Breath of the Wild: A Review

Last post I was wondering if I would continue grinding out gear, or just go beat Ganon already. Well, I chose the latter. So now I can give my full thoughts in a review.

This is a great game. An absolute masterpiece. While there isn’t really any other option, it’s definitely worth paying full price for this game. Hell, it almost justifies my purchase of a Switch just by itself. It isn’t perfect, and I can certainly see why it puts off some long-time Zelda fans, but to me, this game is nearly ideal. If I had to give it a score, it’s 10/10.

As I said some posts back, this game perhaps most resembles one of those survival games that were super hot a few years back. I’ve played Conan Exiles, and this is very reminiscent of that style: not really much narrative (especially narrative pressure to keep advancing), but really you just explore and do what you want. Eventually it might be a good idea to advance the story; but if you want to get every seed, comb every inch of land and water, open every chest, that’s definitely a valid option. Or, if you just want to rush the main quest, you can do that too. Personally, I did it halfway: I explored a bunch, did about 100 shrines, got about that number of seeds I think, all the while taking my time in doing the beasts. Even took some time out to take most of the pictures for the compendium.

Personally, I am a big fan of this structure. Some folks aren’t – they want their bounds, they want that narrative push. They want that constant feed of story. This game isn’t that. You pick up bits and pieces of the story as you go. Pretty much all you are forced to learn is that 100 years ago Link and Zelda, along with four champions driving divine beasts (machines from an ancient civilization) failed to defeat Ganon, but the princess somehow managed to delay the final defeat until Link could recover – and now Link can fix things to defeat Ganon. That’s it – that’s the main story. Of course there’s a lot more to it, more to the world, but you actually have to go out and find it. Some people hate this, but I love it.

There is also a decided lack of dungeons. There are the four divine beasts, which are basically each a very small traditional Zelda dungeon. There are the about 120 shrines, which are each basically one or two rooms of a traditional dungeon. Some folks think this is very uninspired, and not particularly Zelda at all. I can see that, and kinda agree. But I don’t see that as a negative, since, honestly, I was never too fond of the dungeons in Zelda games. I really don’t like puzzles. I mostly like the combat and other gameplay of the Zelda games, but the puzzles and dungeons are not my thing. (I’m the type to keep a guide open at all times, to keep the momentum going, not stopped too hard by the puzzles I can’t figure out quickly.)

The biggest problem in this game, to me, is the weapon system – specifically the way the durability system works. For one thing, I could not see any indication of durability, until the thing was almost broken. This sort of opacity really irks me. This goes double when the absolute low durability of basically every item is taken into consideration. You really have no clue how long a weapon will last, and it of course will explode in your hands at the worst moment. And of course you have a very limited inventory, so you can’t just stockpile weapons for all occasions when whatever you’re using breaks. Against minibosses (and even some of the later mobs) you can lose several weapons, even good ones, just going against one enemy. Super annoying. Even the unique weapons will break, though there’s always a (very expensive) way to get them back. My guess is the devs were thinking that they provided the player all these weapons (you can pick up every weapon held by every enemy, with very few exceptions), so they had to give the player a reason to pick up all these weapons. Still the biggest annoyance in the game.

Second-biggest annoyance: white text without outline, so you can’t read it over anything white – the brightness is higher than portrayed in this shot.

The world is also a bit empty, even compared to other open-world games. There are some areas that are well-developed, like the Gerudo or Zora areas, while others are very underdeveloped. The world seems like it should have more than the two hundred or so NPCs that seem to exist outside of those two places. Indeed, the world seems half-finished. The Rito and Goron cities in particular, despite being associated with divine beasts, are like an afterthought compared to the other two “ethnic” towns. The Hylians don’t fare better: Kakkario Village is a proper town, but the rest are just small outposts, and one town so forgotten it isn’t even on the map. It would have been nice for these places to have been fleshed out.

But other than those complaints, I have to say this is one of my most favorite games I’ve ever played. I wasn’t expecting something so great, despite the great reviews (basically no reason to trust professional reviewers, and most people don’t share my taste anyhow), because all the complaints I heard were pretty consistent (which I agree with, if not to the same degree). To be sure, this is my new favorite Zelda game. I’m really surprised that two new additions to my top five Zelda games were on the Switch; if I knew it would be this way, I would have gotten one a long time ago. Neither is a traditional Zelda game, but they are made with the usual Zelda heart and soul (and skill), and that’s what endears them to me.