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Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

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I feel like I’ve said this quite a lot already but here we go again. I have a confession to make. Now I haven’t played a lot of Zelda, in any capacity. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was actually the first one I properly started. Since then, I have at least played some of some of the franchise. So I’m not the biggest Zelda fan by any means, but I can appreciate the marvel that is Breath of the Wild, nonetheless.

BotW was a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, it was actually the first game that I played on Switch. I’ll obviously talk about this a bit more later but it may be the best looking game on the Switch, still. I remember how blown away I was, starting it up and playing in handheld mode.

Gameplay? 7/10 – With fresh combat and exploration, BotW is held back by frustrating mechanics and exhausting collectables.

Hmm…Gameplay… Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay. Where to start really? 

You play as Link. Yeah that’s a good enough start. 

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Ok for real now, I think you can split the gameplay into 3 distinct sections. Combat, exploring, and questing.

Let’s talk about combat first. The combat system in BotW is pretty similar to other Zelda titles. You get a sword, a shield, and a bow, You can lock onto enemies and keep your shield up to deflect attacks. You have 2 bars to keep track of. Your health, which is made of a number of hearts, and is pretty standard for Zelda titles, and a stamina circle. A lot of actions reduce this bar, including traversal like running and climbing.

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Speaking of the weapons, they work a little different this time around. Instead of getting a weapon and just using that throughout the game, each weapon has its own durability. When this durability reaches 0 it breaks. That’s every weapon, bar one (guess which one, in the Zelda series, doesn’t just break?), that will break. So you will have to constantly be on the lookout for replacement swords, shields, and bows. I really do not like this, especially seeing as you start off with very limited weapons space in your inventory. 

The “swords” as I called them, are actually just different types of melee weapons. There are one handed swords, two handed swords, and spears just to name a few. This does give them quite a lot of variety and gives the player a lot of options. Each weapon allows you to basically just do basic attack combos but also give you a charged attack as well. All weapon types have different combos, which is nice.

There are dodges and parries that you can do to avoid damage. I believe this is a new to the Zelda series. After you have made a perfect parry you can do a flurry rush. This rush slows down time and allows you to attack multiple times before the flow of time returns to normal. This works on basically all physical attacks from enemies, including the final boss (this is awesome!).

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On top of this you get access to special powers, like glowing bombs. These can be used in combat as well as in puzzle solving.

Next let’s talk about the exploration. I don’t know whether it should be in this section but I’m going to include shrines and Koroks in this section. 

The map is vast. It’s honestly so impressive that they managed to put such a ridiculously sized map in this game. Pretty much every inch of the map has something for you to explore. 

To get around you will be running, riding, gliding, and climbing. This is basically all self explanatory, I will however specifically talk a little bit about the climbing and the games weather system.

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That might seem a little random but I assure you it’s not. I don’t like the climbing in this game very much and there is a lot of it. You can climb on almost anything in the game, which to be fair is very cool. As standard though it’s pretty slow, time consuming, and your stamina drains very quickly. This is all just very annoying. There is a kind of saving grace, in that you can both increase your stamina, and also get some clothing that will improve your climbing ability. 

This is where I will mention the weather. I hate the effect that the weather has on traversal. It’s that simple, it literally ruins the gameplay. So what do I mean here? Well there are many different kinds of weather in the game. These can pop up all over and things like rain seem to be pretty random. If it rains, everything will get wet. If a rock face is wet, it basically becomes impossible to climb. So if you’re trying to get to some kind of collectable and you need to climb up to it and it rains, you cannot get this anymore. You will have to either wait for the rain to randomly stop or just leave it and go do something else.

For me this is genuinely bad design. For a game that seems to pride itself on giving the player all this choice it’s weird there’s a mechanic that can literally stop you playing the game the way you want. The weather looks nice, but ultimately it’s an awful time.

You are given the Sheikah Slate, it’s basically a large smartphone with a bit more. Important for this section is that it provides you with a map. Going around this map, there are towers. If you climb a tower and turn it on, it will provide you more information on your map as well as giving you a vantage point to locate other landmarks. One of the main things that you will be finding at the top of the tower are the shrines.

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There are a lot of them. Most of them will take you down into a small dungeon, normally with a puzzle. Completing this puzzle and getting to the end will reward you with a Spirit Orb. Getting 4 of these orbs will allow you to turn them in to get either more hearts or a larger stamina bar. I actually really like this, I know normally Zelda titles have you getting heart containers but I think getting rewards like this for the shrines is the perfect kind of reward in a game like this.

On top of the shrines you will also discover a lot of Koroks on your journey, well you will if you solve their little puzzles. Koroks are kind of little wooden forest spirits, they’re weird and cute, that’s all that matters. Solving their puzzles all over the map makes them appear, when they appear they gift you a Korok seed. These Korok seeds can be exchanged for another inventory slot for your weapons. There are 900 total Korok seeds. This is insane and unnecessary, especially seeing as each one affects your overall completion percentage.

