Truly, a breath of fresh air.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is truly the closest realization of what the first game on the NES was trying to achieve. There are very few open world games I’ve played that feel as freeing and energetic, and while fans of the Zelda series may find a bit of a different game from what they’re used to, Breath of the Wild combines the best elements of the franchise with that of a masterfully executed open world game.
Every facet of Breath of the Wild works in favor of the open, from its nonlinear and mysterious story to head-scratching dungeons, and a wealth of collectibles. Instead of having a lengthy prologue or tutorial, the game starts with Link waking up in mysterious ruins, before setting out to the open world ahead of him. The story can be pursued in any order you choose, allowing you to explore the world at your leisure, climbing practically every surface from trees to sheer cliffs.
Just clambering around this massive world is incredibly satisfying, piecing your way up a huge cliff just to see a gorgeous sunset at the top, or using your Shiekah Slate to pick out a tiny rock you can paraglide down to. There’s a rare sense of discovery that Breath of the Wild has that few other games can really capture. The key to everything, though, is how liberally discoveries are sprinkled throughout the world of Hyrule. Nintendo has done a great job of giving you an incentive to peek around every corner, placing Koroks, Shrines, treasure chests, rare items, and more on every portion of the map.
The story manages a layer of mystery that keeps you wondering, and wanting to learn what happened in the 100 years preceding Link’s strange awakening. The main quest has you searching out four “Divine Beasts,” each representing a different race of Hyrule, each a key in the fight against Ganon, and each serving as a main dungeon of the game. Although the Divine Beast dungeons aren’t as lengthy as what you might see in other Zelda games, they each have impeccably well designed puzzles that let you shift or move a part of the creature itself. They’re mind-bending and challenging, but ultimately feel immensely satisfying to overcome.
The biggest difference that struck me between Breath of the Wild and previous Zelda games is how truly alive the towns feel. Link is alone in much of the world of Hyrule, so the villages are bastions of activity, letting you rest at an inn and recover your strength, restock your depleted supplies, and learn information about the area from the locals. It’s an absolute breath of fresh air, after spending an hour poking around cliffs and meadows, to wander into a new town or stable after half an hour of wandering in the wilderness, just to meet new and fascinating characters.
Breath of the Wild still has the same goofy charm in its writing and NPCs that the rest of the series does, and there’s some truly hilarious moments of dialogue throughout the game. Towns are packed with personalities, many of which will give you a sidequest, hint at a secret, or help you learn more about the game’s lore. I couldn’t get enough of poking around each and every corner of these locations, and returning frequently, only to find a subtle change with a character’s dialogue, or find a new sidequest that popped up.
Sidequests more often than not have quirky stories and characters attached to them. They also employ every aspect of the game, requiring you dabble in cooking, climbing, combat, runes, and everything else. One of my favorite side missions saw me paragliding down to a secluded island in search of a Shrine. Suddenly a voice spoke to me, challenging me to survive on the island, and stripping me of all the items I’d collected on my journey. I was forced to scrape what weapons and food I could from the area, while trying to solve the puzzle I was forced into.
While there are four main dungeons to tackle, most of the puzzles in the game take the form of Trial Shrines. There are 120 of these locations scattered around the world, and each one features a puzzle or set of puzzles to solve, with your reward being a Spirit Orb that can be used to boost your Stamina or Hearts. Mostly these are smartly designed self-contained puzzles, each with a specific catch or gimmick.