By: Imran Chaudhry
Let’s review Breath of the Wild!
Although I have played a many of Nintendo’s games over the years, I’m not too versed the in Legend of Zelda franchise that has become majorly popular and a gaming industry classic since its initial release over three decades ago. That being said, I can objectively say that after playing Breath of the Wilds, I am definitely a Zelda fanboy.
So, what do we call this game?
My personal definition is an open world, action-adventure, survival RPG. That’s a lot of genres and not all of them are entirely applicable to this game, but how else do you describe it? It has elements of adventure with an extensive range of main and side quests, taking you all over this vast and fully explorable open world. With intense action packed sequences that overwhelm the player through challenging adversaries, you’ll find this game frustratingly entertaining. Survival is is the key word that defines the this game’s detailed environment; and with weather systems that can kill you as you traverse the map and a cooking system that’s used as a necessary means of sustaining Link’s HP and boosting his stats, you’ll need to do a lot more that than button smashing to progress through this game. The shrines then take the game to another level, with hundreds of physics based puzzles to wrap your head around, you’ll have hours of frustratingly fun and innovative gameplay.
With this genre-bending confusion and mix-match of play styles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is gorgeous open world game that doesn’t hold your hand; it’s an immersive vibrant (be it treacherous) environment, rich with history and lore, with no end to new discoveries.
Open world is a very common phrase tossed about the game industry these days; sometimes its impressive and sometimes its lacklustre. This game is more than just impressive; the open world is huge, for a AAA and Nintendo game. The first time you open that map and see how many unlock-able regions there are, you begin to realise how much there is to truly explore. Whilst the world may look bare in places, its more to do with the artistic direction of the game rather there being too much land mass for a Zelda game. One thing this game dose incredibly well is create an illusion of an enormous open world, far bigger than you can imagine a game could be, however it is not too big and does not take long to navigate to the next objective marker.
One of the greatest things about this game, which sets a tone for many open world game franchises, is that you can literally explore anywhere on the map. There are no invisible walls and everything is climbable; you can make Link swim any body of water and run right across the map. But don’t be fooled, its not that easy. Link is limited by stamina, whilst areas have enemies and violent weather can all get you killed before you even notice the danger.
Despite these difficulties, an impressive factor to this game is the weather and landscape mechanics. Area’s very high up with snow will be colder and this can chip away at your health if you aren’t prepared. There are extremely mountainous areas which may be harder to traverse than open flat grassland, dense forests, old ruins and enormous lakes. All of these add to the complexity of the world and makes for a truly unique experience whenever you travel to a new location.
Whilst the world is huge, you can tame and register wild horses to traverse the land mass more quickly or you can fast travel to shrines, towers or specific areas you have unlocked. The fast travel animation isn’t ridiculous and ties into the story and lore of the game.
The artistic direction is uniquely Nintendo, which works unexpectedly well in the massive open world. There are no excessive textures, thousands of cloned trees or extremely detailed graphics (not that the switch couldn’t support any of this incredibly well…). It’s an impressively beautiful game and takes a U-turn away from the ever-increasing demand for open world AAA titles with realism running on engines of unimaginable scale. It’s a fresh take on the modern day AAA titles and is the perfect mash of Nintendo and multi-platform games intended to sell millions of copies.
Despite the artistic simplicity, the game is mechanically extremely complex and detailed. Swiping your weapon along grassland will cut the grass, whilst the physics are impressive to the point where you will roll down a mountain realistically and cannot just get up half way down. The weather as discussed is extremely dynamic, additionally wearing metal in a thunderstorm? Better hide. On top of a tower in a thunderstorm? Better get down. Climbing a tree in torrential rain? You’re going to slide and fall.
Stamina & health can be upgraded (and you’re going to want to upgrade them both). One hit kills will drive you insane early on in the game and if you truly want to climb and swim everything, you’ll need a lot more stamina, unless you want to drown or fall to your death. If you’re ill equipped, you’ll find that this game emulates Dark Souls with a “Game Over” fade rather than “You Died”, with the exception that you can dictate your last save destinations, thank god for quick saves.
The Skeikah slate is basically your Legend of Zelda edition Nintendo Switch. It contains the map and runes, which are very useful in shrine puzzles and handy in quests. The main distinction between Link’s switch and mine is that fortunately Link didn’t have to spend £279 for it like I did.
Combat in this game is unusually dynamic, and again takes from AAA titles whilst respecting its Nintendo baseline. You can attack enemies through head on sword-in-the-air-battle-roar action or take a stealthier approach and not even be noticed. You can blow your enemies to smithereens (if only every enemy was that easy), set them on fire or electrocute them with weapons and the weather. All in all, the combat is extremely refreshing and can be unique every time you engage an attack.
The inventory is quick to navigate, limited but upgradable for weapons, shields and bows and the game does pause on opening the inventory, very handy when you’re about to die. Weapons have durability, which may seem infuriating, but it isn’t. I’m a hoarder, keeping my best weapons unused until I need them desperately. Other people probably use their best weapons all the time, because you can; the game is populated with new, stronger, better weapons throughout.
As amazing as this game may be, it has its flaws, nothing can be perfect. Firstly, the frame rate issues when playing on TV mode with the Switch is extremely noticeable but isn’t constant. A major flaw, not really to do with the game itself but more the Switch hardware, is that it’s a battery drainer. The Nintendo Switch is meant to be the answer to home and portable consoles combined, and with Zelda being the first major release, I’d expected it to cope with the game in handheld a little better. Horses in this game are also a pain in the ass to steer, period. Whilst these issues can put people off the game, it makes up for these misgivings with a massive, beautiful and intriguing open world with plenty to do, and is very much worth the purchase if you love Nintendo, have a Wii U or can fork out on the Switch.