A couple of weeks ago I, as well as a horde of my fellow gamers sought out Nintendo’s newest console; The Switch. I had been waiting for this day for quite some time. (Fans of S.I.M.O.N. should have a pretty good idea what I wanted) There was a new Zelda game that was being touted as the best thing since Ocarina of Time, and possibly the best RPG ever. I was excited to try it, but I certainly had my doubts that “Stuck in a rut” Zelda would be “that” amazing. Now three and a half weeks later I have not only pelayed the game, but I have also completed the main story. Breath of the Wild certainly has some interesting ideas, but it definitely needs some tweeking.
Everyone was so excited about the open world aspect of this game, and after playing my first open world rpg (The Witcher 3), I was pretty interested too. The size of the map though, came with its own concerns. My biggest problem with The Legend of Zelda, as of late is indeed the map. Whether soaring through the sky atop a crimson loftwing, guiding Epona through the open fields of Hyrule, or sailing the seas with The King of Red Lions; I have always found travel to be slow and boring. It didn’t matter what new appearance it had, it always took too long, and offered little in roadside entertainment.
I had hoped this would not be the case in this game. I desperately wanted the countryside to be peppered with unique characters whom would lead me on side quests, that would distract me for hours. They got it half right. The countryside is seasoned with random people along the way. Most of them are merchants. Precious few offer side quests, and those that do often give you easy bake instructions on how to complete said task. There are a couple of others as well, but I won’t give them away yet.
Most of the quests for individual people seem to be very simple fetch quests. The first two that I triggered were even seeking items from the same location. Other characters will help you along on shrine quests. These often include some environmental puzzle, which would be really cool. (Except they also give you detailed instructions on how to find them) There are a handful of full fledged rabbit hole quests, but they are few and far between. In short, I was very disappointed in the extra curricular activities the npcs had to offer.
Scattered around the map you may also run into Koroks. Initially I was very excited over their return. I adored Makar, and have thought more than once about getting a tattoo of him. That being said, by the time I finished the game I was running past the Korok puzzles looking for other forms of entertainment. To say I was bored with them was an understatement. There are 5 or 6 variations to the Korok puzzles, and they get old fast.
I akin this to that game you give toddlers, where they push the shape through its matching hole.
The absolute coolest thing about the map, and easily the most engaging, are the terrain puzzles. Every now and the Link’s Sheikah Slate 7 will notify him that there is a shrine nearby, and you won’t be able to locate it by normal means. In these unique cases you must solve some sort of puzzle on the map, before the shrine will let itself be seen. These are both fun, and challenging. My favourite part of the entire game is that one with the three orbs, and the big guy. If you played it than you know the one.
The open world itself is really neat. You can go anywhere at any point after the opening section. You don’t have to do the shrines. You don’t have to follow the “story”. You don’t even have to visit the dungeons. You can march right up to Ganon if you’d like. There is no order that things must be done.
There are several different types of landscapes. There are desserts, rain forests, seas, plains, forest, fiery mountains, and snow covered peaks. Some of those areas offer additional challenges. Link will get hot, and in turn lose health if he isn’t cooled down. He can also get cold if not dressed properly.
Weather is also an interesting addition. This game has rain, and thunderstorms. One mountain range may have had snow as well, early on in my playthrough. The rain puts out fires, making it hard to camp. It also impedes your climbing. The areas surface will get slick, and Link will be unable to climb effectively. In general it is harmless, but if you are halfway up a mountain than you literally have to stop what you are doing, and wait for it to stop. Yup. Just sit there and watch Link cling to the side of a mountain. Very exciting. Occasionally it will even thunderstorm. When it does you must unequip your metal items or get struck by lightening. Once again, it is a kind of cool effect, but it adds nothing to the game short of another reason to waste your time.
The world has a lot to offer, but very little in terms of actual activity. The shrines, Koroks, and passersby offer a bit of entertainment, but after a few hours of play they become stale, and unintriguing. My biggest complaint overall comes from the underwhelming feeling of discovery. Since the world is entirely open there is very little challenge in getting around. As an example; In The Witcher 3 I spotted a twisted evil tree upon a hill in the far distance. I swam. I climbed. I died. There was no way that at my level I could get up there. When I finally did, I felt as though I had accomplished something. In Breath of the Wild you are virtually robbed of that sense of accomplishment. If you see it, you simply go to it, like walking to the corner store. There is little to no struggle.
The shrines in the introduction failed to interest me, and I was already fearing the future tasks of this game, but I didn’t understand the scope until many hours later. Out of the 112 shrines I have currently completed, only a scarce few made me really think.Several them offered tiny variations of the same fight over and over. Like most other aspects of this game, once you figured out the trick they became mundane.
