Chris Zuver, A and E Editor
In a world that is dominated by major developers and behemoth console companies, the video game industry has a wide variety when it comes to fans. So, because of a diversity in opinions, it is not every day that you see a game that sweeps across all branches of the market with unanimous praise. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is one of those games. Now, having played through it, I will give you my take on the title which has stormed the press, resulting in 10/10 reviews across the board.
Even for those who swear away from Zelda’s exclusive developer, Nintendo, there is no denying the notoriety of the series, which has its roots in the mid-80’s on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The games have, for the most part, remained action and RPGs based in a fantasy realm where you play as the hero, Link, battling evil forces to save the world, and of course, Princess Zelda.
One of the most talked-about features in the series has always been the size of the world map. This is not only true for “Breath of the Wild,” but it was actually one of Nintendo’s largest bragging points long-before it was even released. The game has a world map one-and-a-half times larger than that of “Skyrim,” the title previously holding the record of largest sandbox map in a video game.
A concern people had about a land of such massive scale was that while we may get size, there might not be enough substance. Would it be possible that the big land of Hyrule may also be the big empty? Well, I think that worry can be put to rest. While there may be a few wide stretches of plain open fields or some mountainsides which required a bit too much climbing, there is little else that is monotonous. The world is incredibly diverse and chock-full of fascinating areas. Even if you’re traveling the main roads on horseback, there will always be something that catches your eye off the beaten path.
Of course, none of this world would be worth anything if it were not for the graphics. It seems that “Breath of the Wild” bases its design on many factors from the series’ past. It combines the carton-like cell-shading from Zelda game “Wind Waker” with the darker Japanese-style character look from titles such as “Twilight Princess,” and the bright colors from “Skyward Sword.”
This result is both visually-stunning and helps to avoid making the game look dated. The graphics of “Breath of the Wild” are complex, striking, yet relatable to anyone viewing it. Link and those around him walk a fine line between animation and reality.
But aesthetics is not complete without music. Rather than pitching a constant tune into your ear, “Breath of the Wild” has an ambient soundtrack, which adjusts to situations. If you are wandering the wilderness, you will occasionally hear a short melody that blends in with the scenery. Yet, most of the time, you’ll only hear natural sounds, like birds, crickets, and the wind. If you are in combat, the score will take on an aggressive tone, and often helps to warn you if a threat is near. Meanwhile, some areas have their own consistent background music, like towns and certain locales, which works perfectly as it gives a sense of peace if you’re in a town, or perhaps a sense of foreboding if you are in an enemy’s lair.
While there are not as many memorable songs here as there was in past games like “Ocarina of Time,” the soundtrack is a beautiful piece of work that adjusts to the mood quite effectively, while also occasionally throwing in melodies that harken back to earlier Zelda titles.
Though most of the dialogue is text-only, there are many cutscenes which feature spoken lines-a first in the series. The voices are well-done with many of them having English accents, which fits the predominantly medieval theme. However, some of the character’s spoken dialogue, especially Princess Zelda’s, came across as corny and melodramatic to me. Though, I suppose that Zelda games have always been a little of both the former and latter.
Still, one of the greatest things about “Breath of the Wild” is the freedom. Within certain limits, you can confront the final boss quite early on (though it would be extremely difficult). This open-world dynamic is not only parallel to sandbox games like “Grand Theft Auto,” but it also is reminiscent of the original Zelda on the NES, which started you in the middle of nowhere, leaving you to your own devices. In “Breath of the Wild,” since you’re on your own, this means that you will have to scavenge and hunt for many items that you will need. The weapons and shields are all attainable from monsters, or occasionally you’ll find them lying around.
However, this is where I have another problem with the game. All weapons and shields have a durability limit. Even the Master Sword, the most powerful weapon in the game, loses its power after too much usage and must recharge. While you will find plenty of powerful swords, spears, and shields to replace your old ones later in the game, there is a stretch during the early parts where having to constantly hunt for weapons can be frustrating.
As for the controls, they can seem complex at first, but I was quickly able to get the hang of them, even if I still occasionally hit the wrong button. This is the first game where Link can jump manually, also, he is able to climb up rock walls for the first time. The climbing factor radically opens the exploring element of the game. The only thing that limits you is your stamina gauge. If you run or climb for too long, you will deplete your energy and must stop and catch your breath. So, if you are planning on climbing a cliff, you would better make sure you can make it all the way or you’ll risk falling. And if it happens to be raining while you are scaling a summit, you will often slip down the wall, essentially making it impossible to climb. The rainstorms, like all weather in the game, are random, so this can become frustrating and you will just have to wait them out.
Finally, when considering the plot, I don’t want to give much away, so I will make it brief: The story is not that different from other games in the series. You play as Link, a young man who is thrust into a battle between light and dark, and of course, the interest of Princess Zelda. During the adventure, you will meet many people-some of them are new faces, while some of them echo memories of past characters in the series. Your ultimate goal is to defeat Calamity Ganon, a force which has been contained within the center of the land, but threatens to spread chaos once again. How you deal with this is up to you. And that is a big part of what makes this game great, though with some caveats.
All-in-all, I would still agree with any 10/10 score. The strong points of this game far outweigh any setbacks.
If you want a copy of “Breath of the Wild,” the good news is that it is available on both Nintendo’s Wii U and Switch consoles. While the Switch is still hard to find in stores, “Breath of the Wild” can either be bought physically or downloaded through Nintendo’s virtual store.