The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

This article will contain spoilers for a game that I’m more than willing to bet most if not all of you have played to some extent.

There’s a lot to cover with this so I’ll try to keep each section brief.

The Characters

This iteration of Zelda is not a damsel in distress (I feel it strange that I need to point this out, because Zelda isn’t always in distress; I hesitate to call even the most conservative of Zelda’s a damsel in distress because she is always doing something).

She gets saved on a few occasions during flashbacks and then spends 100 years (plus a few hours, depending on how long Link is going to wander around the wilderness) actively containing a supernatural force of destruction. Ganon didn’t take here there against her will. She waltzed in, twiddled her dainty Hylian fingers and sealed him away, actively preventing him from DESTROYING A COUNTRY in its entirety.

She saves the hero, puts him in a resurrection chamber, and then goes and does her job like the boss that she is.

And at the end, Zelda decimates Ganon with the triforce.

Outside of that, this Zelda is a different take. She’s quiet, intelligent, and a little resentful. She does her duty in trying to access her sealing power, and (understandably, given her lack of success) wants to explore and rely on things outside of legend to complete their task. I also really like that a part of her dislikes Link, simply because his foretold destiny comes so naturally to him while she seemingly has to work three times as hard for no reward.

My first impression of her was along the lines of “She seems kind of weepy”. Then I learned what her situation was, and I came to the understanding that she is tired and wants a break, and Link needs to get off his tiny elf butt.

Link, is well, Link. He’s quiet and he does his job. Why is it that, from a story perspective, Link lacks a personality? Because he’s the player character. He doesn’t have a personality because you, the player, already have one. It helps immersion. Think of him as a (I’m probably going to get lynched for this comparison but…) Bella Swan. Yes, he has reactions and facial expressions, but he rarely if ever appears genuinely happy or sad or anything. He’s a silent protagonist, like he has always been. I feel the need to point out that when Link saves Zelda in a flashback, he’s not doing it just because, it’s because it is literally his JOB at the time.

Deard King-Mcbeef-Dad (King Rhoam) is dead and gives you some exposition in the beginning of the game.

Mipha is soft spoken and melancholy (the polar opposite of some Zora princesses we know). I would have liked to learn more about her. She apparently had the power to bring someone back from death and restore them to perfect health, but couldn’t do that for herself…? (Or maybe she did and only prolonged the inevitable? We may never know.) She has a brother who is a total bishie.

Daruk is a Goron. He’s boisterous and dead. He didn’t leave much of an impression for me, except that he and his descendant both have unreasonably well-defined muscles, to the extent that it’s kind of like they’re wearing those odd foam muscle suits. Daruk does seem to fill a sibling role for Link, but it isn’t touched upon much. Hopefully we’ll see more interactions between the two in upcoming DLC.

Urbosa is a proud Gerudo warrior woman. She was kind of an older sister figure to Zelda, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy seeing another character interacting with and supporting Zelda that isn’t Link or Impa.

Also Falco (Revali), from the starfox franchise, is in this game. I assume it’s because Star Fox Zero kind of sort of tanked because Nintendo had Platinum Games go full ham with the motion controls and dual screen setup of the Wii U (though that’s a discussion for another time). I must say it’s kind of a shame that Falco jumped ship only to end up dead.

When you learn a little more about the champions initially, you get the impression that the four of them are divided up into two camps. One camp is the supportive sibling figure camp, and the other is the rival camp. I’m happy to say that they kind of subvert the rivalry camp a bit. You go into this learning that Mipha was in love with Link, but thankfully they didn’t allow that bit to become her defining character trait (this game really didn’t need a romantic rivalry between her and Zelda).

Impa is super old, filled with regret, and is chock-full of the same exposition King-mcdead-beef gives you. Oh and she has a sister in this game… a sister who despite being just as ancient as Impa looks like a little girl because of (what I assume to be) a failed mad-science-esque experiment.

I love the Great Fairies. They’re just fun and excessive and garish and I really wish they had been a little more plot relevant.

Art Style

I feel like Hayao Miyazaki broke into Nintendo’s game development headquarters and had his way with all of the assets and then the next day, Hidemaro Fujibayashi walked in and decided that it could not possibly get any better looking than this and went with it.

And I agree.

The landscape is huge and sprawling in a way that is reminiscent of a Miyazaki movie. The laser eyes on all the guardians reminds me of the robots from Castle in the Sky. Impa is designed like a tiny old woman from a Miyazaki movie, and you can really see it in how she expresses emotions.

