Breath of the Wild is perhaps the first game in The Legend of Zelda franchise since the original that allows the player ask the question ‘What CAN I do in this world?’ as opposed to ‘What CAN’T I?’ This is evidenced almost immediately, seemingly even before you can press the plus-shaped button of the right Joy-Con.
Link earns all the tools he needs to explore the entire map of Hyrule as soon as the first four puzzle-based shrines are completed, and the paraglider is finally acquired. From there, as long as Link has something to swing as a melee weapon, and a bow and arrows in his inventory, anything is possible.
The real test is learning all the various systems running simultaneously throughout the game. Throw your Book of Mudora in the trash, because there is not much carry-over systematically from previous titles in the franchise. After having completed and learned the game, things thought impossible early on, become effortless even upon starting a brand new game file and starting from square one.
Even the simple act of climbing a hill in Breath of the Wild can lead to new adventures. The faintest hint of orange may lead Link to climb a mountain for a better look. Link may run low on stamina as he climbs, but food can be cooked to give him just enough to reach the top of the peak to find a Korok Seed.
Much of beauty of Breath of the Wild is in the way the game allows you to tackle its many challenges from multiple angles. In the aforementioned scenario, a certain recipe could be the key to one player’s success, whereas for another, prosperity may be found by completing enough shrines to increase Link’s stamina permanently. Breath of the Wild is chock full of these examples of player agency, and now after playing well over 100 hours of the game, I am still discovering more.
‘Can I enter the Swamp of Evil? Well not until I acquire the flute from the Haunted Grove.’
‘Can I have my sword pretty please? Well no, not until you get this cat here a damn fish. Oh, you got the fish, now let me send you to..”
Removing any semblance of a tutorial section from Breath of the Wild seemingly breaks the very foundation in which The Legend of Zelda has been built. Since the N64 and the masterpiece that is Ocarina of Time, Nintendo has front loaded much of Link’s adventure with mandatory sections intended as a guide for new players. By the time Skyward Sword arrived, Fi was all but swinging the Wii Remote Plus for you.
There are no fairies haunting your C-Up button. There is no talking sword solving your puzzles before you get the chance to solve them yourself. Breath of the Wild trusts the player to discover success and failure alike at their own leisure, and it is a far better game because of it.
No player that plays Breath of the Wild has an identical experience, as the game does not funnel you through to any one objective. Anecdotally this has been the case with the Infendo crew, as each of us has taken vastly different paths, and each have unique experiences.
Perhaps it was the familiarity of the accordion playing bard that compelled you to follow a certain story thread. Maybe you will be distracted by three cedar trees seen on the horizon. It may be the compulsion to fill out the entire map of Hyrule that leads to the lair of a sleeping beast, one way or another Breath of the Wild continues to find ways to surprise.
There was never a point on my adventure in which I felt like I had seen all the game had to offer. After finishing the main quest, I am confident in the fact that Hyrule still has more stories to tell. 100 hours played and it feels as if 1000 hours wouldn’t be enough to experience everything the game has to offer. Nintendo has perfectly crafted every uniquely named NPC with a purpose and every rock placed with intention. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game in which future games of its ilk will look to inspiration, and will certainly be looked upon as a new touchstone for how future video games will be judged.
I’m going to be totally honest: I was afraid to get this game when it came out, because I knew that I would get sucked into it and spend a bunch of time playing it; forgetting about my real life and school and work and everything else that matters to me…I was right. Somehow I managed to crawl out of my hole to keep a minimal presence in reality, but every time I did, I wanted to fall back in. The thing that mystifies me the most about Breath of the Wild is how much I’m playing it. I love Zelda, but it and any other RPG game will usually taper my interest once I feel like I have enough content done – usually even before I reach the final area of the game.
Here, I’ve been to the final area, gotten good loot, left, and tore the chaotic creatures of Calamity Ganon’s crew to shreds. And I picked up their remains and used them to make drinks, their arms to slap around other baddies, and some of them even drop rare metals, because “Zelda logic.” The point is, this game is at its essence, everything I usually stray away from in a game. Yet here I am, putting more time in than Eugene and yet I’ve still got loads of stuff yet to do. I’ve gotten the entire map filled, yet I don’t know what’s on half of it because my method of transportation is to fly over the world and look for shiny objects. I’ve gotten loads of weapons and armor, but I still find new things to collect (and until recently, throw out because I didn’t know how to expand your inventory until Eugene and Justin called me an idiot. Try having to go through 200+ hours of gameplay with only 7 weapon slots and having to drop an amazing weapon just because another weapon with a better skill is in front of you) and drool over.
