The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild finally makes its way to both the brand new Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Wii U console. But is it worth the wait? For years Nintendo has been riding on the formula of “if it aint broke, slightly add some new stuff to make it cooler”, which has turned out some pretty great–albeit safe–first party titles.
With Breath of The Wild Nintendo has reinvented Zelda from the ground up, quite possibly changing the way we look at open world action adventures from now on.
In the latest Legend of Zelda, we find ourselves once again taking control of Link who–as the series standards go–must power up and fight the big bad guy looming over the land (which, after leaving the initial opening area, is completely open for you to tackle if you so choose). But only this time around Link’s got a brand new satchel of tricks. For starters, Link can jump–relatively unheard of, outside of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. But the greatest thing isn’t so much what Link can do, but how he reacts to the world around him.
Breath of The Wild’s Link feels very much a part of the world; anything you see, he can interact with. You want to chop down some trees and start a fire? Link can do that. You want to tame a wild horse? Hell, yes– Link can do that. You want to venture off to that far off mountain peak? You’ll need to stock up on cold resistant meals and maybe a sweater, but (hell, yes) Link can do that too!
The game mechanics are so thoroughly connected to each other that it literally feels like there’s nothing you can’t do. For the first time in an open world game, the world has truly felt completely open. Link has never felt more fragile and it’s wonderful.
Anyone familiar with the series knows the story usually never deviates from these themes. It’s the road in-between that’s the true prize — and what a prize it is. In previous Zelda entries, the games mostly take place in the magical kingdom of Hyrule. Until now, Hyrule has simply served as a somewhat interesting map that housed the dungeons that you were forced to push through to progress the story. BotW is different.
Hyrule in itself feels like a living breathing entity. I’ve spent countless hours simply exploring Hyrule’s massive lands, alternating between frozen mountains, scorching deserts, and even far off sea shores. The amount of detail Nintendo has layered into Hyrule is dizzying. There’s not one part of the map that just feels like it’s taking up space. Adventure very much can turn up from any corner of the game world, and it’s hard to not lose yourself doing random things for hours.
The gameplay mechanics–even for seasoned Zelda veterans–will take some getting used to. One of my main gripes about the game is the fact that the sprint function has been assigned to a button instead of L3, like many other games. It can be frustrating at first; once you’ve gotten used to it, though, you should be fine. But a slight annoyance, at the least.
Great news: Combat feels great! For those thinking they can get by by rushing into battle and swinging wildly at an enemy, you’re in for a surprise. First and foremost, the game is a lot harder than previous Zelda entries. In fact, you will die… a lot probably. Each enemy has a different combat rhythm, and a large part of the fun is learning the rhythms to effectively fight back. Weapons break. Easily. So keeping an eye on the status of your weapons is vital when it comes to survival; it adds a sense of danger and an element of having to adapt to the combat as it flows.
Much like that of Final Fantasy XV, cooking is another new element added to the series. You’ll forage high and low for different vegetables, meats, monster parts, seasonings, and many other ingredients to add to your meals and elixirs. Meals in Breath of the Wild work as stat boosts for different attributes. For example, if you want to survive in the frigid cold, try preparing meals using peppers found across Hyrule. Or if you want to beef up your defense, Kakariko village’s prized, strong pumpkins could give you a fortifying defense boost you’re looking for. The cooking system works great and adds a new layer to this already densely packed Switch staple.
To say Breath of The Wild is the perfect Legend of Zelda adventure is an understatement. It’s a masterful achievement in open world, survival, action-adventure gameplay. From its overarching structure and mechanics to its minutest details, this is a bonafied Nintendo masterpiece: one that will not only change how we play Zelda games in the future, but change how we play open world RPG games. Period.