I know it’s been some time since Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released, but I have yet to give my complete thoughts on it, and anything that occupies my time for as long as this game did is deserving of a sincere, quality post. I put over eighty hours into this game, and I could start over from scratch in a heart beat. (Whenever I start over like that I like to set rules for myself, for ex. “No buying armor”.)
But before I get into this game specifically, let me talk about my background with the Legend of Zelda franchise. The first game I had ever played (to any substantial degree, at least,) was Twilight Princess. I had access to older classics like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but I was too young to really enjoy those. So while Twilight Princess was the first installment I had really played, it was also the only one I had ever beaten. I went back to play some older ones later, but they couldn’t catch me like that one did. Legend of Zelda had never really been my thing, because I had always imagined them as being “dungeon crawler puzzle games”. For me, I typically enjoy either one or the other, because I get worse and worse with puzzles the more variables you throw in.
But when I saw the teaser trailer for Breath of the Wild, and the open world adventure it promised, and I was beyond excited. An open world puzzle game? Now that is something I would want to get my hands on. If it’s anything I like in a game, it’s a steady advancement as the character advances from a wooden practice sword to the Master Sword. Quite literally, in this case. This is the only Zelda game I have ever been hyped for. And man, did it deliver.
There are so many things that this game did remarkably, it’s hard to know where to begin. I think having unique places that are interesting to explore is a huge one. In most open world games, I go to the points on my map I know will lead to things. In Elder Scrolls games, for example, there are countless ruins and dungeons to explore, but they’re all pretty much the same and there is no promise of reward. After all, it might be the location of a quest you haven’t found yet, making the prospect of exploring pointless because you need the quest to get the reward or even explore that dungeon in the first place. But in Breath of the Wild, there are no such apprehensions. I can pick a direction and run with the certainty that I will find interesting things along the way. I couldn’t tell you how often I was sidetracked, logging on for the day with a specific goal in mind like “Explore X region”, only to find myself waging war with all the monsters in an area in a mad frenzy to get all of the materials I need to buy or make something. It’s amazing how Nintendo managed to make every possible task in this game interesting.
The second part about this game is related to the first, and that is the fact that this is a world you are discovering for the first time. The first time you see a big bad enemy you’re scared because you don’t know what it can do. The first time you explore a region you’re curious because you don’t know what is just beyond the corner. The first time you encounter one of the many strange events happening you’re awestruck because you’re forty hours into the game and how is this the first time you’re seeing this thing. (That happens a lot.) This game’s draw distance is also remarkable. You can always see across the entire continent, staring at the distant volcano from the other corner of the map. I can’t tell you how often I marked a spot in my map when I was using my “binoculars” and was astounded to see how far away that point on the map was from me.
There really is no end to the majesty of the game. Constantly finding new and better weapons as you explore new areas, and obtain more and more Heart Containers as you get Shrine Orbs is a great feeling, because you get a very real sense of progression as you play. Plus I’m a sucker for new types of armor, and a lot of them have their uses the more you play! There isn’t one set of “best, always wear” armor.
Here are the three things I hated most about this game. They’re common complaints, I’m sure, but compared to the overwhelming graceful nature that this game offers, they’re nothing. My first complaint is that the inventory system is clunky. As soon as you start stockpiling materials it becomes a burden when you switch from gathering ingredients to making food to switching pieces of armor. I wish it was easier to navigate, and I wish you could manually sort the items in your inventory rather than having the one or two “sort” settings, because they don’t stop you from constantly having to switch back and forth between inventory pages. The second thing is making food. Identical foods don’t stack, so making any meal will take up a slot in your inventory, and you can only have three pages of foods to boot. When I’m cooking, I would want to use the majority of my ingredients because, because when I have twenty snails in my inventory, the only way they’re going to get used is by making food. The only problem is I don’t have enough inventory to use that many snails, so it’s pointless. Twenty snails might as well be considered an infinite supply of snails at that point.
The last point is weapon durability. Yes, it’s frustrating how often weapons break, but that isn’t my real complaint. The thing that I don’t like about durability is how arbitrary it seems. It’s impossible to tell how much use a sword has left, because there are only three gauges. Does it sparkle? Then it’s never been used. Does it flash red? That means it’s almost broken. Does it do neither of those things? Well, it could be anywhere from practically new to almost broken still, especially considering how variable durability is across weapon types anyway. If anything, I’d like to see a little bar on the inventory screen that tells me how much use a weapon has left. Can I risk spending durability on this big guy and use it later for this shrine? Or will it break during the first fight? I have no way to tell. I find that a little frustrating, especially considering many weapons have uses outside of combat (which I won’t get into).
Now, this review is already about twice as long as most other reviews I give, and I could go on. This game is huge, and unlike many other open world games, it is far more encouraging and rewarding to actually go everywhere. I think that’s the single most impressive thing this game has accomplished. Is it hard? Parts of it. Some puzzles and some combat can be challenging, but I would say it’s primarily an adventure game and a puzzle game a close second. Unless it is a direct obstacle, you can avoid pretty much any fight simply by running, because most things will miss when attacking you.
So, really, play this game however you want, but pretty much any gamer could enjoy themselves with this game.