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Review – Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

by on March 23, 2017
Details
 
Release Date

March 3rd, 2017

Developer

Nintendo

 

Creating and developing games can be a stressful and challenging process.  For a franchise like Zelda, which has been around for over 30 years, it feels like an impossible task.  How do you juggle the demands of fans while invigorating the product?  How do you tweak the gameplay for fans while keeping it accessible to newcomers?  How do you connect the new product to years of lore and history?  And in our social media driven world, how do you handle the expectations and desires of millions of gamers and fans?

When it was announced, I was tremendously excited about a new Zelda game.  As rumors started to hit, I met them with disbelief.  An open world Zelda?  No way.  True RPG elements?  That will never happen.  It didn’t seem real until I tried it firsthand at E3 in 2016.  When I approached the booth, one of the workers gave me a quick rundown of the controls, then said “Alright, go explore for the first 15 minutes of the demo.  Have fun!”  I was dumbfounded at first.  What do you mean explore?  Won’t I have 15 minutes of exposition to start things off?  What will I really play?  But true to his word, I was able to go anywhere in the Great Plateau.  I explored the mountain ranges, the decrepit Temple of Time, and fought Bokoblins.  I found and broke weapons.  I hunted and cooked food.  As a longtime fan of the series, playing that demo was eye opening and accelerating.  After my 15 minute exploration was done, I had a second session that allowed me to play from the beginning of the game.  Again, I was expecting tradition, but was blown away when I didn’t see it.  I heard the voice acting for the first time.  I wasn’t stuck on having long periods of story telling thrown in my face.  The story came naturally and I still had freedom that I didn’t expect from this franchise.

After months of amazing trailers and information, the day arrived when we would finally get the complete game.  After many, many hours, I think it’s time to write my final review of Breath of the Wild.  It’s a little tricky because I will discuss some positive and negative aspects of the game.  It is not a perfect game by any means.  However, I will not hesitate to still give it an A+ score.  The things that I find negative are my personal feelings.  I don’t thing the negatives that I bring up take away anything from the game.  I feel that the negatives made my experience frustrating at times, but did not take away from the quality of the game.  I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum, but I will go ahead and give a SPOILER ALERT to warn you that I may talk about aspects that you have not seen yet in your playthrough.  With that said, let’s jump into the review!

Breath of the Wild takes some traditional aspects of the Zelda lore and improves it to make some sense out of the complicated Zelda timeline.  We see the traditional players – Zelda is still our princess in Hyrule.  Link is the hero that will rid Hyrule from the clutches of Ganon.  While these elements are the same, the way it is told makes a ton of sense, considering the convoluted timelines in the franchise.  According to myth, Ganon appears every 10,000 years.  I like to think that this myth explains the different Zelda stories in the past.  It doesn’t really tell us when in the timeline Breath of the Wild appears in, but it does give us a sense of satisfaction knowing that everything fits together in one timeline, with Ganon messing up Hyrule on a regular basis.

One of the fascinating story elements in Breath of the Wild is the knowledge that Link actually failed!  You wake up from a resurrection chamber in the beginning of the game.  As you work through the game, you find out that you failed and almost died 100 years ago.  Link, one of the greatest heroes in gaming history, did not succeed and Hyrule was left in utter devastation.  Zelda is trapped, the Divine Beasts who were created to stop Ganon are under his control, and the champions who pilot the Divine Beasts are all dead.  It’s a pretty bleak story…a story that slowly unfolds instead of having a ton of exposition thrown in your face like previous Zelda games.

With a little bit of story, you are sent on your way.  And you can literally go anywhere you want.  There are key objectives that you should complete, but you can do so in your own time.  This freedom keeps you enveloped in the land of Hyrule for hours upon end.  There are items to find, memories to unlock, people to meet, side quests to complete, towers and sections of map to unlock….I can go on and on about the freedom and amount of things you can do in Breath of the Wild.  This is the open world Zelda game we have hoped for!

Along with the open world, there are an incredible amount of RPG elements in the game.  Now a true RPG will let you improve specific stats.  You won’t see that in Breath of the Wild.  You will have control over some other things like clothing, food preparation, and control over hearts and stamina.  Breath of the Wild has a variety of clothing that you can find or purchase.  They help protect you from the cold or extreme heat.  They can also be upgraded with specific items by the Great Fairies.  You could beat the game only using elixirs, but it is easier with the clothing.  The food prep is really fun.  You can hunt and gather items and combine them at a fire.  You can mix and match items to fill your hearts or give you special abilities like resistance to temperatures or extra defense or stamina.  Spend time mixing and matching items to get the best possible meal or elixir!  Weapon stats and durability are also included in Breath of the Wild.  I admit that the durability of weapons was an issue in my playthrough.  I hated when the weapons break.  It does bring a nice challenge, especially when you have to decide which weapons to use against a specific type of enemy.

