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

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo Switch 15,861 views 16 likes 239 comments
Reviewed by Tom Bond, posted Mar 7, 2017, last updated Mar 7, 2017
Mar 7, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): March 3, 2017
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Open-world
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • Also For: Nintendo Wii U
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s latest entry in the ever-popular Zelda series. Featuring massive changes from the normal Zelda formula, Breath of the Wild is considered the “rebirth of a series”. But does it live up to the hype?
Tom Bond

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Breath of the Wild: The Real, Un-paid Review

Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series used to follow a pretty well-received formula. You’re the hero, you must save a princess, and that involves going through an average of around 8 different dungeons collecting various tools that are required to explore the whole world and reach your damsel in distress Princess Zelda. Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, basically abandons that formula. This particular Zelda game puts you in the role of Link in the vast open world that is now Hyrule. Taking place 100 years after “Calamity Ganon” has mostly destroyed Hyrule and has taken over Hyrule Castle (where Zelda keeps him “captive” apparently), our hero must explore the world to recover 4 big mechs Divine Beasts, his memories, and of course the Master Sword, so he can defeat Ganon and the world of Hyrule can return to its normal peaceful self. Sounds pretty similar to normal Zelda games, but is it?

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The main gameplay of Zelda is pretty simple. The first “new” thing you get is the Sheikah Slate, AKA a tablet, that has 6 different runes, AKA apps, that have different functions that can be used around the world. There's a magnet app that lets you move metal objects, round and square remote bomb apps that gives you bombs (yay, infinite bombs!), a Cryo app that creates a block of ice on water, the stasis app that freezes time for an item/enemy that you can hit to build up a sort of “kinetic charge”, and of course the extremely important camera app (because really, what tablet in 2017 doesn't have a camera amirite?). Link uses these various apps to complete puzzles and such around the world in Hyrule, most of which occurs in shrines. The Sheikah Slate also acts as your world map, your “key” to activate towers and shrines, a shrine/item tracker, your fast travel device and as the “Hyrule Compendium” which is basically a monster/item guide which is pretty handy when you're trying to find ingredients for food or elixirs that you can cook up in cooking pots around the world. You can also “Shield surf” down hills (which is useless, thanks to the paraglider and shit durability that I'll focus on later) as well as a Matrix-esque bow shot that you can perform mid-air. But honestly, I've never used either of these things at all when I played. Shield surfing is useless, because the paraglider is much quicker and doesn't break, and the Matrix bow shot is pretty useless in most places when it requires you to be floating/falling from a rather high height to perform.  The game also introduces actual armor pieces you can mix and match, instead of just 2 or 3 armor sets that are used in one or two places. Most pieces of clothing includes some sort of buff, like the ability to withstand hot/cold climates, providing resistance to guardian weapons, giving you attack/skill bonuses or giving you increased mobility in snowy/sandy areas. This is one of the better additions to the game, because it gives you more of a chance to customize Link and play/display him as you'd like (you can even cross-dress, which is required for one of the main quests ;) )

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Combat has returned to a more simple style, but is unfortunately one of the few things Nintendo kind of goofed on. The biggest problem, not counting weapon durability (which I'll talk about next), is that every enemy can easily one-shot Link in pretty much 3/4ths of the game. I see a lot of people trying to compare this game to Souls games, and I (being a huge Souls fan myself) find the artificial difficulty Nintendo applied to BOTW to be infinitely worse than any Souls game I've played before. In Souls games, enemies are more “fair” when it comes to combat. 99% of the time, unless you're extremely unprepared or underleveled for an area, you're never going to find normal enemies that can one-shot you, or will instantly break all of your weapons and then kill you in seconds. In Breath of the Wild, virtually everything will just straight up kill you if you don't manage to kill it first. Basic enemies like Bokoblin's or Lizalfos will kill Link in 1-2 hits regardless of your armor rating. Big roaming Guardian's, which are present in most of the world of Hyrule, will insta-break your shield if you try to block their lasers and have 1500-3000 health (depending on if it's stationary or mobile). Their lasers will one-shot anyone who doesn't have at least 10+ hearts (and even sometimes then you'll get killed), and are nearly impossible to kill early game. The most interesting thing, though, is I've found main dungeon bosses don't do nearly as much damage as some of the normal enemies do which is simply insane. You'll also receive 4 new “powers” with the four Divine Beast dungeons you complete; a sort of “super fairy” type powerup where you'll be healed and given extra hearts when you die, a shield powerup that lets you block any attack 3 times, a charge attack powerup that launches a massive lightning attack to nearby enemies, and a charge jump that produces a big gust of wind that you can use to float/glide over enemies/obstacles. Once used, each powerup has to take time to recharge (which I believe is 30 real-time minutes). Most of these powerups are pretty useful in-game, the Shield one comes especially in handy thanks to the OP enemies everywhere. 

