A breath of fresh air
Delays are seemingly inevitable in the video game industry. Long delays, in particular, have become more prominent in our modern gaming. Often, the delays result in negative receptions, as a game delayed too long tends to feel or play in a dated manner. The rare exceptions can shine, like Final Fantasy XV, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no different. The years of waiting and nearly skipping a console generation have paid off, as Breath of the Wild turned out to be an extremely solid open world RPG.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild tells the story of Link (surprise!) after he awakens from a 100 year slumber. Failing to stop Calamity Ganon from commandeering Princess Zelda’s castle, and ultimately losing Princess Zelda to Ganon itself, Link has few memories remaining from the defeat. Now, Link is tasked with freeing the Divine Beasts, saving Princess Zelda, and defeating the looming Calamity Ganon (a giant, red dragon like creature). To do so, Link must navigate innumerable shrines, befriend the various races of the world, solve countless puzzles, and battle his way through foes small and large.
The formula for Breath of the Wild is similar to that of any other open world RPG – strengthen yourself, raid and solve puzzles in various dungeons, defeat epic enemies, and save the world. What separates Breath of the Wild from other Zelda games is its entirely new approach to the series – one that is most welcome and definitely needed. However, Breath of the Wild doesn’t do much to separate itself from the elites of the open world RPG genre outside of its in depth mixing system (to create elixirs and such) and Link’s ability to explore most of the world. Additionally, in Breath of the Wild, Link’s weapons are breakable (at an alarmingly quick rate, too), and there are now a slew of weapon types for Link to battle with.
Gameplay in Breath of the Wild is, as stated, an entirely new concept for Zelda. Link has access to an incredible amount of weapons, shields, and ranged weaponry, each with varying degrees of stability and power (or defense). Scattered in clumps and mini-camps throughout the world is a plethora of enemies. Combat, then, consists of Link battling against these enemies, each of different sizes and strengths and elemental weaknesses. In Breath of the Wild, Link can be killed with one wrong move or stray swing of a giant’s club. Likewise, if hit with enough force and on a sloping mountain side, say, Link could roll uncontrollably to his demise. Fortunately for Link, armor and shields can increase his likelihood for survival, and different gear type will help Link through treacherous lands (for example, the Zora armor allows Link to swim faster and fly up waterfalls, while some gear prevents Link from losing health in the cold). Equipping the proper gear for whatever situation you face can make or break your battle or expedition – thus prioritizing strategy.
Where Breath of the Wild shines in gameplay for me, however, is Link’s ability to traverse nearly the entire game unhindered, provided he has enough stamina to make it past his obstacles. For example, if I needed to reach the top of a cliff side and saw enough platforms to rest on my journey up, rock climbing would never be out of the question. There really was nothing that Link could not do until puzzles were involved. For the most part, Breath of the Wild thrives in its absolute freedom. Unfortunately, however, puzzles threw a stupid kink in your puzzle solving abilities. I could climb a sheer cliff side with little issue (outside of losing stamina), but I couldn’t climb up a metallic mesh ladder on a wheel – the same metallic mesh material I used to climb up to that wheel. It’s something that certainly isn’t game breaking (I definitely understand keeping the ‘integrity’ of puzzles in tact), but it is an issue that I found annoying, especially for a game that boasts complete freedom.
Visuals in Breath of the Wild are breathtaking. Whether playing on my 55’’ Sony 4k tv (at 1080p) or on the handheld screen of the Switch, Link and his adventures looked crisp and vibrant in their cell shaded fashion. Breath of Wild’s visual fidelity should have a long life (much like the visuals of Windwaker still look great today), promising aesthetic beauty for some time to come. Unfortunately, Breath of the Wild could be so breathtaking at some points that the game frame rate dipped to cringe worthy levels on multiple occasions. To double down on the frame rate issues, it often occurred during battles and sometimes left me dead.
On the bright side, sound – frame rate or no – was wonderful. It flirted with the game on almost subliminal levels, whispering a beautiful soundtrack with soothing atmospheric effects. Breath of the Wild, too, is the first Zelda game (excluding Hyrule Warriors) to feature actual speaking. Often throughout Breath of the Wild, I was treated to some interesting cinematics that included fully voiced characters. Flashbacks, which become an important factor in the game, also include fully voiced scenes. Oddly enough, and keeping with Zelda tradition, I suppose, Link never actually speaks in any of the cinematics (though you can choose his answers in small dialogue trees). Overall, however, the sound in Breath of the Wild is one of its strongest features.
There are many features to love about Breath of the Wild. For every different type of player, there is something different that each person could explore. Whether you enjoy strategizing for battle, solving puzzles, raising your horse, mixing elixirs, exploring a massive world, or just following the narrative, Breath of the Wild offers it all. And while there aren’t exactly a plethora of truly original features for the genre, Breath of the Wild successfully re-defined the Zelda franchise, offering a successful alternative to the series. With plenty of value available in the seemingly endless content to explore, Breath of the Wild will continue to please consumers until the Switch releases its next big title.