It’s been many many moons since we
have had a proper new Legend of Zelda entry and while yes we did get the Triforce Heroes game on the 3DS that is not something I would even consider as a main line entry into this historic franchise: that honor goes to the last 2 titles – A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS & Skyward Sword for the Wii. Since those titles we’ve gotten remakes but nothing especially new in the series other than Triforce Heroes and Hyrule Warriors/Legends so the craving for a new entry has definitely been there.
As great as the series has been it has always tried to copy the success of its two most storied entry's being “A Link To The Past” and “Ocarina of Time” as both have set the standard and bar for the series and have rarely if even been surpassed by any of the following entries. What's usual is that you start off in some small village of some sort and go through an introductory tutorial: Breath of The Wild does away with that entirely. You are thrust into the vast open world and basically have to figure out where to go and what to do, the levels of freedom from the start are unparalleled by any other Zelda game by far.
The core mechanics of the game will come as second nature to anyone who’s played a Zelda game in the past One of the newest facets of this entry that I love is the ability to approach any dungeon in any order no matter what items you may or may not have acquired and unlike previous entries puzzles within the dungeons are not regulated to any specific item you get from said dungeon and are instead split between Runes and your base weapons. Runes are basically a group of abilities tied to the Sheikah Slate which is a small tablet like device that Link discovers not long after awakening in the beginning of the game.
You heard me right: there is no “right way” to approach this game, you are free to go about this however you see fit. The game will let you know where to go for plot purposes but this is purely up to you if you choose to go about it that way. To drive this point home even more lets take for instance both my friend and fellow YouTuber Alpha Rakama, my fellow friend and YouTuber Cameron, and my wife Lehua whom are both playing this game the same time as I am and from the beginning where you are at the Great Plateau we each approached the games’ introductory level completion in 3 different ways:
Alpha approached the snowy field area by cooking a meal that gave him resistance to the cold which can deplete your health.
Cameron approached the area by taking the torch and lighting it and ran through the area and it kept him from taking damage.
Lehua approached the area by eventually meeting the “old man” who gave her clothes to stay warm and prevent damage from the cold weather.
I approached the situation by purely running through the cold and stopping only to fight or heal myself from the damage from the cold.
Again every player will have a different experience and different way of solving the vast puzzles present in the game. The game will point you in a specific direction to follow the main questline, but you can completely ignore that and strike off wherever you like. The map is broken into 15 main areas (counting the initial Plateau), each of which is uncharted until you scale the tower at its centre - someone at Nintendo has clearly been paying attention to Ubisoft’s open world titles. Over the course of the first five hours or so we managed to visit an additional two areas beyond the initial Plateau - though they are far from completed, and we’ve barely dented the main story. Simply put, the game and world both feel absolutely massive, and we can easily believe that Breath of the Wild is up there with Final Fantasy XV and The Witcher 3 when it comes to mammoth runtimes.
There’s plenty of stuff to do along the way too. The world is littered with side quests that you can pick up from any of the NPCs dotted around the world. Then there are the Shrines, small dungeons that contain either puzzles, platforming challenges, or combat trials, and reward you with Spirit Orbs - they’re essentially Pieces of Heart, except that once you collect four you can trade them in for a boost to either your health or your stamina, which you use for climbing, sprinting, and swimming. You can also try and track down hidden Koroks littered around the world, search for hidden chests and items, and compete in a variety of mini-games and challenges. That’s not even mentioning the expansive cooking system, which sees you hunting and foraging for ingredients, which can be combined to make meals and elixirs to restore health and provide a few other buffs and status effects.
Let’s talk about the weapons of this game: No longer are you regulated to merely one or two swords before you get the master sword but now you are able to use a wide variety of weapons such as spears, sledgehammers, and more of which you can swap out at a moments notice and you're also able to throw any weapon you’re holding if you so choose. The weapons do have durability meters and ratings so you have to keep that in mind as you use them as they can and will break after repeated use.
Man I have to take a moment at times to just sit back and look in awe at how beautiful this game truly is. Regardless of how the media and current generation of gamers focus on the graphics of games these days and the resolutions to be pushed to 1440 and 4K, this game looks tunningly gorgeous both in 720p Portable mode and 1080p Docked mode. The game is beautiful, and it’s a real treat to see Hyrule brought into the world of HD. The landscape is awash with colour during the day, and foreboding and ominous by night. In our playtime we’ve seen lush forests, sparse fields, and frozen mountaintops, and we’re sure there’s more over the horizon left to find. Hyrule is packed with animals and enemies brought to life with fluid, vivid animations - if you can tear your eyes away from the landscape. We have had some very occasional framerate stutters when using some of the visually complex Runes like Magnesis, but otherwise performance is smooth, either docked or in handheld mode. As for controls,my wife and I ’ve tried it with both the Joy-Con and the Pro Controller (sold separately), and much prefer the latter - it’s a more comfortable size, while the Joy-Con button configuration feels slightly squished in a game like this.
There’s a comprehensive map to go along with the huge world, which allows you to set a load of different stamps and markers to help you remember enemies, chests, shrines, and secrets that you want to go back for later on. Trying to walk across the map would take… well, bloody ages, but in fine old Zelda tradition you can get yourself a horse to speed things up. You won’t be given one though - instead you’ll have to catch a wild horse, break it in, and register it at a stable. You can name horses, and keep up to five at a time, each with their own stats, from speed to temperament - we have no doubt there’ll be some players devoting hours to finding the perfect steed.
After a little over 60 hours with the game, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Breath of the Wild - I haven’t even reached the third Dungeon yet. My wife and I loved what we have played so far though, which borrows the best of modern open-world games and pairs it with the inimitable Zelda polish and feel. We can’t wait to get back into Hyrule, and we think we’ll be there for a very long time.