There are four dungeons that you may complete if you choose to. These offer a handful of puzzles of varying difficulty, and very little in foes to dispatch. If you do the dungeons in just the right order, they get even easier…really you just have to do “that one” first. These dungeons are impressively small, and are an insult to past entries in the series. That being said, the designs are extremely cool. You can directly interact with the dungeons themselves, which is very unique. They are just too easy. Each dungeon has a boss fight as per tradition, but I found the balance to be awkward. Two of them never touched me, and two of them were puzzles in and of themselves. I had definitely expected more from the first two. Technically Hyrule Castle may be considered a dungeon as well…albeit, not a very special one. There is plenty to explore here, but little to do.
The 3D maps of the dungeons literally give away all the answers. I often hear that this game is less hand holdy than the previous Zelda games, because you can do what you want. I personally feel the opposite. You can explore everything, but every side quest, and dungeon gives you paint by numbers instructions on how to complete it. Even the shrines give you hints that are too obvious.
The combat in Breath of Wild tried to emulate some of the other popular open world games, by adding in a complex dodge/ parry mechanism. It is kind of cool, but there were very few instances where it seemed needed. The boss fights weren’t very hard, and majority of the enemies littering Hyrule offer little resistance to anything stronger than a tree branch.
When you do run into a foe that is a threat, it is most likely because it can one hit kill you as opposed to actually being a tough opponent. This happens often, mostly with lightening wielding enemies. I will give credit where it is due though, Lynels are pretty wicked. Comparing this game to Bloodborne or Dark Souls is laughable. Maybe after it gets the hard difficulty DLC. As it stands though, there is no way.
While talking about combat, I feel it is important to point out weapon vulnerability. This seems to be a pretty common complaint, and I can’t say it excites me either. I don’t mind that the weapons break, but honestly I would rather have to maintain, and fix them. I find myself hoarding cool weapons because I don’t want to break them. Again that sense of accomplishment is diluted when you get something that you don’t want to use. That isn’t the big problem though, the real issue is how many weapons are scattered around everywhere. In every battle that I lose a weapon there are more than I can pick up left in the aftermath. If they wanted this survival mechanic to mean something, there should be far less weaponry lying about. After the introductory area there is never a real danger related to weapon loss. It is a false sense of difficulty. People think it is harder, because their weapons don’t last, but with an armory lying in wait at every campsite, what worry is there?
During the second half of my play through I had collected all the weapons that I wanted to have so the feeling accomplishment dwindled even further. I continued to find interesting weapons hidden across the land….and I just let them sit. There was no point leaving my good equipment for a slightly lower weapon. You can search the world over, there is a lot to find, but much like the real world most of it isn’t worth picking up.
The story is typical Zelda fare, except with decent side characters. This series has a long history of crappy characters that treat our hero like crap. This go around however has a full cast of diverse characters, that not only add to the story, but overall improve the atmosphere. Contrarily Link himself has little personality at all. I realize that he is a man of little words, but in the last three games he has been very expressive. In this game he reacts to cooking, and one costume…..the tensest moments in the game he just stands there, and don’t even get me started on Zelda. This is her first incarnation that I do not like at all! (I will talk more about characters and story in the spoiler part)
The first time the game said Calamity Ganon, I laughed. That is the dumbest name I had ever heard. After fighting him though….I can say a calamity is right. He wasn’t any harder than the dungeon bosses. Ganon overall was a really big letdown. If you want a good battle, don’t overdo it on the extra goodies. If you do you will wipe the floor with him.
The ending felt like that of a Miyazaki flick. That isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good either. It left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. I did think it was cool that you had a choice of two different endings depending on how you played. I got the good ending, but I kind of wish that I hadn’t.
I honestly think one of the reasons that I didn’t care for Zelda was the voice acting. She sounded pathetic to me, like she would wilt away at any moment. I never felt any strength, or wisdom from her. Just selfishness. She and Mipha had very similar voices, and for the timid healer it worked. For Zelda it did not. It just made her sound more spoiled. The script certainly didn’t need any help in that department.Some of the other voices were done very well. I was especially fond of Rivali’s voice. It was weird that they only dubbed a handful of characters though, they should have just jumped all the way in or not at all. This toe in the water thing is lazy.
The rest of the soundtrack is really nice. Zelda has always had beautiful music, and Breath of the Wild is no exception. The music in Hyrule Castle is my favourite. I am also fond of the guardian music. My only complaint is that while traversing over that scarcly populated , semi boring map there is no overworld music. After the first 20 hours or so I just started listening to my own music while playing, only turning the game music up when going to a new location.
To make your trek a bit more tolerable you can train a horse……The AI on the horses is fantastic. If they are untrained they will buck, kick, and run every which way except the way you want to go. If they are trained…well I don’t know because I hate riding across huge Fields so I just opted to fast travel. This is the only aspect of the game that I just flat out didn’t mess with.
