-by Dylan D
Ever since the first few teases of Nintendo’s next Legend of Zelda title, it was obvious that it quite possibly be the companies most ambitious title ever. With more and more reveals it almost hardly seemed like a Zelda game. Fans were wondering where the major icons were like Link’s green tunic, cap and Sword of Evil’s Bane. Little did fans know that these teases perfectly wrapped up Breath of the Wild; it’s a widely ambitious and exciting game, but it also drops many elements that make Zelda games Zelda games.
Being as The Legend of Zelda is my favorite franchise of all time, gaming or not; I took this game as a bit of a challenge. The map size makes Skyrim seem miniature and even puts The Witcher 3 up for a competition. There are so many collectibles, quests and fun little things to do that this game may seem truly endless. Being the loser that I am, I have no real world responsibilities; so I sat down in my fathers recliner and booted up the Wii U for one last ride…
Disclaimer: I’ll be looking at this game in two ways; as a passionate video game player and as a dedicated Zelda fan.
The first thing I noticed about Breath of the Wild was how easy the mechanics were to understand. Equipping clothes, weapons, tools, climbing mountains, etc. It’s all easy to start, the real challenge is getting good at any of these things. When you first start the game you will be thrown into the action fairly quick; thus the desire to improve is born early. You can only scale small cliffs and run for a handful of seconds. The way of upgrading- shrines is also introduced within the first hour of game (depending on if you get sidetracked or not).
After about two hours your first bit of real story comes along. Technically from there you can do whatever you want- but give it another hour and you’re in the real meat of the game, hand in hand with it’s narrative. What makes Breath of the Wild shine as an open world game is that there’s no real emphasis on anything. It’s not like past Zelda games where only ten percent of the overworld is accessible in the beginning, with more and more becoming open through story progression. You can go anywhere and take on any task in this game after it’s introduction; whether or not you will succeed is a different story.
This new entry has been often compared to Dark Souls in how you have to analyze enemy patterns, manage gear and armor. While I have very small experience with those games (a little of the original and Bloodborne), I can see the Nintendo charm on those mechanics. Enemies will be able to one-hit kill you even thirty hours into the game, it’s rough. Zelda has always been about starting from nothing and slowly making yourself better and better. In past adventures the games get easier as time passes, a common complaint from casual players. Don’t worry, in Breath of the Wild you’ll always be challenged.
If it’s not challenges of physical battles, it’ll be of mental ones. Forsaking the traditional story-based dungeons, a new type of area called Shrines replaces them. Shrines are much smaller, focusing on one puzzle type, usually taking about five to ten minutes. A Shrine will give you a Spirit Orb, collect four orbs and upgrade your health or stamina. But if you step outside the Shrines and just look at the land around them, you’ll still be entertained.
The world is crawling with stuff to do all the time and will always encourage thoughts like “Whoa that looks cool, I want to go there!” Simply put, Breath of the Wild is the closest thing we have to an endless Zelda, it encourages many different play styles. For example, I avoided combat for most of my playthrough, only fighting smaller enemies when approached. Something like that is uncommon for Zelda.
The most lackluster trait of the open world is the sidequests. Most of the ones I’ve encountered revolve around killing enemies or collecting supplies. It would have been nice to see what Nintendo could do if they gave more narrative to the sidequests, making certain characters more important. The closest you can get to “deep” sidequests are the “Shrine Quests” which can actually be interesting and challenging. But still, almost everything here is is new for the Zelda series.
That brings me to the next half of this analysis. Breath of the Wild hits all the right points for an open world adventure, but what about a Legend of Zelda title?
Nintendo has likened Breath of the Wild to the original NES Zelda. The first game had a sense of wonder and excitement unlike other games at the time.It made knowledge and power feel special when you figured out which wall needed bombing. Breath of the Wild does capture that feeling sometime, but frankly not enough for all of Nintendo’s callbacks to the NES game.
In fact, this new game doesn’t feel like any Zelda. Cooking? Breakable weapons? Mining? What type of Zelda game is this?
Even when I was thirty hours in the game it still didn’t feel like Zelda. It wasn’t until I dyed a tunic green, got the Master Sword and Hylian Shield (all optional!) did it feel somewhat like Zelda. Even things that may seem like a background idea like music is gone; there’s no iconic overworld theme and the most you’ll get from nostalgia is a few stray piano notes from past games.
The times Breath of the Wild really feels like a Zelda is when you’re meeting and talking to new people, and finding photo memories which unlock cutscenes from before Link wakes up. Your main tool is the Shiekah Slate, it houses many powers you unlock early and you solve puzzles all over the world. The Slate also works as a camera, and there are photos Zelda once took, find those locations and you see what happened there. It’s here I think Nintendo expected too much from the player. In a map so huge, how are we supposed to find these picture locations with no help at all? It could’ve been much more interesting as a treasure hunt of some sorts, but instead it’s half skill and half luck.
The other powers of the Shiekah Slate are fun to use as well, and they have their usefulness outside of Shrines too. The only disappointing aspect of the Slate is all the powers come to you very early; gone are the days of looking forward to some cool new treasure in dungeons. Oh yeah, there’s still the main story dungeons. There’s actually not many at all but they serve their purpose well. Just like with he Shrines, the scenery in the dungeons is repetitive which is disappointing. But the puzzles are still top quality and feel new with emphasis on physics, blocks are no longer locked to moving straight.
I was beginning to wonder if Nintendo repeated themselves off of Metroid: Federation Force. Slapping an existing franchise to a new idea to make sure it sells more copies is plain unfair to the consumer. Luckily during the last twenty minutes of the game and by the time the credits roll (especially if you get the photo cutscenes), you realize this is indeed a Zelda game.
The Legend of Zelda has always been about taking some old traditions and meshing it with something new. Breath of the Wild does much more of the latter, with tons of traditions seemingly gone. But if you keep playing enough you will see the seeds of the Zelda series scattered around the world.
I’ve already beaten the game but I still can’t put it down. I want to keep getting better and better, find new gear and Shrines, discover secret bosses. It’s a game that keeps on giving.
It may not be the best Zelda style game out there, but it’s one of the best open world games ever made. Simply put, The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is fantastic.