There is no such thing as a perfect piece of art. The best works in every medium have identifiable flaws and qualities about them that could have been executed better. Super Mario 64 has a clunky camera. Shadow of The Colossus doesn’t have the best controller layout. Super Mario 3 has framerate issues. However, these games are all masterpieces. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild delivers its promise of being a solid entry into the Zelda franchise while at the same time exceeds every expectation of what that implication means. It is a masterpiece that follows in the footsteps of the aforementioned games. While it may not do so with absolutely zero flaws, Breath of The Wild reinvents what it means to be an open world and it does this confidently and better than I have ever seen done before.
Open world games will never be the same to me after playing Breath of The Wild. The game takes influences from Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim, Minecraft, and others and makes borrowed mechanics play together to create a playground that makes almost too much sense for an open world game. For example, there are towers you can climb in the game to reveal areas of the map akin to many Ubisoft games; but, instead of revealing everything there is to do in that section, the only thing that is revealed is the landscape. This approach makes it so that it is up to the player to uncover the mysteries of the map via exploration and discovery. Somehow, Breath of The Wild turns exploration and discovery – two of gaming’s oldest tropes – into a true novelty in an age when open-world games are the norm. This should be the biggest takeaway for developers wanting to create a game with an open world.
The experiences that emerge during gameplay are unlike any other modern open world game, and furthermore, the stories that come from the pure exploration even rivals the traditional story that the game has to tell. Navigating Hyrule is enjoyable because it feels like around every corner there is a new adventure. The world is jam packed with secrets for the player to discover. Main quests and side quests are outlined for the player via the menus and the game also has collectables; however, where the game shines is in its attempt to take its guiding hand off of the player and allow him or her to roam free. The world is its own character and you get to uncover its qualities very slowly. Whether it’s the creatures, the characters, the scenery, the stories, the riddles or just about anything else you’d expect to uncover on a grand adventure, the component of discovery the game has to offer is beyond the scope of what I personally thought was possible in a video game. The scope of Hyrule is massive which somehow doesn’t compromise the style of the game and the gameplay itself. The game still feels polished. This is especially impressive given that Hyrule feels like the biggest open world I’ve ever explored. In reality, I’ve played games with larger worlds in terms of mass but Breath of The Wild’s world feels endless compared to other games because it forces you to take things slowly and really take in the environment. Zelda: Breath of The Wild is a very long, refreshing walk in the park.
The grandiose nature of the game is uplifted by the fact that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is also creative and inventive in its approach to mechanics. Weather plays a large role in the world and how you approach being in the world. Rain means you can’t climb up surfaces because they then become slippery. Thunderstorms mean you can’t carry around metal weapons or objects because you might conduct lightning. If you are traveling through the desert during the day it may be too hot, and during the night it could become too cold. The game does very clever things with magnets and physics. The game’s approach and respect to realism is unprecedented. Breath of The Wild creates interesting gameplay in a fantasy setting by using a clear set of rules that align with reality and it does this better than I could have ever expected from the game. Its application of physics creates puzzle solving opportunities that permeate in seemingly endless ways and the best thing is that each way it does permeate feels unique and creative.
The narrative that is presented creates a setup that takes into account the fact that Breath of The Wild is a game in a seasoned franchise. You of course play as Link who wakes up with no memory. Like previous games in the series, Link plays the role of bridging the gap between the player and the world. Link’s knowledge of the world (or lack thereof) is similar to that of the player’s and the story throughout the game sees Link revisiting characters and areas and regaining memories of Hyrule much like seasoned players of the Zelda franchise who are entering this game. From the jump, you as a player have the ability to go to the final boss and attempt to finish the game. The goal is clear, attainable, and staring you in the face throughout your journey. The game isn’t about twists and turns. It’s about seeing a clear goal and working slowly and surely to complete the steps to accomplish it. It’s a setup that allows for more freedom in exploration and it’s a setup that I want to practically beg other developers to use in their open world games.
No game comes without flaws and Breath of The Wild’s flaws only stick out to me because of how immaculate the rest of the game is. There are the obvious flaws being that the framerate drops are very noticeable in more busy areas and the weapon degradation can be frustrating at times. The inability to remap controls is also a big complaint. All of this is somewhat forgivable given that the rest of the game is handled so well that these complaints become very minor. However, my biggest complaint with the game is that the difficulty is inconsistent.
This game is touted as being one of the more difficult Zelda games and that is true to an extent. Towards the beginning of the game the combat is difficult. It is very easy to come across enemies that will defeat you in one or two hits. Throughout the game the combat does get easier in a reasonable way. Many of the more difficult enemies stay difficult, however knowledge of their patterns and certain weapons will help you as a player approach these enemies. This is in contrast to the dungeons and boss fights which seem uncharacteristically easy. Without spoiling anything the dungeons themselves are designed cleverly. Although clever, they are definitely the easiest dungeons I have encountered in a 3D Zelda game. Two of these dungeons took me less than thirty minutes to complete as opposed to previous Zelda dungeons which asked the player to spend hours of their time solving them. I appreciate the creative thought that was put behind creating the dungeons but the dungeons in this game do not feel as well realized as the dungeons in say Twilight Princess. To top this off, the bosses are epic however can be beaten very easily because defeating them usually involves some kind of puzzle solving technique rather than actual combat skill. Figure out what the weakness of the boss is and the tables turn immediately. Luckily, this does not apply to the random boss encounters in the open world. Those bosses will absolutely destroy you.
I am glad that out of all of the possible reviews, we can begin a new chapter of OK Beast review content with Breath of The Wild. The game provides a new standard that other games will need to look to in order to reach masterpiece status. Even with my modest list of flaws, when held to this game those flaws are very minor compared to the feat that Breath of The Wild has made in terms of scope, storytelling, environment, and polish. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is an adventure. It’s an adventure that 50 hours in I am not even remotely done with. It executes on creating a world that feels lived in and the story that this world has to tell is one of the most fascinating stories in gaming.