Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) is the newest installment in the 30 year old “The Legend of Zelda” franchise. The game breaks a lot of traditions of previous 3D Zelda titles while going back to some of its roots from the original “The Legend of Zelda” on the NES. The game is an open-world action-adventure title with RPG, survival and puzzle elements.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most story focused franchises by Nintendo. The entirety of the franchise fits inside a single universe that spans over multiple timelines to accommodate the variety of games. A few key aspects though are always the same. You play a character by the name of Link and must save Zelda from the evil power by the name of Ganon. This is also the case for Breath of the Wild.
You start the game waking up from some sort of bath having lost all of your memories. You will soon learn the reason for your slumber but you find out right away that the main goal of the game is to stop the “Calamity Ganon”. The game allows you to head straight to the final boss Ganon after you finish the tutorial area of the game. Your best bet though is to instead travel the world (named Hyrule) to become stronger and to achieve the objectives that will help you defeat Ganon.
The story of the game is strong but you must take time to learn and discover it for yourself. This game allows you all the freedom you may desire. Trying to rush the game will make you miss the details and could make you believe the story to be weak. Taking time to play this game will allow you to really experience and get into detail with its events and characters. You will notice that a lot of thought and detail has been put into them and many elements of the game really fit together storywise.
What made the original “The Legend of Zelda” so cherished by the people who played it on the NES are its world and the feeling of exploring it. From the start of the game you are able to go wherever you want. The world is entirely free and the only thing that may stop you is the difficulty of the enemies you come across. At the start of the game you still need to get stronger to be able to face most of them.
While you may wonder why we are describing the original Zelda title here, this actually also applies to Breath of the Wild. This is exactly how BotW goes back to the roots of the original game. While many other Zelda titles gated you off from certain places until you progressed far enough in the story, BotW lets you access the entire world after you’ve finished the tutorial area.
The exploration is definitely one of the greatest strengths of this game. One point that open world games nowadays struggle in is that while the world is large, there is actually few things in it. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild nails this very well. Your exploration will always be rewarded with something, be it treasure or something else entirely. Going into the most random place and getting something cool out of it will make you feel such satisfaction that you want to explore more of the world. In open-world games you are usually responsible yourself to adapt the pacing of the game to your needs. So just make sure to tackle other tasks if you get a bit bored of exploration.
The core of most games lies in its gameplay and in Breath of the Wild you are in for a treat. The gameplay has mainly carried over from other 3d Zelda titles with a lot of interesting improvements and revisions. The core of the gameplay, which is its weapon based close combat stays the same. Other weapons like the bow and bombs also make a return.
While fighting foes, you are able to lock onto them using the ZL button. This focuses your camera onto enemies and allows you to more effectively move around and circle them. Doing so will also help you dodge and parry enemy attacks more effectively. Fighting enemies you are able to use a variety of attacks depending on the currently equipped weapon. There are numerous weapon types in the game and there should always be something that suits your playstyle.
Combat is heavily physics based and Breath of the Wild sets a new standard for this. The physics interactions are brilliant and allow you to approach enemy camps in numerous new ways. You may just be able to push a boulder in such a way that it rolls over and kills your enemies, which allows you to take the rewards without even fighting. This can be seen as one of the puzzle elements in this game.
The biggest revision of the game is its weapon system. Every weapon is brittle, meaning they break after some use. Some may find this a bit tedious but playing the game this mechanic proved rather fun. It forces the player to prepare somewhat for encounters and also encourages using a variety of weapons. You will feel great enjoyment when you find a strong weapon in your explorations and are able to use it against a strong enemy. When enemies die or are hit with a very strong blow they will drop their weapon and you will be able to collect it and use it against them or their friends. This can add some very fun and intense moments when enemies get visibly angry when you steal their weapons.
The weapon system requires you to manage your weapons effectively and is part of the survival mechanics that are present in this game. You will have to manage more resources than just your weapons. This can be combined with exploration and be done in a very interesting way. Exploration can net you some really cool stuff and while getting from point A to point B you are always able to pick up the resources on the way. This helps you then prepare for your more dangerous adventures. Alternating between exploration and action gives this game a really great pacing.
We’ve still only scratched the surface of the game in terms of gameplay. One aspect that definitely still needs to be touched is its puzzles. The series has been long known for providing interesting puzzles to its players. Most of the puzzles take up the form of shrines, which are secluded areas of the game with the objective being to reach the end of them. Doing so requires you to solve a puzzle, which can be as simple as lighting some torches in a certain way or getting a ball to roll onto the right place. These are mostly physics based and are placed extremely well in the world and if you enjoy having to use your brain a little, you will find great enjoyment in this game.
The atmosphere of a game is very important for its immersion. Especially a game like Zelda requires a great degree of immersion to be able to really experience it. Thankfully the game achieves just that. While we do need to mention that there are some framerate drops in the docked mode of the Switch in some very grassy areas, we were able to overlook them since they were so few of them and generally happened outside of combat.
Numerous factors make the atmosphere of BotW so strong. The game runs on a very small portable device and has thus less horsepower available compared to other platforms. The game hence opts for a very unique artstyle. Some of the graphics seem cellshaded while some are more realistically aligned. This blended together very well and allowed achieving more with less. What then especially stands out about the game are all the graphical effects that are used. Dynamic Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, fog, wind and weather all look very pretty. In addition to the things like the wildlife, this makes the world really feel alive.
All these things really add to the immersion of the world made out of numerous biomes like deserts, snowy worlds and jungles. Another aspect that really stood out to us is the music in this game. The music itself is great but what really makes it fantastic is how the intensity of the music adapts to the intensity of the current situation. Imagine fighting a weak and small enemy. The music will then stay rather calm but will still signal to you that some combat is going on. Then you go and battle some bigger and stronger enemies and also more of them. Suddenly the fight becomes very exciting and the music will show you how intense it really is. This allowed the same track used for common enemies to always feel fresh even after over 50 hours of playtime. Overall the atmosphere and immersion of the game are absolutely brilliant with it definitely being in the top tier of games in this category.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an absolutely stunning game and especially its physics and exploration sets new standards for video games. To anyone starting to play the game, we greatly recommend to take time with it and at least finish all main quests before heading off the the final showdown. You will greatly lessen the experience otherwise.
Our score is 98, which is one of the highest possible scores we can give. For the highest score 100, the game needs to be great the whole way through. While we were able to overlook the framerate, there were some points in the game that could have been better when compared to the rest of the game. A standard playthrough of the game took us over 50 hours with a lot of places still unexplored. We also really want to play this game some more and are looking forward to the upcoming DLC. These factors combined with how good the game is, easily gives it the full value of its MSRP.
(out of 100)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes many open world elements and new ideas and executes them to near perfection. The way the game does its exploration, atmosphere and physics based interactions sets a new standard for video games. This game is truly a masterpiece.
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