At last the day has come, and Power Bomb Attack’s biggest and baddest review is finally out. I hadn’t been this thrilled a long time for a release like I was for Breath of the Wild. For it to be something of the quality and caliber of Zelda made it a more special day for me. This also being the first true open world game by Nintendo, I was very eager to see how their take on what is already a striving genre of gaming would be. Needless to say from the get go I was very impressed to experience that what felt fresh in this game was not just centered around it being an open world game. Everything about the game just peeked my curiousity like no other game has done in a long time. Virtually everything you can think of in Zelda has been redefined and perfected. Here is my review of The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild.
The game will heavily convey a theme of isolation right from the start. Early on you are thrown into the awakening of Link. You are left without any back story at this point as to why you are here and what has happened up until now, much is left out. After heading out of the starting temple, you are greeted with a breath taking view of Hyrule and the vast landscape. It’s quite amazing to see this for the first time, because literally everything you see you can visit. As you start exploring, although the lands are beautiful, there isn’t much in the way of civilization. It’s also very quiet, which is different from past Zelda titles where the main game isn’t dominated by over world or regional themes. All this combined really pushes home the sense of isolation. As you play through and find out what has happened, it all makes sense as to why the feeling of isolation is stressed to this point. Not only is Breath of the Wild a new take on the Zelda formula we have come to love and know, but story wise, Hyrule is also newly born in a way. Using symbolism, the story and sense of isolation all tie in brilliantly. This is a fresh experience in more than just how the game is designed and feels.
As you get acquainted with the game, it goes through it’s tutorials, which this time around does not have the game hand holding you through various segments. It more or less throws things in your path and let’s you teach yourself through curiousity. A great example of this is you are passing by a campsite full of Moblin’s, too many too count. With your current gear and skill, taking them head on is quite a daunting thought. As you continue to pass by, the game has a ruined placed along your path, and through your curiousity, you decide to see what is on top of this small ruin. You are rewarded to find a well placed boulder, which you can push down a hill straight into the enemy camp taking out every last one of the Moblin’s. The game has now taught you without saying a single word or displaying any text other ways in taking out hordes of enemies. It’s brilliant and I have huge respect for games that are able to pull this off seamlessly.
Moving onto controls, although things have been mixed up from what we come to expect of Zelda, Link controls great. It does take some time getting used to though. The sprint ability and stamina meter makes it’s way back from Skyward sword, along with the ability to jump by the push of a button. As simple as this sounds, in a Zelda game this takes some getting used to. Early on I’ve made some horrible mistakes by running off ledges thinking Link will jump automatically. This isn’t a problem, just something that takes getting used to since this is how we have been accustomed to control Link ever since the Ocarina of Time. Other button mappings have changed. By default, you now dodge by pressing X, instead of A, or one of the lower placed buttons, like previous titles. This also takes time getting used to since it’s not natural in Zelda to reach up to the higher placed buttons to dodge. Your bow is also permanently bound to the right trigger. All this just takes some time getting used to and the games starting area does well to through easy challenges to get you into shape. Once you do get the hang of these controls, it becomes a blast. There’s nothing like locking onto your enemy, sprinting towards them, jumping and jabbing down with your spear. It all helps to make the combat feel smoother and ultimately give the player more control. By the end of the game, you will pull of some incredible stunts that have you climbing walls, waiting for an enemy to appear, and jumping off the wall while pulling out your bow in slow motion and taking them out in one shot. It’s incredible!
One thing that’s going to become very clear even in the starting area, you will take lots of damage and die on many occasions. The game does well by providing you a wealth of options to experiment with the new cooking system. It takes from elements of what Skyward Sword introduced with the material gathering and inventory management and fleshes out to perfection. Apples are dangling from trees, you can climb trees and pick apples. You can use our bow to hunt animals. Taking these to a fire or pots, you can cook ingredients or a combination of them to make meals that replenish health, stamina and a whole wealth of stat boosting buffs. It makes learning this fun, as you are able to hold five apples for example, drop them into a fire and voila! You now have five baked apples. It’s all so simple yet very charming. As you play more, you’ll find yourself experimenting quite a bit to make meals and elixirs that will aid in some of the more difficult areas later in the game.
