Review | Zelda: Breath of the Wild
"A game where everything makes sense, where grass grow after the rain with the rising sun in the morning, where you can wander and go astray for hours...Folks, this is how they should do our open-world games."
When it comes to Zelda and Nintendo, I can't think of anything negative in the far past for this combination (well, except the stable high prices of Nintendo games). When I first heard that Zelda is becoming an open-world game, I was curious and afraid at the same time. I’m really not a big fan of open-world games, there is just something off here, probably the fact that there are so many mediocre ones in terms of story and repetitive content.
At the same time, I knew something big will happen. Zelda never disappoints. For example Ocarina of time is still my all-time favourite Zelda game and the title which I could play over and over again without getting bored (of course, in different time intervals). The game came out in 2017. That is like almost 4 years ago. As there is almost nothing to play on my PS5 at the moment, the time was right for one casual bonding with Breath of the Wild.
Welcome and enjoy your stay
Imagine Hyrule kingdom, all green and beautiful, transferred to a big open-world game. We got that here. Don’t think it in a bad way, no no no, I mean in the best possible way, and let me tell you why. This game can school other games of the same genre, this is how every open-world game should look like if you ask me. I don’t just mean the graphical representation, I mean all the other aspects as well. Let’s just start from the top and make our journey towards one of the best game of its genre.
So, you know how you usually run around, discover the world and in the end you just fetch stuff and feel uninspired to sometimes even finish the main story? Here we have something different. The whole world is conceived so it serves you, not the other way around.
You will start with the story and how you end up in this era. When it comes to the story, neither Zelda game offers something special. It’s all about saving princess Zelda from the pawns of the evil ruler Ganon, who interestingly took over the world 100 years ago and grew too strong for the situation. Link was preserved and to make the story short – you are here after 100 years sleep. It’s time to weaken Ganon and save the Hyrule Kingdom once again.
To uncover the full story you will have to solve main missions. They will guide you towards different parts of the map and each will initiate some past events, so you learn about past and the future (which is now). I like how they did this in a way that you don’t need to follow your missions at all – you can just visit the castle and defeat Ganon. Just like that! Don’t recommend it though, you need some extra power from known tribes around Hyrule. Plus, it’s just fun to do as much as you can.
Explore the world and meet all your Zelda favorites. Don't forget to volume up!
The world can be a little overwhelming at the start. You need to get familiar with the game mechanics such as weather conditions for example. When it’s cold, you need anti-cold armor sets. When it’s stormy, de-equip everything metal, otherwise you will just get stroke with the lightning. Climbing while it’s raining will not help you climb. You can also cook resistance potions and survive like that, but I liked the armor hunt, so I ended up having all sets for all conditions.
What I loved the most is how the world is unique and fun. Maybe it seems a bit empty, but after playing for 10 minutes you will see that’s not even remotely true. Every time you start traveling somewhere you will wonder somewhere. There is so much do to: uncovering the rocks and collecting weird Koroku seeds (that can expand your inventory), looking for temples (needed for the health and stamina upgrades), raiding skull-shaped object and pulling the chests buried in the ground using your skills…I can’t even begin to describe how rich and fun is the Zelda world here. Hyrule is full of life and surprizes with unique stories and characters, conversations that are both fun and interesting…I mean, the whole game fits perfectly into the concept it represents. There is a ton of side stuff you can indulge into. I highly recommend doing so, not only it will prepare you for upcoming challenges, but it will also make you happy and show you that optional parts of the game are as beautiful and fun as the main parts.
I didn’t even began to explain how the puzzles fit into all this.
Climb the towers to reveal the map parts, expand your invetory by giving Koroku seeds to the weird leafy guy, just run under the moonlight...
The puzzles are somewhat the most fun part of all the Zelda games. They are innovative, they use all controller features such as motion, and on the 3DS it even used the speaker functions (shout to wake up people, blow to extinguish torches…). Something similar we have here – first you will have to really use your brain to even discover something related to quests. Often they come in riddles. You need to find the place where the 3 tallest trees align or shoot the source of light when the shadow of the tower fall on the activation portal for a temple. Neat!
