A “Link” To The Past

    By: Nicholas Catto – In 2013, Nintendo officially unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to the world. We were all blown away by the direction the series was taking. Complete open world, with no hand holding. Venture off into the world, whichever way you see fit, just like The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System. You could say the franchise was “linking” back to its roots. Since the official announcement, the game was delayed twice and Nintendo launched a new home console. As the years passed, the hype kept building and building with each new trailer. I was scared that there was no possible way this game could live up to the unparalleled hype levels. I’m glad to say that this game not only lived up to the hype but surpassed any dream I had for it.

    Breathtaking Open World

    Breath of the Wild offers something that I like to call “true open world freedom”. Previous open world games offer tons of choices and freedom to explore, but none have ever done it to the extreme that Breath of the Wild offers. In this game, Nintendo has truly given you the reigns to do whatever you would like. If you want to go straight ahead and attempt to take on Ganon, you can do so at any point you’d like, regardless of how many dungeons or shrines you’ve done. The game doesn’t funnel you into any certain direction. If you’d like to do the Zora area first, they let you go ahead and do it. If you think the Zora area is boring, you can choose to not do the area at all. Breath of the Wild has zero hand holding. It was a huge breath of fresh air to not feel pushed to accomplish certain tasks. I never felt rushed or overwhelmed with anything.

    The main thing that makes this open world so special is the space you’re exploring. Hyrule is the most breathtaking and interesting landscape I’ve ever experienced in a game. I was constantly being pulled in different directions when I was traversing the vast terrain. Every time I was exploring, something pulled me off the beaten path, wanting to see what it was. In the beginning of the game, I was trying to get to the main objective point, but I was pulled aside by a giant skull house with enemies occupying it. How could I not go see what was going on? I haven’t felt this kind of wonder playing a game since I was a child. The main thing that helps this desire to explore everything is the climbing system. In Breath of the Wild, you can literally climb anything. If you see something interesting on top of a tall hill, you can go see what’s up there. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced. This feature is so good that it may have ruined other open world games for me. There will never be a more intense moment than when your stamina wheel is almost depleted and you have a few more feet to climb. Climbing makes Hyrule even more majestic, as you constantly see beautiful vista as you scale mountains. The land of Hyrule is a character in of itself and keeps you guessing what’s coming up next. I did encounter some slight frame rate stutter throughout my adventures, but it didn’t alter my overall experience when playing.

    Everything Has A Purpose

    In Breath of the Wild, everything you pick up offers value to the player. When you defeat your enemies, they drop their weapon/shield, as well as other parts. If you defeat a bokoblin, they may drop “bokoblin horns, fangs or guts”. These are not only available to sell to merchants but can be cooked into various elixirs to help along your journey. This makes you want to go out and fight the enemies you see.

    The dropped and found weapons are valuable due to weapon corrosion. During your many battles, your weaponry will eventually break down and be destroyed. While many may view this as an annoyance, I see it as a way to keep the gameplay fresh and give everything value. Your spear may break, causing you to have to swap to a two-handed greatsword, which Link uses very differently to attack.  This changes the way you approach combat situations, making the combat loop stay invigorating. This feature also makes you want to pick up and try new items, as you never get attached to any particular weapon.

    The cooking feature gives you reasons to hunt wildlife and pick up vegetation when exploring. When I first started playing, I didn’t think this feature would mean much to me, but in the end, I found myself cooking non-stop. I was mixing and matching ingredients to make amazing dishes to help cure my health and give me helpful stat boosts. When you enter extreme temperature zones, you’ll need to cook up food or potions that boost your resistance to extreme climates. This feature makes great use of cooking and makes the player want to at least try it out.

    Objectives To Accomplish

    The newest feats to accomplish are called shrines. There are tons of them scattered around Hyrule, and you’ll run into them during your adventures. Shrines are bite-sized dungeons that offer spirit orbs after you defeat them. After you collect four orbs, you can turn them in for either a heart container or an upgrade to your stamina wheel. Shrines provide a great objective and purpose to thoroughly explore the Kingdom of Hyrule. The puzzles inside of them are also fun to do and can sometimes be really difficult to figure out. The only shrine that I disliked was the one motion control puzzle. It was so impossibly hard to control that I wanted to slam my controller on the ground in frustration. Trust me, you’ll know the one I’m speaking of. Despite that one shrine, every other one was vastly different and engaging. Shrines are something that needs to stay in every Zelda entry from here on out.

    Breath of the Wild producer Eiji Aonuma created a game that is masterfully intertwined, despite being able to do everything in any order you choose. Aonuma has given the players all the tools they need to defeat every puzzle right off the bat, which makes your brain the only obstacle. This is a great change of pace from previous Zeldas, where Link needs to get certain items to accomplish the dungeons. I found myself leaving many shrines, not knowing how to accomplish the objective, knowing that I would eventually learn how and defeat it later on. Having the tools to defeat puzzles right away adds to the exploration factor of Breath of the Wild. You’ll never run into an area that you can’t complete its shrines.

    Switching It Up!

    I’m reviewing Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch console. I had to make this a topic due to how the portability aspect of this system adds to the experience of playing this game. The fact that you can have this experience on the go is something that I can barely put into words. Being able to take this wherever you go and crush a few shrines or explore an area you wanted to see is amazing. Playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch is for sure the best way to experience this game.

    The Verdict

    The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in game design and is my favorite video game of all time. Hyrule is the most engaging world I’ve ever explored, as it’s constantly pulling you in every direction, making you wonder what’s next. Breath of the Wild makes me feel the same kind of magic I did when I played video games as a kid. This is an absolute must play title for everyone.