Open your eyes Link. These are the first words that you will hear when you start your adventure with the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Prepare for one of the biggest and most epic adventures as Breath of the Wild mixes up the traditional Zelda formula and creates a masterpiece along the way.
As you begin your incredibly large adventure you find yourself asleep in a tomb. Moments later you awake and discover you have been sleeping for 100 years. You emerge from your resting place to find a very different Hyrule that lays ahead and you are left wondering what has happened. This is where your adventure begins with Breath of the Wild and the entire world is at your fingertips. I must immediately praise Nintendo here with the new form of introduction as Nintendo in this instance have stepped away from the massive opening story and countless conversations that once chewed up the first 2 hours of a Zelda title and left fans screaming to just get on with it. Now you are literally thrust into a new world with absolutely no hand holding in sight; it’s what fans have been yearning for.
Right from the word go The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s massive size and open layout feels incredible. From the mountains to the sea, the rich forests to the desolated desert, each area as far as the eye can see can be explored. The world of Hyrule is capable of being explored any way you wish and you’re almost immediately overwhelmed when faced with such a large choice. Which direction shall I go? Where do I start? Where is the first boss or temple? These were all questions that I asked myself when I began and that’s a good thing as for once the hand holding was no longer there and the series has taken its first biggest step in a long time. I began my playthrough by choosing to explore the world and make my way to the various towers in order to unlock the map so that I felt I had some inclining of what was located where. Scattered throughout the world are Sheika towers which you must climb and once you reach the top you activate these with your Sheika slate with unlocks the map. Finding all these towers and even being able to scale many of these was a feat in itself, but more on that later.
As you begin to explore, discover new villages and towns you will no doubt run into a host of NPC’s (non-playable characters) that interact with you resulting in new main quests and or side quests. These quests are managed well and are located within your menu clearly showing what is a main story quest versus a side quest, as well as showing you which quests have been completed as well. You have the ability to select a quest as your primary action which will then mark the destination on your map accordingly. One important point to note is that the more people you interact with the more quests are given to you each resulting in their own rewards ranging from rupees to weapons and upgrades, so make sure you interact.
With all the roaming of the wilderness your health can degrade due to various reasons. One of the biggest changes to the Zelda formula is that hearts don’t fall from the sky anymore nor do they appear from slain enemies and cut grass. Hearts simply don’t exist in the traditional sense. Your health is restored through numerous ways including resting at inn’s to eating various food items you collect. Initially one of the first food items you will come across is the trusty apple which when eaten restores half a heart. Different food items have different restoration properties and can of course be mixed together and cooked to form interesting results. For example, mixing a piece of meat with peppers will produce a pepper steak. However this won’t just restore hearts, it will also grant you resistance to the cold as well for a certain period of time. This is also another game changer.
As you explore the open wilderness certain areas are of course affected by temperature. The desert is hot, the mountains are cold whilst most other areas are tolerable. There is a small temperature gauge that shows what the environment is doing and the effects can be seen on Link instantly. Enter a cold mountain area and link begins to shiver immediately. If you don’t adapt to the situation Link immediately starts loosing hearts and will perish if you don’t dress accordingly. Link has the ability to change his clothes depending on the situation and you will discover different outfits have different properties. You can also upgrade your outfit’s capabilities by visiting a fairy fountain. Also, should you not have access to outfits you can also eat various food items that grant you benefits such as cold resistance, heat tolerance and many more. Hence it is extremely important to ensure you have an adequate supply of meals on hand that don’t simply replenish hearts but offer other benefits such as increased stamina, defense, attack and more. So get experimenting by the campfire with those ingredients. I do feel this change has added a great new dynamic to the series that allows you to tackle situations differently as well as create your own recipes with various benefits that suits you.
Another significant change is the introduction of the stamina bar which is denoted by a green circle. Link likes to run, but he can no longer run forever and thus his ability to sprint is of course limited to the size of his stamina bar. However stamina is not just used for running, it’s also used for swimming and climbing. Climbing is also a new mechanic where Link can now scale the mountains and cliff faces, trees and buildings and more. Link cannot climb the entire mountain in one go as his stamina simply doesn’t allow for that, however this can also be upgraded.
