Once upon a time, I spent an entire Christmas break playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time non-stop. I took it to my friend’s house. We took turns trying to solve dungeons and uncover secrets. That game, probably more than any other, ignited a sense of adoration for videogames that I’ve carried through into my 30s. I never thought I’d find a game that could make me feel such a sense of wonder and adventure again. Then, on March 3rd 2017 – I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and suddenly I was 14 years old again. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is every bit a classic as Ocarina of Time, and deserves all the praise it receives. This is our Breath of the Wild review.
MY TWO CONS
Let me do the hard part of this review right off the bat. There are two things, exactly two, that I am not a fan of in BotW. Firstly, I am not fond of the breaking weapon system. I feel it adds a layer of avoidance and pointlessness to overworld fighting, because you really don’t want to use your best weapons for fear of not having them when you need them later. Secondly, as much as I love the horses, they’re pretty useless. The world is packed so tightly with content and things to discover; you miss a lot of this when you use a horse. And if I need to get somewhere fast, chances are I have a nearby fast travel location to use. Now, with that out of the way, I shall proceed to gush about what it is that makes Breath of the Wild so special.
DON’T DREAM IT, DO IT
I remember playing games as a kid, trying to interact with enemies and the environment and getting frustrated when whatever virtual world I was in didn’t do what I wanted it to. The game couldn’t process what my imagination wanted to happen with the enemies or puzzles. For the most part, little has changed in gaming over the decades since my earliest 2D gaming memories. But Breath of the Wild is different. As the saying goes, there are several ways to skin a cat, and in BotW anything you want to do can likely be accomplished in any way you can imagine. And the tools you have at your disposal as Link? Those enemies have the same tools, and the brains to use them against you.
Breath of the Wild gives you unprecedented freedom in a Zelda game. After the initial hour or so, you can go anywhere and do anything – including taking on the final boss. It eschews so many of the design choices Zelda has become synonymous with (you get all your tools within the game’s first hour), but it still feels remarkably like a Hyrule adventure. There may be four main dungeons, but they can be done in any order. There are also 140 mini dungeons to solve. Countless side quests and hidden puzzles to explore.
A TRULY OPEN WORLD
This version of Hyrule is the largest ever made. While some might see its sweeping swathes of grass as empty, the truth is more complex – every nook and cranny of this Hyrule has wonder, intrigue, purpose. Breath of the Wild is a game that thrives on little details. From the way the world reacts to a near-nude Link to the way fish and wildlife react to your presence, every tiny thing about this Zelda is both carefully orchestrated and yet unscripted.
And while Breath of the Wild finally takes Zelda further into the realm of Role-Playing traditions with quests, crafting, cooking, armore, weapons – none of it feels out of place. You still have hearts. You have the stamina system from Skyward sword, but there is no XP or levels. Every bit of character advancement happens through the 140 mini dungeons known as Shrines, or the defeat of the larger dungeons, or the completion of special quests. Nintendo has managed to create an open world RPG version of Zelda that doesn’t betray the sensibilities of the series in favor of traditional RPG elements.
What’s more is that Breath of the Wild feels like it’s an evolved Zelda. Every entry in the series tries something new, but seldom does it feel like more than “Zelda with a new gimmick”. This time Eiji Aonuma has managed to completely raise the bar for what we should expect from the series. When we get the next entry, however many years from now, it’s going to be compared to Breath of the Wild the same way every game after Ocarina was compared to it.
FINAL BREATH OF THE WILD REVIEW THOUGHTS
I could go on about this game for ages, but I’m purposefully trying to avoid spoilers here on the off chance that some of you still haven’t played Breath of the Wild. 2017 has already been host to some fantastic games. But none of them can truly hold a candle to Nintendo’s latest crowning achievement. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only the greatest game so far this year, it’s one of the greatest games ever created and a title we’ll all be playing years from now.