Many have long held "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" as the best game ever made, although it may be time for a new contender to take its place.
Spoiler Warning: The following review contains minor spoilers involving some story, gameplay aspects and the races of Hyrule featured in the game.
A little over 30 years ago, the original “The Legend of Zelda” released and was the base for many fantasy action games for years to come. A majority of the games in the series since then though have stuck to a bit more linear path and formula, which isn’t bad at all considering the success of the series and how much people like myself have loved it so far. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been a desire for a truly open-world “Zelda” game. Ever since I first played “Skyrim,” which I enjoyed immensely, I and probably many others have longed for a game such as that. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is everything I wanted from the game I imagined then and delivers even more than what I expected.
This is probably the first title in the series that has had challenging combat since “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” and you can certainly see inspiration from the “Dark Souls” series, although it’s not quite as frustrating. I saw the game over screen my fair share of times, especially in the beginning of the game. There are also numerous ways to kill and be killed in the game, watching clips online I see ways I didn’t even know were possible, even with my 40-50 hours of game time. The game does a great job at teaching you the mechanics early on without too much hand-holding which many had gripes with in previous games. The game does a nice job at keeping the difficulty of enemies scaled to you as every so often an in game event occurs which repopulates enemy camps you took out with a bit more powerful ones to take their spot.
Hyrule this time around is huge and when they say you can go anywhere you can see, they mean it. The new climbing mechanic makes this possible, allowing Link to climb anything in the world as far as his stamina will take him, which is upgradeable. The world is filled with things to explore and find, which is part of why I love this game so much. There is a sense of satisfaction when you discover a treasure or shrine off the beaten path, which hearkens back to the original game. The game also does horses in an interesting way, having you tame wild ones and build up a bond with them as you play, unlike past games. Scattered across Hyrule are horse stables as well which allow you to register horses and sleep to recover health. You can also find useful NPCs around the area as well, giving you side-quests or tips about the surrounding area.
There are four main dungeons in the game but also over 100 shrines hidden throughout the world. The shrines are usually minor puzzles similar to the test chambers in “Portal” but also can be tests of combat as well. After each shrine you get an item which can be turned into an extra heart piece or stamina vessel for every four you collect. These shrines strike a balance between a good challenge but not hard enough to make you want to break your controller in half.
The game begins with Link awakening from his 100 year long nap after failing to defeat Calamity Ganon. This is also the first title to come with voice acting, which only occurs during cutscenes and Link remains mute for the games entirety as always. The voice acting is decent but nothing to write home about, probably one of my only faults with the game. There is a sense of mystery as you learn more about Hyrule before its collapse from Calamity Ganon and hear pieces of lore from various people. One reason I especially love the game is it features many of my favorite races from the series including Gorons, Zoras, Rito, Gerudo and the adorable Koroks. The game also features the same wacky characters you’d expect from a “Zelda” game, while still going with the games more serious tone.
With every “Zelda” game you expect a wide variety of memorable music and while that is there in certain areas, the game opts for a more minimalist soundtrack while exploring the world, relying more on nature’s sounds and a few notes on the piano. Some are against this choice, but I love what they did and believe it goes well with a game that has already changed many of the conventions typical with a “Zelda” game. The game’s graphics also are superb considering the hardware and while it may not be as high fidelity as something like the “Witcher 3,” it’s the game’s art style and visuals that make it so great. Having a great art style can go a long way, which is why “The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker” still looks good to this day as well.
Right from about the first few hours of the game you essentially have the tools you need to take on every boss, meaning you can tackle the dungeons in any order you want just like the original games many years ago. There isn’t really any area blocked off once you get off of the Great Plateau, thanks to the para-glider and aforementioned climbing mechanics.
Not all of the game is spot on, I noticed some frame-drops specifically in the forest areas of the game, as well as pop-ins as you get closer to areas in the world. None of these really break the game and are more inconveniences, it mostly surprised me how little they occurred on such a slim piece of hardware like the Switch.
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” takes the series into new grounds with its huge open world filled with secrets, shrines, side-quests and much more for players to consume. It retains common “Zelda” conventions while breaking others that fans have grown accustomed to in an exciting way. Fans of the series will no doubt love this entry as it is shaping up to be the best in the series, if not one of the best games ever made.