Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed by Robfozz, posted Mar 7, 2017, last updated Sep 12, 2017
Mar 7, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): March 3, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): March 3, 2017
  • Release Date (JP): March 3, 2017
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Genres: Action, Open World, RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • Also For: Nintendo Wii U
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Zelda goes open world! How did it turn out after almost 5 years of waiting? Hear a lifelong Zelda fans opinions...

So Breath of the Wild is finally here! Zelda has gone fully open world in what is one of the biggest, most dense games ever made! This won't be a conventional review like I've done in the past, where I break down the game into categories, this'll just be a casual couple paragraphs with my general thoughts about the game and a score at the end. Also a heads up, there may be spoilers in here. I won't explicitly talk about the plot, I will say what I thought about it on a general level, though. If you're a stupid baby who's scared of "gameplay spoilers" then I guess you should leave.

There's a couple technical things I want to get out of the way. Graphically, the game looks amazing. They really nailed the art style and the shading and lighting always looks fantastic. There was never a moment where I thought "This could look better". However, there are framerate issues in a few spots. The starting area, for some weird reason, can get pretty choppy. I have no idea why because its the most plain and basic area in the game and doesn't have much going on especially when complex areas like Hyrule Castle run perfectly smooth for the most part. Still though, its not persistent and will only ever last a second or two. An area where it legitimately is a problem though is the Korok village which will be constantly running like a slideshow. Its probably the heavy amount of fancy lighting and shadows as well as all the koroks, animals, bugs, plants, etc. It sucks because its such a cool and kinda important place in the game and every time I go I cant help but notice how bad it gets. The only other framerate issue I had was when fighting whatever the tall and lanky moblins are called. For some reason when beating them up, the game can and usually will hang on a frame for a good 3 or 4 seconds at a time. I've beat up on all the different enemies hundreds of times and this weird problem is unique to them, I honestly get scared the game might crash whenever it does that but thankfully it doesn't. I know this may already sound bad but trust me when I say it's only those 2 areas I experienced frame drops in. It may have happened once or twice for a split second randomly somewhere else but I never saw it if it did. Just another small graphics thing, the render distance on things like bushes and rocks is kinda short. If you're in a bit of an empty area its very noticeable and obvious how stuff just fades in and out as you walk away. It isn't noticable if you're in an area with a lot of stuff in it already though so its ok then.

Visual moments like these are not a rarity.

I think the main appeal of BotW's gameplay is getting sidetracked. You're heading towards an undiscovered village and all of a sudden theres an enemy camp, you take out the camp and then you see a stable with people who have sidequests to give, now you're on a sidequest and you find a shrine, you complete the shrine and somehow still find something else of interest, and it just keeps going. Now the quality of these excursions is another thing but I'll touch on that in a little bit.

This game is also pretty good at world interactivity. At the start the game just hands over tools to you that let you mess around with the physics in ways that no other game would even dare to let you do. Move objects around at will, send things flying, you can do a lot with the tools this game gives you. I chopped down a tree, used the stasis ability on it, whacked it a bunch of times, got on it and flew probably a good couple miles off a mountain.

The sidequests in this game are actually very good, which is something I usually wouldn't say for them. Usually sidequests are just boring throwaway fetch quests but Zelda adds a lot of personality to them and made sure to have a variety of tasks to include as well. It does a good job of making you feel like the villagers and people of the world are real and believable. I will never forget Hudson.

Now forget about the sidequests, how is the main quest? Eh... sadly it doesn't fair very well, at least not for me. The main quest is to complete the 4 Guardian Beast trials and go defeat Calamity Ganon. Heck, even the beasts are optional you can go right to Ganon if you want. Now, the parts leading up to each of the beasts are really fun and cool, easily some of the best moments in the whole game! You get to meet all of the townspeople, make friends with one of the more important people in town, do a sidequest or 2 and do a cool minigame-type trial to get inside of the beast. Doing things like riding atop a Zora and surfing around a giant mechanical elephant all while deflecting projectiles with a bow and arrow, swimming up waterfalls and blowing up the beasts weak points was so awesome! But then you go inside the beasts... I really was expecting so much more from them.

The beasts are this games dungeons. If you can even call them that because they absolutely do not make up for traditional Zelda dungeons at all. They're so simple, usually taking place entirely in one big room, and extremely easy. I don't think there's even any combat in them aside from the bosses, which I'll get to later. I'm not exaggerating when I say I was in and out of all of these in less than 10 minutes and thats including the boss fight. All you do is go in, scan 5 terminals and leave. The puzzles are all the same throughout them, you rotate a part of the beasts body and probably use the magnesis rune for something. Also there's only 4. And they're not themed or anything. This is the biggest Zelda game and there's only 4 "dungeons" with generic interiors? With what little there is to do in these things, they could've very easily made at least 4 more of them and put them at the villages in the game that don't really have anything going on. Like, for example they could've put one at Kakariko village and made the champion a Shiekah dude or something.
The bossfights are pretty pathetic. While I do enjoy that they, in a way, incorporated a puzzle into each of them, they're still too easy. The regular enemies and field bosses are much more difficult.

