I put off so many other games like, Horizon: Zero Dawn, in pure anticipation of playing, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW), over the last month and I’m happy to say that it was well worth the wait. The Legend of Zelda series is one of my absolute favorites, to say the least, and holds so many fond memories of my first moments with gaming. I wasn’t sure what to think when I heard this would be an open world game because, they just haven’t had a great track record recently, but of course, Nintendo polished it right up and it shines so goooood.
The interesting thing about this being so open, in many senses, is that BOTW combines many elements from previous titles in Zelda history. In the very first game, The Legend of Zelda, you could explore in any direction you wanted, in A Link Between Worlds you could complete dungeons in any order, and in Ocarina or Majora’s Mask there was an expansive world in which to explore that felt “lived-in” by NPCs. Put pretty much all the best elements of these titles together and you have an absolutely beautiful representation of the series up to this point: BOTW.
There is so much to see and do in this new title and, almost literally, a surprise around every corner. The main goal, of course, is to defeat Ganon in the end; however, you can spend HOURS upon hours just looking around before even attempting your first dungeon. In fact, I spent a ton of time doing extra side things like, opening up the entire map by climbing towers before even stepping foot towards a main quest. Unlike other iterations, you don’t find heart pieces in BOTW, but like Skyward Sword (meh), you do have a stamina meter. In order to upgrade these, you go through a sort of miniature dungeon or puzzle called a Shrine that uses one or more of the core abilities you receive at the start of the game to a get a spirit orb. Every four spirit orbs earns you one upgrade to either hearts or stamina. I thought this was a great way to keep players searching and motivated to find and complete the next shrine. The shrines are scattered everywhere across the map and it is what I spent a majority of the first ten hours doing.
Now, when you do get around to saving the princess, you can do so immediately, or you can get some help from your pals in the four main sectors of the map as part of one of the main questlines. You see, when Ganon came back he foiled your well-thought-through plan and just dominated you by taking over your backup called “the divine beasts” and the “guardians”. You get demolished and in order to ensure your survival, Princess Zelda puts you to sleep for a hundred years before, she herself, is captured by Ganon. So, you gotta wake up from that short nap and retake the divine beasts over that have claimed the lives of your chums: a macho Goron, a douchey Bird, a Mermaid but the weird kind, and a pretty cool Gerudo. Herein these Divine Beast quests lies the dungeons that the Zelda series has come to be known for…except they aren’t really combat heavy, AT ALL, and are all relatively short. You do catch a glimpse into the story through each, though, and those are the moments I lived for.
Yeah, I like the exploring, but they created such a vibrant world that I really wanted to know what I was doing in it. Most of this question is answered through the other main quest, in which you go on a scavenger hunt to find specific locations to regain your memories (which unfold through quick cut-scenes). These cut-scenes reveal what happened before you were put to sleep and are so engaging because they give Princess Zelda a personality that you don’t normally get from her in the previous games. The results of all this calamity also have an interesting effect on how people view you as the protagonist. Many townsfolk seem to blame you for the current state of things because you weren’t able to stop the chaos the first time around. The story doesn’t stick around long enough and although it is cool that you could finish the game in forty minutes if you’re a speedrunner, I was yearning for more story beats to follow. I will say that through all of it though, the last moments are just so EPIC, and I usually don’t use that word, but, the end definitely calls for it.
A lot of outlets are giving this game a perfect score and I totally see why. What a triumph for open world games! There is just absolutely too much for me to mention about how the game makes even the little things like, cooking, fun. It feels like Nintendo finally landed on their feet with this one.
However, I do have a couple of things that could have improved my overall experience with a game that I’ll probably put at the top of my Game of the Year list for twenty seventeen. First, something that was super small but, noticeable, was the amount of hitching I experienced through the more detail heavy areas of the game. It’s such a pretty game and when it’s interrupted by a frame rate drop, it’s pretty distracting. I would also say, that in terms of difficulty, this game has a big ramp at first and then once you’ve gotten a grip of the core mechanics, or a couple upgrades, it becomes incredibly trivial. I mean, guys, I shut down the final boss with one item I bought. I didn’t even have to find it.
The rest of the enemies are fun, and sometimes absolutely terrifying (specifically the lynels and guardians) but there are just not nearly enough of them. When I go to the ice area or fire area I really don’t want to see the same Lizard that I just fought in the woods and the desert. Variety goes a long way and this game lacks it, hard, when it comes to the moment to moment enemies. When you are fighting those enemies, there is a good chance you are gonna run through a couple of the weapons you’ve been hoarding. The weapons just don’t last. Which is good because it encourages you to use different things you’ve collected, but also scared me because I wanted to save my good weapons for a tough enemy, which didn’t come up that often. Then, last one I promise. The rain doesn’t make climbing fun. It is frustrating to slip and strip naked whenever it’s raining because the lighting it going to strike my all metal armor and weapons is a little annoying.
In the end, the game’s few short comings are far surpassed wholly by the incredibly fun combat, diverse world, and interesting story (albeit a little too short for my liking). The sheer amount of things to see and interact with make it a joy to come home and play for even just a short amount of time, or get lost in for hours on the weekend. I’m not usually an open world kind of guy, but the little bit of Nintendo spit shine makes this one irresistible. I give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 4.5 out of 5 Great Fairies.