I’ve been spending my time with Breath of the Wild since release, and I can tell you that this is an amazing game and certainly the best Zelda game I’ve ever played in my life. It is also the best game Nintendo has ever put together, it completely shits on everything Nintendo has done so far and it is the first 21st century game the company has released in the past years. This said, this game as also serious troubles that have been overlooked by gaming press that rushed to overrate this as “the best game ever made” and “mic drop on other open world games“
Do not get me wrong. I simply love Breath of the Wild, I was about to sell my Wii U a few weeks ago and decided to keep it just for this game, and gosh am I happy I did. This game does a great deal of good things, let’s go through them:
Even though the graphical quality is poor and the textures look like something from two generations ago, the art direction of the game makes up for it. The colour palette is beautiful, the character design is gorgeous, the buildings are very pleasant to the eyes and the world is very, very beautiful and well designed. The game is super pixelated at times though, because of the lack of anti-aliasing an at some times may be difficult to distinguish between objects, this is very rare though and the game offers an overall pleasant visual experience.
Sound and Music:
The game doesn’t have a traditional soundtrack (and thank god it doesn’t), instead it uses subtle piano music every now and then during your exploration of the outside world while changing to a more upbeat music when enemies approach or you engage into a battle, when in villages each village will have it’s own background music – usually pleasant. It does a great deal to immerse you in it’s world. On the other hand sound effects can seem odd sometimes, for instance when Link walks on top of a Tower the sound of it’s footsteps seems a bit exaggerated, you may say it is just a detail (and indeed it is), but if I noticed it without even searching for it it’s because it really stands out.
The voice acting is good, but not The Witcher 3 good, there is only speech during the cutscenes, during current dialogue the characters just grunt. Link is mute as always but screams and moans every now and then during combat.
I’m a very story driven gamer and I pay a lot of attention to the story video games try to tell. Breath of the Wild tells the same old The Legend of Zelda story. The evil Ganon, the princess, the hero (in BoTW replaced with the knight) that helps her lock away evil Ganon. Breath of the Wild introduces new elements to the Zelda world with the introduction of the 4 sacred beasts and the guardians. I won’t spoil it and about the story the only thing I can say is that it won’t keep you at the edge of your seat to know more about it because, after all, you already know how it is going to develop. What annoys me is that several characters seem to repeat the same tale, which I guess is a consequence of the play it in whichever way you want idea, Nintendo had to have characters at different parts of the map to tell the same tale otherwise players would risk to miss important parts of the story behind the game.
Gameplay is Breath of the Wild’s strongest point. Contrary to previous Zelda games here in you are in an open world game that gives you the freedom to explore at will from the moment you start. Firstly you are constricted to a single region, the Great Plateau, but once you receive the paraglide (after completing 4 shrines) you are free to explore the kingdom of Hyrule. You can literally walk directly up to the final boss but you will have your ass royally kicked because enemies surrounding the area are extremely powerful.
The game replaces the usual dungeon crawling and item unlocking with the concept of Shrines. There are more than 100 shrines spread throughout the map, each Shrine provides you with a puzzle that you need to solve and they will reward you with either new features for your Sheikah slate or orbs that you can change for upgrades to the number of heart containers you have or to your stamina gauge.
There are also dungeons, 4 in total, that fall a bit short to previous games but still offer a nice experience. This is where you will find the dungeon bosses and this offer a very good challenge comparing to previous iterations of the franchise.
As for the the stamina gauge… Good that we talk about it. Stamina is necessary to perform several actions, like climbing virtually every surface of the game (even the ones only spiderman would be able to), to sprint, to charge up attacks and to… well… swim. Yes, Link can only swim while he has stamina, once the stamina is over you drown. This doesn’t pose much of a problem because you can use your Sheikah slate to raise Ice pillars out of the water and just use them to cross rivers, but it is annoying that Link can only swim for a very short time.
Another amazing thing in the game is it’s physics. You can use your environment to kill your enemies. You can push giant boulders and smash them with it, you can drop a bomb onto explosive barrels and let your enemies suffer from the explosion, you can set their surroundings on fire and watch them burn in hell or you can even control other objects in the surrounding area and use them into your advantage. You can also do this to help you in your exploration, for instance you have to use fire to keep you warm while exploring cold areas, or you can chop down a tree to help you cross a cliff. When it’s raining rocks get slippery and you can not climb, but you can create catapults that will launch you in the air, you can use your shield to surf down a mountain, you can use warm blowing out of a fire to lift you up in the air with your paraglider. There are 101 possibilities and it opens the door for gamers to decide how they want to play. There are several ways to approach a situation and each person that plays the game will face the challenges on their own way. This is really Breath of the Wild’s strongest point and one of the most fascinating things about it.
As for the quests, as I said you can just go directly to the final boss but if you don’t the game guides you trough it’s main quest, introducing you to the kingdom of Hyrule, taking you through the dungeons and eventually leading you to your final confrontation with Calamity Ganon.
There are also side quests but this are mostly uninteresting, simple quests like kill this enemies for me, fetch me this item and so on.
Ok, this is one of the weakest points in the game and of the reasons why I think it is overrated. Breath of the Wild (Wii U) has several performance issues. The frame rate falls a lot more frequently than it should to bellow 30 fps, it happens in the beginning of the game when you leave the Shrine of Ressurection, it happens during exploration, it happens when you reach Kakariko Village, it happens when there are multiple enemies on screen and fire close by. It happens too damn frequently on the game. The game runs at 720p on Wii U, it has no anti-aliasing, the textures are very weak and still it can’t keep up a steady 30fps rate. You may say this has no importance but it does, it ruins the immersion the game so hard tries to create in this fantastic world, it does affect the experience and is a problem that Nintendo should really try to address with a patch.
As I said before, Breath of The Wild is the best game Nintendo has released in the last years, it is also one of the greatest games of this year and certainly the best Zelda game ever made. It is plagued with performance issues that do impact
the experience and that seem to have
been overlooked by most reviewers so far. It is understandable though that people are willingly overlooking this issues, considering how anticipat
ed this game was and how nostalgia feelings always seem to embrace reviewers when reviewing Nintendo games.
It is nonetheless an awesome game and worth every cent, it is however not a “mic drop to other open world games” but instead a proof that Nintendo has a lot to learn by looking at what other developers are
If I had to put a score on it I’d go with an 8 out of 10. It is great but I could be even better.