With a lot of long-running video game franchises, we really love the instalments we play as children and consider them our favourites. We then enjoy the games which come later, but never feel like the later games reach the heights of the earlier ones. This happens with me quite a lot and was certainly the case with the Zelda series. My number one favourite was either Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask and I honestly thought that was always going to be the case – in part, due to nostalgia. With this in mind, what I’m about to say is quite a big deal: Breath of the Wild is my favourite Zelda game.
But I have to admit, I wasn’t won over right away. When I first started playing it, I was overwhelmed. I was kind of having fun, but I thought to myself “This doesn’t feel like Zelda. This is too open. I don’t know what to do or how things work. This is unfamiliar and I’m not sure I’ll get used to it.” I see a lot of people whose final thoughts on the game are similar to my first impressions, but I am pleased to say that my opinion soon turned around.
This is the most open the series has ever been and it does take some getting used to. The first game was pretty open, but it still required you to collect certain items to do certain things and had general order to it. With Breath of the Wild, you could literally head straight to the final boss immediately after the tutorial. It would be ridiculously hard, but it’s possible.
At it’s core, the game is all about getting Link ready to face Ganon. You explore the lands and do everything you can to make yourself stronger. Maybe you try and find really strong armor, maybe you try and find the strongest weapon, maybe you create lots of potions so you can endlessly heal yourself, or maybe you do the game’s dungeons so that you can unlock powerful magic.
There are lots of things you can do, all of them geared around making Link stronger. There are ‘shrines’ hidden around the world and if you find one, you’ve got a small challenge to complete (some simply fighting an enemy, some complex puzzles) and the reward for doing so is a Spirit Orb – Spirit Orbs are exchanged for an increase to your maximum health, or an increase to your maximum storage.
You can also follow the path of the main story, which has you entering the four Divine Beasts in order to rid them of evil. These are four giant mechanical monsters and their insides are dungeons. Getting to them involves working with different groups of people, including the Gerudo, Zoras, Rito and Gorons. It’s nice that all of the main groups play an equally important role in the story.
Whatever you decide to do, there’s a whole fully fleshed out world to get to grips with as you do it. You can harvest vegetables and learn how cooking works, harvest other resources and learn how to make potions. You can even figure out how to tame horses and other creatures. But you’ll probably spend the most time experimenting with the physics – you can interact with the world by creating pillars of ice out of water, freezing items and enemies in time, creating bombs and moving things with a magnet. This allow for near endless possibilities.
I think what I love most about Breath of the Wild, is how beautiful and immersive its world is. There are times where I’d literally stop moving so that I could take in the scenery and listening to the ambient sounds of nature. Often there isn’t even any background music, just wind blowing, birds singing and insects chirping, but when there is it’s some wonderfully minimalist piano pieces. Just walking around and exploring is so relaxing. What makes this even more amazing is that you can literally go anywhere (other than past invisible walls at the far ends of the massive map) – you can look to the horizon in every direction and you can explore every inch of the land you can see.
There’s so much to see and so much to do. As well as the shrines that are hidden everywhere, there are mini-bosses scattered all around, ruins and treasures to discover, people in peril to protect, Great Fairies hiding away, towns and villages to discover, the remains of iconic locations from previous games in the series, forests and fields full of wildlife, mountains to climb, rivers to sail, resources and vegetables to gather and cook and so much more.
Overall, I’ve gotten 160 hours out of this game so far and I can’t remember the last time a game provided me with that much entertainment. Beyond the main game, you’ve also got DLC, which expands upon the story – it doesn’t continue the story, unfortunately, but adds more to what you have and provides lots of enjoyable new challenges and items to gather. Considering I loved all of it so much, I was happy to pay to extend my time with it.
If you’re an unsure Zelda fan, I recommend giving it a try or sticking to it. I realise my initial negativity was just a reluctance to accept change – but everything must change and this is definitely a change for the better. If you’ve never tried the series before, this would be a great place to start! I envy those who haven’t played, because I would so love the opportunity to discover Hyrule all over again.