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Another mechanic is the re-introduction of weapon/shield durability, and let me just start off by saying it's easily the worst gameplay mechanic Nintendo has put in the game, and I hope whomever made the decision to make it so awful was fired. The biggest problem is that every weapon, shield, and bow in the game breaks. Period. Not a single weapon you come across in game actually lasts more than a 4-10 enemy kills, depending on the health of the enemy and if your weapon has a durability buff. The super cool, special Hylian Shield? Breakable. The super special  Lightscale Trident wielded by the champion of the Zora's, Mipha? Breakable, but can be re-acquired. Every bow you come across? Breakable. But surely the Master Sword at least lasts forever, right? Y'know, the Master Sword? The ultimate weapon? The one thing that can can stop evil in the world of Hyrule? WRONG. IT'S BREAKABLE. It's not even as durable as some of the other weapons you get, some weapons have a durability up buff that lasts longer than the Master Sword does. Thankfully it's not as bad as other weapons, because when your Master Sword “Runs out of energy (AKA breaks), it'll recharge after 10 minutes. But that's simply something that shouldn't happen in any game, let alone a Zelda game where it's the ultimate goddamn world changing weapon. It's not even that difficult to fix! Nintendo's solution to the durability problem is the simple and wrong one, pick up everything you see until you run out of inventory space. The correct solution Nintendo should have done? Repair kits or elixirs. Special weapons with infinite durability (y'know, like the master sword). Let Link punch stuff with his hands. 

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One of the bigger changes with Breath of the Wild, though, is the vast open world that is Hyrule. The first thing I’m going to say is it’s pretty. While not the best-looking game in the world, Breath of the Wild has a certain aesthetic that works hand-in-hand with the Zelda franchise and produces a fairly gorgeous setting. The next thing I’m going to say is…that it’s a terrible open world. The biggest problem is that it’s just so empty and lifeless. Practically nothing is going on in at least 80+% of the entire map, it’s just empty hills, plains, and mountains with the occasional enemy encampment, a Stable/outpost thing, and filler-content shrines (which I’ll hit on later). Now, I get that it’s basically a post-apocalyptic world that Ganon has nearly dominated, but if you’re going to make a map that’s “bigger than Skyrim”, you have to actually fill it with things that are different and actually interesting.  Each stable has the same exact layout, with basic weapons strewn about everywhere, NPCs that give utterly boring “sidequests”, and Beedle the traveling merchant selling arrows and elixir ingredients. Practically every enemy outpost is basically the same, you have 4 or 5 Bokoblins or Moblins sitting around a fire or in a giant skull (that apparently are just everywhere?) a tower or two with archers that act as lookouts, and sometimes a nice chest that contains useless items that essentially make up for the lack of rupees in the world.  

