The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an open-world adventure game in the Zelda series by Nintendo for the Wii U and the Switch. This review is based on the Wii U version, but from what I have gathered about the Switch version without playing it personally, they are almost entirely the same so I’m going to assume most things apply to both. Also, another big thing to mention upfront is that this game has a great sense of discovery. A lot of the experience hinges on you discovering things on your own. As such, if you want the best results, take my word for it that this game is amazing and you should get it if you’re still on the fence. I’m not going to go into huge spoilers, but talking about anything in the game will rob you of the personal discovery. So please, proceed at your own risk. And lastly, I am reviewing simply the base game. A review of the DLC may come at a later date. Now let’s get into this monster of a review.
So you start the game off as Link, mysteriously awakening in some strange place. You hear a voice calling you and you are greeted with a quick overview of basic controls. You then find the door outside and enter the sunny, grassy, vast world. You hear the voice a bit more and get directed towards and old man and a temple. At this point, the game lets you do whatever you want. You CAN just go right to where the game obviously directed you to go. Or you can do what I did and run around the place doing everything BUT that first. As you go along you’ll pick up items and get descriptions of them as well as some more brief instructions on how to do basic game functions. You can explore this area, known as the Great Plateau, as much as you’d like. However, the height of the plateau keeps you from leaving… for now. You’ll find food that can replenish your health. There are some things you can use as weapons like sticks. You can fight enemies here and take their weapons, as well as their remains. You can approach them stealthily as you do have a gauge to see how much noise you’re making, or you can rush into them and take them on like a man! It’s really up to you. You can climb walls and trees, assuming your stamina doesn’t run out. If it does, you’ll fall off of what you’re climbing and move rather slowly for a while to catch your breath… of the wild? Or whatever. Pretend it was funny. Once you’ve decided it’s time to actually get on with the story, you talk to the old man. He can give you a few more tips and then you check out the destroyed temple. You then make your way to a strange pedestal. You place the odd Sheikah Slate, the object you’re carrying with you that looks suspiciously like a Wii U gamepad or a Switch in handheld mode, onto the pedestal. This causes a tower to shoot up from beneath your feet. You’ll also notice in the distance that a number of other similar towers are shooting up as well. You then uncover the current area of the map and the tower is marked. You hear from the old man again who explains that you can use it as a warp point. You can also use your slate like a set of binoculars and mark a few distant spots with colored beacons that shoot pillars of light into the sky. You can use this also to easily mark the shrines in the distance, which are glowing as to make them easy to see from the viewpoint. He decides to offer you a trade. If you can get the treasure within the four shrines on the plateau, he’ll give you a paraglider. So naturally, you go about locating and completing the shrines.
The shrines also act as warp points and will show up on your map once you activate them. Basically, you have to get up to them and press the panel in front to open them. You then go inside and are tasked with some kind of challenge. Sometimes it’ll be based on your reflexes. Other times it will be about puzzle solving. There are even some combat shrines focused around beating tough enemies. There are also some based around a combination of these things or some other specific mechanics. The first four shrines are based around runes. Each one gives your Sheikah Slate a new power. One gives you the ability to use bombs. They are remotely detonated, but they are on a cooldown between uses, forcing you to wait a few seconds and not spam them. You can even choose between spherical and cubical bombs depending on if you want them to roll or stay put. Another rune you get allows you to manipulate metal objects. These objects might normally be too heavy to move or too far out of reach, but with this power you can move them around within a certain range of your magnetic beam. There’s a kinetic rune which allows you to stop time on objects briefly. This can keep things in place, but that’s not all. While locked in time, you can hit objects to build up kinetic energy. Once time resumes, all of that force will be exerted at once and send the object flying accordingly. So it’s not JUST for halting moving platforms or extending the effects of switches. And lastly, there’s the rune that creates pillars of ice out of water. This is generally used for platforming across bodies of water or even ascending waterfalls, but does have a few more uses, like lifting up objects on the surface of water. Upon completing a shrine you’ll be given a spirit orb which can brought to one of the many goddess statues scattered around the world and exchanged for powerups. For every four you can increase your number or hearts or extend your stamina wheel. One of these first shrines is actually located in the mountains. However, it’s too cold to go up there as is. You’ll start losing health over time if you don’t warm yourself up somehow, teaching you the importance of adjusting for different climates later. This is also where you’ll learn about cooking, as you’ll need to cook up something that can temporarily give you some cold resistance. After that shrine you’re also given a piece of clothing with minor cold resistance, teaching that different clothing items will have different effects, but keep in mind that the cold can get even colder yet and you may need more than just that to survive it. To cook, simply hold multiple ingredients in your hands and stand in front of a pot sitting over a fire. The prompt to cook will come up and your dish will come out based on what ingredients you put it. You might get a dish of food or some kind of elixir. Elixirs generally have more potent effects, while dishes tend to be more about healing and sometimes some lesser bonuses. Finally, you’re given the paraglider. You use it by hitting a button after jumping and it allows you to glide down slowly. You can put it away to drop faster and reactivate it before hitting the ground to avoid taking falling damage. It also consumes stamina slowly so be mindful of that meter. The old man then asks you to meet him on top of the temple. It’s here that he reveals most of the main plot.
