In every gaming generation, certain titles define that generation. However, there also games that transcend gaming itself. And in this Breath of the Wild Review, you’ll find out exactly why this Legend of Zelda title may not just be one of the greatest games of all time but is a masterpiece of a story, game design, and most importantly, heart.
Game Name: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Platform(s): Wii U/Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 3/3/2017
After such successes as Ocarina of Time, Windwaker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword, you’d think that the Legend of Zelda team would be running out of ways to tell the now-classic story. But in fact, you could say that these games helped build the story to the point that we reach in Breath of the Wild. This isn’t your regular Legend of Zelda, and it’s all the better for it.
Yes, you still play as Link, but instead of the “nameless hero” we know and love, he’s one that has much more history. While you might think that this isn’t a big deal, it totally changes the game’s dynamic, especially when it comes to the characters you meet (something I talk about on the latest Nintendo Entertainment Podcast). He was the “hero” for a much longer period of time, and to that end, the Gorons, Zoras, Rito, Koroks, Gerudo, and other races know his name. And when you go to these places within Hyrule and meet certain people, they recognize you and talk with you in a familiarity that makes the experience all the more enjoyable. It truly makes the phrase, “you never know who you’re going to meet” mean so much more.
But what really sells the setting here is that unlike many previous Zelda games, you’ve already lost. Or…99% lost. Apparently, you’ve been asleep for 100 years, recovering from the wounds suffered at the hands of Calamity Ganon and his forces. Your allies are gone, Zelda is missing, and your memories of your life aren’t there. As you travel throughout Hyrule to reclaim the 4 Divine Beasts and rescue Zelda, you learn more and more about what happened 100 years ago.
This is done through interactions with the key races and “Memories” that is kept via a Shiekah Slate that is your traveling computer of sorts. As you find these memories, you learn more about Link and the heroes he was with before the Fall of Hyrule. For the record, you can go through the game without collecting a majority of these, but trust me, they’re worth it.
If nothing else, they paint a picture that proves that just because you have the same characters over and over again doesn’t mean you can’t do something new with them. Link’s relationships with the champions are something to cherish; one, in particular, made me both smile (at the irony) but also cry when a later scene occurred, and the depth of the relationship became even more fleshed out. Then there’s Zelda, who acts like no Zelda before her. Gone is the regal stalwart princess, gone is your friend who you’ve bonded with for years, in their place is a young lady who’s struggling to live up to her destiny and actually resents the “ease” with which Link became the Hero. Through these memories, you see her struggle evolve from beginning to end, its as tragic as it is uplifting when things finally turn around.
Legend of Zelda games always have a story, but the depth of Breath of the Wild’s story is truly masterful. I love this story, and I know you will too.
No Breath of the Wild review would be complete without talking about Hyrule’s vast world in this game. I have explored most of the world at the point of this review, but there’s still 5 areas I have yet to discover/map out and dozens of shrines, quests, and other little things I’ve yet to complete. This is the definitive version of Hyrule. It has everything. Death Mountain, Zora Domain, Gerudo Desert, Hyrule Castle, Lost Woods, rivers, lakes, plains, stables (lots of those), amazing highs, deep lows, it’s a living, breathing world.
I honestly can’t describe just how accurate and beautiful this world is. I hope the pics in this article (taken from my time in the game) show you the scale and scope of what’s in this version of Hyrule. The weather is constantly changing, and what weather is occurring while you are playing will heavily affect your playstyle. If it’s raining, you won’t be able to climb mountains or cliffs like you would if it was dry. If there’s a lightning storm, you’ll need to wait it out, else get electrocuted. If it’s too cold or too hot, and you’re not properly dressed, you will lose health. It’s very realistic.
Outside of the massive size of the world, the other beautiful thing is the freedom. Now, while it’s true that the game gives you a “tutorial” of sorts that is confining, once you’re done with it, the whole world is ready for you to explore. In the style of A Link Between Worlds, all of the dungeons will be available to you, and you can do them in whatever order you want. Plus, there are numerous mini-dungeons called Shrines that you can do to get Spirit Orbs that’ll help you later in the game. Or, if you’d rather just explore the whole world before even touching the main dungeons, by all means. The choice is yours. Which also applies to how you get to places. You can climb virtually anything, another first in the series, and because of that, your options for getting to places is almost infinite.