The shrines, while still fun to find and do, are also the same thing except even shorter. Solve a single puzzle and leave. Sometimes you fight a sword welding guardian instead. And like the beasts, they aren't themed and are cookie cutter designed. Even though theres over a hundred, I still don't think these are suitable replacements for dungeons either. I want themed dungeons with locked doors and small keys, multiple branching paths, combat AND puzzles, and a new item to play with. Breath of the Wild doesn't have that and it's very disappointing.

Also there's something to be said about BotWs puzzles overall. While some of the shrines do neat stuff on occasion, the puzzles in all locations are generally just using magnesis, sometimes stasis, and, like 4 times total, Cryonis. This just makes the puzzles very easy because theres only so much you can do with only 3 abilities. Another thing that detracts from the difficulty of the puzzles is that there's more often than not more than one way to solve them. Hell theres a lot of times you can cheese them out and cheat your way to the end quickly because something wasn't thought out well when they made them. I guess theres fun to be had in that if you like that sort of thing but for me that just took so much challenge out. A puzzle will always, in any situation, be more difficult if there's only one way to solve it.

Something else this game is lacking in is story. This was the biggest thing I was worried about before it came out and looks like I was right, the story is scarce and throwaway. The game pretty much tells you upfront how many cutscenes there are because you have to go find them. Outside of maybe 3 or 4 specific moments, the game keeps all of its cutscenes contained into 13 memory spots around the map. You might find a glowy spot in a field somewhere, you walk over to it and watch a random cutscene of something that happened 100 years ago. Its a terrible set up because you'll most likely see things out of order or maybe never at all because they're hidden in places that you probably wont naturally go to while playing. You get hints to where they are from pictures on your Shiekah slate but thats not at all enough of a hint with a world as big as this one. Anyways, what little story there is its mostly all meaningless and uninteresting. Almost all of the flashbacks are just casual moments of you and Zelda hanging out while she whines about her daddy issues. This Zelda is honestly the most annoying and whiney character Ive ever seen, very unlikable. The story moments outside of the memories are all the same. You talk to the leader of the village you're in and they all tell you the same thing "Ganons back and is making the beast destroy everything. Our champion died 100 years ago" every single time. It never goes anywhere, you never really learn anything.

This is the first Zelda with voice acting. Its not good. Also theres hardly any of it.
I thought Daruk, the bird guy, and Urbosa actually sounded pretty good and were fitting for what little you hear from them but everyone else was hot trash. Also before you pull the "JAPANESE IS BETTER BECAUSE ORIGINAL YOU STUPID FRICK" I changed the language setting on the system and replayed all the cutscenes because you can do that and I will say what Ive said in a few of the moronic undub threads: The voices suck in both versions, pretty evenly too. With the exception of Zelda, I would even say the characters sound almost identical in tone and personality. Zeldas voice in Japanese is god awful and I don't know why people defend it, shit sounds like the most generic anime girl ever. Then to play devils advocate, English Zelda just sounds like generic English woman. Pick your poison, I personally would say the English accents some of the characters have suit the fantasy setting better.

So you go through your journey and at the end, when you take back all the beasts and defeat Calamity Ganon, you are rewarded with the most disappointing and unsatisfying endings of all time. Zelda literally says one sentence to you about how she's happy to see you and the credits roll. Thats it. The final cutscene is like 6 seconds long. And apparently thats the good ending. There's reportedly multiple endings for how much of the main quest you decided to do before fighting Ganon. I haven't seen or finished the game without doing everything first myself and I honestly don't really care to because of how lackluster the story already is.

Honestly, the most character interaction you'll have during your entire adventure happens within the first 30 minutes of the game.

UPDATE: It's a lie. There's no other endings. If you watch all the memories, you get to watch an aftercredits scene of Link and Zelda getting on their horses and Zelda pretty much just repeats something she said in an earlier cutscene to Link. It's stupid and doesn't add anything to the, I can't stress it enough, insulting ending thats already in place. So yeah, if you decide to put in all that hard effort to beat the game as fast as possible, you'll actually just be rewarded with the same exact ending. Fuck you, here at Nintendo we lie.