Mechanics

If there is one thing I take umbrage with in this game, it’s the weapon shenanigans. I understand the design philosophy of wanting the player to be more resourceful, the philosophy of their weapon breaking mid-fight and having  to improvise or retreat or rely upon tactical decisions. That’s great.

But if you want the player to be resourceful, why not give the player the ability to make, repair, and improve weapons? As it stands, the only thing the current setup does is encourage the player to stockpile weapons or pull from their infinite supply of bombs to clear a bokoblin camp and get the loot.

Every weapon in this game is essentially worthless and replaceable.

“But the Master Sword doesn’t break when you’re fighting bosses and guardia-”

EVERY WEAPON IN THIS GAME IS ESSENTIALLY WORTHLESS, REPLACEABLE, OR NOT WORTH THE TIME TAKEN TO GET IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I don’t see the point in using an unbreakable weapon when I can only reliably use it when fighting bosses and Guardians. There are only five bosses you can use it against. The sixth is a big pig beast that you have run around and shoot arrows at. Guardians are an annoyance and I don’t care to deal with them unless for some reason I really want to get guardian gear off of Robbie in the Akkala Research Lab. The majority of the time, you don’t even really have to deal with them. If you keep moving, they won’t be able to hit you.

The weapon system wouldn’t be a huge gripe for me if at least the Champion weapons were indestructible. They aren’t too terribly strong, so having them be indestructible would provide the player with a reliable variety of weapons without giving them the ability to just mow down waves of enemies. And yes, you can repair them, but given their relative strength there really isn’t a reason to do so unless you really like them.

All that being said, I can’t objectively say that there is anything wrong with this setup. It works more or less as intended. The player is rewarded for coming prepared to a fight and they’re punished with a hard time for running in without any forethought. And they’re given incentive to get into fights that in other Zelda games you would just avoid. Got to get all the spears those Lizalfos are holding, after all.

Combat aside, I’m very much in love with the both the stamina and temperature systems. I like that I have to plan how I’m going to climb up the side of the mountain. I like that I can’t just climb up the side of a volcano and not catch on fire. I like that I can collect multiple sets of armor for various uses and nothing bad ever happens to my armor.

These systems are the better part of the game because you have to plan out how you’re going to expend your stamina while also having that stamina recover at a quick reliable rate if you can just make it to the next ledge. And if your stamina gets dangerously low, you can make a plethora of food and potions to help you make those long climbs. The temperature system simply prevents you from going to places you have no business being if you aren’t going to come prepared with the proper gear or a stockpile of the appropriate resistance potions. These systems require you to plan and explore in order to succeed.

The shrine system is a good setup. It prevents player from just going and getting the master sword, while also providing the player with over 100 interesting mini-dungeons and puzzles to complete in exchange for heart or stamina upgrades. A lot of them, if not all, are able to be completed just by using the Sheikah Slate; but they also reward the player for making use of things other than what is intended in a particular shrine.

For instance, instead of wracking your brain to figure out a torch puzzle—one where there’s always a waterspout putting out a torch if your flick a switch in the wrong direction— you can instead bring along some fire arrows and complete the puzzle with little to no fuss.

The Acting

Full voice acting in a Zelda game is something that hasn’t happened since the CD-i. We will not be naming those games for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has seen or heard of them in passing. They’re bad. Just… no.**

That being said, the voice acting itself isn’t bad. However, the standard dialogue found in a Zelda game doesn’t lend itself to being spoken aloud.

The dialogue works best when it’s just being read. That’s because it is written as though it were a part of an Arthurian legend or a Greek Epic. It sounds great in your head when you’re reading, it but when you tell someone else to read it aloud it comes off… wrong.

Conclusion

Breath of the Wild is a beautiful game. It’s huge and filled to the brim with stuff to do. Nintendo stepped outside its comfort zone in the development of this game, while at the same time bringing Zelda straight back to its roots.

You can go anywhere you want, and you can do your dungeons in any order your desire. You can tear through everything this game has to offer or glide off the starting zone and go straight to the final boss.

It has its problems—most  notably, the dialogue and the durability system. But they hardly detract from the game as a whole.

Since this is the internet and we like to assign arbitrary numbers to determine a game’s worth, I’m going to give Breath of the Wild:

Six heavily damaged swords out of Seven!


**They’re called Zelda: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon if you really need to know. Go watch the Game Grumps let’s plays.

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