While some sites and companies got their Nintendo Switch and copies of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild early, here at Darkworld Gaming we had to wait until release day to get ours. Therefore you, our beloved readers, have had to wait to hear my thoughts on Nintendo’s latest offerings.
So, without further ado, let us review the Zelda franchises latest game and question whether it live up to the hype.
I shall begin by pointing out that saying I am a HUGE Zelda fan, I have the Triforce on my wedding ring – that kind of fan! But I don’t want you to think that my love of the Zelda franchise will put too much of a bias on this review – out of love I intend to review it harshly, and without major story spoilers.
When the first trailers for Breath of the Wild were shown to the public, I was blown away with it all. But as each new trailer dropped, and each new titbit of information was released, doubts started to form. The Legend of Zelda games have always followed a bit of a formula, and “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” springs to mind. While every trailer intensified the hype, there were almost always little nuggets within each one that made me question the direction of the game.
And on just about every doubt I can now think of, I was proven wrong!
And boy am I happy that I was proven wrong!
One of my main concerns came from the last, new, instalment into the Zelda franchise, one A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS. While it was an amazing Zelda game that brought lots of new things to the table, while also tugging on that nostalgia chain linked (pun intended) to my childhood, its main downfall was how easy it was. Because it was designed in a way that you could play the dungeons in any order, it meant that everything was just too easy – even on the unlockable hard mode.
This was a concern I had for Breath of the Wild as soon as they started talking about it being open world. But it would seem Nintendo learnt from their “mistake” in A Link Between Worlds, because Breath of the Wild is refreshingly difficult. You will most likely die multiple times even before you leave the Great Plateau – what is roughly equivalent to a “Tutorial” of sorts.
Early on you learn, the hard way, that enemies can kill you in a single hit if you’re not being careful. Forcing you to respect the enemies you are facing off against, instead of just charging in blindly knowing that you’re nigh on immortal. Even now, nearing the end of the story, sitting with 15 heart containers, enemies are still a threat, even though I could’ve come to Death Mountain as my first “quest zone” rather than rushing to visit the Zora like I did.
Nintendo have managed to balance the game so that you actually can complete the “Dungeons” in any order you want, but haven’t left the game being too easy as a result of this. Nintendo have also created the story so that each area you visit has relevant story, but it doesn’t get jumbled by you completing it in different orders.
Something I think Nintendo has been quite clever in doing, is creating a Zelda game that isn’t a Zelda game. Which possibly doesn’t make much sense. In so many ways Breath of the Wild breaks all of the aspects of the age-old Zelda formula, but it still feels like a Zelda game and still plays like a Zelda game.
Why is this clever? As popular as The Legend of Zelda has always been, there have always been people who either “Don’t like” or “Haven’t played” the Zelda games. I have a friend who has always said that while he thinks they look cool, they’re just not his “cup of tea”.
As a lifelong Zelda fan, I can happily say that this IS a Zelda game, but to an outsider looking in, it doesn’t come across that way. It looks much more like Skyrim or other similar big open world games, which are games that my aforementioned friend loves. Nintendo have successfully made a game that has ticked all of the boxes for the fans, while also enticing new players like my friend who is heavily considering buying the Switch to play Zelda.
“But wait”, I hear your cry. “I thought you were going to be harsh”. That I did dear reader, that I did.
While early reviews of Breath of the Wild touted some big words about the game “Masterpiece” and “Perfect” were being slung around by most games journalists out there. Are these words deserved?
Masterpiece is definitely praise worthy of this game, but “Perfect” is a very, very, high target to hit. And while this is likely my favourite Zelda title to date, even I don’t quite think it is “Perfect”. It is quite close to it, but there are a few, rather niggly, criticisms I can make about Breath of the Wild.
There are three points I’ll bring up, three of which are extremely finickity, but the third is possibly a bit of a bigger point:
- There is no Percentage Complete tracker that I have found.
- With previous Zelda titles this isn’t required, but with an open world game with so many side quests and all that jazz, it is something we gamers have come to expect.
- The Shrine Signal Beeping gets SO annoying
- Ok this one is an actual “in game” point. Early on you get the ability to “track” Shrines. It works a bit like a radar, where the signal beeps louder the closer you get to the shrine. It’s a great system in theory, however I often find that I’ll have “found” the Shrine, I’m running in a straight line towards it across a relatively empty grass field, and the beeping just keeps getting more and more intense. Yes, the feature can be turned off, yes, it is sometimes needed for finding the more hidden shrines, but I just think it could’ve been better used as a use of the HD Rumble feature perhaps.
- I don’t feel the music is up to par.
- This is probably my biggest criticism of the game thus far. I’ve been to two of the Symphony of the Goddesses performances, and I’m sat here listening to the orchestral CD that came with the collector’s edition of Skyward Sword, and having listened to the CD that came with my collector’s edition of Breath of the Wild, and the in-game music – it just doesn’t feel up to par. That’s not to say that I think it is bad, I just don’t think is going to be as iconic as previous games. It doesn’t seem as prevalent in the game as previous titles.
- Also as a small niggly “Sub Point”, there are a few “jingles” that use or reference previous Zelda jingles/sounds, but aren’t quite the same. The sound when you activate the terminals at the top of towers, it has that crescendo you know from previous games, but doesn’t do the “bit” at the end. And it bugs me!