I mentioned stamina because it is a very important part of the game.  You can climb anything and swim anywhere.  However, you have a specific amount of stamina.  If you run out, you fall or drown.  You can upgrade health and stamina using spirit orbs.  Or, if you are brave, you can complete the game without it.   Once again, you have the choice when it comes to how you play the game.

Besides exploration, there a ‘dungeons’ in Breath of the Wild.  I put that in quotation marks because they are not traditional dungeons like you expect.  Throughout the game, you need to take control of the Divine Beasts.  They are the four main dungeons in the game (if you don’t count Hyrule Castle).  The Divine Beasts must be unlocked and a boss must be defeated in order to gain control.  When you do, you get a blessing that is vital to completing the game.  The Divine Beasts can be challenging, so make sure to listen to instructions and read your map carefully.  Besides the Divine Beasts, you have challenging Shrines.  Shrines are scattered throughout Hyrule and offer puzzle and combat challenges.  Each Shrine is really fun and offers great loot.  When you complete a Shrine, you get a Spirit Orb.  When you collect four, you can choose either a heart container or an increase in stamina.  You will want to find as many shrines as possible.  Besides the loot, you can use the completed shrines as fast travel points.  The map is huge, so fast travel is one of the best ways to travel.  You can always tame a horse, but I prefer to fast travel.

I, personally, did not have a problem with the change in dungeons.  It is a very stark departure from what we are used to, so I can imagine that some fans are up in arms about it.  There are some themes that I miss in the dungeons, but I must give the developers credit for taking a risk.  I think the Divine Beasts and Shrines are still very fun and challenging, even if they stray far away from Zelda tradition.

There are so many things I can mention, so let me give you some quick fire points –

  • You can actually jump in this game!
  • Horse riding is fun, but not necessary
  • There are a ton of secret areas and treasure to find, so look carefully
  • You will gain powers with your Shiekah Slate, so use them!
  • Collect as many rupees as you can, because you will spend like crazy
  • I said it before, and I will say it again – make sure to explore everything!

The art and graphics are stunning.  The grass blows beautifully in the wind and the weather effects are amazing.  The beauty of Hyrule mixed with the ruins and remnants of Ganon’s attack are exceptional.  Breath of the Wild is as beautiful as it is fun to play.  The sound and music are also top notch.  I like that we have a lot of new musical numbers and variations on classic Zelda sounds.  Breath of the Wild is completely different from previous entries in the franchise, and the music and sound need to reflect that.

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I think it’s safe to say that Breath of the Wild is my favorite Zelda entry.  It is almost painful to admit it because I love the traditional Zelda games.  But Breath of the Wild has done something that I didn’t expect – it infused new elements while keeping the traditional elements of Zelda games that we love.  I can imagine that some traditionalists have issues with the amount of change in Breath of the Wild.  However, any fear and hatred towards new things will go out the window when you are enveloped in a living, breathing world with engaging gameplay and a ton of things activities and quests.  I would have never imagined that the franchise needed such a drastic facelift, but we are fortunate that they made this change.  Will we see this type of exploration in future Zelda entries?  Only time will tell.  But in the meantime, I look forward to spending many more hours in Hyrule.  This is a game that you must own and experience for yourself.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available now for $59.99 at your local retailer or online.

I’m sure you have many favorite aspects, so please share your favorite moments or experiences in the comments below!  In the meantime, check out what the rest of the team thinks about Breath of the Wild!

 

Note: A physical copy was purchased and was used to review this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.

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Positives

Stunning open world
Enveloping story that doesn't force you away from the path you want to take
RPG elements
Challenging puzzles and shrines
Beautiful art design and graphics

Negatives

A few frustrating RPG elements
Some changes to traditional Zelda gameplay may not go over well with longtime fans.

Editor Rating
 
Gameplay
A+

 
Graphics
A+

 
Story
A+

 
Replay Value
A+

Total Score
A+

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User Rating
 
Gameplay
A-

 
Graphics
A

 
Story
B+

 
Replay Value
A+

User Score
1 rating
A

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Bottom Line
 

Breath of the Wild might be the best addition to the Zelda franchise. With game changing additions to the gameplay, open world exploration, challenging puzzles and enemies, and stunning graphics and art, Breath of the Wild will capture your attention and give you the Zelda experience you have always dreamed of.

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