I realise this review is a little late in arriving but I was unable to get a Switch on release date and subsequently have had to wait a few months to get one and the game. Fortunately, I was able to get them at the start of a week of annual leave from the office job and so I have been able put plenty of hours in.
For a bit of background, I had played a little of the game at a friend’s house, being ‘allowed’ to solve some shrines and collect some lizards and plants in exchange for a place to lay my head for a couple of nights and had started to form an opinion based on that, and it was already a high opinion, but having played the game from the start, in my own style and at my own pace, I felt it was worth revisiting my thoughts on the game.
In a nutshell, I think it might well be the best Zelda so far. That’s not to say it’s perfect, there are some minor gripes I have with it, but it ticks so many of the right boxes that it I can say it is probably one of my favourite games ever.
Without giving too much away (yes, even with it having been out for a while at this point) the story is pretty predictable. But funnily enough, I don’t mind this. All Zelda games are predictable to a large extent, at their core they follow a set route and this in itself forms part of the over arching story of the Zelda franchise. What I was not expecting from Breath of the Wild though was the nostalgia it has given me.
I’ve already played and completed Ocarina of Time multiple times on 3 different consoles. I’ve played Majora’s Mask on two different consoles, and Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, not to mention the various handheld games. But non of the games have made me think of other games in the series like Breath of the Wild have. Mostly this has been a good thing. From the first visit to the Temple of Time, to the realisation that the ruins I was exploring were places such as the Market Square or Lon Lon Ranch. The remodelled Great Fairies maintain the same… characteristics. There is also a lot of Twilight Princess in the design of Hyrule and certain locations as well, as well as some story quirks familiar to those that have played Wind Waker.
One thing I miss however, amplified by the nostalgia, is the musicality of some of the previous games. Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker all had music at the heart of solving puzzles and progressing the story. And whilst Breath of the Wild does have some nice background music, it suffers from the lack of a musical instrument which would put a melody front and centre for a moment.
In terms of game play, I am not sure I can fault it. The first few weeks after Breath of the Wild was released, the internet was full of guides and YouTube videos of ‘Things You Didnt Know You Could Do In Zelda’ but they do often get explained, provided you have sought it out. I do kind of miss the multiple themed dungeons/temples from the previous games, and there are times I have just started really getting into a shrine when it is suddenly over, but I can see where and why the trade off happened. The four divine beasts that make up the longest ‘dungeons’ are relatively similar and whilst they have interesting mechanics (at least the two I have done so far) I would classify them as something Nintendo can learn from for future games rather than a finished article.
One thing I was surprised with is the difficulty in the game. Unlike previous games, where areas were blocked off until you reached a certain ‘power level’ in terms of equipment obtained and therefore monsters would often be more difficult in different areas, Breath of the Wild is ultimately a very open world game and you can access all four corners of the map (and everything in between) within a few hours and a few carefully planned purchases or food crafting. This means the game implements an odd ‘rubber banding’ mechanic in all but a few areas to keep enemies a challenge. This does in some ways rob you of the ability to go back to the early areas in the game with your super powered weapons and decimate the lowly bokoblins that once terrorised you but by the same token it makes it harder for you to become overpowered at any one stage of the game.
As mentioned above, I am yet to finish the game, and I have heard that the final fight is not particularly difficult, but honestly by that point I don’t think I will mind as long as the story comes to a nice conclusion.
So bringing this thing to a conclusion, I have been loving the game so far and it seems like it is going to continue. It has mixed up the Zelda formula and whilst not all of it will stick, at least in it’s current form, I think a lot will. And that is great for a game which, honestly, fans have been waiting a long time for. So yeah, the best Zelda game I have played. Very little I would change. Possibly the best new game I have played this year and it’s going to take some beating. Sure, part of the reason it’s such a great game is the history behind the franchise. But while that helps in some ways, it also stacks up the expectations that it has to deal with at launch and, really, it smashed them. Critically acclaimed everywhere, it racked up more 10/10 reviews than you can shake your tree branch stick at.. not that it would last very long, it doesn’t have great durability.