Consider challenges as parts of the temples you can find, discover or you enter for story reasons (like the 4 beast temples you need to finish). Each of these are mostly short and you need to use some of the skills (bombs, magnet, stasis, cold platforms) to overcome them. Believe me, some were mind-blowing. Plus, hard! My brain couldn’t cope with some, I had to return later and really think what is required. Rewards for completing them are the Spirit Orbs, plus usually weapons or even equipment (rarely). Collect 4 to upgrade your health or stamina. You need the health to survive and the stamina to climb the taller mountains/buildings.
When it comes to beast temples, that is something we had in the previous games. They are climactic-themed. Some are tricky. You will be able to change the structure of the beast that you are inside of, which will mean the interior will shift and open new areas. You need some serious thinking to overcome them. At the end you will face a boss. Those are not hard, and they leave the heart container. To beat them you will have to use your skills and brain.
The temples will be a place where you need to use your logic and overcome some nasty parts
The collecting and crafting is not intrusive at all. Many plants and endemic life will serve as health replenishment. You can cook some ingredients in the pot to create stronger and better usable’s. Who doesn’t like to cook raw prime meat? Why feed Link with the raw meat anyway…
The thing I really hate (yes, hate, don’t like at all) is the weapon break system. Armors are fine, you get one, equip it, upgrade by visiting the great fairies and give them money/materials. For weapons, you need to find one and soon after using it, it just breaks. The break system is unreal. I get the idea, the game wants you to experiment with different weapons, use your surroundings, pick up everything that falls and kick their asses. But oh my god, I hated it. You find a good looking weapon and you know it’s gonna break in 10 hits or so. Even with the Master Sword you have the same problem. Of course, you can pick them up again somewhere, and often you will do that to prepare for harder parts. That made my pacing a bit disrupted, I see this as a lazy RPG system, they could’ve instead create a more hardcore RPG with different influence of those weapons and numbers.
On the counter part, most of the weapons are cool and unique, but very soon you will see that movesets depends solely of the type and the category. Battles are in general fun, but very simple. Perfect dodge, bow attacks and some sword finishers work wonders. This combined with all other aspects works perfectly, but I’ve seen better combat in many games.
Not much else to say here, shields are for me the most un-relevant in this whole picture, I usually used dodge to get my chances.
The variety of monsters is solid. When you glow like in the Cyberpunk, who will want to mess with you? Let me answer that - everyone
From the technical standpoint, I guess it is fine. I mean, the game is bug free, quite fast loading times and all, but the issue is with FPS on some occasions. It runs in more or less stable 30 FPS and it falls a bit when you reach crowded areas.
Graphics are impressive for a Wii U/early Switch game. Although it cannot compete with 4K beauty we play on other consoles, it can certainly show us that optimized games indeed exist, and they can look almost as beautiful. Character models are top notch, animations and physics in the game are great. Flying, running, climbing – everything is done well.
The one aspect blew my mind. Music. I can’t describe how melancholic the music is. It’s so great that it creates feelings and bound your mind to some locations just by playing you the tones. Composing this masterpiece was something that just raised the bar. Honestly, now when I’ve played this, Genshin and Fenyx are just copycat games with some new things here and there (still fun though!).
The map is really good and detailed. You will also spend some time doing all kinds of micromanagment stuff in the inventory (mostly healing hehe). Lastly, this boy on the last pic just sleeps past 7 AM!
To sum things up, we have a Zelda game fully transferred to an open-world environment. The world is living, nurturing being full of hidden stuff and surprizes. It holds the spirit of the series and just envelops it into a big game, carefully measured to keep you hooked and to provide fun.
Side content is as good as the main, even better. Music is a music to your ears, literally. As you venture through beautiful, cute towns you will enjoy your time and feel the serenity.
Quests are fun for your and for your brain, challenges innovative, and the tools you have at your disposal are just enough to keep you interested. Like I’ve said in my Fenyx review, if all open-world games follow this style and construction, I would play them all and enjoy. I knew that Zelda is the reason why I loved those feature similar ones!
Zelda's. Wrong! Link and Zelda.
Oh, and stop calling Link Zelda! The boy had it rough, saving Zelda all these years…Till the next time folks! I can’t wait for the new Zelda game.