Taking again from elements of Skyward Sword, the weapon management has been revamped to allow for Link to use any thing he finds as a weapon. This includes swords, claymores, axes, spears, clubs, shields, bows, and hell, even mops! There is a huge variety of weapons to use and the game is never short on supplying these to you. Weapons now have durability, so at some point, they will break. Weapons break pretty fast early on, but again the game does good to keep supplying you with new ones so you will rarely be in a situation where you have absolutely nothing to fight back with. The game makes it super easy to be able to quickly swap between weapons, shields, bows and arrows during battle. Using left and right d-pad directions pauses the game and brings up your respective inventory and you can quickly select what you need. As you progress you will find even better items and armor that will help you take on bigger and badder foes. There are many enemies early on that can kill you in one hit.
Early on the new weapon breaking mechanic may frustrate some players. I will say, the further you get the less of a problem this becomes. Once you start getting better weapons, they simply last longer, and as you take on more foes that would generally have you burn through weapons, you are ultimately rewarded with better ones from those fights. Late in the game, I find myself at the point where I am overwhelmed with great weapons in my inventory, and the hardest decision is whether to keep an awesome weapon, or replace it with another, yet equally awesome weapon. My tip for new players, don’t be scared of your weapons breaking, it balances itself out in the long run, and is part of the journey to the end.
Moving on, the game mixes up how it handles dungeons. Early on, it will introduce you to shrines, which are like mini dungeons, and are probably the biggest change from any other Zelda game in the past. Before, dungeons would be organized into several rooms each with their own puzzles and items to get to progress and move onto other rooms and eventually get to a boss. Instead, dungeons without spoiling too much have changed, and instead serve as one giant puzzle, which still takes some work to solve. What Breath of the Wild does different is it takes all these little mini puzzles you would encounter in traditional Zelda dungeons, and scatters them across the world, each having their own unique theme and twist. There are hundreds of shrines to explore, that are quite short in length and present you with a trial. Once you solve the trial, you are rewarded with a spirit orb. When you collect four spirit orbs, you can use them to expand your heart containers or stamina vessels.
The first few shrines also introduce you to runes, which come in place of item rewards found in past titles. These runes give you the ability to magnetically control metal objects, throw bombs, create pillars of ice from water, and freeze objects in time. These are all given to you from the start of the game, and a combination of runes are needed for several shrines. This at first seems and sounds like a huge departure from what makes a Zelda game a Zelda game. Despite these huge changes, everything you do in the shrines still feel very Zelda like, and the trials are especially fun and challenging. The new runes help introduce new puzzle mechanics that we are not typically accustomed to from past titles, such as physic based puzzles. These are welcome changes given that in the past, although dungeons were fun, they often threw the same types of puzzles at you several times in any of the given titles, making them very predictable, and in some cases, too easy to solve for Zelda veterans. This time around, everything has been worked around to give a new refreshing experience in regards to puzzles. It’s a blast as you start digging into some shrines later in the game. The neat part is they seem structured and laid out much like puzzles you’d see in Portal. What is great about them, is even after you think you’ve been accustomed to all your items and runes, you are still finding puzzles that test your brain. Often, I also find even though I solved a puzzle one way, there clearly are multiple ways to solve any given one. Overall, this being one of the big changes, as much as I loved earlier Zelda dungeons, these new shrines are a great fresh take on the Zelda formula. The great thing about these shrines being divided into much smaller sections, it keeps the emphasis on being outside and exploring Hyrule.
A big point about Runes. Since the game provides you all the runes from the start of the game, there is never a point where you need to turn back from any puzzle you encounter. The only requirement is for you to be able to outwit the games puzzles and mechanics to solve some of the more elaborate ones that may seem impossible at first, but can be taken on at any point in the game.
