(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: What I Really Learned in Study by Ice Nine)
I have been waiting all summer to do this.
As always, my review won’t spoil anything but the premise of the game, but still, if you haven’t heard anything at all, maybe wait until you’ve started the game to read this.
Okay, let’s go.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Legend of Zelda series, but this game in particular is just incredible. I can’t even begin to describe all the things that make it brilliant, but I’m going to try.
So let’s start with the obvious – Breath of the Wild is unlike any other LoZ game before it. It’s an open-world RPG instead of a dungeon crawler like many of the previous Zelda games; it employs stealth mechanics and ways to bypass 95% of the combat in the game if the player chooses to; and it has jumping.
Jumping. In a Zelda game.
Folks who’ve never played any Legend of Zelda game will not really understand what this means, but it’s pretty significant. The platforming aspect of the game is entirely changed by the fact that Link can now jump, climb, and swim in virtually everything in the game.
Other traditions of both gaming and LoZ are turned on their heads in this game, as well. Breath of the Wild employs a cast of characters that can, maybe for the first time in any game I’ve ever played, be called well and truly diverse. There are effeminate men and tough-as-nails women; there’s gender-bending in several memorable scenes; there are people of all colors and from all sorts of backgrounds; and they all mix perfectly here. It’s one of the few games I would say truly embraces feminism, too.
Breath of the Wild also contains one of the largest maps of any game to date. It is bigger than any single game in the Elder Scrolls series, and certainly bigger than any previous installment of The Legend of Zelda in terms of playable area. A good video game will give you forty to fifty hours of play. This one gave me one hundred and eighty.
The Legend of Zelda series has been unique to me in that it is one of the few series where I actually want to go out and explore. If you’re making me track down Ben Franklin’s journal entries in Assassin’s Creed or Riddler trophies in Arkham Knight, you’re slowly killing me inside. But despite the fact that Breath of the Wild has over 75 side quests, 120 fast-travel points, and 900 (yeah, nine fucking hundred) collectibles… seeing something new on the horizon is intriguing, and discovering it is rewarding in a way that I really haven’t seen done in any other game.
(And no, I didn’t collect all 900 seeds. But I got over 600, and I wasn’t even really trying to find them.)
If you haven’t played any of The Legend of Zelda series, but you like RPGs, this is a great one to start with. If you, like me, hate RPGs, this is still an incredible game to play by sheer nature of the fact that discovery and action in this game are so incredibly satisfying. There are multiple ways to engage with enemies, from freezing them in time and bashing on them with a heavy weapon, to picking them off with arrows from afar, to sneak-striking them in stealthy after stealthy assassination. When you get bored of one strategy, you can just switch to another, and though the in-game rewards for exterminating a pocket of enemies are minimal, the sheer feeling of getting to be a badass – in your own unique playstyle – is all the reward a player could need.
There are only a few things that keep this game from a perfect score for me. And this is hard for me to say, because this game is my second favorite of all the Legend of Zelda games, and definitely my favorite RPG of all time (not that there’s much competition in that category).
The first flaw was in the ammunition system. One of the really interesting things about BotW is that you’re always switching weapons. In any other LoZ game, you only ever use the one sword given to you – the Master Sword – and, while you can do this after a certain point in the game in BotW, the incentive not to do it is so much greater. There are over a hundred weapons – which break frequently – giving you a reason to keep picking up and trying out new blades. And while this is kind of fun in the beginning, it starts to bug you at certain points where you’re fighting a big enemy and it literally wipes your whole arsenal clean.
Related to that, you can buy different types of arrows at shops, but they only restock infrequently. I’m not sure whether they stock on a given in-game clock, or when you start running low on arrows, but either way. As a preferred bowman, I found myself using arrows every opportunity I could, and while I never ran out of the specialty arrows I kept hording for a special occasion, I found myself almost out of regular arrows about once every in-game week. Not being able to buy more, despite having ample funds to, was kind of annoying.
The other thing is more of a gripe I have about the entire LoZ franchise, which is that the bosses are too easy. In this game especially, with the hours and hours of exploration that came between each dungeon and boss fight, I really wanted there to be some difficult fights in my way. But (and I know this was mostly because I did far too much exploration and leveled way too much between dungeons) none of the boss fights ever challenged me, especially the final boss fight. And that isn’t unique to Breath of the Wild; if you play any LoZ game and do even a little more than the main missions, you usually don’t have a difficult time with bosses.
Third and finally, the story. I was enchanted with the story, the way things were set up and the promise of the final reveal. And I will not spoil anything here, but suffice to say… I wanted more. With such phenomenal storylines in other Legend of Zelda games like Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Majora’s Mask, I really felt like there could have been an expansion on the story in this game to match that level of depth and emotionality.
Reed’s Rating: 9.9/10
(And just for comparison, I’m giving scores of the other Legend of Zelda games I’ve played:)
Ocarina of Time: 9.8/10
Majora’s Mask: 9.9/10
Wind Waker: 9.9/10
Twilight Princess: 10/10
You may hate on me for loving Twilight Princess the most, but hey. We can all agree these games are better than 99% of the other crap out there. I’m really splitting hairs here.
So in all seriousness, if you haven’t played this game, you need to. Like immediately. It’s actually worth buying a Switch for.
Yours, working on Phantom Hourglass next,
-R. R. Buck