It is finally time for my Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review. I didn’t really want to do a review early on in the game, as perspectives can change when progressing through. They can appear to go either extreme — as either terrible or amazing, before that “glow” or “haze” fades. So I played all the way through, and beat the game, and now it is time to collect my thoughts on the Nintendo Switch’s flagship game.
Spoiler Alert – Breath of the Wild is Amazing
The hype around this game from the beginning was amazing. It is one of the highest games rated on Metacritic ever, and I had only very minor quibbles about the game in general — usually revolving around drops in frame rate, or the lack of durability of weapons. Some others were disappointed in the lack of legitimate dungeon crawls that previous Zelda titles fleshed out. But still — there seemed to be an overwhelming adoring of this game.
I have to say, this admiration for Breath of the Wild is well deserved. When starting the game, from the moment Link walks out of the Shrine of Resurrection, it is pretty awe inspiring. There aren’t much in the way of directions given, so the first thing I did was climb up the side of the cliff, and take a look around. There were some enemies off in the distance, so I decided to go back down and investigate further. Eventually, Link has to talk to the old man guide, who gets you on the path of the story for the game, but the wonderful thing is — you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can go be a lumberjack, and chop wood down all day. You can murder as many bokoblins as you want. To get out of the start area, you do have to complete a couple of story points, but after that — you really can take Link wherever you want. It might be dangerous, and a difficult time, but you can literally go take on Calamity Ganon at any point in the game, and if you’re good enough, beat the game with just some clubs and wooden shields.
What is really intriguing about Breath of the Wild is the fact that I typically don’t like open world games. I usually want some pretty strict structure, otherwise I feel like I am wandering aimlessly, not really accomplishing anything. I am not sure exactly why that is different in Breath of the Wild, but it most certainly was. It might have to do with the dozens of mini-dungeons called shrines that can be completed. It could be the unique way the environment is in some ways harsher than the enemies in the game. Every aspect of the game feels like a mild puzzle — in one capacity or another.
Combat in Breath of the Wild Is a Lot of Fun
As for combat, that took a little while to get used to. The button mapping was fairly different than what I was used to in previous Legend of Zelda games. I also felt the timing was a bit wonky when trying to perform the special slow-motion moves. I felt like I had to practically be hit before I could attempt the move, and it be successful. But once I got all of those kinks out, combat felt really well done.
Combat is another area where the game felt like a puzzle, too. Enemies can be eliminated in a wide variety of ways. Are there explosives nearby? Use some fire arrows to explode your foes. Metal boxes? Drop them with Link’s Magnesis power! Have a tough foe? Slow him down with Link’s Statis! A lot of dry grass around? Burn foes with a grass fire! Roll boulders! Use a leaf to blow them off a ledge! Use opposing elemental weapons to destroy elemental creatures! Bombs! Arrows! Oh, and I guess you can kill enemies with your normal sword too, that is a possibility, along with many more that I haven’t even listed here.
No Big Dungeons, But More Than Enough Shrines To Keep You Busy
One thing I previously mentioned is that there are not really full, proper dungeons in this game. While this is true, there are over 100 shrine puzzles to play through, which are like mini-dungeons themselves. These can be a lot of fun, as they take advantage of the Switch’s technology, using the gyroscope, and other aspects of the Joy-Cons to complete the puzzle. The one thing I wish were the case, is that the puzzles could have been a little more difficult. 95% of the time, I could look at the puzzle, and already have the basic idea what I had to do, I just had to figure out the mechanics of doing it. The shrines that were actually the most difficult were the shrines where you had to actually find the shrine — through some puzzle surrounding where the shrine should be. But still, I really didn’t feel like there was a void in the game because of the lack of long dungeons — the shrinks easily filled in that void. Especially when taken into account with the 4 dungeons there are actually in the game.
Graphically, the game looks great. I actually am beginning to enjoy more artistic games than life-like renderings of worlds. Breath of the Wild is a great blend of cell shaded and “realistic” looking graphics, so much so, that climbing to the top of a cliff and looking down can cause me to pause for a few minutes — and just take a look at the scenery.