He’s the dead king of the land who failed to stop an evil force known as Calamity Ganon. There were four giant guardians created to stop Calamity Ganon, known as the Divine Beasts. Each one was piloted by a champion from a different region. A Goron, a Zora, a Ruto, and a Gerudo. And YOU were the Hylian champion that guarded Princess Zelda on her quest to awaken her powers in order to stop the Calamity. However, the champions were defeated by Ganon and his evil possessed the Divine Beasts. You were badly injured in the battle and rushed back to the Shrine of Resurrection, the place you had awakened from at the start of the game. You were saved, but your memory is mostly gone. Zelda is still holding off Calamity Ganon even now, 100 years later. The king asks you to try and defeat Calamity Ganon before he resurrects himself again. This is where the game opens up. You are pointed in the direction of a village where you can learn more, but you can go wherever you’d like. Just like the first area taught you, you are free to do as you please. You can go to the village to learn more. Or you can adventure off and find more towers and shrines and whatever else you happen to find. You can try and reclaim the Divine Beasts. Each one is essentially this game’s equivalent of a dungeon. You must traverse their insides and reclaim the corrupted terminals before entering the boss area and defeating the blight of Ganon that holds the beast captive. Doing so will also reward you with a new power represented by the respective fallen champion that used to pilot the beast. If you go to the village you can eventually learn how to recover your memories, which requires you to go around to specific locations that will trigger cutscenes of past events. You can upgrade your Sheikah Slate to take pictures of enemies and objects which will give you information such as where to find them and a bit of lore. You can even track them with the Sheikah Sensor, which will beep when the selected type of target is nearby. You can do a variety of sidequests. Some will point you to new shrines, others will net you some rarer items as rewards, and some are just for rupees. Another thing you may notice are Koroks. These even appear on the Great Plateau if you found them. Basically, there are usually suspicious spots you’ll need to interact with in a certain way to uncover a Korok. Sometimes it’s solving an environmental puzzle. Other times it’s racing to highlighted rings. Maybe it’s shooting some distant balloons. There are many different kinds of these and they are all over. For completing the task you’ll be given a Korok seed. These can later be traded in for more inventory slots.
