The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review – Setting the New Standard for Zelda
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sets a new tone for not just the Zelda series, but for Nintendo as a whole. Does it capture the essence that made us fall in love with Zelda, or will it fall victim to the sands of time? Check out our review and find out.
The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild Review
Anyone who has played a Zelda before will know what to expect story-wise. Ganon is back, and he is attempting to destroy everyone in Hyrule. This big difference here is that he has already succeeded in taking over Hyrule Castle and Hyrule Castle Town. Link awakens without any memories of what has happened or even what his quest is. As you take your first steps out onto The Great Plateau, Link stares out at Hyrule Castle as if his instincts already know where he is going. Before that though, you are greeted by an old man who teaches you a few things. He will act as the tutorial for the starter area and guide you to the four key items you will need to get through this world. He will teach you about Shrines, Towers, and even how to cook and hunt. After you finish up with him, all of Hyrule is yours to explore.
Normally you’d be directed in where to go next in most any other Zelda, but Breath of the Wild doesn’t do much hand holding. While it does tell you where to go for the main story bits, you are not required to go there. The game essentially says to the player, “Here’s the world: Go explore and do what you want.” There is never any pressure from a fairy or guardian spirit to constantly remind you that the main quest is over there. The game is an explorers dream, and anywhere you can see for the most part you can go. You are allowed to free climb up almost any surface that Link can sink his hands into. You do have a stamina bar, and when it rains, climbing isn’t going to happen. Put simply, this is the most freedom ever offered in a Zelda game. The best part about it is how you are rewarded for going wherever you want. Whether it is a Korok, a weapon, a shrine, or just some rupees, nearly every direction, mountain, rock, and river has something waiting to be found.
Shrines are the new way for you to get extra heart containers, as well as the way you upgrade your stamina bar. These are scattered all over the world, and oftentimes will have a small puzzle or fight you have to get through to proceed. At the end of each Shrine, you will get a Spirit Orb and four of these can be traded in for a new heart piece or increase to your stamina bar. Outside of the shrine you have four normal dungeons that you would find in any other Zelda game. The way these dungeons are handled and the puzzles in them are fun, but some people may prefer the more traditional formula of collecting an item, using said item to get through the dungeon, and repeating isn’t here. Nintendo decided to go with more mini-puzzle shrines and less dungeons this time around, and I honestly didn’t have much of a problem with it. The satisfaction from figuring out a puzzle in a shrine is just as good as figuring out a puzzle in a dungeon.
Combat has changed a bit, but the basics are still similar to the other 3D Zeldas (minus the motion control ones). You still use Z-targeting to lock on to targets for an attack. You can still hold down the attack button for a charge attack. You can still block with a shield and back flip out of an enemy’s way to avoid damage. Where things change is in the weapon durability system. Weapons can and will break after prolonged use in combat. This will be a turn off for some people who get attached to equipment, but there’s only one weapon I am attached to in Zelda and it doesn’t break. The advantage of breaking weapons lies in the fact that you get to try out new weapons you might have never tried before. There aren’t just swords in Breath of the Wild. Rather, you have spears, hammers, boomerangs, axes, clubs, and even wands. It might seem like you could run out of weapons you prefer, or even run out of weapons period, but at any given time there seemed to be two to three weapons I enjoyed using on me or ones that could be found. It is okay to let go of that traveler’s sword – something better will come along soon.
Outside of the weapons, you have runes, which act as items in Breath of the Wild. These are the keys to figuring out most of the puzzles in shrines, but can also be used in combat and as a way to get secrets. You have Bombs, Magnesis, Stasis, Crynois, and a camera. Bombs bust up rocks and can send enemies flying, Magnesis picks up metal objects (such as chest or metal crates), Stasis can stop objects (and even enemies later), and Crynois will let you make a few ice pillars in water to make crossing bodies of water easier. The camera, on the other hand, can be used to track down items you have taken pictures of, such as ingredients for cooking, weapons, and even treasure chests. If you ever find yourself stumped on something, switch up your runes and see what you can use to make something out of nothing.
Cooking plays a huge part in Breath of the Wild. Not only is it how you regenerate your HP, but it also can give you buffs to help you out. It can temporarily increase your hearts, increase your attack and defense, or even give you resistance to hot or cold areas. Learning how to be a master chef in Breath of the Wild can change the whole game for you. Outfits play another huge role in the game, and they have various effects as well. Some help you climb higher, others give you weather resistance, and some just make you hit harder. There are about 10-15 different outfits in the game, not counting the single pieces and the Amiibo outfits (of which there are plenty). The key outfits can’t be missed, but there are plenty of side outfits you can miss if you don’t look around well enough. Some of the outfits can even be upgraded and have set bonuses if you upgrade them enough, which is another first for the Zelda series.
It wouldn’t be a Zelda game without minigames, and Breath Of The Wild is full of them. Archery, gambling, bowling, horse racing, distance gliding, and even shield boarding (snowboarding on your shield) all make appearances. Each one is a joy to play at least once, and the reward is often worth the price of admission. Outside of minigames, there are over 50 side quests to do that will give you various rewards. Shrines and Koroks make up for another large amount of side content. Koroks are found all over the world – there are 900 of the little guys, and their seeds can be traded for increased inventory slots. This will let you hold more weapons, bows, and shields, so you don’t have to worry about letting a good weapon slip by. Outside of the shrines, which you will want to do for more hearts and stamina, this is all optional.
Lastly, I want to hit on a the soundtrack and graphics. The music is much more sparse in this Zelda than in any before it, but his makes it a treat when you make it to a new village or stable and hear a tune. I wasn’t too sure about this at first, but it did end up growing on me pretty quick. The music is great, especially Kass’ Theme. However, there are some problems tech-wise. You do get some pop-ins and even some serious frame drops from time to time. Apparently the best version of the game is on the Switch and in handheld mode. Those issues very rarely prevented me from enjoying the experience, and are just minor annoyances.
Breath of the Wild does what Ocarina of Time did back in 1998: it creates a new formula for future Zeldas to follow. Fans of action-adventure titles and The Legend of Zelda should play it as soon as possible.