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Next, we'll talk about the filler content that makes up the true world of BOTW, Shrines. Shrines are basically little mini-dungeons that are tossed willy-nilly throughout Hyrule that basically exist to provide Link with spirit orbs, 4 of which you can exchange for heart containers or stamina vessels. Shrines are pretty important because, as far as I can tell, it's going to be your main source of heart containers in the game since I haven't found any kind of heart piece or container that wasn't included in a dungeon or quest. In the beginning, finding Shrines was pretty enjoyable. The puzzles were interesting, used some of those new "tablet apps" in a pretty interesting way and were actually challenging. But the main problem with Shrines, though, is they're all just so boring after a while. Shrines have 4 basic formulas, the first being the “Tests of Strength”, which involves killing one guardian enemy of varying strength that will one-shot you all game until you have at least 10+ hearts and all guardian-resist gear. The second are just basic puzzles that rely on your Sheikah Slate runes tablet apps, the third are basic gameplay puzzles that usually involves using the paraglider, doing physics based puzzles or just tilting a maze using gyroscopic controls. The fourth don't even have puzzles, it's just about actually getting to them that's the “challenge”. Not too bad, right? At least, until you realize there are 120 of these and most of them are really simple puzzles that take maybe a minute or two to go through. And the worst part? These 120 mini-puzzles are the replacement of around half the main dungeons normally available in a Zelda game. That's right, instead of having around 7 nice, well-rounded dungeons (and one shitty water temple), you get a whole 4 short dungeons and 120 shitty mini-puzzles/mini boss fights. 

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This particular section I'm going to talk about the story  and the main missions of Breath of the Wild, and because of that I'm going to include the entire section in spoiler tags. If you don't want to know anything about the story of Breath of the Wild or about any of the quests, please avoid this entire section.

SPOILERS, AVOID THIS SECTION IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED.

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The story of Breath of the Wild is pretty basic for a Zelda game. I'll break it down as simply as I can to avoid as much spoilers as possible but this will essentially cover the whole story as you discover it in the game. Basically, the Breath of the Wild takes place 100 years after “Calamity Ganon” has ravaged Hyrule and has taken over Hyrule Castle. Link, Zelda, and four champions from the four races of Hyrule were meant to stop Ganon by using these 4 “Divine Beasts”, which are essentially giant Shiekah mechs they discovered in a prophecy and dug out of the ground (along with the Guardian enemies you face later in the game). Ganon, being a tricky trickster, took over these Divine Beasts and Guardians, killed the Champions, and severely wounded Link who was then put into the Resurrection Chamber. Zelda, being the only one left, headed to Hyrule Castle to trap Ganon there so he couldn't take over the world. Link awakes 100 years later, with no memories, to find Hyrule a rather barren and empty land. After talking to a mysterious old man (who turns out to be the ghost of the Hyrulian King), Link finds out that he was supposed to be Zelda's protector 100 years ago and now he must defeat Calamity Ganon in an effort to save Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule. Pretty simple. 


There are 4 “Main” quests that you'll get in Breath of the Wild which will branch off into their own objectives. The first is, obviously, beating Calamity Ganon. The second is to discover your lost memories by visiting places you and Zelda attended based off of pictures from your Shiekah Slate, the third is to retake the Divine Beasts from Ganon and release the Spirits of the 4 Champions, and the last is to, of course, retrieve the Master Sword. The first quest can be completed without the other three (thus beating the game), but it's usually recommended to do the other quests so you can be all powerful and have an easier time of beating Ganon. The rest of the quests, however, are the one's I have some problems with. 


I'll start off with the memories quest first, because it's the one that annoyed me more than the others. The main objective is to find 12 locations based off of vague geographical clues in pictures that you find on your Shiekah Slate (once the camera app is unlocked). That doesn't sound like it'd be too difficult, until you remember that Hyrule is supposed to be larger than Skyrim is, and unfortunately a lot of it looks relatively the same when you're looking at just a picture. I only found 4 of the 12 on my own, and 3 of them were on accident. The rest I had to look up in a guide, because the picture clues were so vague that they could've been in dozens of different places. When you show up to a memory location, you'll be taken to a cutscene where some of the back-story between Link, Zelda, and the four champions are discussed. Now Nintendo tried to be all deep and interesting with these cutscenes, giving you a “behind the scenes” look at how Link and Zelda and the four races got together. Unfortunately, the memories are so short and uninteresting that I found I had cared absolutely nothing for any of the “relationships” you supposedly had with these people, Zelda included.


