Obvious statement of 2019? Probably, but I’m back into Breath of the Wild in a big way at the minute, and it continually strikes me with how excellent it really is.
I’ve cleared all of the towers, so I have full view of the map. Damn, that’s one big map!
Having been most places, I realised that I’ve steered clear of Hyrule Castle (after mistakenly thinking I would be ok running there, a few hours in).
Then, it dawned on me that I’ve never even visited the forest. What a treat it was, finding my way with a torch and the embers of the flame guiding me to the Korok Forest.
Just finding the Korok Forest was a subtle little puzzle that, whilst not hard to solve, wasn’t immediately obvious. This is exactly what I love so much about Breath of the Wild.
You’re mostly left to your own devices in Breath of the Wild. Minimal hints and clues, and free-reign over the whole map from the get-go.
The whole time you’re playing, you’re working out where you should go, what you should do, and then, how to do it.
Of course, a prime example of this style of play, is the introduction of the shrines. Mini-dungeons that challenge you to use everything at your disposal to obtain a spirit orb.
Physics-based, combat-based, logic-based. There’s a little bit of everything, and you have these bite-sized puzzles to sink your teeth into at your leisure. Again, a subtle hint here and there, but no specific instructions.
It’s like someone just says “off you go then”, and you get to work everything out yourself. It’s never so hard it becomes unfathomable, but not everything is so easy that it becomes unsatisfactory. The balance here, is perfect.
Breath of the Wild expects you to complete these challenges, so you can improve your health and stamina bars, and can take on the blights across the world of Hyrule. It never tells you that you have to, and you never have to do something in a specific way.
There are countless videos on the internet of new, creative ways in which people have solved puzzles. Sure, there’s likely to be a “desired” way to do it. But the tools, and the sandbox you have make it so you can get really creative.
You’re always challenged, and always satisfied when you work things out. Breath of the Wild doesn’t hold your hand, but it helps steer you in the right direction.
This is emergent gameplay at it’s finest. You have the tools and a massive space within which to use them. Crack on.
Different yet the same
The Legend of Zelda is a long-standing series. With established lore, races, currency etc.
With Breath of the Wild, you have a completely different take on the series. This is a massive open-world, with non-standard dungeons and the removal of classic items like the Hookshot, or a Goron bracelet.
Yet it retains themes, sounds, races and classic elements that you almost require it to have to make it a “Zelda” game. Master Sword? Hylian Shield? Ganon? All there!
The music and general audio have a massive part to play in this. I’ve spent my adult life, continually going back to classic Zelda music. There’s so much to go at and it’s all wonderful.
Breath of the Wild manages to take all of this, and make a lot of it new and fresh. The work of Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai is just incredible. Ambient, powerful and in keeping with the rest of the franchise.
You’re still a version of Link, there’s a Princess Zelda, and there’s a Ganon. This is Hyrule, hell, this is The Legend of Zelda, just not how you’ve seen it before.
Beyond audio and puzzles, you’ve got this wonderful, vibrant art style. Everything is crisp and clean. Bright and shiny. When you see something in the distance, you can just go to it.
The map has different biomes, and you need to be dressed appropriately for each climate.
Breath of the Wild has so much depth, it isn’t even funny.
I’ve spent more time cooking meals on an open fire, that I made by setting fire to some wood (this can be done in several ways!).
Working out the best way to cut through a mountain range, or brave climbing. Managing your stamina, the rain and the lightning. Climbing in the rain means that surfaces are slippery. Carrying metal items and weapons makes you a conductor for lightning.
You’re always thinking and dealing with what the world is throwing at you. Nothing is set in stone, nothing is linear, and there are hundreds of ways to achieve what you set out to do. Breaking weapons mid-fight, running out of arrows, or missing that well-timed deflection. You can always be on the back foot, but you can turn the tides at any given second. Breath of the Wild is almost magical in it’s delivery.
The best Zelda game ever…
I rate Ocarina of Time as one of the best games ever made. But the truth is, this beats it out in pretty much every single way. I’ll hold Breath of the Wild as dearly to me as I do Ocarina of Time.
I haven’t finished it, hell, I’ve not played it in spates of months at a time, but damn, I’m in for the long-haul now.
There’s a lot to do, and so much time I can throw at it, just trying to shield-board down mountains, or build a house. Perhaps I want to get all shrines and all Korok seeds (I won’t!).
I’m getting the Master Sword and the Hylian Shield, then I’m finishing the awful Thunderblight Ganon. After that, it’s Ganon time. The douche won’t know what hit him!
Right now, I’m happy just exploring, learning and experimenting in the one-of-a-kind sandbox the Breath of the Wild is. It a Zelda game, it’s a game physics masterpiece, and it’s easily one of the best games ever made.
When I get a Nintendo Switch (I will one day!), I’ll play Breath of the Wild all over again, without hesitation. The thought of being able to take it with me wherever I go in the world is something I’m very much a fan of.
If you love Zelda but haven’t played it, you’re missing out. If you love open-world adventure games, this is the best there is. You can get it on the Wii U for crying out loud.
When people throw words around like “Masterpiece” and “Classic”, it’s hard for me to engage with something because it skews my initial perception of it. Here though, those words are apt, and required to explain how good it is.