is claiming that you are the returning hero. A hero that failed to defeat evil 100 years ago. Now, you get another chance, another try to rescue the fallen kingdom from the great evil that is Calamity Ganon. It’s time to discover your past and fight for your future, it’s time to become the hero everybody is expecting you to be.
A new experience right from the start
We had to wait a little longer but the moment is finally here, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released for Nintendo Switch and Wii U. We played the Nintendo Switch version and were surprised by the innovation right from the start. Breath of the Wild handles things differently and moves away from the formula we all know. No longer will you follow a set path where you have to defeat boss after boss in several dungeons. Breath of the Wild gives you a crazy amount of freedom, freedom to go wherever you want to go. This change is noticeable right from the start.
If you played other 3D Zelda games before, you might remember those rather long and boring tutorials where the game showed you everything about the camera and lock system, well that’s gone now. In Breath of the Wild, you wake up from your slumber and you’re immediately taken to The Great Plateau, an open environment that’s open for your adventures. This area serves as some kind of tutorial to master the new controls and map but it never feels like a tutorial. While you’re playing, you’ll never have the feeling that the developers are holding your hand. The missions on The Great Plateau are fun to complete and you can decide in which order you like to complete them. Once you do, you’ll be granted with special powers such as bomb throwing, magnetic powers and others. Once you collected those, you’re able to jump from the Plateau and discover the true scale of Breath of the Wild.
A brave new world
The open world is the true star of this game and it must be said, it’s huge. The Great Plateau is only a fragment of what the game truly has to offer since the rest of the map is filled with interesting locations to discover. In my preview, I was worried about the emptiness of the world but those worries disappeared when I discovered the first village on the map. I won’t spoil anything here but discovering the different villages and its inhabitants is what transforms your experience from good to great. The characters are interesting to meet and the villages are extremely impressive. The villages are created with a lot of care and a lot of details, veteran players will be more than happy to meet returning characters after such a long time.
An instant classic
Before you enter the first village, the game plays more like a survival game where you need to find the right weapons and cook the right food to eat. Although that’s a fun experience, it didn’t really feel like a Zelda game, to be honest. The story really kicks off after you meet the first character in the village, explaining to you what happened 100 years ago. From that moment, you’ll play a true Zelda game using a new formula. You’re tasked to solve several missions at the same time but how and in what order is entirely up to you. The freedom to go wherever you want is something good but it also makes it a lot harder than previous games.
Not an easy task
Veteran players will be up for a challenge since Breath of the Wild is without a doubt a lot harder than other Zelda games. The main reason for this is the appearance of the Guardians. These machines turned rogue and attack you on sight. They attack with a laser beam and if it hits you, it’s an instant kill. Avoiding Guardians is a better idea than trying to kill them since it will take a lot of practice and better weapons in order to really bring them down. Besides Guardians, the world of Breath of the Wild is filled with enemies. You can handle most with ease but the bigger enemies always are dangerous to encounter. I died a lot more in this game than I did in previous Zelda games. This is because of the strong enemies and the freedom you get.
Since your main missions are rather open and often offer multiple choices at once, you can and up in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the main missions is to free four Divine Beasts for example. The order is left open but this resulted in me traveling to the wrong place twice. It’s nothing game-breaking since it made my travel easier later on, but it can become slightly frustrating to learn that you’re not ready to be somewhere yet. That’s because traveling in the world of Breath of the Wild can be hard due to the enemies you run into and the weapons you’re currently holding. You’ll travel a lot by foot and climb a lot of mountains trying to reach your location so once you’re finally there, you’re hoping you’re up for the job. If not, you’ll need to travel to another point of the map. To make this a little easier, Nintendo made sure it created enough fast-travel points.
Shrines and towers
Besides the main missions, shrines and towers are the most important landmarks on the map. If you climb the towers and sync your Sheikah Slate, you’ll get the detailed map of that district. Having this map is crucial to find your way to your next mission. Towers you conquered also become fast-travel points so you’ll be able to travel to previously visited points with just one push of the button. Most towers are easy to conquer but some are guarded by groups of enemies and will prove rather challenging to conquer.
Shrines are the second way to create fast-travel points in the world. A Shrine contains a puzzle that you used to find in the dungeons of the main games. Each Shrine has a different puzzle and demands a different tactic to solve. In Shrines, you’ll be using your special powers (freezing time and more) most since they always carry the key to the solution. Clearing Shrines isn’t only good for creating extra travel points. It also gives you a Spirit Orb. Collect four of those and you can add one extra heart or stamina bar to your character. You’re never forced to use those Spirit Orbs, so if you want to play on hard mode, you can continue with the three hearts you get from the start.
A lot of items to collect
Since the Shrines replace the classic dungeons, you might wonder how you can get new weapons and gear. Well, you’ll need to find it in the world or take it from enemies. Unlike other Zelda games, the game doesn’t give you certain weapons at certain points (exceptions excluded). If you want new weapons, you’ll need to find them or you’ll need to defeat enemies carrying those weapons. This is a crucial strategy in survival since you’ll be able to go way further if you’re holding stronger weapons. The only downside about these weapons is that they easily break, leaving you behind with weaker weapons. It’s very important to carry enough powerful weapons when you’re facing difficult enemies. Breath of the Wild forces you the rethink your strategy over and over again, it forces you to play it very differently from what you’re used to.
Weapons aren’t the only thing you’ll need. In the world, you’ll find a lot of ingredients to cook. Depending on what kind of ingredient you use, you’ll be able to create certain dishes. Some of those are needed to cool down in hot areas or warm up in colder areas. Food and gear can be bought in several villages and you acquire rupees by selling other goods or finding them in treasure chests. Rupees and hearts are no longer found in the tall grass so be warned! This new system transforms Breath of the Wild into an open adventure where you’ll use the weapons you find and wear the gear you can buy. Every player will have a different journey thanks to this system.
An unforgettable story
The last thing I would like to discuss is the story of the game. Needless to say, I won’t go into any details or spoil the story for you. What I want to do is point out just how great this story is, it’s by far my favorite one in the franchise. Not only is it a great story, it’s also the first one to support voice-actors and this really makes a difference. The big scenes are all voiced by talented actors and it makes the story a lot more fun to follow. It’s a story about courage, good, evil and loss. It’s one of the more emotional stories in a Zelda game, making it extremely hard to forget.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild doesn’t disappoint. It marks a new start for the franchise and it offers an unforgettable journey at the same time. The freedom you get is amazing but it makes it a lot harder to survive than you’re used to. Finding the right path at the right time is challenging at some points but in the end, it’s always worth the struggle. This isn’t just a new Zelda game, this is one of the best the franchise has to offer and an instant classic for sure. Buying a Nintendo Switch? Be sure to get Breath of the Wild since this is a game you’ll want to play anytime and anywhere. Be prepared for the biggest and most emotional Zelda experience to date.