Review – Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – far from perfect
Breath of the Wild is a game that is polarizing on many levels.
For as long as I can remember playing video games, I’ve also had Legend of Zelda games to play. With that in mind, I’ve seen some great ones (Link to the Past) and some not so great ones (The Adventure of Link). I’ve played them all and could go in depth on how Ocarina of Time was better that Majora’s Mask. I know my Zelda games, so when I got my Nintendo Switch, the launch title I was going to get with it was an easy choice.
Let’s be honest, though, it’s not like Nintendo gave us a whole bunch of options outside of Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild tells a decent story
In Breath of the Wild, Link wakes up after a 100 year slumber, he soon finds out that he was defeated by Calamity Ganon, his allies were slain, their divine beasts turned into tools of destruction and Zelda has sealed herself and the threat of Ganon away at Hyrule Castle. Link’s job in Breath of the Wild is to free the divine beasts and save Zelda, while trying to piece together the full record of events from 100 years ago. He has the Shiekah slate, a tablet-like tool to assist him and his wits to make this happen, which turns out to be more than enough.
Breath of the Wild gives you many reasons to be the hero that you are supposed to be.
As a Legend of Zelda story, Breath of the Wild does do a good job of selling the emotional moments of Link’s tale. You want to help avenge the deaths of (most of) his friends and honor their memories with their people (Rivali can suck an egg though, that bootleg Falco piece of crap). You want to help the people of Hyrule and bring piece to the land. Breath of the Wild gives you many reasons to be the hero that you are supposed to be, which is great because more often than not the reasoning is that Zelda told you to beat Ganon.
During Link’s quest, you meet a ton of interesting and assorted characters. It’s really neat to see such a diverse cast at first, but as you get further, some of them really become useless and no better than any other NPC you find in the streets. Fortunately, by the time you are tired of speaking with Impa, you’ll discover more NPCs that you can interact with and may be useful down the road. Progressing further into the world helps Link remember what happened 100 years ago, it’s a sad story but one that makes this journey so much better.
The Best of Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild has a massively large map that feels even larger than it seems on paper since Link can explore vertically as well. Allowing Link to climb most surfaces really lets the player explore secrets and collectibles that don’t feel forces while also being able to think outside of the box. The only tools that Link really gets are from the Shiekah Slate and while it feels very restrictive, there is a lot that you can do with the Shiekah Slate.
That’s the magic of Breath of the Wild, the world is yours to explore and the story is yours to write.
As an old-school Zelda player, I found myself usually over-complicating puzzles by using combined features of the Shiekah Slate at any one point. For example, there was a puzzle where I had to push a ball on a conveyor belt into a funnel. I ended up stopping the ball with the tool that freezes an object and nudged it into the hole with a bomb explosion. The process took about 30 minutes to perfect, then I realized that I could have shot it with an arrow. Later on that same dungeon, there was another ball that I had to bring to the other side of an obstacle course. After trying to figure out the right way, I ended up chip-shotting it onto the other side of the course with a bomb. I really wanted these tools to be more useful than they were.
As I already said, Breath of the Wild has a massive world with a ton of different things to do in it. There are plenty of shrines around the world that offer quick puzzles and also tons of different characters, monsters and wildlife to interact with. It really does feel like the most living Legend of Zelda game so far. I was exploring a mountain once and got roped into a battle with a dragon. It was totally unexpected and was a really cool thing to see happen. That’s the magic of Breath of the Wild, the world is yours to explore and the story is yours to write.
Breath of the Wild is far from perfect
Part of what has taken me so long to write a review for Breath of the Wild is that there actually is a fair amount that isn’t that enjoyable about the game. They are small little nitpicks, but there are so many that they become cumbersome the further I got into the game. Halfway through the game, the main quest became a burden and exploration for the most part began to bore me with a few exceptions. Then of course, there are the weapons in-game. Most swords won’t last a full battle with a camp of enemies, even shorter if you are using the parry and dodge system correctly. Shields break after a few hits, with the strongest able to save you from one or two devastating blows.
First off, I’d like to talk to you a little bit about the four divine beast dungeons. As the game tells you, these large mech-like machines were controlled by your friends before Ganon defeated you and slayed them. You start the quest to take them back by going to the home village of one of those friends. You’ll meet a friend, relative or loved one of the slain Champion and you will be treated to a flashback. After which, you’ll do a side-mission to prove you are ready and then you’ll attack the beast.
The helpful NPC will give you 20 bomb arrows and assist in some way as you destroy four nodes before gaining entrance into the beast. Once you do that, your deceased friend will tell you to get a map and activate the terminals within the beast by using the dungeon’s gimmick from the map. After you do this, you fight a boss and the friend tells you that this is the monster that defeated them. You kill the monster and you get a magical blessing from the friend’s spirit, then you are off to the next one. That’s a complaint because the process is so color by numbers and the characters are actually quite interesting, except Rivali, he’s a dick. They could have done so much more than this.
Secondly, without any real long-term tools in this game, I never found a real feeling of growth like you do in all the other games. Remember how awesome you felt when you could start lifting giant boulders or get around an obstacle that was in your way? Breath of the Wild doesn’t really do that. In some ways it is a fresh way of looking at an old system but as I already said the obstacles in the game are actually easy to overcome. In fact, most obstacles are far too straightforward that creativity is almost something that is punished. Sure you can be super creative in combat but anywhere else will become a liability to your success. Even a crappy game like Faces of Evil was able to make tools feel important.
Finally, it’s time to talk about weapons. Oh man, is there a lot to gripe about here.
A great example of what could have improved this would be maybe some climbing gauntlets. Link cannot climb far when it rains and it rains a lot. Perhaps some nifty gauntlets that would allow Link to climb in the rain would be a welcome feeling of progression? Probably, but that’s not the way this game is.
Finally, it’s time to talk about weapons. Oh man, is there a lot to gripe about here. Weapons in Breath of the Wild break, a lot. When I say they break, I’m talking about the Giant’s Knife in Ocarina of Time is more durable than most weapons in the game. Now, I’d be willing to give a pass to the weapons found laying around the world, as they have seem all sorts of wear and tear over the last 100 years. What is just mind-numbingly stupid is when I get a weapon from one of the legendary Champions and I break it in a fight with a bobokin camp. Weapons in this game, unlike the prior Legend of Zelda games, are nothing more than stat modifiers and are just around for a little extra flavor. I found myself hording special weapons until it was all I had in my inventory, then I was forced to damage the weapons of my deceased friends. It’s just really dumb.
Breath of the Wild is still an amazing game
Even though I can take a sizeable time to complain about Breath of the Wild (and that’s not even talking about performance issues), the game is still a very good one. I would comfortably say that after an extensive period of playing Breath of the Wild, I do believe that it is one of the best Legend of Zelda games that has ever been made.
I absolutely love the sense of exploration that I get within the game, while also being able to tackle the story at my own leisure. The collectibles within the game never feel forces or cliche and most things within the game seem to serve a purpose. If Nintendo had fixed a few issues within the game, I have no doubt that Breath of the Wild would have easily been the best Zelda game ever.
Close, but no Triforce.
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