REVIEW - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
THE PREMISE: Link wakes up after a hundred years in stasis to find the kingdom in ruins and his memory a blank slate. Journey across a colossal open world to recover your memories, save the kingdom, and rescue the princess. Or find a nice village and live a quiet life as a nudist.
DO WHATEVER: One look around my game room will tell you that I'm a huge Zelda fan, so I was a little nervous that Nintendo was making such a big change to the franchise's formula. There are good open world games, of course - Rockstar always does a great job with theirs - but for every GTAV there's another game with an empty, boring husk of a world (MGSV, you still suck).
But DAMN man, they really nailed it with Breath of the Wild.
The world is gigantic - roughly 1.5 to 2 times the size of Skyrim, according to internet math nerds - but it's positively teeming with stuff to do and things to see. I've been playing with pretty much every free minute I have since the game launched, and every time I think I'm about to hit a wall discovery-wise I find a new minigame or piece of equipment or something else completely unexpected.
What surprised me the most is how often I'd think "Gee, this would be cool if it worked," only to try it and find out it totally works. Example: I was fighting a particularly tough enemy in the middle of a thunderstorm. Metallic equipment attracts fatal lightning strikes during such a storm, so I was stuck using a wooden shield, a puny bow, and an unlit torch as a club. I was getting my ass kicked, and out of desperation I pulled out one of my swords and threw it at the enemy. It landed at his feet - where it attracted a bolt of lightning, killing him instantly.
That kind of stuff happens all the time. The game constantly rewards exploration, both in the geography of the world itself and in the nuances of the mechanics at play.
So as an open world game, Breath of the Wild is top notch. How does it stack up as a Zelda game?
Much like how I said that Resident Evil 7 is a modernized take on the classic elements of that series, Breath of the Wild feels more like the original Legend of Zelda than anything has since Ocarina of Time dropped in 1998. You can go anywhere, and more often than not you will die horribly and repeatedly along the way. Weapons and shields break so you're constantly scavenging for supplies, and enemies don't drop hearts so you need to hunt or gather food to survive. It's refreshing after so many games where it felt like they were keeping the training wheels on for too long.
Something that's been a point of contention among the Zelda fanbase is the way this game handles dungeons. I'd hate to spoil anything, so I will just say that I went into it knowing that things would be different and I ended up loving what they did with this game. It's a pretty big departure from the norm, but it works for Breath of the Wild.
Progression is entirely and completely up to the player. There's a brief introductory section on an isolated plateau to get you acquainted with the bare basics of gameplay, then you're off to literally do whatever the hell you want. You could go straight to the swirling death vortex at the center of the map and immediately attempt to take on Ganon with nothing but some tattered clothes and a couple wooden spears to your name, something a friend and I have dubbed "The Leeroy Jenkins Memorial Fun Run of Poor Strategic Thinking."
I could write fifteen more pages about everything Breath of the Wild does right and all the crazy stuff I've done and seen, but I won't for two reasons:
- A big part of the fun is discovering all this stuff for yourself and experimenting with the tools the game provides you.
- I want to wrap this up and get back to playing the game.
THE VERDICT: Even as a diehard Zelda fanboy, Breath of the Wild went above and beyond all my expectations. The amount of stuff there is to do and see in this world is staggering. It's the Zelda game I never knew I wanted. I killed a moblin with a missile I made out of a tree trunk. I bought the DLC season pass. I NEVER BUY SEASON PASSES.
SCORE: 5 balloons attached to a raft in a poorly thought out attempt to make an airship out of 5
+ Giant open world full of stuff to do
+ Gameplay rewards creative thinking
+ Art style and sound design are both awesome
+ I can play this anywhere on the Switch are you kidding me
- Some of the voice acting is iffy
- Motion controls in certain puzzles can be irksome
- Why is X the jump button by default? Go into the options menu and change that shit
- I don't sleep anymore