Archives by Day

August 2022

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, WiiU
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: March 3, 2017


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Wii U Review - 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 7, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

The Legend of Zelda returns to the series' roots and features an open-world design.

Buy The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It's difficult for a franchise to move beyond its concept. Go too far back, and you lose what made the game fun in the first place. Don't change enough, and it feels too similar. At its heart, the Zelda franchise has always known what it's about, but it's always stuck to a formula, even when it went out of its way to make something odd, like Majora's Mask. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an interesting diversion in that it doesn't stick to the franchise's sacred cows just because they're there. It's new, it's different, and it's by far the best 3D Zelda title in ages.

Breath of the Wild opens with Link awakening from a mysterious pod. As soon as he steps outside, he discovers he's in a postapocalyptic Hyrule that's been shattered by the evil Calamity Ganon. A hundred years prior, the hero and the princess Zelda failed to stop Ganon from obliterating the kingdom, and they were forced to seal him away in Hyrule Castle. Link must figure out how to defeat the evil and find the missing princess before Ganon breaks free of his seal and finishes the destruction he started.

The game provides an unprecedented sense of freedom, so there are few tutorials and very little hand-holding. You're obligated to finish four small dungeons before you can set off, but even then, you're allowed to largely discover them for yourself. Once you do, the game adds a big "Defeat Ganon" quest to your quest log, points you in the direction of someone who can help, and lets you go. There is a main story quest, but you're not obligated to follow it. You can explore, find hidden items, and do things out of sequence.

The sense of freedom is the title's strongest feature. This is something a lot of games claim, but it's no exaggeration in Breath of the Wild. One of the very first things I did was head directly to the corrupted Hyrule Castle. Using a combination of gliding and sneaking, I was able to get inside the castle and found myself in a hellscape filled with dangerous robots and monstrous enemies. Smart planning allowed me to take down an enemy and steal their weapon. I managed to defeat a boss and get the all-powerful Hylian Shield less than an hour after I started the game. The best part was that this didn't feel like an exploit or a cheat, but a natural outcome of the way I had played.

It's tough to describe how satisfying it is to explore in Breath of the Wild. You'll find something in every direction, and there's so much to do. I found stables for horses and wild horses that I could tame. I discovered hidden bosses guarding incredible treasures. I found beautiful vistas and secret glimpses into Hyrule's past. There are a lot of collectibles, but they all feel meaningful. Animal parts can be cooked into meals. Rare artifacts can be traded to upgrade your slate. Weapons and equipment can be found in the most unexpected places. There are even adorable little leaf-men who need to be found to upgrade your inventory capacity. Exploration never felt like a waste of time.

It's also dangerous to explore, since heat and cold factor into the game. Go too deep into the snow or too far into an active volcano, and Link can't survive. You have to find warmer clothing or cook special meals that provide some resistance to the elements. A lot of enemies can kill an unprepared character before you can act. You also have to think carefully about healing, as you're not going to find hearts by merely sitting in the grass. Preparing well-cooked meals for yourself isn't just a good idea; it's necessary if you plan to venture into dangerous territory.

Few open-world games allow the sense of freedom of exploration that Breath of the Wild does. Aside from certain indoor locations with smooth walls, Link can clamber up basically any surface he sees. Doing so drains his stamina bar, and if that bar runs out, he falls. However, Link has a surprising amount of stamina early on, and this gives you a lot of freedom in movement.

Breath of the Wild does away with the "traditional" dungeon setup. The overworld is essentially your big dungeon, and there are dozens of shrines scattered all over the world that serve as mini-dungeons. There are a handful of bigger dungeons that fall somewhere between the shrines and the traditional Zelda dungeons. I was worried this would make the game feel unfocused, but it doesn't.

By and large, the puzzles are fun. They take advantage of the reality-manipulating gadgets you obtain in creative ways. You can freeze time, drags things around with magnets, throw bombs, and that's just at the beginning. Plenty of tools and upgrades grant you even more options. The puzzles are satisfying, and it's a tremendously enjoyable experience to solve one without any help. A handful of puzzles force the Wii U's gyro controls into action, and they're awkward and are the low point of the game. Trying to force a hammer to swing properly by tilting the Wii U gamepad makes any failure feel like it's out of your hands.

For the first time in the series, Link does not begin with a green tunic and reliable weapon. Instead, he wakes up in his skivvies and must scavenge from there. Early on, you'll smash enemies with tree branches and block using pot lids. As the game progresses, you'll find more equipment. Weapons and shields have durability, so if you use them enough, they'll shatter. The final blow for a weapon does double damage and can stun enemies, forcing them to drop their own weapons. As such, combat tends to be a constant cycle of attacking enemies in order to steal their weapons so you can attack bigger and badder enemies.

The weapon durability feature will bother some people. Until you get a specific weapon relatively late in the game, you're going to constantly switch weapons. Even high-end gear has limited durability. Rather than finding one good weapon and swapping to it, you're encouraged to change your styles. It may sound frustrating, and sometimes it can be, but it encouraged me to think about how to approach fights.

Breath of the Wild is no Dark Souls, but enemies can be brutal and deadly. Some warn that you're in an area that you're not powerful enough to handle. Others have advantages, and you need to find a way to even the odds. A group of moblins in a camp might have explosive barrels, so they're easy targets for sniping. If you go in on your own, they might shoot an explosive barrel while you're near it. I've seen enemies set up ambushes, enemies exploit the environment, and enemies kicking bombs back at me. This is easily one of the more punishing Zelda titles ever made.

Fortunately, combat is also plenty of fun. It sticks to the same basic formula as other 3D Zelda titles but gives you flexibility in how you want to approach fights. You can dodge attacks to activate a powerful Flurry Rush attack or parry with your shield, go for headshots with your bow, throw heavy metal objects, and steal enemy weapons. The combat isn't complex, but fights feel fun and encourage you to experiment.

Breath of the Wild is filled with tiny little details that make it fun. For example, grass is flammable. Fighting a laser-spewing robot in the middle of an open field can lead to your reflected blasts setting the ground on fire. The flames lift your paraglider into the sky, followed by a slow-motion arrow to the robot's face. The world has tons of tiny interactive and reactive elements like that, and it makes it feel alive. Fighting with your metal sword in a thunderstorm risks being hit by lightning, and impassible bogs can be frozen solid so you can walk across. If you feel like you can do something in Breath of the Wild, you probably can. It's not just fun, but it makes sense, and you can even skip puzzles if you can find ways to do so.

Breath of the Wild is a pretty game. It has amazing-looking locations and fantastic art design. It's pretty clearly scaled down to work on the Wii U. The environments are huge, and the loading time is minimal, but the textures are pretty basic. More importantly, there is a noticeable drop in the frame rate in busy areas. It isn't enough to sour the experience, but it's extremely noticeable. There's true voice acting for the first time in a Zelda game, and it's a mixed bag. Some of it quite good, and some of it sounds cheap, but it's fairly minimal and doesn't get in the way. The soundtrack is fantastic and consists of both great new songs and excellent remixes of classic Zelda tunes.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a modern classic. It does so much right and so easily that it's difficult to believe. The exploration and the sheer sense of freedom bring to the forefront what Zelda used to do. Aside from some frame rate problems and annoying puzzles, it's a solid and enjoyable game. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a Zelda title will find a lot to love here, and anyone new to the franchise couldn't pick a better place to start. Breath of the Wild might be the swan song for the Wii U — and the herald of the Switch — but it's one heck of a note to go out on.

Score: 9.5/10

More articles about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
blog comments powered by Disqus