The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW) is the first open world Zelda game made to date, and it is also one of the most challenging Zelda games I have ever had to go through.
Grand Theft Auto and Fallout games are titles that are set in an open-world environment, they allow you to freely roam the environments and interact with the games systems as you see fit. But with such a feature comes a sense of overwhelming stress when it comes to these types of games. There is a tricky balance between a guided experience and wondering around aimlessly, and many of these games can’t find a good middle.
What sets BOTW apart from these titles is it does the opposite. It eases you into the exploration and sets everything at your own desired pace. Hyrule is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the series staple world. Link, the main character, wakes up 100 years after the events which devastated the land. All that is left is great vast fields of overgrown ruins, greenery, monsters to fight. Nature takes over in BOTW which leaves a sense of calm, even in the most crucial of times.
What makes the environment of BOTW unique is how it follows the laws of the real world. Anything that you can do and can be done to the surrounding areas, will happen. You can pull apples off trees and eat them, grass and surrounding trees will set on fire and animals will react to your actions appropriately. This is the first time I have seen a Zelda game literally come to life.
What BOTW borrows from popular gaming franchise Dark Souls is the method of completing objectives by failure and learning from them. Through dying and realizing that what you did was wrong, BOTW teaches you how to play the game. This game is merciless when you don’t take the time to learn its rules or fail to trust them. You’ll soon learn not to carry around iron or metal materials on Link if you wish to avoid being electrocuted during thunderstorms. During the game, you’ll slip down mountainsides when Link runs out of stamina, get viscously crushed by giants who can kill you with one swing, and stare confounded at puzzles. BOTW can seem unforgiving, but most of the time the challenges you face are rarely unfair. Previous Zelda titles felt too simple, forcing you to stay on track with the current task and dragging you by the hand. BOTW wants you to see a game over screen and see why you failed, because seeing your own failure is the way you will see what this game has to offer.
The amount of freedom the game gives right from the beginning sets BPTW apart. Right when you leave the tutorial area where you learn some of the basics to playing the game, you’re thrown out into the world to do as you like. Figuring out where to go is the best part of BOTW. You can go anywhere you like, that is if you have the stamina and determination for it.
BOTW’s crafting system is one of the most impressive and simplified mechanic I have seen in a game Where other survival games focus on every item being crucial to you living, BOTW only worries about your ability to cook. The cooking system leaves room for experimentation and some joyful surprises. Tossing ingredients and food into a pot will make a hearty meal and if combined with the right ingredients, you can get some stat boosts from the food you make. Stamina boosts, heat resistance, cold resistance or an increase to how much damage you can deal and how fast you can run. There were plenty of times where I would get too eager to see what food I could make with my materials that I often ended up making a “Dubious Food”, a one heart meal that is barely editable for Link.
You get introduced to a tablet called, “The Sheikah Slate.” The Slate guides Link on his journey and acts as a glossary, inventory sorter, map and other features. Quests are laid out by category of importance in your tablet which you can collect from the numerous characters scattered in towns and fields. This system is similar to that of Skyrim’s quest mechanics, allowing you to do any quests whenever you want at your own pace.
Along with quests, puzzle shrines can be found scattered in the game, giving you good rewards and weapons for your journey. Many of these shrines involve different kinds of challenges for Link. Some give you a puzzle room where you must use the surrounding area to solve the clues and experiment. There are combat-involved shrines that have you go up against robotic enemies, challenging your ability to fight. Some shrines make use of motion control. The techniques you gather from completing Shrines allow you to cross them over to dungeons in the story.
Link can use any weapon he finds in the world: axes, rusty swords, enemy bows and even boss weapons. Your weapons will wear down and break when used constantly. This is a great idea since it will allow players to experiment with different types of weapons and not rely on one overpowered weapon. Picking up that random skeleton limb can come in handy when you face your next enemy.
Enemies are ruthless in this game and will make it their mission to chase after you and kill you. What surprised me while going up against enemies is the way the developers engineered the actions of these enemies. While sneaking up and attempting to throw my longsword at an enemy, the creature noticed me. I missed my target, and it went to pick up my sword and attacked me with it. Having enemies react with the surrounding environment and Link’s decisions has freshened up the Zelda gameplay in BOTW.
Boss fights is a major part in the BOTW game. Learning their move sets and how they respond to certain attacks will help you defeat them. Most of the bosses you encounter in BOTW may seem too hard for Link at that moment, but you can always run away and come back another time with better gear to defeat it. On the contrary, dungeon bosses are challenges you are not able to run away from, so be prepared to bring the appropriate materials to fight them.
The Legend of Zelda never fails to bring relaxing and nostalgic music to their games, and BOTW does a great job in implementing these sounds into the game. BOTW introduces a number of new melodies that are sure to get stuck in your head and some that will bring back memories from previous titles. The music in BOTW is calm and cinematic at the same time.
With 30 years in the business, Nintendo has managed to make another game that capitalizes on nostalgia from other games while at the same time introducing us to new mechanics and a re-imagined Hyrule world. Old and new fans of the series will enjoy what Breath of the Wild has to offer. From a huge sandbox and intricate storyline, this game will have you playing for hours on end.