As you make your way around you may find different kinds of ingredients. These can be fruits, fish, or nuts for example. You can take all these to a cooking pot and, well, cook. Putting a bunch of stuff into a cooking pot together can produce food and potions.

These will give you plenty of different buffs, like restoring a large chunk of health and giving you better fire resistance. It comes with a neat little jingle when you cook too. The only thing I don’t like about cooking, is that you have to go into your inventory, “hold” all of the ingredients, and then come out of your inventory and then press to drop them all in the pot.

I think a better way would have been to use a specific cooking menu when you go up to a cooking pot.

Jeez, finally onto the last part, questing. This will be briefer than the rest, luckily.

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There are 3 types of quests in BotW: there’s the main questline, side quests, and then extra tasks.

The main quest obviously follows the story, this takes you all over the map, going through special dungeons, and fighting bosses.

There are a lot of side quests, these come in all different kinds, and with different rewards. As far as I’m aware these don’t affect the main story in any way. The extra tasks are basically the same, they are just even smaller quests.

Overall I do like the gameplay loop in BotW but it must be said that there is a little too much. Too many collectables, too many shrines, too many Koroks, and too large a map. I know that more content is always welcome but the devs went a little mad here. They added in more than was necessary, didn’t add enough rewards for doing it all and left it a little unbalanced.

My hope for the sequel would be less quantity, more quality.

Visuals? 10/10 – Still standing as the best looking Nintendo Switch title, Breath of the Wild is stunning.

I think BotW is the best looking game on Switch. 

If you think of any games that look better on Switch, feel free to leave it in the comments below.

Zack in particular would like to give a very honourable mention to Atral Chain in this case.

But for now we will work on the assumption that nothing looks better. 

The scenery in BotW is just breathtaking. Looking at scenic views all over the game never gets old, combine that with different weathers, and an impressive day and night cycle and you’ve got a tasty vista soup.

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Throughout my playthrough there were never any frame drops or other issues for me. I played in both handheld and docked mode. When I first played it, I played handheld and was instantly blown away. What is even more impressive is that when comparing handheld to docked, there aren’t any noticeable changes, aside from the resolution, or drops in quality. Both look incredible.

Audio? 10/10 – With a well suited tone, and consistent performance, the audio quality is consistently fantastic.

I don’t remember having any issues with any of the audio in the game. 

The soundtrack to this game is gorgeous. It really instills a sense of wonder and whimsy in you. It’s not Doom or Dark Souls level of epic but rather it’s a softer kind of orchestral ensemble.

Honestly, for most of the OST I think the image conjured is that of Wood Elves. I think that’s both apt and relevant for this series.

The majority of it is just sweet and calming in the most perfect way. You can be strolling down a grassy hill, minding your own business, listening to some sweet melodies. It’s honestly bliss.

There are still slight track changes for fights and the like, but it stays firmly within the Wood Elf aesthetic. This is not a complaint by any means.

Story? 9/10 – With Breath of the Wild leaving you a lot of choice in your approach, the simple story on show is refreshing.

I don’t know whether anything here will be a spoiler or not, so sorry in advance.

Basically, you, as Link, wake up after a pretty long nap. By that I mean a 100 year healing slumber. Same diff. Anyway you wake up to a world that’s not doing so good. Ganon’s corruption has spread to every corner of the map and Princess Zelda is nowhere to be seen.

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You are tasked with putting an end to Ganon’s destruction, in this new era. You are pretty much given a choice, go straight and try to fight Ganon, with him at full strength. Or go to each of the other kingdoms and restart the 4 Divine Beasts. These are ancient machines that can be used to fight Ganon’s corruption with you.

Each of the Divine Beasts give you a set of challenges that you have to overcome, just to get to them. Each area that you visit gives you very different experiences, I like this alot. 

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Not to spoil too much but there is one instance where Link has to cross dress to get into a city. I like this, it’s a little silly but it makes sense based on the city you’re trying to enter. Also Link works it! Let me tell you!

It’s a really simple story and there isn’t really a whole lot going on but I like it. I especially like the idea that you can just skip a lot of stuff and go straight to the final showdown as it were.

I know there is a lot that I left out, obviously, but I really hope that the sequel has a much more fleshed out story, with more substance really.

Acting? 7/10 – With Zelda unfortunately not standing up to scrutiny, BotW does a decent job overall.

I think the voice acting in this game is just ok. It’s nothing special and I don’t think that it should win an award in this category.

My biggest complaint goes to Zelda, I just really don’t think she does a good job in this game. 

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Maybe it’s just me but it kind of just reminds me of a bad 90’s anime dub. Which is fine for a 90’s anime, but for a flagship title, and a launch exclusive it should be a bit better at least.

Other than that though everything is passable if nothing else.

Writing? 9/10 – With some of the interactions changing based on your approach, the writing is only let down by Link still being a mute.

This really goes hand in hand with the story section for me. It’s cool that they wrote this in a way that gives you so many choices. The end confrontation changes based on what you have completed of the main story before you enter it. As I said I really like this.