Now let’s just talk about the combat for a bit here. After all, what good is getting all these weapons if you never get to use them, right? So there are three inventory slots for the combat items. There are melee weapons, bows, and shields. Bows take some type of arrows to use. Shields can only be used with single handed melee weapons. As for melee weapons, there are generally three different types. There are one handed melee weapons, which allow you to wield a shield at the same time to block between attacks. There are heavy two-handed weapons that leave you unprotected while they are out and are slow, leaving you open for longer periods, but they deal massive damage. There are also two-handed weapons that are just too long to wield a shield and do very little damage per hit, but they have good range and are quite fast. The bows are your best for ranged weapons, but you can also throw the melee weapons at enemies. The shields can not only block incoming damage but also be used to parry enemy attacks to open them up for retaliation. Plus they can be used for what is called shield surfing. Basically, you can jump and hit the blocking button in the air to jump onto your shield and ride it down slopes like a snowboard. But be careful because this will wear on its durability. That’s right, all of your weapons have durability. Sometimes you’ll find weapons with enhancements like increased durability, extra defense, critical hit change, and more. When fighting enemies you can approach them in a variety of ways. You can sneak attack them, sometimes getting instant kills with back-stabs. Or you can take on a group head on. You can try picking them off from afar or make some noise and lure a few out into a more advantageous location. You can even use your runes for fighting, such as throwing metal crates around or pulling their weapons away before they can get up and grab them with your magnetic abilities. You can freeze time on them and get some free hits in without fear of immediate retaliation. Or hey, just throw some bombs at those suckers! There are a variety of enemies, like bokoblins, moblins, and lizalfos to name a few. There are also differently colored variants that tend to have different levels of toughness, different weapons, and sometimes even some special abilities. For example, some lizalfos can spit fire, ice, or even emit electricity from their body. But each enemy also tends some type of weakness, be it an element or a weapon type. There are also some larger enemies that will post more of a threat and generally will be indicated by their name appearing atop the screen when engaging them in combat, such as lynels. These enemies also tend to drop valuable loot as a reward for defeating them.
You can also find great fairies and have them upgrade your clothing with the appropriate materials, which can things picked up around the world or dropped from enemies, maybe even purchased in some shops. Wearing specific sets of clothing can sometimes give you a set bonus when upgraded, otherwise it’s usually just an upgrade to their defensive capabilities. The more great fairies you find, the more powerful your clothing can become. There’s probably a ton more I could go on about, but I think this covers most of the meat of the game. So whenever you feel like you’re ready, you can go to Hyrule Castle, the stronghold of Calamity Ganon. You’ll need to fight your way in, survive the palace, and find your way to Ganon’s chamber. Then you’ll have the final showdown. Just be prepared to fight any of those Divine Beasts you neglected to reclaim in your haste. It’s up to you just how much you want to do before this fight and how prepared you are, as you technically have all the tools necessary to win once you leave the Great Plateau. Can you truly stop the Calamity?
I can sing this games praises all day, but I’ll try not to get too overboard. I think the scope of the game is great. It’s an open-world game that gives you some direction, but also give you the freedom to just run around and do whatever you want if that’s what you’d prefer. You can speed right to the end and see how fast you can win, or make your way through trying to complete it all, and everything in between. It’s essentially what The Legend of Zelda on NES is praised for, except this time it feels like it was made that way on purpose and much better. The open nature also lets you carve your own experience. They way you solve puzzles in the shrines, the way you go about fighting enemies, and the order of places you explore can be entirely different than someone else’s experience. And that makes it even more fun to compare notes and talk about strategies and secrets and such. It creates an amazing atmosphere to get lost in. The world is also gigantic with lots to do in it and looks beautiful to boot. I also love that there’s some fun details that are so second nature yet clearly had to be programmed in carefully. I mean, you can’t start fires in the rain, but shock arrows are more effective in it. In volcanic regions your wooden equipment will catch fire. Heck, sometimes even things as simple as dialogues are aware enough to know when you’ve just asked someone something a moment ago and comment on it. It’s just a lot of little details that go a long way in making the game feel more alive and realistic despite… ya know… the magic and whatnot. It stays logical without sacrificing the fun. Plus, you have no idea how freeing it is to be able to climb on damn near everything until you’ve played Breath of the Wild for a while and then go back to another Zelda game. It’s the kind of game where you’ll be playing for hours, not even realize it has been hours, and still have trouble stopping. There’s so much to see and discover and experience. It almost feels endless at times. It only really starts to drag near the end.
