Released: 3 March 2017
Developer: Nintendo EPD
As I detailed in my review of the first game, The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo EAD, 1986) was an extremely popular title when it released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and sold over 6.5 million copies. This, of course, was only the beginning for the series, which has become one of Nintendo’s most lucrative and popular franchises of all time, which made a successful jump to 3D with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (ibid, 1998) and has largely aimed to be bigger and better with each successive entry. Development of Breath of the Wild began sometime after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (ibid, 2011), a commercial success that was easily the largest and most complex Zelda title released at that time. For the next title, though, series producer Eiji Aonuma wanted to completely rethink the conventions of the franchise and create a much bigger, more interconnected world.
After developing an 8-bit prototype to experiment with physics-based puzzles, Aonuma encouraged his team to rethink the game’s approach to puzzles and to create a grand, open world adventure more akin to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011). To further separate it from other entries in the franchise, it was also the first Zelda title to use voice acting in cutscenes (though Link remained unnervingly silent), the physics were purposely built to be the most realistic yet, and the game was specifically designed so that players were free to explore and experiment (they could even skip the story entirely, if skilled enough). Breath of the Wild proved immensely popular upon release; many reviewers considered the game to be a “masterpiece” and one of the most immersive videogames ever made. Breath of the Wild also won numerous awards, was the third-bestselling Zelda title at the time, and earned itself a direct sequel after Aonuma’s team found they had too many ideas for the game to be limited to downloadable content (DLC).
After a botched resurrection attempt leaves Ganon little more than a calamitous force of nature, Princess Zelda and Link, the warrior chosen to wield the legendary Master Sword, found their forces overwhelmed when Calamity Ganon corrupted the machines they built to repel him. After Link was gravely injured, Zelda placed him in suspended animation and magically sealed herself within Hyrule Castle to hold Calamity Ganon at bay. One hundred years later, Link awakens, his memories fragmented, and begins a quest to rediscover his destiny and end Calamity Ganon’s threat once and for all.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a massive open-world adventure game in which players are once again placed into the role of Link, the elf-like hero who continually finds himself resurrected and reborn time and time again throughout the ages to oppose Ganon’s evil. Unlike the vast majority of Zelda titles, players have no option to rename Link, making Breath of the Wild one of the few games in the series to actually use the name “Link” as the character’s name; similarly, Link forgoes his traditional Peter Pan garb of green tunic and hat in favour of a multitude of different clothing options and these are the first indicators that the game is very different from traditional Zelda games.
If you’ve played a 3D Zelda title before, particular Ocarina of Time, you’ll be immediately familiar with most of Breath of the Wild’s controls: players can target nearby enemies by holding ZL (sadly, there’s no option to target without holding the bumper), which will cause Link to immediately raise whatever shield he is carrying to block enemy attacks or reflect certain attacks back by pressing A. Pressing Y will allow Link to attack with his equipped weapon and pressing ZR sees him whip out his bow and shoot arrows for a ranged attack. Returning from Skyward Sword is the stamina wheel, which depletes when you hold B to sprint or when swimming, gliding, or climbing one of the game’s many hills and mountains. In a major addition to the series, Link can now jump whenever he wants with a press of the Y button or charge up a spin attack by holding down X and perform some jumping strikes and dodges just like in the Nintendo 64 games; he can also throw his weapons and perform a flurry attack by dodging incoming attacks at just the right moment.
The biggest addition to the combat is the inclusion of destructible weapons; every single melee weapon, shield, and bow you acquire in the game has a limited number of uses and, the more you use them, the more you’ll wear them out. Weapons that are made out of wood will also catch fire (causing Link to catch fire and take damage in the process) as well and many shatter in only a single use, meaning that Breath of the Wild’s combat is much more about strategy and it is often far better to simply avoid or run away from battles rather than break your more powerful weapons. Honestly, it’s an annoying and frustrating system that means you’re almost constantly worrying about the status of your weapons and being prepared for the game’s more challenging obstacles. I feel like there could have been a middle ground where there are some weapons (wooden ones, for example) that break and some situations where you lose them (enemies could knock your shield out of your hands with larger weapons, for example, and weaker steel swords could shatter on stronger rocks) but, instead, every single weapon has a finite number of uses, which made me very anxious and made combat more exasperating than enjoyable.
