Weekly Gaming: Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review.

How does one review Zelda? The game series has been going on for so many years and has so many fans that any word said on the game is going to be scrutinised in everyway possible. It’s for good reason: The Zelda games, for a long while, pushed their respective consoles forward into the limelight of the gaming world, and even proceeded to hold games up as a legitimate art form many times when other games were content with exploding limbs and gratuitous violence.

But the series hasn’t been without it’s downfalls. Twilight Princess didn’t exactly set the world on fire, with skyward sword receiving middling to negative reviews. So does Breath of the Wild mix the formula up enough to become an instant classic once more, or is Zelda losing the power it once had?

Well you’ll be glad to know that Zelda has turned away from it’s linear formula of the last few years and has instead embraced the rogue like gameplay mannerisms of years past. After an hour of playing around within a starting area, getting you used to how the world behaves and what it does (and doesn’t) expect of you, you’re able to embark in any which way you want. Your only objective is to “Kill Ganon”. How you go about doing this main objective is completely up to you. This disregarding of a linear narrative with a specific route in which you take on dungeons is pleasing, and makes the game feel so much more special than many other open world games like Skyrim or even Horizon Zero Dawn.

This open world formula ensures that you’re constantly looking for things to do. The game never once makes you go in any one direction, you simply explore and move towards what interests you most. A typical hour in the game would comprise of me starting to walk to the other side of the map, having my other half see something in a field which looks interesting, proceeding to deviate over to the interesting ruin, and then getting muddled up in a new fight or puzzle that I never anticipated being in.

It’s invigorating, and pushes you on to explore the world as much as possible. Especially given the fact your weapons die so quickly; encouraging you to find as many useful replacements in the environment. It’s even more exciting when you make your way to the end of a cave that didn’t look interesting and find a chest which has a new powerful weapon for you to try. Yes the weapon will die quickly, but the fact you have many and they all get destroyed pushes you to experiment with your whole inventory, as well as encouraging you to explore more.

The aesthetics of the world too, are absolutely lovely. Each time breath of the wild was shown at conferences I had no interest in the graphical fidelity at all. This changed when I started to explore the world, as each and every bit of detail in the environments is meticulously detailed. I’ll never forget getting to the end of a long canyon, just to find some carvings on a wall, each of them lovingly rendering to look like they were actually etched and using polygons to do so. Nintendo really should be commended for how well they’ve done on the graphics standpoint with what limited hardware they had available to them.

This showcase of graphical prowess really stands out when it comes to the sheer size of the world. For a game all about exploring, Zelda gives you plenty of reasons to explore, as well as a lot of space in which to do so. The producer, Eiji Aonuma, made it clear that Breath of the wild was based on the freedom of exploration first invented in the original Legend of Zelda. My god have they gone above and beyond that freedom. Me and my other half put over 65 hours into the game, exploring every nook and cranny of the world until our sense of adventure had been fulfilled. It’s a marvel, to put it bluntly, and one that really will stand up to the test of time when historians look back and wonder what we were playing in 2017.

With all this exploring, you’d be forgiven for thinking the traditional Zelda tropes like dungeons are gone. Alas they are still here, although they are broken down into two distinct categories: Shrines and Guardians. Shrines can be found throughout the world, and once activated, allow you not only to fast travel between them (a god send considering the sheer size of the world) but also to embark on a mini adventure. When entering the shrines, you’ll be tasked with solving puzzles, or even taking part in combat, all to earn a spirit orb which can then be traded in for more stamina or hearts. These mini sections were a fantastic reward to finding a shrine after spending hours exploring the land, and as such, are brilliant ways of breaking up the game.

Guardians on the other hand a few, but complex and gratifying when taking them on. They’re huge structures that proceed to roam the land, cursed by Ganon into hurting the local inhabitants. Once inside these monstrosities, you’re able to use their sheer size to affect the dungeons within themselves, making for some great puzzles that had me stumped for ages. Whilst they harken back to Zeldas of yesteryear, they’re so few and far between that you can let them off for being more linear than the rest of the game.

The characters found throughout this world are just as interesting and charming as ever, making you want to talk to them more and more. I would consistently come back to villages after having done quite a few missions to get some characters take on what’s gone down, a delightful experience each and every time. Whilst the characters are great, thinly thing that could be said to let the game down is the story. Whilst I enjoyed what little was there, it certainly felt bare, pushing you to make your own stories in the journeys between locations rather than giving you a proper narrative. For some people this is fine (I for one loved it), but for others I can see this being a point of contention, especially when the triforce isn’t mentioned once in the whole game.

So, if I haven’t made it clear enough yet, Zelda Breath of the Wild is an absolutely phenomenal game. It’s mechanics, from the gigantic world where you actually feel like an adventurer, to it’s new fighting mechanics, and even charming characters make it easily one of the best gaming experiences you can have in 2017. Screw Game of the Year, Breath of the Wild manages to rate so highly on my list that I believe it may even be my game of the generation.

5/5

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