If I had to say something in regards to how the progression goes in the game, I’d say, “You earn everything you do.” Getting to the main areas? You earn it. Freeing the Divine Beasts? You earn it. Getting through the Shrines to get more hearts or stamina? You earn it. Heck, even getting the Master Sword is a trial in and of itself that you have to earn it to get its power. Very few things are strictly “given” in this game. You have to earn it…just like a hero should.
I do need to note something very special to me from this game; the supporting characters. Beyond Link and Zelda, you meet a myriad of familiar and new characters, and they endow this game with a life all its own. There are the four champions of Daruk, Urbosa, Revali, and Mipha, all dear friends who you work hard to save and earn their blessings in the process. All have their own personalities, and all are voice acted to perfection. There are other characters too that are sure to make you laugh, smile, scratch your head, or just make you think. There are plenty of old friends to meet again, and several new ones to make, this is another reason why the journey is just as important as the destination.
Oh, and then there’s the history! This game makes so many references to Legend of Zelda history and many times straight up calls out or references the previous games. This will make even the newer Zelda fans smile because when you find something you recognize, you can’t help but do it. Two words: Saria Lake.
Now, you might be thinking, “Ok, this guy is another of those perfect score reviewers.” Well…no. Yes, this is not a perfect score Breath of the Wild review. I’m sorry if you were expecting that. The reason I took a literal week to play the game before reviewing is that I didn’t want to get caught in the hype, beauty, or even romance of this game (play it and you’ll know what I mean by that). The game is a masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean its perfect.
Here are the two big flaws. The first is the Inventory system. For the first time, Link can’t carry an infinite amount of items regarding his weapons. He can only carry a certain amount of swords/weapons, bows, and shields. On the one hand, this is brilliant because it makes you think before going into battle, making sure you have the right weapon for the job, or, if you’re low on weapons, you need to be on the lookout to pick up some more. You’re never too far from a weapon. However, the contrast to that is that the game offers so many weapons, yet so little space, that you constantly have to think about what weapons to keep and what to lose. A wrong choice can be harmful later in-game.
Now to be fair, there is a way to get your inventory expanded, and I happily partook in that quest, but that’s a long journey in and of itself, and not everyone will have the patience to do it to expand the inventory. Meaning, there’s going to be an overload of “Your Inventory Is Full” messages.
The other big thing is the weather. While I did praise the very realistic weather system, it comes at a cost. The weather does seem random. However, it seemed as though every time I was in the middle of an important quest, it started to rain or lightning, and if it did, my mobility was limited, or my progress was halted. Before writing this review, I was trying to get a key memory, and I had to climb a ten-foot wall, which would’ve been easy…if it wasn’t raining and because of the weather system, I had to wait like 10 minutes just for the game to get sunny again so I could climb the wall. And don’t get me started on the lightning storms!
One other nitpick is the stamina. I know their hearts were in the right place when they made the stamina gauge, and it makes sense to put it in, but it comes at a cost. When you get the Spirit Orbs, you can exchange them for hearts or stamina. The obvious choice is hearts, but if you don’t do stamina at least once, you’re going to get caught in a position you don’t want to be in.
Again, these are small nitpicks, and I almost hate making them, but they need to be said because they bring down the game slightly.
In the end, though, I hope this Breath of the Wild review proves just how amazing this game is. We’ve waited a very long time for this game to arrive, and let me tell you, it exceeds expectations. The world is vast, the dungeons and bosses you’ll encounter are pure Legend of Zelda-styled encounters, the characters are deep and full, and life and the gameplay is everything you expect and more.
If you’re looking for a grand adventure, regardless of where your console loyalties lie, I’d highly recommend Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This is a beautiful game, and I’m honored to have played such a masterpiece.
Breath of the Wild Review
Just when you think Legend of Zelda can’t get any better, Breath of the Wild proves that this series has depth to spare. Beautifully rendered, wonderfully designed, and expertly crafted both in story and in gameplay, Breath of the Wild will have you playing for quite some time, and then some time after that.
Vast Hyrule To Explore and Interact With
Characters That’ll Remain With You
Freedom To Do Things At Your Own Pace
Stunning visuals and cutscenes
Story That Is Full Of Heart, Beauty, Wonder, and Hope