Let me set the stage for you, I was 6 years old visiting some family in Boston. I hung out with the kids my age as you do when adults do their own thing. After buying a dozen bags of chips and candy for the night my older cousin introduced me to The Legend of Zelda. I was amazed. Roaming through dungeons with very little health was frightening. Fighting my way through hordes of Moblins was tense and trying to navigate through the Lost Woods in the days of no internet was both frustrating and eventually rewarding. Enter Breath of the Wild.
I won’t lie, in the age of Skyrim, Dark Souls and The Witcher I wasn’t sure that Breath of the Wild would bring anything new to the table. The last major entry, Skyward Sword, held back the exploration aspect in favour of tiresome motion controls. After spending nearly 70 hours with Breath of the Wild, I can happily say not only does this game re invigorate the Zelda franchise, It pushes forward the open world genre as well.
After a short tutorial you are set out on your own in every sense of the word. There is a narrative through-line but most of the story and quests are optional with the ability to go to Hyrule Castle and take on the final boss right from the get go. I’m eager to see some speed-runs of this game in the future.
Breath of the Wild is all about options. Story is optional, dungeons are optional and even quests that seem integral are optional. As if a response to Skyward Sword’s hand holding. Zelda games are famous for their creative dungeons, anyone who has ever played Ocarina of Time will vouch for how difficult that water temple is. Breath of the Wild has an unusual small amount of your typical dungeons and in replace are shrines, Over a hundred of them in fact.
Shrines contain brief puzzles ranging from physics-based logic puzzles to one on one combat. Each shrine, when complete rewards you with a Spirit Orb, collect 4 and trade them in for an increase in health or stamina. Stamina is vital to your exploring with every physical action tied to it. Running, swimming, gliding with your para-glider and even scaling mountains depletes your stamina meter. Running out of Stamina can result in drowning, falling off a mountainside to your death or getting caught in the middle of a group of enemies defenceless.
Unlike past games, Links arsenal is full of variety. Swords, spears, bows and shields come in a variety of flavors both in appearance and stats. They are also breakable so looting an enemies corpse of its weapon is vital. Link starts off with a small amount of health and enemies hit hard. To help ease the battle Link has access to rune abilities, These abilities can freeze water, control magnetised items and even provide you with a remote bomb. Runes can be used in combat but are mainly tools used to solve shrine puzzles.
Graphically the game is reminiscent to the famous anime film Princess Mononoke. Every character is superbly detailed and the same can be said for the flora and fauna. Instead of sitting around waiting for Link to talk to them, characters have lives they live. They react to enemies nearby, a change in the weather and will provide Link with quests, shops, inns or hints of nearby secrets.
Breath of the Wild has an enormous sense of scale, not just horizontally either. Mountain ranges are huge, deserts are ongoing and have a sense of desperation while forests are thick and full of life. Animals can be hunted for food, trees can be cut down for wood and setting up a campfire and cooking that food will provide Link with stat boosts. There are hundreds of combinations of food that can be made with varying results. Add salt to that steak and get more health when you eat it. make an elixir with Moblin horns and get a stamina boost.
Breath of Wild is all about breaking past series conventions all while paying homage to the original. I brought up my experience with the NES Legend of Zelda for a reason. Back then the limited scope coupled with my imagination made the game feel like a huge undertaking. Breath of the Wild has that same feeling but with actual scope. It brings that classic Nintendo charm to a tired genre and all the while making me feel like I was 6 again. If you’re in line for a Nintendo Switch or already own a WiiU – Breath of the Wild is a must buy.