A lot has been said about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW), and for good reason. The game takes many conventions of the franchise and recontextualizes them in fascinating ways, Many fans of the series have rightfully compared to the original Legend of Zelda in the way that it allows players explore the world in essentially any way they want.
The most striking thing about BotW is introduced as soon as Link steps out of his chamber and into the open world. Unlike any other game in the series, there is an absolute sense of scale when Link looks out over the great expanse that is Hyrule. Honestly, a similar feeling has not been felt since entering the overworld in the first Legend of Zelda. This is the first time a 3D Zelda game has really evoked this feeling of being completely lost in an unfamiliar world. When the game starts off, Link awakens from a 100 year slumber. Once Link exits the shrine that he awakens in, the vast expanse that is the Great Plateau. When playing this part of the game, my attention was immediately drawn to a crusty old man sitting by a fire. I literally went in the opposite direction because who wants to talk to a crusty old man when you have a whole mountain to explore.
Before even advancing the story, I felt it would be a good idea to familiarize myself with the controls and Link’s new abilities. While I knew about Link’s ability to climb almost anything like a damn tree gecko, it was still quite thrilling. It feels like Link is an intrepid explorer like never before. When I made it to the top, I looked over the landscape and noticed a few things. While the draw distance may leave something to be desired, I was still able to pick out areas of interest that looked worth exploring. I spotted a camp of Bokoblins sitting around a fire, minding their own business, probably talking about how much they enjoyed being alive. So I decided to smack them around the head with a tree branch. I threw it at one of my opponents and it sent him reeling, his club loosened from his grip. The branch broke to pieces like a halogen light bulb, but I picked up the liberated club and continued my attack. The Bokoblin pointed and screamed at me in indignant rage only to get a club to the face and take him down.
After messing around for an hour or so, I finally spoke to the old man. Eventually, he had me climbing a tower to fill out my map. While this has become a bit of a tired trope of open world games, what I found interesting about the tower is that it did not fill my map full of objective pointers. It simply filled in the topography. More importantly, it gave me a vantage point to see the various shrines spread out across the area. This is where I felt I was actually starting the true adventure. The shrines are essentially mini dungeons that are spread out all over Hyrule. They are essentially puzzle rooms that take a few concepts of the game’s mechanics and makes you use them to complete them. From what I understand, there are more traditional dungeons in the game as well, but even those are quite different than the classic Zelda dungeons. Having said that, I have been playing the game for about 15 hours and I still have not encountered one of these challenges.
So what have I been doing to fill my time? Once I got off the Great Plateau, I found myself finding new shrines, locating towns and buying awesome new outfits. On a side note, this is by far the most stylish Link has ever been and I love it. Buying new clothing and armour has been a highlight. While link has had different tunics in the past, the sheer variety found in here is great. There are different armour sets the provide different bonuses, plus to can mix and match as well as dye his outfits to your liking. I hope this mechanic stays in the series going forward.
I’ve also found the combat scenarios pretty interesting. While I am not a huge fan of the weapon degradation, it has actually forced me to take a much more varied approach to combat. While there have been a lot of situations I could have just run in with my claymore and killing everyone, I would use arrows to pick off the archers on their towers first, then I would use steel crates or explosive barrels to whittle down my opponents even more. I would then jump in with my melee weapon and take down the rest of them, usually attempting to knock them down and then do an aerial attack to do even more damage while reducing the number of times I am actually hitting them. I would also try to parry their attacks rather than batting their shields with my sword until they dropped their guard. The game allows for players to approach combat in the more traditional Zelda style by taking them out with melee attacks or be just as effective by using various environmental hazards. There was even a moment where If my weapons were in poor condition and I was trying to get top a nearby village. The forest was littered with Bokoblins and Moblins, so rather than taking them on, I chose to mess around until night time. Eventually, they all fell asleep, so I was able to sneak through the forest and avoid them all together. Encounters with opponents of the field can be as dynamic or as straightforward as you choose.
I am still early into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but I am already quite enamored by the game. There are definitely some quirks that are not working for me. Weapon degradation continues to be a troublesome part of the game, plus there are significant framerate issues on the Wii U version that cannot be ignored. Even so, this game has captured the essence of adventure in a way few Zelda games have for the past decade. I am looking forward to spending even more time in Hyrule.