The second quest we'll talk about is the Divine Beasts. This is where the majority of the main gameplay takes place, and unfortunately it's not that great. As mentioned previously, Ganon has taken control of these four Divine Beasts, and one of your tasks is to retake them so the spirits of the champions can finally rest and so you can use the beasts to beat up Ganon. First of all, these four beasts are the only main dungeons in the game. Instead of the usual 7 or 8 or however many, these four dungeons are it. Secondly, these Divine Beast Dungeons are super short. You could probably beat each dungeon in maybe 15 minutes, if you're pretty good at puzzles, and maybe 30 minutes if you're a bit slow sometimes. As I mentioned, a giant chunk of playtime for Breath of the Wild is just wandering around the empty world doing shrines and that's about it. All in all, you could probably beat these dungeons, acquire the master sword, and kill Ganon in something like 4 or 5 hours if you take everything slow.  Breath of the Wild focuses more on boring filler content then it does story or dungeons, and that, to me, is simply unacceptable in a Zelda game.


The last quest we'll talk about is receiving the Master Sword, because it too has some small problems in execution. In previous Zelda games, the way you retrieved the Master Sword was relatively the same. You'd complete a few dungeons, find the Lost Woods, then get the Master Sword and you'd use that for the rest of the game as your primary weapon. In Breath of the Wild, however, it's a bit more complicated. You could, theoretically, acquire the Master Sword as soon as you start up the game. All you have to do is find the Lost Woods, go through it, then pull the sword out of the standard pedestal it's always stuck in!...Except to pull the sword, you end up using your hearts. And if you don't have enough hearts, you'll die before being able to pull out the sword. You know how many hearts you're required to have just to pull the sword out of the pedestal? 13. 13 hearts are required just to use the breakable Master Sword. At best, you'd have to do 24 Shrines and the 4 main dungeons before you could get the sword. At worst, you'd have to do 40 Shrines if you wanted to get the Master Sword before doing any of the other dungeons in the world. But the kicker? The Master Sword isn't even required to beat Ganon, you could literally walk in his boss room with a full inventory of sticks and kill him that way (though that will never happen, thanks durability). 

END OF SPOILERS, YOU CAN START READING AGAIN.

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The last thing I'm going to talk about is something that's rather important to the Zelda series, and that's the enemies and monsters that Link can fight. Breath of the Wild has various different climates and regions, and one would expect those regions to at least host a fair variety of monsters, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case here. It seems like Nintendo left out a lot of the classic enemies that one would expect in a Zelda game. Moblins, Lizalfos, Bokoblins, one class of human enemies, Keese, Chuchu's, Octoroks, Guardians, Wizzrobe's, Lynel's and...sentient rocks are basically the only normal enemies you're going to see in this game. But where are the Skulltula's? Or the Peahats? There aren't any Deku Shrubs, Leevers, Dodangos, Poes, Tektites, Bubbles of any kind, Like Likes, Floor/Wall Masters, and actual Stalfo's (there are just skeleton versions of moblins/bokoblins which die in 2 hits).  All of these enemies, appearing in most Zelda games released, are just straight up absent. 

Verdict
Pros
+ Good looking world that fits perfectly with the Zelda franchise.
+ More in-depth story telling, even if it's not all that in-depth.
+ Solid overall gameplay, despite some poor choices made by Nintendo.
Cons
- Poorly constructed, empty, repetitive open world.
- Extreme artificial difficulty.
- Whoever designed weapon durability is a moron.
- Lack of classic Zelda enemies.
9 Presentation
Breath of the Wild is a good looking game. The Hyrule setting fits neatly into the "Updated WInd Waker" art style to provide a good looking world without making it seem overly bland and already done by other game developers.
7 Gameplay
The gameplay, overall, is decent. A few of the things Nintendo changed when it comes to core Zelda gameplay work very well, but it seems they screwed up more than they improved. Despite these goofs, the gameplay remains at least better than some similar open world adventure games.
6 Lasting Appeal
Open world games are hard to get right. You have to carefully construct each part of the world to keep the players interest while avoiding reusing certain aspects and details that provide a lasting experience. Nintendo, in my eyes, failed this part. The open world may look good, but it's simply too repetitive to truly want to explore every inch.
7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Overall, Breath of the Wild isn't necessarily a bad game. I enjoyed a lot of what I played, actual dungeons were relatively fun and initial encounters with some shrines and areas were pretty enjoyable. But I can honestly say that I have a lot of issues with how the game works and how Nintendo setup certain aspects, and I refuse to overlook them like everyone else has "because Nintendo".
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