Ah, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The latest installment in the Zelda series opens up the world of Hyrule unlike any game before it, quite frankly Hyrule has never looked better. In Breath of the Wild you play as Link (surprise, surprise) who has been in slumber for 100 years. He wakes up, and then in reference to the first game in the series runs into an old man who gives him the rundown on life, as he has you run around the plateau in which you awoke to learn how the game works. It’s basically a disguised tutorial area that gives you the tools you’ll be using throughout the game, while not being “HEY LISTEN, DO THIS THING, TO DO THAT OTHER THING.” So you make your way around the plateau learning how the game works, on your own wit. Fantastic.
While you’re roaming around the plateau, you’ll probably find a rusted sword, a stick, or something to use as a weapon. Then you might find a camp of adorable Bokoblins minding their business. Then as the mute lunatic that Link is you just might find yourself going berserk on them all, til not a single one is left alive. After your short rampage, you might find that you broke your stick. No big deal, you can just pick up all the clubs those Bokoblins had and use that instead. Then those clubs break, then the next ones break, and the next ones, and the next ones, and then the… yeah you get the point. Weapons break in this game… quite often. It’s not horrid, but it does tend to have the effect where you tend to not want to use the rarer, stronger weapons that you find.
So you finish the tutorial, and leap off the plateau to head off into your adventure with vague knowledge of your surroundings. What to do now? You can go to the one place that was suggested you go or… you can go beat the game. That’s what’s great about Breath of the Wild, when you finish the plateau you can go do whatever you want, as long as it’s within scope of the game, and that you have enough stamina to do it. Everyone’s adventure in this game will be a unique personal experience, and THAT is simply fantastic.
By the way, that stamina thing I mentioned earlier? You don’t start off with an awful lot. In fact it’s a bit lack luster, especially since it limits how long you can run, swim, climb, or glide for. But worry not we have Shrines! What are shrines? Shrines are quite often short puzzles, or combat challenges that reward you with a Spirit Orb upon completion. What are Spirit Orbs good for? Why, they’re good for increasing your stamina and/or health. For every 4 Spirit Orbs you collect you can increase either your stamina or health by 1. Yay, incentive! Because even though the game insists that on showing you the same cuts-scene that tells you “this is to train you for your fight against the darkness” there is no story relevant reason as to why these things are in Hyrule at all. But hey, the incentive IS a very good reason if you like living or exploring at all. I ended up capping out my stamina due to my want to see the world in its entirety first and foremost… that and how abysmal the default is.
So Hyrule is huge. But is it huge and empty? No, I would say not. Throughout the world there are enemy camps, consisting of everyone favorite Bokoblins, Moblins, and Lizalfos, with the stray Lynel walking around here and there. These camps can be of just one of the enemy types, or a mix of the three. I say three because Lynels are, as far as I know, always solitary encounters as they should be, because they stay true to form, and as such like to beat you into nonexistence. Repeatedly. So you can beat up enemy camps… cool? YES. YES IT IS VERY COOL. These camps can very often be approached in a multitude of ways. After all the environments they are found in allow for creative use of the tools which you have on hand to deliver judgment upon the (clearly sentient) sub-humans like the mute lunatic you are. I mean… as Link, the Hero of… the Wild? Either way, enemies go boom, and you can collect their goods. Goods such as their bones to make elixirs and dubious food, their weapons… and maybe a chest that unlocks for you with additional goods. Going on a genocidal rampage has never been more rewarding in a Zelda game. Feeling guilty about being a cold-blooded killer? Don’t worry they get brought back via the blood moon phenomenon eventually… so you can slaughter them all again. You know, like a good hero.
Honestly these monsters, while not as varied as in previous titles, are full of life and personality. You’ll find them chilling out at their camps, roaming around on horseback, hiding in wait for prey to attack, sleeping, dancing around fires, laughing at captured sheep, and more. Then of course to add to this, they also react to your actions with life. If they notice you, they’ll blow on a horn to alert their friends, and scurry for their weapons. You can steal their weapon, and they’ll react in shock, horror, and anger. What else, is that if there aren’t any weapons nearby the bigger Moblins might reach over, grab a Bokoblin and hilariously enough throw him at you instead.
Beyond the enemies, Hyrule is full of Korok seeds to collect. A lot of Korok seeds… apparently over 900 of them. Sound overwhelming? Worry not, they’re not essential to find. They simply increase the number of primary weapons, bows, and shields you can hold in your inventory. Not necessary, but it is a nice thing to be able to upgrade, especially considering the amount of weapons there are in the game, ranging from swords, spears, axes, boomerangs, and wands. Upgrades aside, you don’t collect Korok seeds simply by finding a Korok out there in the world. No, not at all. Each Korok seed is “locked” behind a sort of challenge, which you have to find and figure out. 80 hours into the game and I was still finding new “Korok puzzles.” The process of getting these collectibles quite simply have a nice charm to them, and in no way does the game put pressure on you to find them all, as it doesn’t even tell you in game how many are out there.