Speaking of AI, my favourite thing about the monsters is their behavior when you have not been noticed. They often look like they are enjoying their camp quite a bit. I even found a couple lizalfos fighting over some melons. I wish the cool AI translated better in battle. If you disarm them they are likely to look for another weapon or fling dirt at you. It is pretty amusing, but that is the best I’ve got.
Also on the note of the monsters, the set-up doesn’t vary much. There are monsters chasing a goat, monsters on a wooden platform, monsters in a skull cave, and then random ones standing around key locations. I thought the skull was really cool the first time, then I kept finding them.
If fighting the same monsters wasn’t bad enough, after you eradicate them, they come back every red moon. Coincidentially so does their gear, so you can keep farming the same stuff.
The graphics in this game are beautiful. I love the character design, the colors, and the textures of this world. I am glad they kept to the cell shaded art style. It suits Hyrule, and it ages well. I really don’t want to see the day that Zelda goes all realistic looking. Link’s design is gorgeous. I have been a fan of the beautiful, pointy eared hero for many years, but this is one of my favourite designs. (First being OoT, Second being SS, and third being BotW) Zelda looks really great as well. I am so sad that I don’t like her. I did notice that the game looks foggy a lot. It should be crisper really, but it is pretty.
In Breath of the Wild you can find different armor pieces for Link to wear. Each one having its own design, and proficiencies. These were a lot of fun to play around with. My Link spent a vast majority of the game dressed as a barbarian. It was pretty cool. Well mostly. For the record, selfies are pretty fun to play with.
You can also cook in this game. I almost forgot cooking. This is another part of the “survival” mechanism. It is kind of fun to cook, and make new recipes, but you can eat raw food in a pinch. So kind of like the weapons, in a lot of situations you can grab and eat food on the run. It never really feels dire. They added this feature to make the game seem more difficult, but grabbing apples on the run is hardly different than breaking a pot and hoping for a fairy.
All in all this game tried some really cool things. The weapon damage is alright, except there are to many weapons. The world is vast, but to empty. The puzzles are plenty, but are not very innovative. I would definitely like to see them try this route again, but they should take some tips from The Witcher 3, or Horizon Zero Dawn on things like weapon durability, and in depth side quests. It was a mostly fun play that plateaued early on.
There will be story spoilers below this point.
The no holds barred rant
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is just too big. If this game had been half as big, and the same amount of content…sans the Koroks, I think it would have been much more engaging. There is a lot to do, but is tedious to get there.
Less redundancy in the shrines would be great. Waaay too many of these were tests of strength. That could have been neat with some variation, but alas it got boring. Ooh yay another test of strength…
The Master Sword doesn’t break…..wait it just stops working and I have to wait ten minutes to charge it….? I am sure glad I worked for that nifty feature.What a payoff!
The end fight is ridiculous. You literally just shoot arrows at Ganon until his health drops. I used lightening arrows. I was surprised by how quickly he transformed. Then because this game doesn’t have real challenges, just tent show tricks, he puts up a invincibility shield….Any counter attack or champion attack will do the trick. He then teleports you outside and onto a horse while he transforms into a giant pig. You can literally walk around him firing at the targets. He is so slow, he might as well be stationary. This Ganon wasn’t even a character…just a monster to fight. I was disappointed that the world had been in ruin all this time, and there wasn’t a brilliant mind behind it at all…just an obligatory pig.
Prince Sidon is mega cool. He is up there with Pippit and Colin on my friends of Link that rock list. Yeah that’s a thing.
We decided that our household canon has Link and Mipha as a pairing because Zelda sucks, and Link wasn’t surprised by his perfectly fitting armor at all. (not that he was surprised by anything)
If Zelda had taken a single moment to think of someone other than herself she would have succeeded. Mipha even tried to tell her that, but she was so focused on herself, and her pity party that she couldn’t see anything else. She was also rude and belligerent.
The story was stupid. Go find these places in these photos, so you can remember stuff. Ok. So I remember, now what. Oh nothing because Link doesn’t react to any of it…including Zelda crying, and his own downfall.
I really thought these cool bits in the trailer were going to amount to something epic. They didn’t. It was all in the past. There was absolutely no present day story at all. This game could have been the absolute shit if it had taken place during the war…ya know when things were happening.
The costumes were great fun. I even had fun dressing in drag and sneaking into Gerudo. I wasn’t so amused that made me do every time I went in, even after their leader found Link’s secret. I am not really a big fan of emasculating Link, but I suppose the Werners of the world need something to fantasize about too.
On the note of costumes, donning monster masks lets you temporarily befriend them. This was a really fun addition, and this game certainly needs more fun.
It isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t the cat’s pajamas either. Play it. Have fun, but don’t expect a hard game, and don’t expect anything revolutionary.