The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a third-person open world game made by Nintendo. In this iteration of the franchise, you play as Link, who wakes up in a cave with no memory of what happened. You soon learn that their was a battle between Ganon and Hyrule 100 years ago, but Hyrule lost. From that battle, you find that Zelda is trapped inside of the castle and you must go out and defeat Ganon and take back Hyrule.
Before I get into this review, I must say that even though I know the basic story of this franchise, I have not played every game in this franchise. So do not expect this to be a comparison to other Zelda titles.
Breath of the Wild is one of the launch titles to the new Nintendo Switch. I can say with confidence that of all the console launch games that I have played, this one is my favorite. The one word that comes to mind when I think of this game is epic. Not the epic that surfers use, but as in epic in scale. From the size of the map to the boss fights, this game shows how big in scale it is.
For starters, the map is huge. The size of the map is around 360 km, around nine times the size of Skyrim. But what is truly impressive is that the map is filled with things to do and places to see. I never really felt that the map was empty, because the amount of collectibles and missions fill the large map. But don't let the quantity scare you, as for the content in the game is great as well. Whether its going through fun puzzles and battles through one of 120 mini dungeons known as shrines, collecting 900 seeds known as korok seeds, going through one of many main, side, and shrine quests, or simply just fighting, scavenging, hunting, cooking, the amount of things to do in the game are not only great in quantity, but in quality as well. I have over 60 hours into the game, and the map says that I am only 20% complete, and that percentage isn't even based on everything to do and collect. This is one of a very few amount of open world games that I came back to and continually play because I found that their is so many things to do that I just had to go back.
But what really makes this great is the self-discovery aspect. Their isn't a hint bar to tell you where to go, or the map being filled with icons on 'interesting things to do.' A lot of it is through self discovery. In the game, their are towers to climb, and those towers will reveal chunks of the map to you. But nothing on those chunks of map shows you anywhere interesting. I found it really fun to stand on the tower, look through the telescope, and mark points of interest for me to explore. A lot of this game, in all aspects of the game (exploring, fighting, cooking, etc.) is through self discovery, and that was where the rewarding experience was.
But their are still many aspects of the game that I loved. After leaving the tutorial area, the game gives you total freedom on what you want to do. It took 30 hours for me to complete the game, but others have completed it in under one hour. You can spend 200 hours doing whatever you want before even coming close to the boss area, or you can just straight shot it from the tutorial area. The freedom of the game didn't make me feel weighed down by main missions that urge me to stay on the path to the end, which made me feel great when playing this game.
Going back to the subject of maps, having multiple markers was something I found to be fantastic and really important. In the game, their are stamps and pins. Pins show on your mini map, but stamps are things you put on the map as a way to show where something interesting is. Since the world is large and full of interesting things, having these stamps help me remember where these things are. I put a chest to show where a shrine that I have not done is, I put a shield to show where fairies are. You can use up to 100 stamps, and I find having these was vital.
The music of the game is fantastic as well. Despite it being subtle in most cases, the music is beautifully written. Music in the boss fight is this epic orchestra building up while exploring through meadows plays this soft piano tune. I loved the music as for it was beautiful and it conveyed the general feeling I was feeling when in different areas and situations.
One last point I want to get when it comes to the positives is the combat. The combat is really fun, but really difficult. Their are many times where I have encountered enemies which in one hit would drain my health entirely. The common enemies I found difficult, but I also found the boss fights to be easy. But those aspects are shadowed by how much fun it is to fight. Fighting bosses wasn't just hitting them and running in a circle. I found in some boss fights that I had to do a certain task to drain their health, which that plus the great music really made the boss fights feel great. With the common enemies, I found that their are so many ways to fight enemies than just hitting them with a sword.For example, when lightning strikes in a certain area, metal objects tend to attract lightning. So just putting a metal object near an enemy in a lightning storm will bring lightning down onto your opponents. And again, it's through self discovery and not some 'helpful hint' that you learn these things. Besides, the common enemies being difficult made it all the more challenging and fun to begin with.
But every game has its negatives, including such legendary franchises like this one. The biggest problem in Breath of the Wild is the weapon durability system. All weapons, bows, and shields break in the game. But real problem is the parts surrounding that system. The weapons break really fast, their is no durability meter (other than the game telling you your weapon is badly damaged three hits before breaking,) and their are only a very small amount of weapons that can be repaired. Even the master sword, the only sword that doesn't break, breaks, with you waiting ten minutes for the sword to 'recharge' and be of use again. It's really frustrating, because their are so many cool weapons to use, but I never use them because I get stingy with them from fear of losing them from breaking. Not only is that the biggest problem I have in the game, but that is one of the few problems I do have in the game that stuck with me throughout my entire experience.
Their were other problems I had throughout the game as well that resonated throughout my experience. When it rains (and it rains a good amount,) climbing is much tougher, as you will slide when you climb. I get that it is more realistic to slip on wet surfaces, but with the amount of times you climb and the amount of times it rain, it made it often annoying to climb. One final problem that persisted was post-game. When you beat the game, BOTW will just take you back to a previous save. But that previous save file has a star on it, and the game has multiple completion meters that were not there before. While it is good that their is post game set up, I find going to a previous save was not a good choice. I get that going past the end would not make sense story-wise, but going to my previous save shows that I have not done the final mission(even though I have) and that I will never hit 100% on main missions because the one I have to do will end the game, taking me back to a previous save. It was a very small issue, but it was annoying to see in my missions menu the one mission I will never see go away.
I had some other issues with the game, but these issues are either really small or issues that dissipated along the way. One of the issues was horse riding. In the game, you can ride horses, but I found the horse controls to be hard to use. On top of that, you had to board the horse in a stable, and riding the horse again requires you to take the horse out of the stable. Again, it's that realism factor, but I still would prefer something like Skyrim or Witcher, where whistling would just teleport the horse to you. Luckily, doing shrines also gives you a teleportation point, and getting enough of those made horse-riding obsolete to me. The story wasn't that great, because it wasn't a story you were living through. The story you are going through present day is just fight Ganon and save Zelda. The main story actually takes place in the past, and most of that story is conveyed through little snips of 'memory.' Not only that, the main story wasn't even that great in itself. It's really just you following Zelda around as she tries to yield power to stop Ganon. To me, the story was one of the worst aspects of the game, but was also rather small in the grand scheme of the game. Despite loving the stamps in the game, I thought their could've been more different kinds of stamps. Their are nine different kinds of stamps, but I felt that I needed more. But I felt that was shadowed by the fact that their are stamps in the game. One final tiny issue I will say that would be bigger if the controls were bad was that their is no control mapping. The only control I know of that you can change is the button for jumping. But I found that the jump button was the only one I actually needed to change, and that everything else was fine. Still, the option for control mapping should be there.
Despite their being a good amount of micro-flaws, I found the game to be a truly rewarding experience. That feeling of self discovery and freedom in the game really shine and made my experience worth buying a Nintendo Switch for. The game is truly an epic and is definitely worth getting if you own a Switch or a Wii U.