So we have Monsters, Korok seeds, and of course… resources/animals for days. Hyrule is decorated with animals throughout. I mean you can’t go and call it Breath of the Wild and not have animals all over the place. The smaller animals are more or less ambient, but they can also be food, food that conveniently become choice cuts, and chicken wings when killed. The bigger ones on the other hand…
Oh, and yes apart from deer and bears, there are horses but I mean, come on… those are boring mounts that have stats and that you can keep in a stable for permanent use. You’ll see a lot of wild life in Hyrule, and just like the ores you can mine, mushrooms you can harvest, and other things you can press “a” to collect, you can kill them all for meat. Why would you want to kill a precious little fox you might ask? Because sadly, our favorite mute lunatic is a mortal, and mortals need to eat to survive. Gone are the days of finding random hearts in the grass, and into the days of eating to restore health we go. I’ll just spit it out, Breath of the Wild has a crafting system in the form of cooking.
The first time I heard the news that there was going to be cooking in Breath of the Wild I was disgusted. I was so disgusted I almost vomited some dubious food onto the floor. If there’s something I do not like in games, it is crafting systems. They are often tedious, boring, and time-consuming. I don’t want to run around looking for a number of specific materials to make a specific thing at a specific place. Really I don’t. But guess what? You don’t have to look for a specific thing or have a number of them in Breath of the Wild. As long as you have some sort of food material, YOU CAN COOK SOMETHING! EASILY! As long as you’re near a pot anyway. So, how do you cook? You select up to five or less things to hold. You throw it in fire. You wait a few seconds, and you’re golden. That’s all there is to it. I could throw whatever garbage into the pot, and get something that would heal me, along with some flavor text. It’s the same thing with making Elixirs, albeit with a different set of ingredients. All of a sudden with the simplicity of the system, the charming cooking music, and ease of it all I found myself wanting to cook foods, and by extension make elixirs.
Ok, so Zelda has some sort of crafting now, do you know what else it has? Gear upgrades. You could argue that it’s always had upgrading as you’d get better swords, and shields throughout the past games, and you would be correct. But in Breath of the Wild you can upgrade your armor, to have better stats. How do you go about upgrading your gear? Well, you go to a place, and you use a number of three different, and specific items to upgrade the stats. You can do this to a piece of gear a total of four times, with the price of materials increasing each upgrade. Basically, you have to run around collecting materials, to upgrade your stuff. So you’d better get ready to horde every flower you pick, every stone you mine, every fish you catch, and every monster part you collect. It’s a good thing the number of things you can hold is very generous. Unfortunately towards the later upgrades the process of upgrading can become quite a grind.
So I’d rather dump my materials into color dye for my clothes so I can express my vivid personality, as I travel across Hyrules vast and varied landscape.
Honestly, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great game. It’s not perfect, and quite frankly I believe the 10/10 scores are over-rating it. This is a great new step for Zelda. It’s treading new ground for the series, and as with anything when you try something new for the first time that attempt will not be the best. This is what Breath of the Wild is. It’s a fantastic new step, but it can most definitely be refined into something better. I’m not a big fan of giving number scores, but if I had to Breath of the Wild would at worst land at 7/10, and at best 8/10. So what brings the game down from that score of 10?
First off, while the stories in Zelda have never been anything AMAZING, they at least had some impact on the game. With Breath of the Wild the story suffers due to the open world. As I said earlier, after your “briefing” on the starting plateau you can go on up to Hyrule Castle, and beat the game. What does that mean? Everything in between really isn’t THAT important. Everything in between is devalued in the story as none of it is necessary. The open world is a double-edged sword. The memories you can find while adventuring, give us some back story on Link, Zelda and the Champions of the Divine Beasts. While these were enjoyable there simply wasn’t enough, and the game suffer from it due to the lack of lore, story, and characterization. Breath of the Wild for all the personality, and charm you’d expect from a Zelda game, lacks the substance to make it truly memorable.
Sure we have the personality and charm, we have the puzzles, and we have collectibles. You know what we didn’t get? Thematic dungeons. Instead we got four poor excuses for dungeons, that while fun, all fall flat in being memorable beyond the fact they’re all giant mechanical animals. Sure, the ability to control parts of the Divine Beasts to progress, was new and interesting, but the novelty ran off quickly. It doesn’t help that the bosses aren’t memorable as well, on top of posing much of a challenge. You see, the thing I like best about Zelda games, are the dungeons. They carry a unique atmosphere, and present challenges, be it puzzles, combat, or both. The Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild do not carry a unique atmosphere, and lack in the challenge department. The Divine Beasts are basically glorified Shrines, and that… that is simply disappointing.
Lastly, The final boss fight, like the rest of the bosses in the game was not a challenge. Like the dungeons, the first phase was overly familiar and for good reason. That is to say it is a glorified Combat Shrine. Ok, no big deal there’s probably a second phase that’ll be more of a challenge, right? Well there was a second phase, and it was… target practice. Look, it went from easy to easier. That’s not good. That’s not exciting, it’s not intense, it’s downright disappointing. I beat the game, and I really really wish I hadn’t. It wasn’t satisfying, and it was one of the most anti-climactic moments I’ve had in a game ever. That’s not a good thing, at all.
With that said, Breath of the Wild is a great open world game, but as a Zelda game it’s simply alright. Hyrule is huge, filled with things to find, fight, and figure out. The game is beautiful, filled with personality, and charm. Cooking is pretty free form, making it easily accessible even for people who don’t like crafting systems in games. For the first time with in a 3D Zelda game, I found the combat to be fun, even though it’s still largely the same as it always has been. Breath of the Wild is a huge step in a new direction for the Zelda series, and as such it suffers from a few missteps such as small dungeons, easy bosses, and a weak delivery of the story. Even then, I still find Breath of the Wild a game worth playing, especially if you’ve never played a Zelda game before.