Chef Link Is (Not) As Fun As It Sounds
One big aspect of Breath of the Wild is cooking. Link can collect various ingredients –from animals he hunts, fruits and vegetables he forages, or various other means. Using cooking pots found throughout the world, Link can cook up various recipes which will provide different benefits — from simply restoring hearts, to providing elemental resistances, to increasing armor, restoring stamina, increasing attack power, and more.
Sometimes, it is even necessary in order to progress in certain areas of the game. This is one aspect of Breath of the Wild I did not have a lot of fun with. It was a little interesting mixing and matching ingredients to see what tasty treat Link would make for himself, but for the most part, I wanted to burn through cooking as quickly as possible, so that I could get back to the action. I actually think that if this mechanic was used to make armor and weapons, I would have had a lot more fun than simply just making food. But I didn’t find cooking too much of a burden, I would just rather use my valuable time elsewhere.
Link Isn’t Perfection – Some Minor Flaws
So far, I have had almost all positives to say about Breath of the Wild, but there are a few faults that bring the game down from “perfection” to “really, really, really awesome.” One of these faults is the storyline of the game. I actually love the premise of the game — Link was mortally wounded and has been asleep for 100 years, recuperating as Calamity Ganon has wreaked havoc on the world. That story sounds amazing. The other storylines that go along with this are really well done (I don’t want to go into too much detail, to spoil the story for others), however the game left one big void in the story — Ganon. Throughout the entire game, Ganon seems like this looming shadow that is waiting to mock Link for his failures 100 years ago. It seemed like a great way to show how villainous Ganon could be, much as he was in Ocarina of Time, but instead, there is basically nothing to Ganon. He is just a dark force. He’s hardly even sentient, it seems. It is very strange the way the end of the story was handled, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say, I was left very disappointed when I finished the game.
I was overly enjoyed playing the game up until the end though. It is just that when I finished the game, I didn’t actually believe I was done. I just happened to be wandering around in Hyrule Castle looking for something, when I stumbled into the final boss. I figured I would give it a go, and quite easily beat him. I thought there would be something more…but there wasn’t.
Enough harping on that though. (Almost) the rest of the entire game was amazing. The only other negatives I had for the game were very minor. For example, the whole slipping while climbing in the rain is very frustrating. Sure, Link could find an overhang and make a fire to try to sleep through it, but that wasn’t even a guarantee, and sometimes I would just walk away from the game for a few minutes, waiting for it to dry up. It really seemed like an unnecessary burden.
Frame rates also dropped some, but hardly enough to be noticeable. I really can’t complain too much other than saying I would think a Nintendo first party title would run smoother on their own system. It wasn’t game-breaking, and I got used to that after a while.
The last quibble I had for the game revolved around the gyroscope shrine puzzles. I mentioned this previously in my Nintendo Switch review, but trying to figure out how to use the gyroscope in handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch while trying to look at the screen still was a bit of a chore. That combined with the less-than sturdy kickstand, could really make these puzzles not very fun to complete. This only came up a couple times though, so it also was not a big deal.
Final Thoughts On Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I spent more time playing Breath of the Wild than I have any other video game in a long time. I had begun to think that I was getting too old for them, but Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild just pulled me right back into it. This game can easily appeal to people who enjoyed past Zelda titles, or those of haven’t but love open world games like Elder Scrolls, or The Witcher. The way the game is broken up, it allows for quick play sessions — a big reason I think Breath of the Wild opted for dozens of smaller shrines rather than bigger, sprawling dungeons that would take several hours to complete. This really makes Breath of the Wild work well in handheld mode on the go too — waiting around for a doctor appointment? Spend 10 minutes and finish a shrine.
Because of the disappointing factors I mentioned above, I can’t give the game a perfect score. I think it does deserve a very high one though. I think it would be somewhere between an 8.5 and 9, so I will say 8.75. If the story would have been just a little bit better towards the end of the game, I would easily give the game a 9 or even a 9.5.
I highly recommend playing through the game though. If you have a Wii U, or access to one, I would even play it there, if I had no other options. It is that good of a game. Every nook and cranny of the game seems to have something hidden in it. The world is a beautiful landscape to run though, there are so many puzzles to complete, the game really draws you in. Again, play this game if at all possible, you will not regret it.