I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, eyes wide as I gaze upon the vast region of Hyrule. The scene is breathtaking, and I’m entranced by the beautiful forests, rolling hills, and towering peaks. Directly ahead, Hyrule Castle stands tall, a symbol of peace and prosperity for all. But a closer look reveals one horrifying truth… something is terribly wrong.
Journey back to Hyrule to rescue Princess Zelda from the clutches of the insidious Ganon. Except this time around, you’ll encounter an open-world sandbox map unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Fearsome new enemies, a revamped dungeon system, and steampunk-inspired magics await those brave enough to answer Zelda’s call for help. Think you’re up for the challenge?
In the Trenches: Breath of the Wild Gameplay
You enter the game to find yourself in another typical Legend of Zelda scenario. Link wakes up dazed and confused, only to discover that he’s a hero who must embark on a journey to save the princess. But play for a few more minutes and you’ll come to a startling realization: this isn’t your typical Zelda game.
As soon as you exit the tutorial, the world is yours to explore. From the top of Death Mountain to the Waterways of Zora’s Domain– there are no restrictions on where you can go or what you can do. But how is this possible?
Breath of the Wild takes open world gameplay and sandbox-style mechanics to a whole new level. The game features an expansive and free-roaming map unlike anything before seen in the series. No longer are you confined by the traditional storyline and forced to complete each objective before moving forward. In BOTW, you choose your own path.
Want to take on Ganon as soon as you paraglide down from the high-in-the-sky tutorial plateau? Go for it. End it right here, right now. You’ve got 3 hearts and a beginner’s stamina bar, but there is absolutely nothing stopping you. Hell, you might even pull it off.
Or maybe you’d rather journey your way to the very edge of the map? The explorable area of Hyrule exceeds 10,000 acres of land, but you’re welcome to try. Because in BoTW, you’re equipped with all the items, skills, and know-how you need right from the start.
Game Meta & Physics
Each part of the map (which is unlocked by climbing to that region’s tower) is themed with a specific type of terrain. You’ll find mountainous regions, frozen tundras, tropical rainforests, and much, much more. Naturally, each one of these areas features its own wildlife and resources that are unique to that region.
These resources generally consist of different minerals, herbs, and monster parts that can be harvested and transformed into stat-enhancing dishes and elixirs. Simply gather a full inventory, make your way to a campfire, and begin concocting any number of tasty recipes. This adds an additional challenge to the game and puts you in control of when and how you heal up. Plus, this means no more random heart spawns. Instead, monsters drop a variety of other goodies.
Speaking of goodies, no Zelda game is complete without loot! But weapons, armour, and other items also work a bit differently in BOTW. You won’t be traversing from dungeon to dungeon in search of new gear the way you did in previous iterations. Instead, the gear is all around you. Need a quick weapon, or maybe a torch? Chop down a nearby tree and grab a fallen branch. Fancy a shiny new boomerang? Slay that Bokoblin over there and steal his.
The game provides everything you need, and you’re rewarded for exploration, trial, and error. Sure, you’re occasionally punished for entering a zone that you’re not skilled enough to traverse yet. But even those areas can be overcome if you’re willing to challenge yourself and test out your abilities.
What abilities, you ask? Well, players start the game with a special item called the Sheikah Slate, which grants access to a number of different steampunk-inspired abilities. These include Magnesis, which lets you manipulate metal objects. Stasis, which lets you stop the flow of time. Cryonis, which allows you to freeze water. And Remote Bombs, which allow you to summon and detonate explosives.
Now let’s imagine a scenario. There’s a giant boulder in front of you and no way around. What do you do? In BOTW, you’ve got options.
Maybe you cast Stasis on the rock to remove it from the normal flow of time. Then you smash it with a hammer! Once the rock re-enters the natural order, the pent-up energy from the hammer sends it flying high into the air and out of sight.
Or perhaps you discover that the boulder is actually made of metal. Simply pick it up with magnesis and move it out of the way. Or to hell with it all! Just blow the whole thing up with a Remote Bomb and pray for the best.
Armed with your abilities and creativity, you can manipulate the majority of objects and enemies throughout Hyrule. This results in endless mayhem, new areas to explore, and tons of additional loot. But there’s nowhere you’ll find these abilities as helpful as when you’re solving one of the game’s 100+ puzzles.
A Puzzling Experience
Shrines are puzzle-based challenges scattered across the map, and they offer numerous rewards upon completion. These rewards include a boost in your heart and stamina meters, powerful new gear, and a teleport option back to the Shrine so you can revisit the surrounding region at a later date. All you have to do is complete the puzzle within. Think you’re up for the challenge?
From puzzles that test your skills as a strategist, to combat trials, to physics-based mind-teasers that would make ‘ol Newton proud, there’s a Shrine challenge to suit every taste. My personal favorite? A particularly difficult Shrine filled with rolling rocks that threaten to squish you like a bug, Indiana Jones style.
Alongside these Shrines are the 4 major dungeon-like encounters. They’re basically glorified Shrines with bosses at the end, and the difficulty levels are significantly ramped up. These harder challengers offer you a chance to prove yourself and showcase all that you’ve learned along your journey. Complete these challenges and the rewards are truly special.
Still, despite all the Shrines and puzzles, Breath of the Wild misses part of what a Zelda game means to me. And while Nintendo has done an excellent job integrating exciting new challenges, I can’t help but miss the classic experience.
