The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is exceptionally well done. The graphics are awe-inspiring and gameplay is solid and reliable. The game doesn’t give you enough opportunities to grow attached to the characters vital to story progression, but it does do an excellent job of otherwise achieving the illusion that Link exists in a living, breathing, vast, and fully realized world. This review contains minor spoilers from here on out. This is Part 2 of our The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Review. Read Part 1 here.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review – Part 2
As much fun as it is to explore Hyrule, sometimes you just want to get where you’re going. Breath of the Wild offers a few different options to you. Once you obtain a paraglider and climb to an acceptable height, you can use this item to cut the distance between you and your goals. The distance you can close is limited, but can be extended using potions and cooked dishes that increase stamina.
In keeping with other Zelda games, you are able to obtain a horse and ride cross country on your steed. I skipped this for most of the game. I found my majestically maned creature of the equine variety to be incredibly stubborn, very frustrating to tame and then there’s that one time he fell off a cliff and into a stream he couldn’t climb out of. After I reloaded a save, I took him to a stable to register him, named him “Jerkface” and left him there. Take that, Jerkface. The horse experience is something you can pursue and there are some side quests that revolve around it, but it’s not vital to getting around Hyrule.
The game offers a much more efficient way to get around Hyrule as you open up more of the map anyway. Towers and Shrines act as an effective system of fast travel. While towers must be activated to be used, shrines need not be defeated, only visited. This will allow you to continue exploring the landscape right now or leave to explore elsewhere. You can always travel back to this stop to continue exploring or defeat the shrine later on. This is incredibly helpful when you’ve wandered way deeper into the unknown than you had originally intended.
As Breath of the Wild’s emphasis is on exploration, battle can feel sparse. Though battle may be found if you’re looking for it, you will sometimes be ambushed and it is occasionally unavoidable. Groups of Bokoblins and Moblins are scattered about. You’ll be caught off guard by some Lizalfos that were effectively camouflaged. You won’t always be able to see them off in the distance and pick them off with a bow or bombs. While most shrines are puzzle solving experiences, some require you defeat small guardians. There are larger, more difficult beasts that require hand/eye coordination on your part, such as Lynels, Talus’ and more.
Earlier in the game you learn that 100 years earlier Team Hyrule planned to use mech-like creatures called Divine Beasts to fend off Calamity Ganon. These entities fuse technology and mysticism and look to have been crafted using what looks to be Mayan inspired aesthetics. Freeing each Divine Beast requires much puzzle solving, followed by a battle with a version of Ganon.
There are also dragons flying around Hyrule. While the dragons and the Divine Beasts aren’t what I’d classically label as battles. Attacking dragons allows you to gain rare items and solve some shrine quests and you must avoid injury while engaging them. I don’t believe you can kill them. And while you’re not trying to destroy the Divine Beasts, only gain access to their entrance, you are engaged in action and attempting to flip the right switches while avoiding death. They are fast-paced, adequately challenging because of the timing required, require the use of weapons, and are battle-like. More importantly, they are exciting. At the time of this review, I’ve only defeated Ruta.
When Link wakes up, he’s pretty weak. It’ll be awhile before you’ll feel like you’re strong, competent and coordinated enough to take on any monsters of significance. A good swing from a Moblin on the field may wipe out more than six hearts in one shot, which is a problem when you have three. You will feel strongly encouraged to find alternate solutions to direct combat until possibly far too late into the game. This is a matter of personal preference. I would have preferred more battle challenges earlier on. But you will do a lot of climbing, a lot of surprise attacks and a lot of attacks from out of reach to gain any advantage available to you.
Frustration can be compounded by weapons that are way too destructible early on in the game. The frequency with which additional weapons become available is acceptable, but doesn’t detract from the momentary frustration of having a weapon break so often mid-battle. It adds a moment of confusion to have to access a menu mid-battle, even a quick menu. The durability of weapons that you come across, or are gifted, increases as you get further in the game.
Shrines have a purpose in the game other than fast travel. Accomplishing the goals they set out before you allows you to add hearts or stamina to Link. Stamina allows you to swim and climb longer and farther. You might also find rare items in chests contained within. Most of the shrines involve puzzle solving. Some will offer minor or major tests of strength through battle.
The puzzle solving experience offered in Breath of the Wild offers is solid. Earlier shrines are too easy and disappointing. As you progress, you’ll find them more satisfying and sometimes there solvable through multiple solutions. You’ll find yourself considering all of the tools and skills you have at your disposal to overcome the challenge before you.
There is a cooking system in Breath of the Wild. Normally I detest cooking/recipe systems in games. It’s not too onerous in BotW. You can get away with a minimal amount of cooking and a small number of ingredients for cooked dishes and elixirs without hindering game progression.
I had occasional troubles with the camera during battles and I occasionally ran into odd glitches, but overall the game seems very well tested and avoids all of the things that could go wrong with a game that contains this many variables. The camera troubles were usually resolved by moving the stick on the gamepad. This can be frustrating while you’re trying to not die.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredibly good game that offers an immensely satisfying experience. The open world sometimes feels intimidating in its vastness. The graphics are stunning and while sometimes frustrating, the gameplay is reliable. BotW doesn’t give you enough opportunities to grow emotionally attached to characters it’s clear you should care for, but it does do an excellent job of otherwise achieving the illusion that Link exists in a living, breathing, vast, and fully realized world. While isn’t the best game I’ve ever played, Breath of the Wild is the best game I’ve played in a long time.
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