The greatness of Breath of the Wild comes from it drawing on the greatness of other amazing games from various genres – I’ve never played Skyrim but I can imagine the reasons why people compare them. The Divine Beasts look and play like Shadow of the Colossus. Walking around and getting lost in Gerudo Town and the surrounding desert reminds me of Agrabah in Kingdom Hearts. Hell, the way that the overworld separates itself and has such distinct ecosystems reminds me of what it was like playing Metroid Prime for the first time.
If I were to critique something about the game, it would be that the greatness and openness to the game and the freedom to do the game however you want also means that there is very little connection between everything in the world (I’m not talking about gameplay itself, but the actual world) – Gerudo Desert can get so hot that even your heat resistant clothes don’t save you, but wearing the armor you can get in Goron Village that literally saves you from spontaneously combusting doesn’t protect you. They can save you from the heat of the lava around you, but they can’t withstand the heat of the desert. No matter what town you go to or what corner of the map, it does not affect how anyone behaves or reacts when you go to another village on another side of the map (barring a few obvious people that start in one place and move to another due to a sidequest) and it always feels that no matter what you’ve done in the game, you’re always starting from the beginning. The monsters get tougher and show new deviations that can mollywhop you faster than you can draw your weapon, but after 100 years since the Great Calamity, Hyrule has become entirely stagnant.
But when you’re so focused on saving it, does it matter? Not really. You’ll likely be more focused on finding every shrine, and the various quests that unlock them. The shrines themselves are where your critical thinking skills will come in handy, and even a simple search online on how to complete one (if you’re such a heathen) will show you ten different ways people have come up with how to jerry-rig it. Just be prepared for the motion control ones, and if you’re playing on a Nintendo Switch, bring something next to you to throw when you get mad so you don’t break your Joy-Cons.
You’ll be more focused on finding all the Korok children in their strange obsessive game of hide and seek, climbing mountains, rolling rocks down hills, shooting acorns dangling from a tree, just to get their darn seeds so you can upgrade your inventory size.
You’ll be more focused on the side quests, and boy are there side-quests. There’s enough side-quests to drown out the main game in its entirety. Running around, talking to people and doing the most mundane things ever (there’s a girl that wants an apple, and she’s literally in a village right next to a forest…) Everything you can do in this game, because there isn’t much that you can’t do as long as you have an imagination, will keep you coming back and playing more. Good thing there are places to sleep in this game, because you might not get any otherwise once you turn this game on.
When the Breath of the Wild was first announced, I was very worried about the game. The game seemed to be very open. Nintendo was telling us you could go anywhere you wanted to go and do whatever you wanted to do, everything was up to you. That frightens me. I am the type of gamer that likes games that tell you to go here, do this, experience the story in this order, etc. The fact that they were changing the Zelda franchise scared me, because I thought I was going to hate it. Truth be told, I don’t care for open world games at all, because they are overwhelming. Seeing all these quests open, not really knowing where to go or what to do, etc. It was the same reason I never got into Skyrim. It was so big and so overwhelming, I couldn’t handle it.
Fast forward to March 3rd. Zelda comes out, I sit down, and begin to play the game. I probably spent 10 hours on The Great Plateau alone. And I loved EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF IT. Everything they showed you in the opening area was everything you needed to know in the entire game. You could take as much or as little from it as you wanted. It truly took Zelda back to it’s roots. It’s all about going where you want. You want to take on the centaur guy? Have fun. He’ll probably kill you three times over before you even get to him, but it’s all up to you.
This game is exactly the breath of fresh air the series needed. I have enjoyed every last system and mechanic in this game, and can not even begin to imagine what happens next. Hell, does it even matter? I haven’t even finished the story of this game yet (Currently 75+ hours in), and I’m certainly not in any hurry. And the best part? We get MORE THIS SUMMER! What’s even better than that? We get EVEN MORE THIS FALL/WINTER! I hope I’m still playing this game a year and a half from now.
This is by far one of the greatest games in the last 30 years! Thank you Nintendo.
Infendo Score: 5/5