|Dev: Nintendo EPD|
|Release: March 3, 2017|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720-1080p||Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol|
by Jenni Lada
It is a very rare and special thing when you have a game that wholeheartedly embraces the past, learns from its contemporaries, and paves the way for a new future. The Legend of Zelda is an over 30-year-old series. It has grown and adapted over the years. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild feels like the culmination of many great things. It manages to capture the feeling of this classic series, while also offering the breadth and experience of games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles X and even something like Dark Souls. It never feels as though it is copying these concepts from other open-world games, but rather is incorporating ideas and making them their own.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes place in a Hyrule that is at its worst. Ganon has taken over Hyrule Castle and filled the world with his monsters and toxic influence. As the Champion, it is Link’s job to save the kingdom after a 100 year rest in the Shrine of Resurrection. However, this isn’t a job he can do immediately or alone. Rather, he will need to journey across the kingdom, providing aid to the Rito, Zora, Gerudo, and Goron people and completing shrine challenges along the way, all in the name of gaining the forces, abilities, and equipment needed to properly take the fight to Ganon and defeat him once and for all.
While The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an absolutely massive game that eventually gives you the tools and freedom to take aid those four races and begin your quest to restore the world in any way you’d like, it wisely starts you off slowly. Link’s awakening and first few hours on the plateau are designed to teach you how to use the Remote Bomb, Magnesis, Stasis, and Cryonis abilities, fight the most basic Bokoblins, and traverse terrain. These initial moments are giving you the keys to the kingdom. A wise move, since every shrine thereafter is a one-room dungeon relying on a puzzle that will probably involve one of those runes or a brief fight against some sort of Guardian enemy.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s world is absolutely massive. The map is divided into districts, each of which has a rather prominent tower placed within it. When Link ascends the tower and plugs his Sheikah Slate into it, the whole map of that district will be loaded in. From this vantage point, it is also possible to see other glowing shrines and temporarily mark them on your map or glide to an area to cross it in a safe and prompt manner. Though, people can also sneak up on and mount wild horses to tame and add them to one of the many stables scatter across the land or use previously unlocked shrines and towers as fast-travel points.
The nature of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s world means that the open-world experience often isn’t as freeing as you’d expect. Likewise, Link starts out rather weak, with only three hearts and a single stamina ring. For every four Spirit Orbs collected from a shrine, you can visit a Hylia statue and trade them for an additional heart or more stamina. Cooking become quite essential too, as using plants and monster parts or meat and seasonings is critical to boost defense, lightning resistance, cold resistance, and heat resistance. After all, you might not always have or be able to afford the sorts of outfits that would otherwise offer the elemental protection you need.
This means that certain dungeons might be easier to reach and visit than others, simply due to the precautions you might need to employ to even reach and survive in those areas. The area in which the Gorons live is so warm, the heat will damage you and destroy any wooden equipment you happen to be holding. The Zoras live in a more temperate climate, making them an appealing group to visit first. Once you actually do gain access to certain dungeons, you’ll find they’re essentially upgraded versions of shrines. There are multiple challenges within, tied to mechanics that see you actually manipulating the nature of each space both with the Runes you have on your Sheikah Slate and dungeon-specific abilities made available after you acquire a map. They’re engaging experiences that make you think. Nothing is better than the “Ah ha!” moment that comes from figuring out exactly what you need to do to further proceed through a space.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that makes you think. While some of the challenges that come ahead of entering dungeons and boss fights follow traditional The Legend of Zelda patterns, where once you see the pattern in a situation you exploit it and win, others require a bit more nuance. Knowing how to properly guard and counter is a necessity, as is having food on hand that boosts defense or temporarily offers you additional hearts. There are bosses that will have tendencies, but will require skill and proper swordsmanship or archery to best. It isn’t as simple as hiding in one corner while the opponent tires himself, running up to smack a weak spot, then retreating to that corner until an opportunity arises again. In this way, it reminds me of Dark Souls. You need to always be learning. Knowing how to properly fight and see how your enemy works matters, sometimes more than looking for the patterns you might expect from a The Legend of Zelda game.
This is also one of the first times where I’ve been in a The Legend of Zelda game and felt like a part of a living, breathing world. Link is usually above such things. Yet here, there are daily routines you can follow and lifestyles you could pursue. Once I reached a village relatively untouched by the disaster from 100 years ago, I ended up using Remote Bombs to completely decimate the surrounding forest. It was all in the name of acquiring materials for one of the many side quests, as I wanted to accomplish a goal that would help me feel like Link was a member of the community. After completing the Rito and Zora questlines, I dedicated about two hours to observing the wildlife around me and unlocking towers. Knowing that some people would have a telltale red exclamation point next to their name, showing that talking to them would give me a quest and be worth my while, made the prospect of interacting with everyone more appealing. I wanted to go everywhere, even if there wasn’t a particular point of interest related to any quest.