The Legend of Zelda is one of the most legendary game series ever. For many, a Zelda game is a defining moment in a console generation. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Link’s first adventure on the Nintendo Switch. As one of the highest rated games of all time, with a multitude of the game of the year awards, this entry in the Zelda franchise has solidified its place in Nintendo history.
But what makes it so incredible? And, like every other Zelda game, where does it stumble and what needs improvement? Let’s talk about it. Breath of the wild has taken everything previous Zelda games considered the norm and threw them out the window. Replacing those archaic game mechanics are breakable weapons, dozens of armor sets, hundreds of items and crafting materials, and a climbing system that lets you climb up virtually everything. Whether it’s cooking food to replenish health and give Link buffs like attack up and a rise in stamina, breaking a weapon and picking up a new one from the enemy you just defeated, or searching one of the largest Nintendo game worlds ever made, revolutionary is the word that describes Breath of the Wild the best. Breath of the Wild’s world is absolutely massive.
The scope of the world is insane, and it will take you many, many hours to even SEE all of the areas. There’s a desert area, volcano area, snowy mountains, seaside, and a ton of other locales. Each area is filled with shrines, mini-dungeons that double as fast travel locations, there are 900 Korok Seeds to collect in the game, and there are towns, enemy bases, hidden treasures and puzzles, and more. All of this is to say that there is never a lack of things to do in Breath of the Wild, and you won’t be completing everything in the game without clocking over 100 hours. Then, there are all the new game mechanics. The biggest change is in Link’s ability to traverse the landscape. See a cliff with stuff on top? Climb up it! See a big lake you need to cross? Swim through it! Standing on a ledge and see an area nearby you need to get to? Glide to it! You are only limited in your ability to do these things by your stamina wheel, which you can upgrade as you complete more shrines.
This makes it so that no matter where you are looking in the distance, it is somewhere you can physically go. This makes exploration, discovery, and novelty in world design a constant. Even after 100 hours in the game, I will still round a corner and find some new area I haven’t seen. The breakable weapons are a pro and a con in my eyes. While I love the idea of constantly getting new weapons, having to switch up types of weaponry for different strategies, and the awesome feeling of breaking your weapon and then taking your enemy’s to destroy them anyway, the system isn’t without its downfalls. When I would get really awesome weapons, I would become reluctant to use them because I didn’t want them to break and disappear. This resulted in me not using those weapons much and taking longer to fight monsters because I would use weaker, more common items to fight them.
The cooking system is decent, but I didn’t really use it much. Also, the dozens of outfits all provide different perks, and thus I found myself switching my outfit often, which is awesome when you want to see and wear everything there is to offer. Your outfits can also be upgraded at Fairy fountains and can become a lot stronger and gain new perks as they level up. Overall, Breath of the Wild’s gameplay is some of the best in recent years, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Breath of the Wild’s graphics are gorgeous. They meld realistic, cartoony, and comic-book art styles and come out with something enchanting to look at. I feel they lean the most towards Wind Waker, though with a more refined and gritty design.
Each area is full of life and character, and whether it’s the sandstorms in the desert, the snow falling in the mountains, the explosions as guardians shoot you, or even the textures on weapons and outfits, all of the graphics are perfectly suited to this art style. Unfortunately, the game runs in 720p in handheld mode and up to 900p when docked, so it doesn’t ever hit full HD. Luckily, the size of the Nintendo Switch’s screen makes it so this isn’t really noticeable.
It also runs at a very consistent 30 frames-per-second, with only very occasional drops in my experience. I was disappointed, however, by Breath of the Wild’s lack of recognizable and catchy music. To this day, I still hold Ocarina of Time as the game soundtrack to beat, and unfortunately, this game doesn’t reach those heights. The music seems more aimed at a lonely, dark feel, with occasional emotional tracks peppered in at perfect moments. The voice acting is incredible, the game world sounds are decent, and overall, I think Breath of the Wild excels in this department.
For the first time in a Zelda game, Breath of the Wild has voice acting! This is awesome and adds a lot of emotion to the game, and the story is primarily told through memories. Flashbacks tell the story of the past and how Hyrule came into its present condition and provides backstory to the game’s main characters. The world is also full of its own storytelling, with the local inhabitants filling in the details and fleshing out the local areas.
While I still think the actual plot of Majora’s Mask is the most interesting, this is by far the best storytelling a Zelda game has ever been graced with, and it is enjoyable to the very end. I felt a desire to beat the game, to beat Ganon, and to see the story through. Emotion, anger, frustration, hope—all are in full force here. I can’t wait to see where Nintendo takes the next entry.
There are 900 Korok seeds in this game. NINE. HUNDRED. Collecting all of these alone will take you dozens of hours. You also have 100+ shrines which are all mini dungeons and each will take a few minutes to find and complete, there are dozens of side quests, and there are so many secrets and locations in the game they almost can’t be counted. Some may argue that this game actually has too much in it, and so if you care even a little about completing games, you’ll be in this one for 100 or more hours.
A con here is I actually don’t enjoy completing the shrines compared to other dungeons in Zelda games, and there are only a few ways that you can collect Korok Seeds, and they become repetitive after a couple hundred times. Also, the Divine Beasts, the main dungeons in the game, are relatively weak and boring. Side quests are a lot of fun though, and there is so much additional content that offers variety and novelty.
Breath of the Wild is a joy to play if you like third-person action adventure games and open world games. If you like linear shooters, racing games, or digestible games you can complete rather quickly, this is not the game for you. HOWEVER! If you enjoy adventuring, exploring, fighting monsters, upgrading gear, beating bosses, completing dungeons, flying, swimming, climbing, etc. you will enjoy this game. I never stopped having fun and being excited to play Breath of the Wild, and even during the grind of collecting Korok Seeds the gameplay was so enjoyable it made it worth those many hours.
If you have liked a previous Zelda game, like any open world games, or like a game of this style, you will be doing yourself a disservice by not picking this one up. Honestly, you probably already own The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you somehow don’t, and you aren’t a part of the group I mentioned before that may not like this game, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up. With one of the biggest open worlds in years, amazing gameplay mechanics that never get old, a story worth playing through, and so much content you’ll spend more than 100 hours completing it all, Breath of the Wild is one of the most complete packages for a game I have seen in many years.