The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review
The wait for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been a stressful one. With Nintendo keeping it close to its chests until E3 2016, we were left to do nothing but speculate the kind of game we would be getting. And somehow, some way, Eiji Aonuma and his team managed to exceed even our wildest expectations. 3D Zelda games for the past 19 years have been using the formula established by Ocarina of Time of completing dungeons and acquiring items in a certain order. Breath of the Wild doesn’t only shy away from these conventions, it completely destroys them.
At its forefront, Breath of the Wild brings Zelda back to its open world roots established over 30 years ago by the very first game, and it does this so elegantly that it has increased my standards as to what open world games can and should be. Rather than following a mundane checklist of “go here and do this”, Breath of the Wild encourages you to get lost in the land of Hyrule and just let things happen as you go along. Many other open world games claim you can go anywhere and do anything, but this game actually means it.
Just about every surface is climbable so there’s no need to keep pressing the jump button in hopes you don’t slide down (you know you’ve done this in Skyrim, don’t lie). However, you can only climb, swim, and sprint for as long as your stamina meter lets you. This made a lot of Skyward Sword players including myself groan, but Breath of the Wild implements this feature way better by making you think about how you tackle exploring the world. If you run out of breath every time you try and climb that mountain, maybe it’s time to go do something else.
Luckily, you’re able to upgrade both the stamina meter and heart quantity by completing shrines, which are tactically placed all throughout the game world. These mini-dungeons of sorts can vary from solving puzzles, navigating mazes, engaging in duels, completing survival challenges, etc. Once found and activated, these Shrines will act as fast-travel points and when they’re completed, you will be rewarded with a Spirit Orb. For every four Spirit Orbs, you can either upgrade your health or stamina meter. No need to find those annoying heart pieces any longer! Not all the Shrines have their puzzles inside of them, however, the aforementioned mazes and challenges are usually accessed in the open world known as Shrine Quests, often given in the form of riddles or can be found accidentally. One time I went to this island on the coast and right when I stepped foot on it, all my gear was gone and the challenge was to survive without my gear at the start. I have yet to complete all 120 of these Shrines, but all the ones I’ve been to have been expertly crafted in their own special way.
While these mini-dungeons are great, main dungeons are a staple in The Legend of Zelda’s history and there are only 4 in this game known as the Divine Beasts, which are giant mechs that play a major part in the story that I’ll get to later. These dungeons are unique in that you must control their movement in order to solve the physics-based puzzles they consist of. The only problem with these dungeons is that they are small, short, have a low amount of enemies, and conclude with boss battles that are well designed but all similar in appearance. You unfortunately won’t find any Ghoma or King Dodongo types in this game.
In previous Zelda entries, you would go through about two to three swords before acquiring the Master Sword, but in Breath of the Wild, you will be going through a TON of different weapons thanks to their unusual fragility. I understand the complaints about the durability (or lack thereof) of these weapons, but this was a deliberate feature that adds variety to the game’s combat because if these swords and shields were invulnerable, you’d only stick with about 1 or 2 for the remainder of the game. Thanks to this feature, it also forces you to think about what battles you decide to engage into because the enemies in Breath of the Wild can be brutal. These range from the pesky and annoying Bokoblins to the large and intimidating Lynels (seriously, screw these guys). Usually the higher the risk, the greater the reward, so don’t go wasting your precious ancient arrows on a Moblin and save them for the real threat: the Guardians.
These lethal machines were once meant to serve the Royal Family but were corrupted by the primal evil known as Calamity Ganon. The story in Breath of the Wild is one of the more unique ones told in Zelda history. Without spoiling anything, Link wakes up alone in a Hyrule devastated by the Great Calamity 100 years ago. Now it’s up to Link to free the Divine Beasts that have been corrupted by Ganon to save Hyrule. Pretty basic plot, but the story deals with some very mature themes of destruction, loss, and failure. It is arguably the darkest Zelda game since Majora’s Mask.
Breath of the Wild is also the very first Zelda game to include voice acting (no, the CD-i games don’t count) and for the most part it was pulled off well, with some exceptions. Zelda herself was poorly miscast, with a phony British accent and sounding much older than her age in the game of 17. Same goes for the Zora princess Mipha, who sounds pretty bland and uninterested. However, an actor’s performance can only be as good as the direction given to them, so I have no quarrel with these voice actors and I would love to meet them in person one day. They are very lucky to be in the first game in Zelda’s 30-year-long existence to have voice acting!
I was impressed with the story until the final boss in which everything felt rushed and poorly planned. Ultimately, this is what is preventing me from giving the game a perfect score. The best advice I can give you is to keep your expectations low. I was extremely let down after the end credits because the 3D Zelda games are known to have incredible ending bosses and finales, even the one in Skyward Sword left me on the verge of tears. It’s with a heavy heart that I can not say the same for Breath of the Wild. Thankfully it isn’t Mass Effect 3 bad.
Is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild worth the wait? Absolutely. In fact, the two consecutive delays since the game’s E3 2014 reveal proved to be more than worth it. Despite its flaws in storytelling and the lack of more traditional dungeons, this game has become the Ocarina of Time for a new generation and will change gaming forever thanks to its bold risks and elaborate changes to the Zelda formula. Nintendo has proven once again that they are masters of their craft. Whether you’re playing it on the Switch or Wii U, I can guarantee you’re in for one hell of a ride. It’s not perfect, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games ever made. Period.
Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms
(Please spare me, I have a family.)