Once you have come to terms with all these changes, you are then left to explore and appreciate the world Nintendo has created. It’s absolutely stunning. The land is massive, full of beautiful scenery. You are able to climb as high as you want and survey the lands. There is nothing like jumping off and paragliding to something interesting on the other side of a mountain. There’s no limit where you can go. There is so much to do and see, and exploring is a blast. I find in other open world games, it’s very easy to get lost and not know where you are going and have to keep your eye glued to the minimap. In Breath of the Wild, the land is designed in a such a way that it’s easy to not get lost so easily. There are so many defining features along the landscape that picking up on visual queues to determine your location and where you need to go is made super easy. To truly appreciate how this game is designed, I would highly recommend turning your HUD to Pro mode. This only shows your hearts, but otherwise shows a completely unobstructed view of the lands. This way, there is no bothersome minimap and other such HUD elements blocking your view. The game does a stellar job of indicating the key HUD elements in other ways. I find this the best way as you are now focusing on the land instead of having your eye glued to a minimap, which tends to happen in most other open world games I play. HUD elements are just too distracting sometimes and do yourself a favour and give the Pro HUD mode a chance, I doubt you will want to go back. Instead, if you get lost, it’s not because the game was unclear about where to go, you’re going to get lost because you are constantly running into things throughout your journeys. There are shrines scattered everywhere. There are travelers passing you by, that if you follow them, lead you to nearby stables and towns. There are Korok seeds to be found virtually everywhere. There are enemy camps around all with their own rewards. There are special bosses hiding in plain site in the world. There is a lot of good reason to stray from the beaten path in Breath of the Wild.
As you explore, you’ll run into many landmarks. You will run into towers as well that play a role by mapping out their respective regions. Not only do you get a full complete map when you activate towers, but you are treated to breath taking views where you can observe the landscape, and plot your next course of action. I’ve seen some surprises being up on towers at times, so there’s much to see up here.
The games visuals are top notch, both on the Switch and Wii U versions of the game. I played the Wii U version and was still blown away. I looked at several comparisons and there honestly is no difference between the two. I will note that there are some performance issues where frame rates do drop in select parts, but it’s nothing that adversely affects game play. Seeing all the different elements this game has, it’s understandable why the performance suffers. There’s just so much going on at any given point from physics to wind blowing through fields of grass. The draw distances are also very impressive. In one of the villages, I lit some torches, then climbed way up to a mountain ways off, and much to my surprise, I was able to clearly see both lit and unlit torches. This is an amazing little thing, considering Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U suffered from a lot of pop ins with 3D models. There were times, and I believe this is isolated to the Wii U version, where the game can lock up for a good 10-20 seconds. I really only encountered this 2 or 3 times so far in an 80 hour play through, so it’s very rare, but can cause some scares when it happens.
The presentation has also seen some very welcome additions. Cutscenes that progress the story are presented with excellent voice acting this time around, a first for a Zelda game. Characters look stunning up close. The cel shading that has been perfected since the days of Wind Waker has really come together in Breath of the Wild. It’s super crisp, clear and vibrant. The game also retains much of it’s Zelda charm when talking to people outside of cutscenes. Here you read text and are greeted by some signature grunting sounds that Zelda characters usually have. Small touches like this although they are technically dated on how dialogue is done, make everything feel like it’s still Zelda and has never drifted far from it’s roots. The one thing that has remained consistent is the story. Early on it’s very clear this is your standard affair to dethrone Ganon and save Princess Zelda. However the way the story plays out is like nothing we’ve ever seen before in a Zelda game. Along with it’s excellent voice acting and visuals in these cut scenes, the game has you hunt for memories to fill in the gaps of what the story is about. There are some charming and emotional moments seen throughout, and it a paints a whole new light on how we thought on all these beloved characters, especially Princess Zelda. Never before has a game gone this deep into the trials and doubts Zelda portrays about her mission.