You can of course upgrade the number of hearts and the size of the stamina wheel by visiting a prayer shrine which are located in various villages and in the wild. In order to upgrade you’ll need orbs which are found inside the various shrines located around the land. Shrines are accessed simply by discovering them and activating the entry pad with your Sheika slate. Once inside you’ll need to solve various puzzles and upon completion you’re rewarded with an Orb. There are 120 of these Shrines to find and complete and again this adds another new level of complexity to the game. Again, heart upgrades no longer fall from the sky and are not laying in caves or behind rocks. They must be earnt and essentially chased in at various prayer sites where you can choose to upgrade your stamina or health, it’s up to you.
As you continue to explore it soon becomes apparent that you need plenty of health and stamina to reach certain locations, special clothing and food to withstand environmental effects and bigger weapons to defeat enemies. This is where the games design is simply amazing. Sure you can run to Death Mountain, but can you climb it, survive the heat? Probably not, and thus the pursuit to upgrade Link and prepare for the adventure is key to success. It’s what makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so different to its predecessors which just locked off certain areas until you defeated a dungeon and were awarded the use of bombs for example. The change here is brilliant and has kept me exploring and upgrading for close to 100 hours of gameplay currently.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild really expands on the traditional menu inventory screens with multiple tabs for various categories. Shields, weapons, bows, food, items and quest items are just some of the main categories here. All of which have a set number of pre-derived slots which can be upgraded as you play. Another massive shift for the series is the way you use your weapons. No longer is a sword and shield your main weapons, well they are but it’s different now. Weapons break after a short use, so you are constantly picking up weapons from defeated enemies and or the environment including tree branches, bones and even torches if you’re desperate. Some weapons can be wielded with one hand, whilst others require both hands, some are fast and some are slow to swing, all depending on their size. You can even throw your weapon at your enemy and run should you wish, again the changes are just amazing and extremely welcomed.
The freezing mountains and the steaming hot desert are not the only weather affects in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Rain can fall at any time, lightly or heavily and can turn into a raging thunderstorm. The rain will make it impossible to climb any surface, and the lightning will strike you if you’re carrying metallic items such as a steel shield or a sword. I could see my shield arc on the ground but initially I ignored it till I was struck by lightning and instantly killed. So switch up your inventory and always carry a club and a wooden shield is my advice here.
Scattered also throughout the land are enemies from your common Bokoblin’s to your larger enemies such as the Hinox or Giants and many more. You can feel extremely underpowered here in most cases and the best defense is to simply run till you have the ability to actually withstand a hit and have levelled up adequately. Making use of various weapons will also help, especially when it comes to facing off against a Guardian. Guardian’s are extremely difficult to defeat and my initial strategy was to remain hidden rather than be killed instantly by their one shot laser beam. No matter the enemy, you will always feel underpowered in most cases until you start levelling up Link many battles can be the end of your days so plan accordingly.
The sheer size of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is mind boggling. You’ll spend hours just exploring the world whether on foot or on your horse or perhaps even paragliding across the skies. The world is simply massive, there is no other way to describe its sheer size and is the biggest I’ve ever experienced in a video game.
Graphics & Sound
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is simply gorgeous. The games visual art style which is a cross between the Wind Waker’s cell shaded art style is combined with deep details makes it truly pleasing. The environments are lively from the sounds of the various wildlife to the quite ambient music, Breath of the Wild truly impresses. The world is colourful and bright with free flowing green grass to the icy mountain tops in white, to the deep greens of the forest. Each and every part of the world is well detailed and executed incredibly smooth in terms of its performance. I’ve played both the Wii U version and Switch versions and the biggest difference between the two is simply the draw distance. The Wii U simply cannot render objects in the distance as well as the Switch version. The Wii U version runs at a solid 720p, whilst the Switch version when docked runs at 900p.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is simply a masterpiece that in this reviewer’s opinion completely redefines the 30 year old franchise and makes it completely fresh and invigorating once more. The beautiful and massively open world is full of adventure and challenges that will keep you engaged for well over 100 hours and it will consume you and draw you into its incredible world. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the new benchmark for the franchise and one that exceeds those set by Ocarina of Time. This is the definitive Zelda experience and simply must be experienced by anyone who has ever held a controller in their hand. Simply perfect!