I mean, how cool would would it be to stumble across a fully fleshed-out dungeon at the base of a mountain? One that relies on the same mechanics as the Shrines, but brings you deeper into the heart of the mountain and rewards you with spectacular treasure? Yes, BOTW is filled with mystery and intrigue. But I truly miss the dungeon encounters that are so central to the series.
This Game Hy-Rules!
As for the storyline? Breath of the Wild is severely lacking in this department. It could be argued that the open-world style of play doesn’t need a strong storyline. But I disagree. This is Zelda, after all, and stories are at the heart of the franchise.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a main storyline, as well as many smaller stories that tie in. But it’s nothing like my other favorite Zelda games, including Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. These games both utilized large open-world maps, but also managed to maintain a cohesive storyline that drew me in and had me invested in the outcome. I simply don’t feel that way with BOTW.
Is that a deal breaker for me? Far from it! There’s so much excitement to be had, it can be downright overwhelming.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that I’m on a specific mission to complete a segment of the main questline. Then, out of the blue, I spot a bright glowing light streaking through the sky. Intrigued, I veer off course to uncover its secrets. Before long, I encounter a breathtaking cut-scene with small glowing animals, fairies, and a snow-white horse as beautiful as the moon. But what could it possibly mean?
Or maybe I stumble across a grassy knoll that has the perfect slope for shield sledding. I jump high in the sky, hop onto my Hylian Shield, and cruise down the mountain, performing tricks and stunts the whole way through.
These are the types of experiences that make Breath of the Wild one of the best Zelda games in the franchise’s history. Some would even go so far as to nominate it for game of the decade. Yes – it’s that good.
And while there are a few areas of the game I might tweak, I’d wager to bet that the developers accomplished exactly what they set out to do. And that’s create a Zelda game unlike anything the world has seen before. One that delivers the quality and magic that players have come to expect, while simultaneously raising the bar to an impossibly high standard. Yes, Breath of the Wild carries the legacy forward and ushers in a new era of exploration and adventure. And what more could you really ask for?
Main Campaign (9/10)
The main campaign in Breath of the Wild is a true masterpiece. As soon as you enter the world of Hyrule, there is a mind-boggling amount of content to explore. This includes a storyline centered around the eternal conflict between good and evil, personified by Zelda and Ganon. Miles upon miles of map to traverse with all types of different terrain. Gear to unlock, puzzles to complete, hidden secrets, and the list goes on and on.
In fact, there is so much content that it would be near-impossible to play for completion. But that’s not really the point.
Breath of the Wild is an open-world, sandbox-style game that places you front and center. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking world of Hyrule as you embark on your own journey, setting goals and exploring as you wish. There’s no one to tell you that you can’t do this, or that you can’t do that. The game is all about exploration and your own journey of self-discovery, through the lens of Link.
And while such a large, open-world environment and innovative concept poses challenges for any gamemaker, the development team has done an excellent job balancing the mechanics. Moreover, they’ve introduced a plethora of new and exciting features that take the series to whole new heights. It’s easy to say: Breath of the Wild is among the best Zelda games in the franchise’s long and celebrated history. And it’s one that you certainly don’t want to miss.
The Master Trials (8/10)
The Master Trials expansion released several new features into Breath of the Wild, but the most prominent is known as Master Mode.
Modeled after similar modes from other Zelda games, Master Mode takes place within the original campaign, but with a few unique twists. These changes include stronger enemies, additional loot, and potential one-hit KOs that can take Link down with little warning. In other words, Master Mode is for hardcore players looking for a more challenging experience.
In addition to Master Mode, the Master Trials expansion introduces new side quests, powerful gear, and a variety of in-game challenges. It’s an excellent addition to the game, and the DLC can be purchased alongside The Champions’ Ballad for a modest $20 price tag.
The Champions’ Ballad (9/10)
The second and final DLC expansion, The Champions’ Ballad introduces a new Main Quest storyline. The premise? Following the defeat of Calamity Ganon, Zelda contacts Link about a secret Divine Beast. It is said that the one who undertakes a series of trials may tame the beast as his own. Reach out to the Sheikah Monk known as Maz Koshia and prove your prowess once and for all.
In addition to this main questline, you’ll also find new side-quests, unexpected enemies, and plenty of extra gear. And that’s not to mention the other secret goodies that provide hours of additional entertainment! All combined, the DLC injects a ton of new content and excitement into the world of Hyrule.
Zoom In: A Closer Look
Let’s have a closer look at the game’s specifications:
- Game Modes: Campaign, Master Mode
- Expansions: The Master Trials, The Champions’ Ballad
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
- Genre: Action-Adventure
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release: 2017
- Price: $60
- Business Model: Game Sales, DLC Packs
Zoom Out: Summary
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is everything you’ve ever dreamed about in a Zelda game. Never before in the series’ long and celebrated history have players been given so much freedom to simply explore and play. There are tons of new areas to explore, puzzles to unlock, and hidden secrets just waiting to be uncovered.
High Ground View: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review Verdict
Game title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Game description: Return to the world of Hyrule to experience a new take on the iconic Legend of Zelda saga. Available for the Wii U and Switch consoles, Breath of the Wild boasts an expansive world map, innovative sandbox mechanics, and breathtaking visuals. Heralded as one of the best games in the series’ 30 year history, this iteration is sure to deliver an exceptional gaming experience for new and old fans alike.
Main Campaign - 9/10
The Master Trials - 8/10
The Champions' Ballad - 9/10