As we touched on earlier, the music has taken a big departure from what we are used to. The game instead primarily is very silent while exploring, and occasionally throws in some beautifully sounding melodic piano chimes every so often. Me being a huge music lover, I can’t stress how much I love their decision to do this. Aside from silence allowing you to isolate key things happening in the environment, like animal sounds that could peek interest, it helps to support the theme of Link become Hyrules true champion. It’s only when Link is galloping full speed on his horse where chimes of Zelda themes start making it’s way through, and in these moments, you realize your true potential. It’s creates an invigorating sense of growing as a hero. There are also moments where silence disappears, and music starts playing. You have no idea why, but as you look around you can then see something off in the distance indicating where the music is coming from, or why it is playing. It helps to convey occurrences of key events in the world to the player in other ways than just visually seeing them.
There are places you visit in Hyrule that do have music however, so it’s not all silence. When you do encounter these, the music is absolutely stunning. Coming upon several towns in Hyrule greet you with warm themes composed of several elements from all the Zelda games we’ve come to know. The instrumentation is amazing and the themes are all very catchy. In similar fashion, the game does an even better job of using boss music to suit encounters with each and every boss you face. Dungeon bosses create a epic feel, while encounter Hyrules large world bosses use elements that make your task feel strikingly large, like something out of a King Kong film. It all helps to get the players heart pumping and have that anxious feeling to not fail during these fights.
One of the most impressive thing about Breath of the Wild is the sheer amount of elements that have been borrowed not only from past Zelda titles, but other big franchises as well. On the surface, everything may seem all new and fresh, but if you trace back the roots of everything, there are several elements borrowed from not only older Zelda games, but many other AAA titles. As we mentioned before, the shrines remind you of the puzzle structures of games like Portal. The open green lands combined with the silence of the world gives you feelings of Dark Souls. Approaching the divine beasts can’t help you think of Shadows of the Colossus. The inventory and items borrows much of what Skyward Sword and Link Between Worlds did. You come up to cliffs as well and see the ocean and are instantly reminded of games like the Wind Waker. You’ll encounter some other mechanics that I won’t spoil that are hard to not connect to Majora’s Mask. It’s almost as if this is a best of Zelda but still it’s own entry in the series. It’s taken things that made all the Zelda games great and perfected them. Even borrowing what other franchises have done is a big surprise, as the big perception of Nintendo is they do things their own way. But it feels this time around they carefully observed and have taken many notes and incorporated so many elements subtly into Breath of the Wild that make it truly a unique experience.
In Breath of the Wild, you will encounter enemies like nothing you’ve seen before. Never have I been this troubled by enemies in a Zelda game, which is refreshing. Often times in previous titles I found enemies and bosses too easy sometimes, despite them being very fun. This time around, even Moblin’s with the right weapons can pose problems. Moblin’s normally are not too hard to take out, but equip one with a spear, and not only do they cover a wide attack range, but they do a lot of damage. Sprinkled throughout the world are also world bosses. Each provide their own unique challenges. Early on you can encounter a great Boulder like beast, who can kill you in one hit. Although its rock like design makes him susceptible to climbing. Other bosses come in the form of gigantic one eyed monsters. Fighting these monsters is fun as they adjust to your strategies. See a boss with one glaring eye, go ahead and shove and arrow there. However part way through the fight, the monster will come at you covering their eye, forcing you to re-think your approach. It’s a nice small touch to have your enemies do this and make them feel so alive. There are other enemies you can run into by complete accident that will just obliterate you from a distance in a single hit.
Despite the games difficulty, never does it frustrate the player. How is this possible? There are times in the game where it rains for days upon days and this makes climbing mountains seem impossible. Yet you persevere and keep yearning to see what is over the mountain top. All your attempts fail, so you start mining and accidentally blow yourself off the mountain. You are able to engage your paraglider at the very last moment before it’s too late and land safely at the bottom. You look up the mountain side, your mind in disarray and still trying to comprehend the stupidity of what you just did, contemplating if you should reload your save file. Instead of feeling like smashing your controller on your head, you notice you fell above a cove and discover that you’ve literally stumbled onto a treasure. Upon completing this you earn a very epic weapon.
