Having acquired a Nintendo Switch, I’ve spent most of my time with it over the past week with one game. In this Zelda: Breath of the wild review, I’ll tell you why. The newest Zelda isn’t just the best game in the franchise, it might also be the best game I’ve ever played.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review
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Zelda is one of those franchises with such a rich history that it’s become iconic in its own right. Ocarina of time, Link’s first outing on Nintendo 64 has been held in legendary regard since it arrived. Nintendo have built on that formula to varying levels of success ever since.
Majora’s Mask experimented with a different formula. Wind Waker was a wonderful game, but many found it too childish and cartoony. Then Twilight Princess brought us close to the magic, but fell slightly short of Ocarina’s greatness. Breath of the Wild has turned the franchise completely on it’s head. That’s what makes it so brilliant.
Breath of the Wild Review – Changing the Formula
Gear gated dungeons and linear progression are gone. The world of Hyrule has been opened up for exploration like never before. Rather than guiding you through a tightly designed set of objectives like in previous games, Nintendo has instead given us room to breathe.
Nintendo have crafted an open world in the vein of Skyrim or Witcher 3. This is a world where you can approach any challenge in virtually any order you so choose. You are given the tools to carve your adventure from the very beginning rather than having to wait to acquire them from a specific dungeon.
It’s a decision that makes sense in light of this gorgeous world opened in front of you. After finding your feet with the guidance of a kind old man on a secluded plateau, you will take to the sky with your hang glider and explore the world from above. Or climb the peaks and pick out locations of interest from the vast plains below.
Breath of the Wild Review – So Much to Do!
Nintendo haven’t just given us the tools to find our way around. They’ve filled their world with secrets around over every hill. You’ll find yourself exploring organically, peeking around every corner and looting every ruin on your journey.
You’ll discover 120 shrines dotted across the enormous map. These offer various challenges that test your mastery of the abilities afforded by the Sheika Slate. A magical tablet that imbues Link with powers to manipulate the world around him. Bombs allow you to destroy objects, magnesis gives you the power to move and interact with heavy metal objects. You can stop or slow time and freeze water to create new paths.
Shrines reward you with the ability to upgrade your health pool or increase Links stamina. Stamina too plays a role in distinguishing Breath of the Wild from its predecessors. Link can climb most surfaces, limited only by his stamina pool. This means that exploration becomes truly three dimensional, with secrets and wonders on every peak, atop every wall and deep in every canyon.
Add to that a wealth of side quests, hidden memories to discover and the towns of Hyrule’s many races. Then you’ll have some small idea of just how vast and impressive the proposition really is.
Breath of the Wild Review – Gameplay Refined
I’ve spent a week playing the game for this Breath of the Wild review. Even now I’m still discovering new ways to reach objectives or dispatch enemies. The complex physics systems and simulations that underpin the game make combat and other challenges varied and new.
Fire spreads through the grass, but will be put out by rain. Objects react realistically to the environment and you can use this to your benefit. Chopping down trees and rolling logs down a hill to dispatch the group of enemies below for example. Or using an arrow to dislodge a torch onto an explosive barrel and setting an enemy base alight in an explosion of debris.
The variety doesn’t end there however. There’s a deep cooking system that allows you to create elixirs and foods from the many materials you find on your travels. These will bolster your defences, or make you less obvious to enemies. A chilli based dish might give you a boost that allows you a short time to explore a frigid peak, where you’d otherwise freeze to death.
You can find a variety of weapons, armour and other tools throughout the world. They all have different effects, strengths and weaknesses that mean you will think about which clothes to wear or which weapon to wield for a specific encounter. Weapons wear down, so a precious elemental sword will be best saved for an opportune moment, rather than wasted and broken on a weak enemy.
All these systems come together and form an experience that feels fresh at every turn. Tightly designed yet open enough for you to choose your own path.
Gorgeous to Behold and Hear
Zelda is both beautiful and functional. It performs like a dream on the Nintendo Switch, smooth and refined. The graphics do an excellent job of breathing life into the world. Often I’ve found myself stopping still, just to appreciate the art and splendour in front of my eyes, too many times to count.
Link is animated expertly and moves with a physicality and weight that makes his traversal seem real. This game is incontrovertible proof that you do not need the latest and greatest or most powerful tech to create a truly immersive experience.
The music and sound effects are equally lively. In fact the soundtrack is a work of art in its own right, with delicate changes to pace and instrumentation depending on the time of day or weather. Listen well, or you might just miss these little touches!
Breath of the Wild Review: A Masterpiece
I can’t sing the praises of this game enough. What Nintendo have created here is an evolution of their beloved franchise for a new age. It presents an open world free from the filler and bloat of games churned out by Ubisoft. Not to mention the fact that this game is one of the most stable of its kind I’ve played in recent years. I haven’t encountered a single bug or glitch!
It’s nothing short of a masterpiece. I still have tonnes of stuff to do in game. I’m sure of one thing though, Breath of the Wild has found a place in my heart. It might just be the best game I’ve ever played. Full stop.