The Best (And Worst) of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Release Date: March 3rd, 2017
I’m sure by now, many of you reading this review has either played the new Zelda for Wii U or the Switch, or at least watched some videos on YouTube. All of you have probably already read several other reviews for this game before landing on mine. I’m willing to bet most of those reviews gave BOTW perfect, or near-perfect, scores? I bet you’re beginning to wonder what my personal score is? Heck, you’re probably assuming I’ll give it a near-perfect score. Let’s put your assumptions to rest before I get into this review. My personal score for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gets a solid 8. No more, and no less.
I’ve been a Zelda fan for a long time. In fact, the only other game I remember playing prior to Zelda is Mario. I grew up on Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Kirby and all the other instantly recognisable Nintendo Characters you can think of. You can see where this is going. Yes. I am a Nintendo fan boy. These days I mostly play my PS4, but there will always be a place in my heart for Nintendo. That being said, just because I will forever love whatever Nintendo decides to dish out (even if it’s legitimate crap), I strive to develop as unbiased an opinion as I can.
With all this in mind, let’s get into what I loved and hated about Breath of the Wild.
What I loved: In short, it was a damn good game that achieved exactly what it set out to do. For one of Nintendo’s first open world endeavors, Breath of the Wild does a fantastic job setting the player out on their own in a massive world where almost anything is possible. The first portion of the game is a tutorial, mainly. You set out to a hand-full of shrines where you obtain literally all the tools you will use for the rest of the game. Any hand-holding this game does ends after that. As soon as you paraglide down to the world below, you are on your own. Hell, you can even go after Gannon right then and there if you wanted, but that’s not advised.
The game directs to a familiar village for the start of the main quest. From there, how you proceed is solely up to you. It’s advised that you try to complete the optional main quests as this will help with the sorely lacking back story.
I won’t get into any details on some of the cool stuff you can do, as it’s likely that by now, you already know. Make sure you make use of the cooking pots, sampling as many concoctions as you can come up with. Beware though, as any mixtures that don’t ‘share’ a stat could end up a disgusting meal so horrid Nintendo has to blur it out. I made a lot of meals myself, but one thing I wish I had made more use of was the elixirs made with insect parts. The elixirs weren’t a must though, as I managed to find armor that would protect me from most of the hazards Hyrule threw at me.
The bulk of my time was first spent on unlocking the entire map. This proved difficult at times, especially when traversing the treacherous snowy peaks of Lanyayru or Hebra, or the intense heat of Death Mountain. With perseverance and courage (hehe) I pushed through and stood on the tallest towers, intent on turning that nefarious black map into a sea of roads and forests to explore.
Once that was finished, it was time to scout for the many, many shrines hidden throughout Hyrule. These shrines are the bulk of puzzles and dungeons BOTW offers. Some are ridiculously easy while others test your critical thinking. Others yet will test your mettle in battle. Completing these shrines will offer you a single spirit orb. Ever four spirit orbs collected can then be exchanged for either a heart container or a bit of stamina. I’ve read a few different reviews where it will be suggested to get hearts first, as well as others that state stamina is the way to go. Honestly, it’s up to you. I did a mixture of both. I could tell you what you probably SHOULD do, but then I’d be offering the hand-holding Nintendo refused to do, so I won’t. Proceed how you see fit.
I played BOTW on my Wii U. I don’t have a Switch yet, but that’s mainly because I refuse to play the same games I already have on my Wii U. With that in mind, I won’t talk a lot about frame rate or graphics. It’s Nintendo…more than likely you didn’t buy your Switch or Wii U for its amazing graphics or high frame rates. All I will say is, I experienced a little drop in frame rate from time to time, but nothing major. There was some graphical pop-up, but again, nothing I thought broke the game. It ran just as I expected it to. The controls were executed well. Nothing like the horrid Skyward Sword. I liked the game, but hated swinging my hand in one direction while Link swings in an opposite stroke only for the enemy to block most of my attacks. No. Nothing like that. BOTW felt smooth and Link usually executed the commands I gave him with finesse and skill.
What I hated: Hate is a strong word. Let’s just say the following Nintendo could have improved on to actually get BOTW a deserving 10 out of 10 some of the other reviewers gave it.
Exploration. Aside from unlocking the map and finding shrines, you have a vast, beautiful landscape to explore. Here is one area where BOTW falls short. While fun to explore, by the time I finished the game I found there were many areas I didn’t spend a lot of time in. Mostly is was because there was no real reason to go there other than to see what was there. Future DLC may take me there, but until then, I found nothing special. Now, I know there was a lot I missed. For instance, I only found three of the fairy fountains. I missed quite a few shrines even though I felt like I explored nearly every inch of the map. Nintendo did a good job making you think about where you wanted to go next. One thing I really liked is they allowed for a ton of map markers. I made frequent use of these, deleting them as I explored a particular area of interest. Different markers can be used to mark different things as well. One looked like a crystal I used to mark mineral deposits in case I needed more precious stones to sell. I used the skull for the mini-boss fights found throughout Hyrule.
Weapons/Shields. This isn’t really a fail, per se, but I think if they offered weapon durability the way, say, Elder Scrolls does, or just about any other game with weapon durability, it would work better. I liked having to think about what weapons I wanted to use in any given situation, but hated having those weapons break in just a few uses. I never found myself absent a weapon, but have lost a ton I would have loved to keep. If there was a way to repair weapons, Nintendo’s weapon system would have worked out a lot better.
Dungeons. This is a big one. Every Zelda fan out there loves the dungeons. While BOTW has so many shrines that mostly satisfy the need for Zelda style dungeons, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Even the Devine Beast dungeons don’t pan out how one would hope. I keep thinking of the amazing Ocarina of Time dungeons with flooding nostalgia. BOTW dungeons can’t compare. They were enjoyable, yes, but left me wanting more. In their next instalment, I hope to see longer, more robust dungeons. With more enemies to fight, too.
Story. This is not really a fail either, but could have been done a little better. As my brother’s review may state, they just toss you in without nary a backstory. There are many opportunities to get the desired back story, but unless you’re careful you may complete the game with many large holes in the narrative. I know why Nintendo decided to do this. You play a warrior who wakes up after a long slumber, memories forgotten but with a strong sense that Hyrule needs you. As you play the game the hero’s memories come back to him, or will if you complete that optional side quest. Some memories are mandatory, but most aren’t. I liked the story of BOTW a lot and it would have been nice to get a lot more of that story. In fact, it would have been nice if BOTW played out THAT narrative instead of the one we got. Maybe as a direct sequel, Nintendo? Of course, we already know how that story ends…
Upon writing this review, it’s been about a month since I’ve completed BOTW. Based on my memory of the game and the lasting impression it gave me this was a very solid game any Zelda fan would enjoy. It should not be missed. With a tweak to the weapons system, story and need for exploration, the next instalment could only get better. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take them another 6 years to do so. A re-release of a previous title doesn’t count, Nintendo.
Final verdict: Play it. Even if you’re not a Zelda fan (though why own a Nintendo if you’re not?), there’s enough here for anyone to enjoy, even with its shortcomings.
Didn’t like this review? Check out Russ’ review for it.