The only complaint I have is with Link being a mute, or a telepathic. There will be basically a full conversation involving Link but he doesn’t say a word. I get it, that’s his shtick, but it’s not great when every other character is fully voice acted. This actually does break some immersion, for me anyway.

Other than that, I would just like some more substance to the story.

Performance? 10/10 – With no noticeable frame drops, BotW performs marvellously on the Switch.

I honestly cannot fault the performance of this game in any way. Through all my playtime, and on both handheld and docked modes, there didn’t seem to be so much as a frame drop.

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Everything always looked gorgeous and played perfectly. So there really isn’t much to talk about here at all.

Fun Factor? 8/10 – Slightly let down by an empty world, and far too many collectables, BotW is still a beautiful game with lots to keep you busy.

Overall, BotW is a very fun game. It’s beautiful, it’s open, there’s lots to see, lot’s to do, and you have a lot of freedom. I think in all of this, the important thing is that there is choice. There is a lot of it in BotW, and I think that’s one of the main things that makes it so fun.

For me, choosing your fashion in games is always important. In games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls, Fashion-souls is a real thing and it’s so important. I mentioned this in It seems like BotW took a leaf out of this book and gave you many, many choices on your outfit. Although there are situations where you basically have to wear certain outfits, for the most part, you can mix and match as you please. I love this in particular.

If I were to point out any areas in which I think the “fun” stops, it would be a lot of things being too big. And the goddamn weather.

With things being too big, what I mean is that the world is slightly too big. There isn’t that much “civilisation” around so a lot of it is just open spaces. I know it’s supposed to, but the world seems a lot more empty when there aren’t very many towns and cities. Maybe that’s just me.

The other thing that’s too big, is the challenge of collecting everything. There are too many collectables, having to get like 900 Korok seeds is not a fun challenge, especially when there isn’t much reward. I think they went a little too far with this. Reduce that by like 800 and then it would be fine, but at so many it makes most people not even bother.

Then let’s finish on the weather. It frankly sucks. It looks good, it provides interesting scenery and makes for nice pictures. The problem is that it can just be game stopping. Oh you want to climb this thing, oh it’s raining, guess you’re going nowhere. 

Let me be more specific here, when it rains in game, everything gets wet. Surprising I know. The problem is, that without the right armour, you can’t climb very well on any surface if it’s wet. So if it’s the beginning of the game, or you haven’t gone to the right place to get it, you just can’t climb anything. You’ll either have to wait for the rain to stop, or just travel somewhere else and quit what you were trying to do.

I’m happy for progress blocks in games, where you need a certain late game power to carry on. This is fine for me, random weather stopping you from exploring an area is a no go for me.

Value? 9/10 – With Nintendo pricing still coming across as aggressive, Breath of the Wild is still great value for money.

This is a particularly hard one to measure. On one hand you get a lotta play for your buck. Then on the other hand, it’s still at best a £40 to £50 game years later.

I don’t mind saying that I dislike it when a game doesn’t reduce in price, whether it’s popular or amazing, a game that has been out for years should be cheaper. That’s my opinion anyway. It doesn’t seem like BotW has really gone down in price overall.

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I accept that this is more of a Nintendo problem than a BotW specific one. It just irks me something fierce.

I would have to say that, full price, is probably still worth it. I would have to say though, that you should definitely try to wait for a sale or something before picking this game up at full price.

As I said, in the first hand, there is lot of game to play and you will be playing this for the rest of your life if you ever want to 100% complete it.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 8/10 – Despite irritating game mechanics and a frustrating collectable count, Breath of the Wild is still a blast.

Overall I really quite enjoyed Breath of the Wild, it’s a gorgeous game with a vast and open world. It has a really good combat system and some interesting puzzles. It’s a perfect example of what the Switch can do and really set the tone for the console. 

It has become something of a benchmark for what is possible, graphically, on the Switch. It definitely deserves being put on this podium.

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There is a pretty interesting story with a wide open world for you to explore. There is always something for you to do, or something that you missed on your first passing. This keeps you going all over and engaging with the world. This is just a double edged sword.

For all of the enjoyment that I experienced with this game it does let itself down in a couple of areas. Firstly I’m not a fan of weapons breaking in games, this is true for any game. The only exception is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion where you can repair them. 

It is annoying and inconvenient to constantly have your limited weapon stock breaking all the time. It also doesn’t allow you to get attached to any weapons, or let you use them enough to really enjoy them. 

Then the main one for me being, just how much there is to do. There are too many shrines, too many Korok seeds, too many enemy types, and everything else. After finishing the main story, getting a couple dozen Korok seeds, doing some side quests, and finishing enough shrines to get the Master Sword I only finished on just under 17%. That doesn’t give me any motivation to continue playing at that point.

It is deeply disheartening for me, to see all that time and effort equating to pretty much nothing. If you want to see just how maddening it is to try to get 100% in this game, check out The Completionist on YouTube.

It is a very good game and I would definitely recommend it. I just hope that for the sequel they are working on, they reduce just the ridiculous amount of collectibles and things there are. Then make the rewards for the ones they leave better.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review.
Written by Kyle Munn.

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