I’m just going to say this right out the gate. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not the best game in the Zelda series. Ocarina is still the best one for me, however Breath of the Wild is a very close second. Many of the dynamics that you’ve become accustomed have gone out the window. To give you an idea on this, you can jump on command, something you’ve only been able to (without Roc’s feather) since Zelda 2.
Storywise, Breath of the Wild doesn’t stray far from the usual. You’ve woken up after being in a 100 year sleep and you’re needed to save Hyrule from a calamity, Calamity Ganon that is. You fought Ganon a 100 years ago, but lost. Princess Zelda saved you and placed you in the deep sleep to recover. She sacrificed herself and got held captive. Now you’re awake and it’s up to you to save the day yet again.
The first thing you’ll notice, along with the killer bedhead, is the absence of the unmistakable green garb. You’re given some basic clothing that has an armor rating. This is one of the many aforementioned shifts from the usual Zelda playbook. You are then presented with a Sheikah Slate. Clearly, Breath of the Wild was originally planned for the Wii U earlier than now, as the slate is a clear reference to the controller. This becomes your map, your inventory, and your guide. When you get out of the starting shrine, you’ll see just a glimpse of the vast area you can you explore. Hyrule is absolutely massive.
A quick stroll down the hill and you’ll find another difference to the trend. You’ll find some apples, then have a chat with a local, who advises you how to cook. Throughout the game, you’ll find numerous ingredients in which to make different dishes. You can mix five things together, which will have different healing strengths and bonuses. Along with making delicious noms, you can also make elixirs to enhance your stats.
I won’t go into the story too much, mainly for the reason that if you’re reading this, you’re probably a Zelda fan who is thinking about buying Breath of the Wild. The entire ethos of the game is open world, survival-based. Think Dark Souls mashed with Skyrim. Okay, it’s not as brutal as Dark Souls, but it’s no cake walk for sure. Part of the survival is the game’s focus on temperature control. If you wandered up to Death Mountain, you’ll take damage because it’s too hot. Same applies if you went up Mount Lanayru, where it’s too cold. You can offset the temperature by obtaining new armor and dressing for the trip, or using food to give you a resistance boost.
Another strange thing for long time Zelda fans, is that within the space of 15 minutes of starting the game, without entering a dungeon, you can have access to all kinds of weapons, shields and bows. They now have durability, meaning you need to plan your next fight, or wind up staring a Bokoblin in the face with nothing but your wit. Pro tip- it won’t end well. The fighting system in the game has stayed fairly true to the series, where you lock on and strafe around to block or attack. You can stealth your way to fights and if you can sneak behind an unsuspecting enemy, then you can finish them in one swipe of your chosen weapon.
Traveling around Hyrule has been given a tweak too. You can climb every wall you can see, with the only drawback being your stamina wheel. When that runs out, you’re falling back down the cliff side. Next two methods are pretty cool ways to traverse the hills. You get a glider, which is only usable for as long as your stamina wheel will let you. The other one is shield sliding. This is pretty fun to do, but has a downside. Your shields durability will also be impacted, so the decision is battle, or slide. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be sliding all the way. If you remember faithful Epona, you’ll not get her without the use of an Amibo, but this time you can mount the multitude of horses roaming about, if you can catch one that is.
Those are good ways for getting around, however, with how big the map is, it would take you at least 30 minutes to traverse it. Due to this, the game now has fast traveling. Without spoilers again, you can discover towers in each area and once found, you can travel to them at your leisure.
Existing fans of Zelda would be expecting the usual- 3 dungeons, a mini boss, 7 dungeons, then an end boss. In short, they’ve altered the system. Through Hyrule, you will find Shrines. They have little challenges- some puzzles, some battles. Once completed, it will reward you with a spirit orb. You can eventually trade these for either a heart container or a further part on your stamina wheel. Once you’ve found a shrine, this then becomes a fast travel location as well.
I’ve hammered this game since it came out on Nintendo Switch and loving every moment of it. For me Ocarina of Time will always been number one, but this is an extremely close number two. The game has everything you want from both an open world RPG, and a Zelda game.
On a final note, i’ve kept this review spoiler free as possible, but for anyone searching for a particular weapon, I’ll leave you with the following riddle:
When searching for the sword that seals the darkness, do you have the hearts to follow the embers to inferno?