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[Review] The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Posted on March 2, 2017 by (@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch, Wii U

System: Switch (reviewed) / Wii U
Release date: March 3, 2017
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda’s prolific, seminal history has been striking the hearts of players across the globe for three decades. Attachment fans have with the series has withstood the test of time thanks to its immense and vibrant world of Hyrule, memorable characters, iconic set pieces, composition, and more. Now the newest Zelda game is finally here and puts players back in Hyrule where they must protect the kingdom from the ferocious evil that is Calamity Ganon after being asleep for 100 years. Breath of the Wild breaks out of a lot of classic Zelda traits, while instilling new ones and simultaneously making the world and game familiar for veterans, as well as accessible and eye-opening to new players alike. Breath of the Wild is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, not just for Zelda standards, but for gaming as a whole.

From the moment you get out of your slumber, you’re invited into the stunning portrait of Hyrule, painted in an exotic green, with the perfect blue hue of the sky and red rays of the sun. It doesn’t take long before you’re on your own and adventuring out into the wilderness, trying to recollect who you are and find your way back as a noble swordsman like you once were.

Breath of the Wild’s map size is huge. Really huge. The gigantic portion of the Great Plateau in which you begin is only a spec on the massive open world you’re put into. However, despite the size, it is surprisingly easy to find your way around thanks to landmarks and other cues that guide the player through the story and where they need to go next, but that doesn’t stop you from going off, exploring, and climbing wherever you please – or even going straight to Ganon if you so choose. It’s quite remarkable how Nintendo was able to build a game so big yet so coherent without ever losing a sense of value or direction. Everything you do feels like it has a purpose, and even if it may not seem like it right away, there will always be something down the line that rewards you for your efforts in whatever it is you do and how you choose to explore. Side quests among other tasks all have a reason and aren’t there to artificially increase the longevity of the game. Every task, every quest, every action impacts you and Hyrule as you see it.

Hyrule is your playground. Now that you have the ability to go anywhere and do virtually anything, you’ll have to be well equipped – not only with a hefty amount of stamina to climb and run, but with equipment as well. Your weapons will deteriorate and inevitably break over time, which is why you should always be on the lookout for new ones, especially those that enemies drop. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve conquered a certain area because you see it as “the easy part of Hyrule”, only to get hit by a flame arrow seconds later that take nearly eight hearts off of you in one hit. Always be on your guard, and if you see your weapon is about to break, you can always throw them directly at an enemy for a critical hit for one last hoorah before having to switch (snap) over to another to defend yourself further. The same will apply to your shield and arrows, and each have their own attributes and strength, so carry whatever you feel is necessary. Even if something is of an extremely low value, when you don’t have much with you, it’s always good to take it with you just in case. I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve had only to be saved by my measly low level laughable weapons thanks to throwing and headshots. A battle of wits will always conquer a battle of strength.

Breath of the Wild introduces a new cooking system, and it’s an exciting mechanic to say the least. Those familiar with creating recipes by combining various materials gained from monster parts the items scavenged throughout the world in Monster Hunter will have a lot to look forward to. You can take just about any five items in your inventory and throw them into a cooking pot, and chances are it will make something worth having. I’ve noticed, however, that combining elements that make the most sense will give you the most reward. It’s no different from cooking in real life. Vegetables go very well with other vegetables, but sometimes meat will complement the dish as well. Maybe you’d like a nice steak with a side of carrots? Go for it. You’ll gain ten hearts for that alone. Or maybe you’d want to go the seafood route and cook some salmon with suateed mushrooms? Go for it. That’ll restore fifteen hearts and give you a temporary stamina boost as well as an increase in cold resistance. It’s all left up to the player how they want to cook, and with enough food to make the world go round, the possibilities are endless. Every dish will provide you with something useful, even the extremely gross ones.

The UI and overall mechanics of Breath of the Wild are a refreshing and intuitive take on what we’ve all known Zelda to be. Hearts remain in view on the screen, and you’re given a map, along with symbols as to what your directional buttons are assigned to. The big difference, however, is the ease at which you’re able to access each respective menu. Need to change your weapon? Hold right rather than opening up a separate menu and selecting “equip” and assigning it to whichever button you please. Maybe you’d like to quickly grab some bombs? There’s a dedicated button for that. No need to equip your paraglider to your weapon slot to use it – just jump, and hit the jump button again to engage. Everything feels right mechanically, and the cleanliness of the UI and intuitive manner of sub menus and the like are such a pleasure to have in Breath of the Wild, as well as frequent auto-saving and freedom of choice with how you choose to gain hearts or stamina. The combat is fluid, and the variety of weapons, clothing, and various other items and what you can do with them make the game feel unique to you, the player. Everything is tailored to how you want, making Breath of the Wild that much more exciting and captivating. You truly feel like the game was made for you.

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