Other times, you may have huge problems with a mob of enemies that happen to use thunder based weapons and spells and hang out in water. This is bad since water conducts electricity. You throw yourself at these enemies over and over at different angles with different strategies but nothing is working. You take a break and look off to the side. Something catches your interest, and you suspect maybe, just maybe if I check that thing out, it may reward me with something that will help me in with the very problem you are dealing with. Well, the great thing about Breath of the Wild, is it does reward you in these cases. You almost always will get rewarded to make other parts of the game easier by simply being curious. The game just doesn’t offer you many things as reward, but has the rewards ever so interconnect with all the different areas of the game. Rule of thumb, if something looks cool or mildly interesting, you should probably go check it out, or at least mark it on your map to check out later.
Hyrule is very much alive in Breath of the Wild like never before. There are so many things that you can stumble upon that even 80 hours in just keep making you say WOW! Everything in Hyrule is connected and all the elements interact beautifully and it’s always a great joy to discover these things for yourself. The way animals interact, the way weather unfolds, the way things just seem to fall out of the sky, I can’t help but get excited to constantly keep learning about all these while playing. The biggest advice I can give to new players, avoid spoilers, and I don’t just mean story related things. I am talking about things Link can do, I’m talking about puzzles you may encounter, I’m talking about things you run into. I’ve never felt so satisfied in a game to continue discovering things and just see Hyrule unfold before my very eyes. Hyrule may look empty at times, but it never feels empty. Even while I am ever so close to the end, something about Hyrule still compels me to keep searching for treasures, and learning more about what makes Hyrule so great.
The main story bosses are also a sight to behold. Without spoiling too much, there are four divine beasts that Link must defeat. These encounters resemble something you’d see out of Shadows of the Colossus. These also include the dungeons resembling something more inline with what you would see in old Zelda games, yet still relatively stripped down in terms of size and length. However, that being said, the puzzles that are presented to you are quite mind bending to say the least and also gives you a fun and challenging boss fight. Much like the rest of the game, you can use multiple means to defeat the boss, so finding this out can be quite fun. Overall, these are very epic encounters and do a great job of getting you pumped for these intense action packed moments of the game.
Despite all the subtle elements from other games that have been included, there has been a lot that has been stripped away. Link no longer opens glowing treasure chests to have the camera pan around and have him hold his prized treasure above his head while the item jingle plays. No longer is there some musical instrument that controls something in the world. No longer are you gated by needing treasures to open up certain paths. Gone are the days where fairies loom over you constantly telling where you can and can’t go. The best treasure that Breath of the Wild gives you is it’s world. It’s the freedom that comes with it. There are literally no restrictions to what you can do. You can explore the world in any order you want, and if you are good enough, you can probably reach many areas way out of your league. You would think with this much changed, that this game wouldn’t really be a Zelda game. But surprisingly, everything just screams Zelda no matter where you go or what you do in this game. It’s not only stuck to it’s roots, but has redefined them.
Breath of the Wild is simply… brilliant. It’s easily the most engaging and invigorating experiences I’ve had in a very long time. In no way has a game sparked my curiousity like this since times forgotten. The game is able to mix up our traditional Zelda formula in ground breaking ways, but still manages to have throw backs acknowledging it’s past and what it built itself upon. Breath of the Wild truly sets a new bar in open world gaming and design. Hyrule has been crafted so brilliantly, that nothing feels random, and it seems that every hill or cliff is placed in your path for a purpose. As you drift through the open landscapes and climb the tallest mountains, each and every point of the land that sparks your curiousity does so for a good reason. Even though we forego the treasures that past Zelda titles gave you, the best treasure Breath of the Wild gives you is absolute freedom. Being able to overcome any obstacle and take on the game any way you see fit is one of the best things to happen to the series. By also not having the game hand hold you all the way through your journey makes each accomplishment that much more rewarding. Breath of the Wild not only sets new standards for open world design, but also pushes the Zelda franchise to new heights. At long last fans have been rewarded for their patience with an excellent portrayed story with a modern feel with things like excellent voice acting and emotional story pieces that show off characters like we’ve never seen them before. Even after 80 hours with this one, there is still so much to come back to. Considering the DLC we will embark on later this summer, our adventures with this game are far from done. Breath of the Wild has done so much to impress me, it’s easily become one of my top games of all time. I simply cannot recommend this game more, it’s a must buy.