Developed by Nintendo EPD Published by Nintendo of America Reviewed on Switch (also available on Wii U)
When people hear The Legend of Zelda the first games that usually come to mind are A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. A Link to the Past introduced a grander story and a larger world than what we were used to in a video game back in 1991. It laid the groundwork for nearly every adventure/action RPG to follow. Ocarina of Time blew our minds away with the transition to 3D and a far more immersive world and refined combat formula. These two games may not be everyone’s favorite Zelda game, but they helped make Zelda what it is today. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild strips away familiar series’ elements and adds way more than any Zelda game before it.
Breath of the Wild starts off very much like the original The Legend of Zelda. Link wakes up, talks to an old man, and walks around. There are some story elements added in and some basic explanations, but as a whole this game does no hand holding. Unlike Zelda games like Skyward Sword, where the introduction lasted hours, this game throws you into the thick of it immediately. You can even go fight the last boss of the game almost after starting it. Your main goal? Defeat Calamity Ganon. How you go about it is your choice. You can easily spend dozens of hours just exploring the world Nintendo has created.
Speaking of the world, it’s huge. You can literally go anywhere. If you see a mountain in the background, it’s reachable. You can climb nearly any surface of the game. With the world being so huge, you are going to want to go to high places to explore your surroundings. The world even has a temperature system, so areas with extreme heat or cold will have you burning or shivering to death if not properly equipped.
In this world there are small shrines that usually host a traditional Zelda style puzzle or a mini boss. After completing these shrines, you will gain items you can cash in for either Heart Pieces to increase your health or Stamina Vessels to increase your stamina, which is used for sprinting and climbing. These are all pretty much optional, but it’s one way to increase Link’s strength. There are also a ton of side quests. These quests usually have you helping a NPC with some type of predicament which will end with you receiving a reward. Luckily, the game has a nice quest menu to allow you to manage and choose what main or side quest you want to work on. There are of course traditional Zelda dungeons that you will encounter by following the main story quest. These are also totally optional, but by completing these you will learn more about the amazing story this game has. You will also obtain special abilities which aren’t required to complete the game, but will make your journey much easier and enjoyable.
The game also has a crafting system in place. Usually this revolves around foods and elixirs. Food that you can create will replenish health as well as add special effects, like heat resistance or even increase your overall attack. Elixirs are very similar, except they won’t replenish health but will usually have a more potent special effect. Making said items are a snap: go to any bonfire with a pot in the world and toss your ingredients in. What you get by mixing ingredients like mushrooms, meats, and even monster guts is a mystery and it’s a blast mixing stuff together to see the outcome. You can even reference the materials so you can make more in the future. On top of food, you can craft things like bonfires using wood and flint or even a flying boat using a raft and a monsters body part that acts like a balloon. There are so many things to can create and do in this huge world that you will always discover something new.
Another new feature in the game is that weapons break. The more you use swords, bows, and shields, the more they deteriorate until they get destroyed entirely. It seems very punishing, but to be honest it isn’t that bad. At first items will break left and right but as you progress in the game you will encounter many different weapons that will have far better durability and even abilities like the ability to freeze or burn an enemy. Initially you can only carry a small amount of weapons, but you will later have the ability to increase you inventory and doing this will definitely help in your adventure against Calamity Ganon.
Breath of the Wild is a very beautiful game. The environments and character models are so detailed and have amazing animation. Sometimes, you will stop just to take in the view. The drawback is that the framerate in the game is hit or miss. The game typically runs at 30 fps but the frame rate does dip in some occasions. This is usually in very grassy areas with moon or sun light. Every blade of grass has its own shadow and it seems that neither the Switch nor the Wii U can handle it well. Fortunately, this won’t ruin your experience playing the game. The sound track is superb and is wonderfully hidden in the game. Most of the time you will just hear the ambiance of the world, be it birds chirping or a waterfall down the road. On some occasions, while exploring new areas or encountering new enemies, you will be treated to a magnificently orchestrated sound track. It’s a shame is that the English voice acting isn’t that great. Though some characters are fairly tolerable, others will make you cringe. Unfortunately, if you are a fan of playing the game in a different language, Nintendo left out the option to choose different voice languages even though they are built into the game.
Breath of the Wild is a seriously large scale game. There is so much to do and explore. You can spend countless hours just walking around encountering different enemies and environments. Much like A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, Breath of the Wild has changed Zelda for the better. It also redefines the open world genre. Breath of the Wild combines so many features that have been done in many other games, but refines them into its own, resulting in one of the best video game experiences there is to be had. If you love Zelda, you will enjoy this new twist on the series. If you are a fan of adventure and exploration, you owe it to yourself to give this masterpiece a shot.