So apparently The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is seemingly one of the best-selling games of all time and one the most highly reviewed games of all time (in as much as one can completely trust metacritic). Some are really excited about the open world nature of the game… haven’t they all been kind of like that. I mean sure, not many of them were truly go anywhere and do anything, but a lot of them had immense amounts of freedom didn’t they? This time is different in the fact that the player isn’t blocked by item welfare. There are a ton of places to visit and numerous baddies to kill (because they just keep coming! Curse you blood moon!). There is a lot to do in Breath of the Wild (BotW from here on out, I’m already tired of typing that out), but was it really as good as people make it out to be? Let’s break it down shall we?
First, I’m going to get some things off my chest. Here is the list of things that bothered me the most in BotW:
- Jumping. I liked it more in Ocarina of Time when you had no control over it; it simply happened when you got to a ledge. While that seemed restrictive, I feel it was better than finally giving me the ability to jump (don’t talk to me about Zelda II) and having me jump as well as my two-year-old. My friend told me that the jumping looked a bit realistic given the size of Link. Screw that noise, it’s a fantasy game with horse men and plump fairies that live in giant flowers that get their power from money… don’t come at me with realism here.
- Item breaking. Why do the items break? Maybe Nintendo is attempting to break into the survival game arena with the implementation of durability, but it came off as a huge nuisance to yours truly. There wasn’t a single sword that I fell in love with because I knew they would all leave me one day if I chose to use them. (Actually, I think I really enjoyed the Drillshaft because of how well it handled ore deposits… but that’s the only one!) Even the Master Sword ran out of… energy? What? There had to be a better way… or just make them more durable. This was stupid the whole way through. (At least they had a way to rebuild the ancient hero weapons… so I could store them in my house because they broke just as easily.)
- Combat. Now, before you decided to burn my house down, hear me out. In BotW, it’s a ton more precise than in previous Zelda titles. I believe that’s comparable to the reason why I don’t like the current Pokemon games either. They’ve evolved with the time and I’m just not a fan of the changes they’ve made. You can get by without some of the mechanics in place (like shield parrying or (less likely) the jump dodge) by running, sneaking and/or weapon countering. That all needs to be included and so combat isn’t all bad. There are some things that I was horrible at it no matter how much I tried, but as I said, you didn’t need often. I also felt that horse riding was not great either. It could almost all be dismissed if not for the fact that you needed all of those skills in the final fight of the game. I’m still a little bitter about that…
- The ending. (No spoilers here.) While they were telling the story a little bit throughout and I felt that the end was appropriate to the scale of the story, it, however, was a nothing ending. So you defeat the final boss, save the world and two-ish lines of dialogue and end scene. Is it supposed to be continued in the DLC that was promised? Would I be upset about that? Kind of…
Now that that is off of my chest, let me tell you some of the things I did like about BotW.
The scope of the game is massive. There is a literal ton of places to explore and gather things in your sojourn across the land of Hyrule. The best part of it is that it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as other open-world games because of the scarcity of baddies. This can seem to make the world barren and empty, but it didn’t work out like that. It felt more real to me because of this. There were vast fields that were inviting with a few horses grazing in the distance and other assorted wildlife in the grass or on the trees. If the land had been overrun with bad guys… well it would have been Hyrule Warriors and there wouldn’t be as many people alive or even like Horizon where there was always something that wanted to kill you. It wouldn’t have been as beautiful of a game as it now stands where you can take in the scenery.
That isn’t to say that there weren’t any baddies, but they tended to band together in camps and in groups when roaming. Some would be hunting wild animals on horseback while others would be casually chill’n around a campfire with their weapons not in hand due to a lack of visible threats that they’ve gotten used to since Link hadn’t been cleansing the land with his Master Sword. Where do they all come from and where do they call home? I don’t believe they have one and they wouldn’t need one if they are living with the realization that the Blood Moon makes them basically immortal. Every Blood Moon that passes brings all of the baddies back to life, and (while very unfortunate) this can happen while you’re clearing out a camp of them. It’s an interesting way to explain why they keep coming back… stupid Ganon.
In as much as you can finish the game in about 40 minutes, the story needs to be found by you. With Link having amnesia, you’re left wandering around and finding certain people to talk to which gives you some insight into what’s been happening for the last 100 years while you were taking a nap. Also, on your Hyrulian tablet are photos of specific spots in Hyrule that you need to seek out in order to relive some moments that Link and Zelda (along with the four original heroes of Hyrule) share via in-game cinematics. Once again though, huge open world games don’t deliver complex stories well to me, but in this case: “Ganon bad, Link good, Link needs to defeat Ganon” isn’t the most complicated narrative to get across. The rest of the story given just tells of the friendship you all had, you know, before you all got beat down by Ganon. The plot is as thick as an 80’s action flick, but that doesn’t make it terrible, just simple and that will work for me.
BotW has four main “dungeons” and a ton of tiny puzzle rooms called shrines. I liked the addition of the shrines (seemingly in place of a few more dungeons) as they gave decent landmarks in the distance that you always wanted to find and gave you points of interest which are always cool. It all fit in well with how the story played out and how the game was developed in the fact that they were created to help teach you how to fight again. Everything fit into the story well and was explained as apposed to needing to visit “x” dungeon to get to “y” dungeon all to get the equipment needed to open up “z” dungeon. The freedom here was what really set it apart and I think they should keep this openness with the franchise from here out. They took a chance and really tried something different and they delivered. All that in mind, without a real dungeon, something did feel like it was missing, but not enough to hate on BotW.