Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)
History tells us of a time that Nintendo ruled the entire gaming world as far as the eye could see. You’d have to go back many moons, and some of you weren’t even born, but many of us were fortunate enough to live in these times. We can confirm that these tales are true. The time has come to prepare yourself for the resurrection of those glorious days. Days where you’d lose yourself in an adventure for days, as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only a return to form, but the series shake-up Nintendo fans have been craving for decades. If you’re new you best sit tight, as it’s an adventure of a lifetime.
A 100 years have passed, when…
Link has been dormant for 100 years and wakes up in a cave-like shrine. A voice leads him outside where he meets the world of Hyrule, possessed by something sinister and evil. His memories have all but faded, but in the distance he can see that something has gone terribly wrong. Calamity Ganon has all but invaded the world and injected evil throughout the land. Trusting this voice, Link embarks on an unforgettable journey.
Forget everything you know about The Legend of Zelda series. Remember his green outfit? Forget it! You won’t see the Master Sword and Shield early on in the game – in fact, if you want to see it at all you’ll have to search for it. Those generic dungeons with hidden keys for you to discover? Gone. No more slashing away at the grass to obtain rupees and hearts to fill your health. This is not the Legend of Zelda game you’ve been playing for the last 30 odd years.
Hyrule is indeed massive. As Nintendo once confirmed – whatever you see in the distance is something that you can go and explore, and that’s exactly what Breath of the Wild would like you to do. Test everything out. If you think it’s possible, give it a shot. You see those enemies in the donga below? That big boulder, just above them, would make short work of those good for nothing Bokoblin troll-like monsters. No need to press the A button to activate it, just walk up to it and push it in the direction you want it to roll. Of course it’s not quite as straight-forward as that as you’ll have to keep an eye on your new spiffy stamina meter. Run out of stamina and you’ll have to wait a few seconds for it to refill to give it another shot. Your stamina meter depletes by climbing, well, just about anything or running and swimming too. Press X to jump, a new move for the series, while climbing or dash in the water and it’ll eat away at a chunk of the available stamina. But that’s just where your basic management starts.
As the game begins Link finds a tool called the Sheikah Slate. Think of this as his personal Hyrule smart device. Best you get used to it as you’ll be using it to unlock and manage everything in the game. Hyrule is divided into several regions, and to unlock a detailed map for each area you have to climb towers. Activate a tower and you basically unlock a new point to fast travel to. It’s also the best spot in the game to search for shrines using your scope. Think of shrines as some of the best mini puzzles you’ve ever played. These brightly lit orange temples are scattered all over Hyrule, while some are hidden. Thankfully your Sheikah Slate comes with a tool that bleeps when you’re nearby a Shrine. Inside you’ll find puzzles. Some can be completed in seconds, while others will leave you scratching your head for a good while before you experience that ‘AHA!’ moment. These puzzles are also basically your testing ground at understanding how your new powers work.
Early on in the game Link will receive the ability to glide using a Paraglider, but he’ll also get access to various Runes that’ll accompany him throughout the game. In other words – it doesn’t matter what puzzle or side quest you tackle – you always have everything you require on you. It’s up to you to figure out how to solve the problem with what you’ve got. Runes come in the form of a Remote Bomb (both round and square – yes you can use it as many times as you like, though there’s a timer that you have to wait for once using it), Magnesis, Cryonis and Stasis. There’s nothing new when it comes to the bomb, but the other three runes really spice things up. Magnesis allows you to move certain object using a magnet. Once connected to an object you can control it using the analogue sticks. Can’t cross that bridge? Try looking for something nearby to manipulate and create your own platform to walk over. The Cryonis rune lets you create big blocks of ice when water is nearby. It’s a great use for reaching areas previously out of reach and has many other interesting uses. Stasis provides Link with the power of stopping a moving object in time, but there’s much more to it. Swing away at a object affected by Stasis using your equipped weapon, and it’ll accumulate the stored energy. Once the Stasis period comes to an end, which is a few seconds, it’ll fly in whatever direction you intend it to go. It’s often in these moments, or when fighting a tougher enemy, that your weapon will completely shatter and dissolve into thin air. That’s right, you are going to have to learn to manage much, much more.
Loot to your heart’s content
Weapons, bows and arrows and shields can be picked up from any enemy you’ve defeated and appears in your inventory, which has a limited amount of slots. Each item comes with its own level that sets an indication of just how powerful the weapon might be and how durable it is. There are ways to upgrade and add an elemental perk to your weapons, best you discover how. So, should you take damage it’s not just a simple case of drinking a quick potion, though there are elixirs you can drink to withstand the cold, heat, increase your stealth, stamina and various other effects. You are going to have to learn to cook. Gather all the monster and rock parts you can find.
When killing any animal and catching any insect or critter it can be combined with the many mushrooms, flowers, fruit and various other edible items you can find or loot in the world. Combine up to five items, throw it in the pot and watch your recipe come to life… or see it end up being a complete disaster. Mess it up and you’ll find yourself with a plate of dubious food. In-game this converts to – you only get two hearts replenished, instead of five or more. It’s up to you to test combinations in the hope that you’ll create something amazing. Should you discover a recipe that works it’s best you take note of it as Breath of the Wild does not keep track of your amazing inventions. Not only will you aim at a big number of hearts, but also perks that could increase your attacking or defence percentage for a stipulated time.
something in it for each and every player and the further you get into the game the more it’ll suck you in
Breath of the Wild is an absolutely beautiful game. It’s not aiming for realism, and it knows it. When running through the tall blades of grass or kicking up dust in the desert – there’s always something small that’ll catch your eye. The attention to detail, no matter how small, will bring a smile to your face. No one person will play the game is the same style, it’s been designed with each individual player in mind. After your tutorial session all players will run off in various directions. The main story remains linear, but how you get there will be different for each player. There is an abundance of side missions and shrine quests. If you’re not trying to tame a wild horse you’re looking for ancient items to upgrade your Sheikah Slate. When you are tired of the taxing main missions (some upcoming dungeons are tough – but brilliant) and you require a break you’ll always find something to keep you occupied. You see the tree on top of the peak? It’s there for a reason. Line it up with the two trees next it and it’ll point to a treasure. This truly is a piece of modern art.
In my 30-hour playthrough I experienced one particular flaw that happened to me twice – major frame rate issues. When I say ‘issues’ I mean that the game had to just about pause to catch up. This only happened when the console was docked and while in battle, as it ran Ultramel Custard smooth when in portable mode. There is not a single other problem I encountered in the game. If the graphics are too cartoony for you, or you don’t like the odd gyroscope puzzle and a silent protagonist – that’s up to personal taste. The voice acting, though a first for the series, could also do with some improvement in the future. There is unquestionably something in it for each and every player and the further you get into the game the more it’ll suck you in.
There is so much more to say about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The use of traditional sounds in untraditional ways, along with a stunning soundtrack and the fact that for once amiibo support actually benefits the game (I only had Wolf Link to test unfortunately, but I believe the other amiibo add to the experience). You’ll meet your good ‘ol pal, Beedle, who tries to sell and buy goods in his own unique way. You’ll bump into various familiar races and faces and new ones alike. You’ll fight the elements as you’ve never done before. You’ll tackle dungeons – of the like you’ve never encountered before. If this is your first Legend of Zelda game you could not have arrived at a better time.
Play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and you’ll understand just what the veterans and historians were talking about all those years ago – that Nintendo makes some of the most beautiful and inspiring games that money can buy.