Note: Played on Nintendo Switch.
*No spoilers, besides the mention of enemy types!*
As of April 2nd, I have invested over 105 hours into the latest Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. To say that I simply enjoyed my time exploring Hyrule would be an understatement; I found myself immersed in the game world, unable to stop playing for hours at a time. I’ll do my best in this review to describe what I most enjoyed about the game, and also which elements I found to be disappointing during my journey.
Breath of the Wild encourages exploration and creativity like no other open-world game has before. All of your essential tools and tricks are unlocked near the beginning of the game, after completing just a few short puzzles, and I found this to be a refreshing change of pace from the usual Zelda formula. Keep in mind, I have played a good majority of the games in the Zelda series, so the tried-and-true formula of past adventures has begun to wear thin on me. The changes to the formula that Breath of the Wild provides are much welcome, and while the same sense of progression from collecting unique tools is gone, the feeling of growth from upgrading your life capacity or stamina gauge replaces it in a satisfactory way.
Every player going through the new Zelda is sure to have an opinion on whether they are in favor of the weapon durability system. For me, I think the weapon durability system falls a bit short, and the reasons for its inclusion are lackluster. Many people cite its presence as a way for players to use all of the different weapon types given to them, and while it is a fact that players will constantly need to be utilizing different weapons because of their low durability, I do not think this is a fun method of encouraging variety. I should want to utilize different weapons because of the situation at hand, and the unique properties of that weapon; not because the game has told me that my time with a particular weapon has run out. This becomes less of a problem as the player’s inventory slots for holding weaponry grow larger, because running into a shortage of swords and axes is not as likely, but reaching that point is a slow burn. I believe the durability of weapons should have been tweaked to allow for more hits per weapon before breaking, because as it stands, before battles begin I am often forced to wonder which weapon to use that I least care for so that my better arsenal stays intact.
Enemy variety is also something that I felt lacking in Breath of the Wild. Nearly every enemy type you fight is a bipedal creature wielding a weapon that can be utilized by the player. This is a purposeful design choice, so that the player is given a wide variety of weapons to choose from when they defeat foes standing in their way, and don’t run out of something to use as a weapon. However, I found the lack of previous games’ enemies such as poes, re-deads, tektites, and wallmasters to be disappointing. This is only an issue that sprung up deep in the game, when I had already completed the main story and finished a good majority of the shrine and side quests, so I had seen every enemy type. The inclusion of mini-bosses in the form of Hinox, stone Talus, or Molduga is a very welcome addition, and I wish there were even more types of these mini-bosses peppered around the game world. Perhaps being able to actually defeat the three dragons that fly around Hyrule would remedy this, but I digress.
Speaking of fighting enemies, the combat in Breath of the Wild is the best among the entire series. Performing last-second dodges to trigger bullet time slashing is extremely satisfying, as is parrying a monster’s attack to open them up for more attacks. Fighting guardians is among the most exciting aspects of combat in this game, especially while on horseback, thanks to the game’s very smart inclusion of slow-motion arrow firing while mid-air. This allows players to line up precise shots when falling, while still feeling like a master archer. Whether you’re figuring out the weakness of each enemy and exploiting it to overcome large groups, taking out enemies stealthily one by one, or sneaking past an enemy encampment altogether, every combat engagement is satisfying and feels natural (besides my complaints with the weapon durability). Speaking of natural, I won’t touch on this for long, but interactions with NPC’s in the game world are done extremely well. There are many likable characters that provide interesting dialogue and side quests for the player to explore, and the inclusion of animals roaming the open world make Hyrule feel like a lived-in place. Major props on that front.
To wrap this up, I’d like to mention the story that Zelda presents. The decision to tell the game’s story largely via flashbacks is an exciting venture that I think pays off. Each of the cutscenes is interesting and well-paced, and while I do think the voice acting is hit-or-miss in some places, it gets the job done well enough. The final encounter fills a satisfying conclusion to the adventure, even if it did not provide much surprise. Overall, I am extremely satisfied with Nintendo’s newest Zelda release, and eagerly await to hear more about the franchise’s future. I know I’ll be waiting day one to replay this entire game on the upcoming hard difficulty.
Thanks for reading!
Oh, I almost forgot. I’m finishing up Horizon: Zero Dawn this week, and will probably be writing my impressions of that game in the near future, when I’m not busy with Persona 5 (releasing tomorrow)! Man, it’s an exciting time to be playing video games. Have a great week, everyone.