Those are quite literally the only “negatives” I’ve really come up with so far, and I hope you’ll agree, those are all pretty far reaching. However, negatives were found, and thus I can’t really agree it is therefore “Perfect”.
But by the Goddesses it is probably as close to Perfect as any game is likely to get!
There is a lot in Breath of the Wild that is new or changed, and while initial knee-jerk reactions might be “oh I don’t like the sound of that!” once you actually try them out, it turns out they’re pretty cool and really do add to the game for the most part.
Gone is “Link’s Gardening Services”, endlessly cutting grass for Rupees and Hearts. Instead Rupees are largely gained from selling items you don’t need or want, “gambling” mini games or a few other means (I always feel guilty shooting those Blupees…). And Hearts are regained by means of the not as painful as World of Warcraft’s food system.
This ties in nicely with how much of a rare commodity arrows can be early in the game. Because ein the beginning you’ll not have many Rupees so you can’t always afford to be stocked up on arrows. It’s almost reminiscent of the very first Zelda’s firing arrows at the cost of Rupees system.
Throughout Hyrule you’ll find various food items from apples on trees, fish in rivers and meat from slain animals to rare vegetables, mushrooms and flowers. Many can be eaten just as they are, but throw them into one of many cooking pots scattered around the land of Hyrule and you’ll concoct a delicious treat that can be used to restore your health in a pinch. As well as other secondary effects, such as adding spicy peppers to add cold resistance, or mighty bananas to increase your damage.
When the food system was first announced I immediately thought about how tedious the World of Warcraft cooking system is, but Breath of the Wild’s is so simple and effective, and gives you a little more control than just smashing pots for Hearts.
The weapon system is also very new, almost anything that you think could be used as a weapon can be, from expected swords, clubs and spears, to slain enemies’ limbs and farming or cooking tools. When Link threatens to tear off someone’s arm and beat them to death with the wet end – he can! (Providing they’re a Stalfos of some kind anyway…). But to keep things interesting weapons and shields have limited durability – after a while the weapon will break on you!
The slight downside to this is you end up “saving” good weapons for later, because you don’t know when you might need a weapon that bit more powerful. Only to still have it when the standard weapons you find start being even better than that weapon you’re hanging on to.
Hopefully it’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the Master Sword is in the game. But it doesn’t take long for you to start thinking “Sheesh, I hope the Master Sword can’t just break on me like this…”. Thus, you naturally expect that the Master Sword would just become the last weapon you’ll ever need.
But with a clever twist of storytelling, which I won’t spoil – just in case, even after obtaining the coveted Master Sword, you’ll still need to maintain a full inventory of weapons.
I saw a post recently where a writer was getting nostalgic over older Zelda titles, remembering how big Hyrule field seemed the first time they walked out onto it in Ocarina of Time. But Breath of the Wild blows all other Zelda games, as well as many other similar open world style RPGs, out of the water with the sheer scale of the world.
The Great Plateau, which essentially is the “tutorial” zone of the game, is bigger than many other Zelda games are in total, and it’s just one of nearly twenty zones of similar, if not bigger, size. A very early worry for me was that bigger doesn’t always equal better. Having a huge open world in games can often just result in long boring travel times. But there is just so much to discover and do in Breath of the Wild.
Each zone has a tower to find and climb (to unlock that zone’s map in your Shiekah slate); multiple shrines to find, de-puzzle and conquer (120 in total); countless Korok to find (920 I believe); enemy encampments to defeat and hidden mini games to play.
Not to mention that every shrine and tower can be used as a fast travel point. Getting around never really seems to feel slow or dull like I’ve found in previous open world games.
The sheer scale of the game seems to just make it even more immersive, add in the way the story seems to work brilliantly in the open world, no set path, setting. Another aspect of brilliant immersion is the weather system. Outside of pure snow/hot regions, there is a very clever random weather system. But weather, unlike in many other games, makes a gameplay difference. If it’s raining, surfaces become slippery, making climbing nearly impossible. When a full-blown storm breaks out, you’d best remove any metal from your person, otherwise there is a very deadly risk of being struck by lightning. Rain will also put out fires, meaning you could have a hard time getting to a cook fire in a pinch.
While I have seen some impatient players complain about the inconvenience of having to waitfor the rain to blow over to climb a rock face, or at having to keep a set of the, usually weaker, wooden weapons on hand in case you find yourself in a fight in a storm, to me, it just makes it even more immersive. Add in that walking in snow or sand without the right footwear is slower. If you’re not warm enough the cold, snowy, areas will sap your health and stamina. Around Death Mountain if you’re not “fire proof” you’ll set on fire.
Add in that all the above weather is very beautiful to watch, and you just get lost in the game, once I got “stuck” half way up a cliff when it started raining, so just turned around on the outcrop I’d been stranded on and watched the storm off in the distance until it passed.
All in all, Breath of the Wild is a breath-taking game (pun intended). I might’ve tried to find faults, but struggled to really find anything substantial to fault it on. The graphics are stunning, the story and immersion are spot on and compared to recent Zelda titles Breath of the Wild is refreshingly difficult.
If you’ve got a Switch, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t own this game!