Okay, I know, everyone is writing about Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and considering I’m a huge Zelda fan I’m sure this blog post won’t come as a surprise. But maybe some comments will be unexpected!
When I first played Breath of the Wild, I hated it. Not trying to be edgy, but I was genuinely filled with crushing disappointment because I felt like it had taken every open world trope ever, and put a sprinkle of Zelda over the top. I messaged my friends ‘my life is over, Breath of the Wild sucks.’ Maximum level drama.
I felt like that because it really does take a lot of cliche things from open world games e.g the Ubisoft tower system (sorry Ubi ily <3), objective markers, inventory systems urururur please stop and put all that in the bin.
But once I got over the initial shock of it all and vowed to just take it as a game, any game, not a Zelda game, I started to appreciate it a lot more for what it is. It really does require a bit of time to recapture the Zelda essence that I am familiar with.
The story is the usual Zelda offering, the evil Ganon has taken over Hyrule Castle, Zelda is trying to contain him but she needs your help to actually defeat him once and for all. Well not once and for all but you know what I mean. (He always comes back in some form.) Frankly, I thought considering they have changed they entire game they would also revamp this tired storyline, but they didn’t. I think I would have preferred that, but I’m sure some other fans would have had a heart attack if they did. But hey, Majora’s Mask as nothing to do with Ganon really and it’s my favourite of the lot.
This time however, instead of the usual linear story, you have a vast – I mean vast – Open World to contend with. You can go anywhere at any time, providing you have the right tools to navigate the world and enough hearts to survive. The progression you see for yourself comes in a few formats – one is with the collection of Divine Beasts, and there are 4 of these you need to free before you can enter Hyrule Castle. Each of these gives you an additional power that Link can use in his time of need. The Divine Beasts are really the areas in which you get the most of the narrative content, meeting warriors from the past and finding the Gerudo, the Zora, the Gorons and the Rito, races you have seen in past Zelda titles. The beasts themselves are also dungeons in the traditional Zelda format, except instead of being static, you can actually control the shape of the beast which gives you access to new rooms and is part of the overall puzzle. I found those to be very traditionally Zelda-esque and I personally liked them a lot. Each of the Divine Beasts is completed after a boss battle of some form, restoring peace to it’s core so it can lend it’s aid in the final battle with Ganon.
The next progression system is the ability to upgrade your Hearts and your Stamina Gauge (stamina bars, vomit…), and you can do this by collecting orbs from the various shrines scattered across the world. I actually really love the shrines in BoTW, because they are the smart and interesting puzzles you’ve seen in Zelda games for years but in a small, digestible format over the epic temples that could take a couple of hours to complete. Most of these are interesting and fun (with a few exceptions) and there are 120 of them to keep you busy over the course of the game.
And another level of progression is the acquisition of stronger weapons and armor. The strength of the weapon is indicated by a number, which seems kind of unnecessary in the beginning as I can tell that a tree branch is less powerful than the flaming sword of destiny (I made that up) but it does become more relevant as you get more and more weapons. You can also upgrade any armor set with the power of the lovely Great Fairies that are scattered around the Zelda Universe.
I am usually not a fan of Open World games at all, I find they can be empty, unfeeling, filled with menial tasks that mean don’t mean anything to anyone. Zelda, for some reason, doesn’t seem to suffer this issue. Areas of the world could be considered empty, but because there are always pockets of interesting, weird, quirky or surprising discoveries around the corner, it doesn’t leave you exploring too long before you stumble across something worth finding. One thing I do really miss however is the Hylian Field music! There is rarely any music in the open world which I assume is because it might get annoying and repetitive but it is missed.
One mechanic which is both satisfying and frustrating in equal measure is the climb mechanic. It uses your stamina bar, and if your stamina bar runs out while you are clinging to a cliff face you will of course fall to your grisly doom. There is something very satisfying about climbing to the top of the tallest mountain and looking out on the world of Hyrule, and there are tense moments when you aren’t sure if you are going to make it to the next ledge in the process. But, climbing does take ages and it can be very boring. What makes it worse is the random bursts of rain that you can do absolutely nothing about which leave you stranded on the edge of a mountain and all you can do is wait around until the rain passes. I think this is a great idea for areas that you are never supposed to climb – it’s an easy way to show players that that area is off limits in a way that’s understandable, but otherwise it’s irritating.
At the moment, I’ve done 3 of 4 of the Divine Beasts, and I have about half the shrines done. I think before I tackle the final battle with Ganon, I will aim to complete all the shrines and then I’ll be the best equipped to defeat him! Before that however, to get the full picture of what happened to lead up that moment – you can collect memories, or flashbacks essentially of what happened before you woke up in the Resurrection Chamber at the start of the game. I always think this is a really cheap way to tell a story, especially in a fantasy game where anything is possible, but at least there is story content that tells you about the relationships between Zelda, Link and the warriors of the Divine Beasts. It makes you care about the situation more. The voice acting makes me very upset but other than that, it’s nice to see those cutscenes.
Overall, despite my disappointment in the beginning it’s definitely grown on me to the point where I’m having fun. I can’t say it’s a 10/10 best game ever and I’m still confused as to how that happened due to it’s many flaws, but there is definitely comfort in knowing that another Zelda game is bringing joy to many people and I still think that’s a wonderful accomplishment.
Maybe I’ll look back on it fondly like all the other Zelda games.
Thanks for reading~