The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the newest addition for the Nintendo’s long running series. The game takes designs and mechanics perfected in other games and reworks them for its own purposes to create something totally new, but also something that still feels like a classic Zelda game that we all came to know.
More than your typical Hyrule fantasy, Breath of the Wild is a survival game that forces you to think in new ways. You have to be cautious, creative, and resourceful in your efforts to battle the wilderness. Outside of armor, you have to source everything from the field that you find in your travels.
You gain new weapons by stealing them from enemies and prepare restorative meals and elixirs by combining resources found in the environment. Death comes quickly, and whether it is at the hand of a enemy or because you charged into a situation unprepared.
There is so much to see, to accomplish, and to learn that you never feel like you have control over the world. Breath of the Wild is packed with tons of unexpected discoveries throughout.
The game starts you out right away after you emerge from a tomb in a cave where you have spent the last 100 years in hibernation… When he walks to the edge of a cliff and the new, massive Hyrule comes into view, you are faced with the massive scale of the world, which is by far the largest the series has ever seen.
You will cross vast plains and towering mountains to achieve your goals, all the while contending with harsh weather and Link’s physical limitations. Despite a few instances of frame rate dips, Hyrule is consistently impressive none the less.
So you start your quest to defeat Ganon and rescue Princess Zelda with no more than a tree branch to defend yourself from roaming baddies. However, it does not take you long to build up an arsenal of weapons. Almost every enemy carries a weapon or a shield, and if you can beat them, their gear is yours for the taking if you wish.
Many weapons are needed if you want to succeed in this adventure, since that every weapon has a limit on how long you can use it for. You will go through hundreds of weapons during your adventure, which no doubt feels strange at first, especially since gear often defined your progress in the previous Zelda games you have played in the past.
It can feel crushing when a particularly cool weapon is destroyed mid-battle, but you learn to move on, and choose your weapons carefully for the current situation you are faced with. There is no shortage of new gear to discover, and though you are not able to utilize a consistent supply of familiar weapons, you learn there is something better maybe right around the corner.
In practice, the weapon you wield is important but not necessarily as important as how you control it. Enemies are very smart and utilize wildly different tactics that force you to carefully study every aspect of their behavior. Basic enemies can be toppled through careful use of a shield, but there are harder enemies that will destroy this defense in a single blow.
In these cases, it is important that you parry or dodge an attack at just the right time, which will trigger a moment of slow motion that allows you to unleash a flurry of attacks against your vulnerable foe. These moves are your last line of defense when the going gets tough, and they require precise timing to execute.
There are unexpected events that can happen. That the game never teaches you, for example, that holstering your shield after blocking enemy arrows will add them to your inventory. You are never told that grazing an enemy’s wooden weapon with a fire arrow by accident will set it ablaze, thus making the fight harder for you in the long run.
Even 60 hours in and after you are even capable of attempting to bring down Ganon there are still intimidating enemies to be found and many rules to study. Your power and wisdom will grow as you progress further into the game, but you never feel totally invincible, which allows even late game exploration to be feel tense and rewarding.
Beyond weaponry, Link gains access to magical skills known as runes. These gives him the ability to move metallic objects with a magical tether, which can be useful for, exploring new areas and secrets, or dropping large iron boxes on enemies. Link can also freeze enemies and objects in place for a limited amount of time.
When an object is frozen, it absorbs energy rather than reacting immediately to whatever force you lay into it. And when time unfreezes, all that collected force is exerted in an instant. This allows you to move objects that are otherwise too heavy for Link to control, and gives you a chance to strike a defenseless enemy’s multiple times without fear or getting hurt.
Runes prove to be a wonderful source of creativity and problem solving, both in combat and when managing the many puzzles through out your adventure.
The game’s four main dungeons are primarily puzzle focused, with only a few enemies found throughout. These are a bit different compared to dungeons in past Zelda games in that you are not focused on finding keys to open doors. Instead, the goal is to manipulate the dungeon itself, to literally change its form in order to access important areas.
It does stray from tradition, but you still get a challenging boss battle to look forward to at the end. The oddly familiar bosses from Zelda’s past have been replaced with dark and twisted fiends that are powerful combatants. Like your fights against normal enemies, you have to move and act deliberately, or suffer your demise.
Breath of the Wild’s big dungeons are important, but they are less interesting than the smaller shrines that are scattered around the world. There are 100 of these mini dungeons found across the map, and the majority of them feature puzzles that test your understanding and mastery of Link’s rune abilities.
Some can be completed in a few minutes, but there are plenty more containing extensive, multi-step processes. Compared to roughing it in nature, these brain teasers are an excellent respite, and make great use of Breath of the Wild’s impressive physics system. Figuring out what to do is only half the battle. The rest comes down to the execution.
When you look across Hyrule in search of your next destination, the orange glow of a new shrine is really difficult to pass up. They are one of the many distractions that cause you to side track. Seeking them out will not help you complete the game any faster, but they have rewarding opportunities that expose you to the far corners of Hyrule.
Exploration often proves more challenging than in combat or various puzzle solving. Link travels primarily on foot, and he can sprint as long as his stamina meter allows before having to catch his breath. Link can also climb vertical surfaces like cliffs and walls now.
Exploration may be a struggle at times due to Link’s limitations and harsh weather that hinders his capabilities, but to not go exploring you would be missing out on some of the best moments in Breath of the Wild, and the sense of satisfaction you feel for overcoming the many environments.
Equipping metal weapons and armor will turn Link into a walking lightning rod, and if you are climbing a mountain when it starts to rain, you will not be able to climb more than a few feet before losing your grip and sliding back down. Equipping a wooden shield in the burning slopes of Mount Eldin, it will set ablaze on your back while Link’s health slowly slips away.
Hyrule is truly a beautiful world to see from the top of a mountain, but perching Link on high has other benefits. In addition to runes, Link obtains a para-glider early on in the game, which he then carries with him at all times. It is useful when you are falling off a tall building or cliff, but it is also to get to those new areas.
If you are skillful enough, you can even use your shield as a snowboard to glide down grassy hills and frozen slopes. Link can cruise down hills at any time as long as his shield can handle the wear and tear, but it is especially gratifying to drop onto a slope after flying over a massive canyon or a dense forest and coast into a town with style.
This new game title is a sandbox full of mystery, with many things to discover and explore. Even after I completed the main story line, I still managed to come across things I did not seen before. I easily spent more than 100 hours trying to track down everything this game had to offer.
Breath of the Wild is an amazing fresh addition for The Legend of Zelda series, and the most impressive game Nintendo I think has ever created so far.