Just one more thing I'm missing from past Zelda's, and I promise we'll get back on the positives in a sec, is the music. There's hardly any music in this game. For "immersion" purposes, the took out the music and made it so occasionally you'll hear like 3 seconds of a piano. This is sad because Zelda music has just gotten more amazing with every new game, especially since they went with a real orchestra in Skyward Sword. Now there is a small handful of music in the game and it really makes this point more depressing because the 4 or 5 songs are some of the best in the series. The Hyrule Castle theme is epic, lengthy and has a couple variations depending on where you are inside of it. The Hateno village theme is absolutely beautiful and is one of the best town themes in the series. The Rito village plays a variation of the Dragon Roost Isle theme from Wind Waker and its amazing. They did so well with these songs and it just makes me wish they populated the entire world with them because they're certainly more than capable of doing so.

Back to the good stuff, finally. The combat system is interesting. I really thought I wouldn't like the weapon durability but it turned out to be really fun! While it is a little lame that you don't have a permanent sword or anything, I get why they didn't put one in. Using all the different weapons, and searching for more powerful ones is very entertaining and always makes combat situations play out differently. However, because there are so many weapons, there is not much mobility or different attacks as previous games. No crouch stabs, no slashing at different angles, just one or 2 attacks per weapon.

The healing system breaks the game. This is the hardest Zelda game by far but ironically the food system makes it one of the easiest. You just pause when you're in danger and eat something. I had tons of food all the time and never even specifically went out of my way to hunt and gather. I also didn't cook more than once or twice. Basic food I grabbed that was actually in my way while going to a destination was good enough for my entire playthrough. It would be better if you could only eat food as you found it, or if there was a strict limit on how much you could carry. Hell I think they shouldve ditched the food system entirely and just stuck with the classic look for hearts and fairies, and you can carry a few potions if you have the bottles for them.

Recipes that completely restore your health and fill the rest of the room with temporary hearts are not uncommon and you can hold almost as much of them as you want.

Climbing and paragliding are like this games secret sauce. Both combine to create an interesting world to explore. You climb up high to paraglide further and you paraglide to other mountains to climb. You can climb literally everything, so much so that you can sometimes skip challenges along the path. For example you can climb over and skip every single battle in Hyrule Castle, which thank god because the Lynels in there are impossible. One thing they kinda messed up on is that you cannot climb anything if it's raining. This left me stuck several times and there was nothing I could do except wait it out, which can sometimes take half an hour of real time. While it's a cool detail and adds to how realistic this game can be, its annoying and, in my opinion, a bad move to take a required mechanic like that away at any time.

Overall, despite how much I disliked and wanted from the game, I still had a fine time just from the gameplay alone. The size, content, sense of discovery and mechanics in this game are good and if I was judging the game on that alone it would be maybe an 8 or a 9. Unfortunately though the story, music, and the things I expect from the Zelda series just aren't present and are holding it back from that and in a big way. People may applaud this game for getting rid of Zelda conventions and traditions but those things are what I play Zelda for. I want the story, I want that classic dungeon and reward structure. Its a bummer because if they tried a little harder on a few of these things, they could've done it with what they made here.
+ High number of things to do and collect
+ Good amount of interactivity
+ Breakable weapons keeps combat interesting
+ The new weapons and upgrade systems are surprisingly fun
+ Beautiful graphics and art style
- The world is big and has a lot of ruins and interesting looking things in it but there is nothing behind them and they lack backstory and even just things to do in them.
- Lacking the Zelda conventions that I play Zelda for
- Story is scarce and what's there isn't very good
- No real dungeons
- Eating makes the game way too easy
- No music outside of towns and Hyrule Castle really sucks
- Technical hiccups like slowdown and pop-in
- Short main quest
6 Presentation
The graphics are stunning. I'm sure the art style may be the way it is to compensate for a lack of power in hardware but I honestly wouldn't want it any other way. There were, in my experience, very rare instances of slowdown but they were exclusive to 2 small areas and never came back outside of them. The pop-in however on things like rocks, bushes and flowers though was very noticeable in certain circumstances and sometimes things were only coming into view when I was already passed them. There's not really any music in the game either, and it's supposed to be like that to help immersion, but it really just left me wanting music badly. The story is not good.
8 Gameplay
All the movement and physics options make playing the game fun. Climbing everything and exploring has its charm too. Puzzles are severely lacking in difficulty and substance and the games main dungeons leave a lot to be desired.
8 Lasting Appeal
Despite its shortcomings, this is a game I could play and replay for a very long time because of how much is in it. There's enough secrets and sidequests to discover for ages. However the main quest is extremely lacking in terms of dungeon quality and quantity as well as its sparse and "whatever" story and cutscenes.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
What you will think of this game really depends on what you value the most in a game. If you don't care about story and have no precedent for what a Zelda game should be like, this will probably be a 10/10 game for you. If you're a Zelda fan like myself, however, you might be left pretty disappointed in some aspects.

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