It seems that everyone has been playing this game or at least have been bombarded by memes, secrets videos and the like. So I don’t know how much more I could add to the conversation. But I have had people tell me this is what they wanted so I will go ahead and give my two cents.
Some disclosure, I played the Wii U version as I didn’t want to bother waiting until now when the Switch starts to be more available and I really needed to justify my Wii U purchase as I bought it solely for two games, Smash Brothers and Zelda. So I will not be reviewing the Switch as many other reviewers have done. So lets dive into this!
- The real star of this game is the world of Hyrule. No game has fully realized a place since Skyrim. The map is not only massive but it is diverse. Each area is distinct and different from the rest of the map. A lot of open world games tend to take a copy paste approach to the world design to save time. Nintendo really used the game delays to their advantage and made a spectacular world. It is a place you want to spend time exploring and discovering little secrets hidden across the kingdom of Hyrule. There is no doubt that this game will become the definitive representation of Hyrule. Every part of the world is beautiful in its own unique way and there will be moments where you finish climbing to a hill or tower, see the area and have your breath taken away by the beauty of it all.
- Most Zelda games have been built around some sort of gameplay gimmick (such as time-traveling, sailing, dimension hopping, or motion controls) this was really a return to the very roots of the Zelda franchise: exploration. The gimmick in Breath of the Wild is exploration and open ended gameplay. This game accomplishes that spectacularly. You start in one area that is closed off and acts as the tutorial for the rest of the game. Once you leave this area, you are free to do whatever you want. There is only one real goal in the game and that is to destroy Ganon. Everything else is optional. Granted this things are highly encouraged to do since the side quests and shrines are designed to help you get stronger and ready to fight Ganon. But many speedrunners have gone to fight Ganon with nothing more than 4 hearts and a stick. You could even ignore the main quest and spend hours looking for ingredients and recipes to become a master chef. The game rarely forces you to go into a linear path and no one person will approach this game the same.
- As big as the world is and the freedom the game gives you, it is a major shock how stable this game is. Even great open-world games still have many bugs and glitches as QAing games like this is really difficult. But Nintendo did a great job in making this the most stable open-world game I’ve ever played. There were only a few times where I had major frame-rate drops but otherwise they were only brief and not game crashing. You don’t see NPC walking into walls or fall through the floor. While that means there may not be as many funny glitches that many Bethesda games are known for, there are plenty of other funny moments in the game that makes up for it.
- With a game this open-ended, you’d think that the story is nothing more than an afterthought. But the story is one of the best in the series. One of my favorite quests was looking for areas on the map that will help Link recover lost memories. Doing this will unlock cutscenes that give backstory to Link, Zelda and many other major characters in the game. The Zelda in this game is one of the best portrayed in all the games, even Skyward Sword. But aside from the memories, the world itself tells many stories as to what happened to Hyrule 100 years ago. For example, there were times where I’d stumble upon several decayed guardians (the spider robots seen the marketing material) with rusted swords in the ground, a display of a battle long ago. It’s an additional testament to the world design and how well thought out it was.
- You will get your money’s worth with this game. I played over 105 hours to beat the game and there is still plenty of things I can do. There are 4 main dungeons, 120 mini-dungeons (shrines), 900 korok seeds, several armor sets and upgrades for them and plenty of side quests. By far the biggest Zelda game yet.
- There are a handful of gyroscopic puzzles that use the control’s gyroscope to solve. These are frustrating above all other puzzles in the game. The controls felt off and I hate it when Nintendo tries to force motion controls into my zelda games (it was tolerable in Twilight Princess but frustrating in Skyward Sword). Again, there are few of these and they are completely optional.
- The rain. The fact that it rains in the game is totally fine, but there are drawbacks when it rains. One, climbing cliffs is practically impossible when it gets wet from the rain. Ok, so lets make a campfire and wait it out, oh wait, the wood gets wet and you can’t make a fire. So you’re stuck on a cliff edge and have to wait 5 real life minutes before the rain stops (if it does at all). I might be able to forgive this if it only happens a few times in the game, no, it happens all the time. So much so that it almost feels like the weather programmers deliberately coded the rain to come when you’re climbing something. I wouldn’t care if the game allowed you to wait it out like Skyrim does. But you have to build a campfire to do that and it’s impossible to do during the rain. It sucks you out of the game when you have to sit there and wait for the rain to end before you continue your adventure.
- Speaking of weather, lightning can be annoying as well. Because not only is mother nature precision aiming death bolts at you, it’s also raining. The solution is to equip non-metal gear but the problem is that most of the best weapons in the game are steel. So there were times when I was caught in a storm without any wooden weapons which makes it hard when you get ambushed. However, there is a set of armor that makes you immune to electricity that changed everything. Then I would run into a group of enemies just more lightning struck and laugh as my enemies are destroyed around me. But unless you know where said armor pieces are and have the materials to upgrade them, you won’t being having fun in the lightning storms until late in the game.
- It took me a while to get used to the controls, as a Zelda veteran, the control scheme for most of the games have been fairly consistent since Ocarina of Time. The controls are very different in this game and it was quite a learning curve for me. But after several hours and accidentally whistling while sneaking I managed to get the hang of it. The interface on the menus weren’t the best either has you had to sort through a bunch of crap to find the items you wanted to cook.
- I don’t know why Zelda insists on doing stealth segments. Half the reason why I swore off stealth games for so long was because of crappy stealth from Zelda games. Hyrule Castle in OoT, Gerudo Fortress in MM, Forsaken Fortress in WW, the list goes on. While the stealth in this game is improved from the last games, it’s still frustrating when your forced to do it during certain moments in the game.
Both Liked and Disliked:
- The gear durability system is mostly hated by fans. While I do like how the game forces me to try out different weapons, I think it could have been improved. I would have liked to have seen a durability bar on the gear so I know how much use it has left, being able to repair weapons, or doing a quest-line allowing you to make unbreakable weapons (The Master Sword while technically unbreakable, loses its charge after prolonged use, which is the exact same problem). For a game that encourages agency in it’s gameplay and exploration, I think it should allow you to use the weapons you like. At the very least, they should have increased the durability of all gear as they always seems to break quickly and at the worst possible moment. I also found myself not using my good weapons out of fear of them breaking. Again, this is not as bad later in the game when you expand your inventory and good weapon drops become more regular.
- These is easily the hardest Zelda game in recent memory. The game is especially brutal at the beginning of the game where there are several enemies that can one shot you. It can be really frustrating for new players. However, much like Dark Souls, the game rewards you for overcoming the odds. You really get a sense of accomplishment when you go back to an area that gave you trouble and totally wipe the floor of those pesky blue monsters. Near the end of the game I finally got courageous enough to take on Lynels (which are the hardest enemies in the game) and felt awesome dodging their attacks, shooting them in the face and stabbing its back while its trying to buck you off. So if your struggling with the game, keep it up and you’ll git gud.
If you love open world games, you cannot do better than this game. The world and player choice are the best anyone can offer. This is definitely a worthy title for the Zelda franchise. Is it my favorite Zelda game? I don’t know if I can really say that as it’s very different from the other Zelda titles. Majora’s Mask still holds a piece of my heart (pun intended) since it was the game that got me into the series. But this is definitely the best 3D Zelda title since then. Unless you already have a Wii U, I would just play the Switch version. The differences aren’t big enough to say one is better, but the Wii U is dead at this point and there’s no point in buying one for Zelda alone.