Near the end of the game there’s not much left for upgrades or discoveries. It turns into a hunt for the last of the Koroks for one thing. Now this is a bit of a spoiler but it’s better to hear it here first. There are 900 Korok seeds in the game. I think you only need roughly half of them for all the upgrades, with the rest going towards one last collectible, which is a golden turd. I shit you not, but NINTENDO sure did. There’s not even a method to track the seeds without the DLC, which is just ridiculous. So don’t waste your time on those things past the point of maximum upgrades. I also found there to be little reason to use a horse in the game. Early on you want to take it slow and search everywhere in depth. Later in the game you can just warp to the towers and shrines to get around so aside from a few specific sidequests you really don’t ever need to use a horse. Speaking of the shrines, I found them to be a little underwhelming. They were fun, but they all felt like bite-sized sections that could’ve been part of larger dungeons. It makes you explore more, so I get that, but more full dungeons would’ve been appreciated. Also, a few of the shrines were built around using the gamepad and tilting it to move objects. Usually you have to roll balls around with it, and the physics are odd. The balls are heavier than they’d appear because of the zoomed out view, so it’s hard to understand their inertia. And also the gamepad tilt can quickly go out of sync. Plus, it’s annoying to have to switch back to the Wii U gamepad just for these sections if you’re using a different controller. I’m unsure how the Switch version handles it, but I would imagine it’s similar. And even though the shrines are nice for keeping you exploring, the Korok seeds really aren’t. Not with how unsatisfying the last chunk of them are in terms of reward. Even before then it takes more and more seeds to get expansions in each inventory area, meaning it takes more seeds for a lesser percentage of increase. So sometimes the world feels a little empty. It’s big and picture-esque, but there ends up being a lot of nothingness in the late game. The main bosses are all pretty easy as long as you’re decently prepared and not that exciting or memorable. There’s barely any music in the game, which isn’t necessarily bad, but I would’ve liked some more music personally. There’s also some framerate issues. In the more grassy areas it seems that the game would get a little choppy. It doesn’t affect gameplay, but I did notice it. Though there were a few times, generally when fighting moblins, that the game would freeze temporarily and then resume after knocking them down. I guess it didn’t ever crash or make me put in wrong inputs or anything, but it can throw off your rhythm and hopefully will get patched if it hasn’t already by now as this DOES affect the gameplay. And I do find it unfortunate that, even after all the delays and push-backs, we STILL ended up with a ZELDA game that wasn’t finished. You need to pay for the DLC to continue the story and many items are locked behind that or amiibo. Not that there’s a whole lot to miss with the amiibo support most of the time, but extra story and gameplay options shouldn’t have been put behind the paywall of DLC. Beyond that, the general problem this game has by the nature of its design is that it’s not immediately replayable. It’s a long game if you are looking to make the most out of it, and it doesn’t follow the traditional Zelda formula. It’s great for the open-ended adventure aspect, but unless you’re challenging yourself to play more quickly or significantly differently which typically means not doing EVERYTHING in the process, you’ll end up getting sick of the tedious parts of the game quickly. The start of the game can get a bit frustrating to come back to since you’re being told what you already know now before moving on and getting low quality equipment when you are used to a much better kind from your previous plays. It’s not the worst problem to have. It may not even be the case for everyone. But I certainly found myself not eager to replay this game anytime soon, whereas other Zelda games I’ve replayed merely months apart.
Still, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is fantastic. I can nitpick all day, but I can also praise it all day as well. It’s a huge game that finally does the open world adventure gameplay that so many Zelda fans have been craving. It took a long time to come out, but it was worth the wait and it’s worth the full asking price for sure. You’ll get your playtime and enjoyment out of it. I think it’d be a great first Switch game to have and keep you busy until the next big thing you want is out or on sale. It’s also just as great on Wii U if you’re not looking to upgrade just yet. People went crazy over this one for good reason. I may not call it the best Zelda game ever made, but it’s pretty damn good. If you’re on the fence… get it. If you’re a Zelda fan… get it. If you’re a fan of open world games… get it. I really can’t say not to get it unless you don’t have the system, don’t like the genre, or don’t like the Zelda aesthetic. Otherwise, you’re good to go. And it’s great to have a Zelda game do something different enough from the others to make it not have to be compared to a previous installment, be it favorably or unfavorably. It’s definitely the best open world game in the Zelda series, and that makes it well worth adding to the collection. Also, Paya is adorable and I’m kind of in love with Mipha. Wait… who said that? The point is, just play the game, man! It’s awesome!