Combat is made all the more troublesome by the fact that Link is the weakest he has ever been; as always, you begin the game with three hearts of health and, because the game is so big (even the relatively enclosed opening area), it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by even the bog standard Bokoblin enemies. Unlike in previous Zelda titles, defeated enemies will never drop health-restoring hearts, meaning the only way you can replenish your health is by picking up edible items (apples, acorns, meat, and so forth) and eating them. Indeed, the key to bolstering Link’s stamina, health, and attack prowess is to make use of the game’s cooking mechanic, whereby Link can toss up to five items into a cooking pot and brew up dishes or elixirs to increase his maximum hearts, his stamina, attack and/or defence, his stealth prowess, or resist certain elemental conditions. The only way to permanently increase your hearts is to conquer the game’s four dungeons (known as “Divine Beasts”) or acquire Spirit Orbs from the many Ancient Shrines scattered (and, often, hidden) throughout Hyrule.
You’ll want to hunt down and visit these Shrines on a regular basis as, since the game has only a handful of traditional dungeons, these make up the bulk of your concern and are the only way of increasing your maximum health and stamina and, thus, your chances of success. Each Shrine also acts as a fast travel point once activated, allowing you to quickly teleport all across the vast kingdom of Hyrule from the main menu, but their primary function is to bestow Link with four (technically five, I guess) Shiekah Runes that are used to conquer puzzles both in and outside of the Shrines. These puzzles may be simple things such as activating switches, creating ice platforms to cross water, lifting metallic objects, creating electrical currents, or floating along on updrafts but they can also be extremely challenging combat scenarios against spider-like Guardian Scouts. As you progress and explore further, you’ll come up against some truly head-scratching puzzles that force you to freeze objects and attack them to build up kinetic energy, navigate through mazes, retrieve orbs from dangerous environments, and make full use of your inventory and abilities in order to solve them. Thankfully, the Shrines don’t need to be beaten to activate them as fast travel points but it’s highly recommended that you beat as many as you possibly can as you’ll refill your health upon successful completion and move one step closer to increasing your maximum health and stamina.
And you’ll definitely need to do this as, while you can head straight to Hyrule Castle to take on Calamity Ganon without tackling the game’s story, I really wouldn’t recommend it as I had a great deal of difficulty taking on even minor enemies and puzzles with the game’s mechanics. Breath of the Wild throws absolutely everything in your path to keep you from succeeding: at night, Stalfos and similarly-skeletal enemies will rise from the ground to chase you down; every so often, gameplay is rudely interrupted by the rising of the Blood Moon, which resurrects all enemies you’ve defeated since playing; and you’ll even be beset by a variety of environmental hazards. When climbing higher, the air temperature will drop, causing Link to shiver uncontrollably; when exploring Death Mountain, the air becomes unbearably hot, causing his wooden items to combust; and Hyrule is plagued by wind, rain, and thunderstorms that will causing Link to be struck by lightning if he’s got anything metal equipped! In many of these situations, Link will steadily lose hearts and be at great risk, meaning that you need to cook up something to stave off these debilitating effects or acquire, or buy, clothing to resist the elements.
As in all Zelda games, Link can purchase new items using Rupees; however, similar to how enemies don’t drop hearts, it’s very rare that defeated enemies will drop Rupees. As a result, the main way you’ll earn Rupees is by finding them in chests (usually after defeating an enemy encampment) or selling some of the many items and minerals you pick up along the way. Sadly, the best armour and more useful elixirs and weapons carry a high price tag, meaning it’s quite difficult to save up enough to buy what you want (it doesn’t help that the four Great Fairies, who will upgrade your clothing using monster parts, charge up to 10,000 Rupees just to “restore their power”). As a result, like with the combat, it feels like you’re constantly on the back foot as you never have enough money, never have enough ammo, and your weapons could break at any moment, all of which makes it a very stressful experience at times as you might spend Rupees to replenish your health at an Inn only to be decimated by a random Guardian out in the field.
While Link can pick up a great many items, ingredients, and monster parts, his weapon inventory is extremely limited; sometimes, you may have to discard or use up a weapon to grab a better, more powerful one and the only way to increase your inventory slots is to randomly find Koroks hidden all over Hyrule. Each one you find gifts you with a Korok seed, which can be used to buy one extra slot at a time, with the cost of these inventory slots increasing each time. Two of the game’s more prolific mechanics are the paragliding (which I believe is a carry over from Skyward Sword) and climbing mechanics; once you acquire the paraglider, you can jump from higher areas or use air currents to glide along, covering vast distances (for as long as your stamina holds out), which is great for spotting Shrines or avoiding dangerous areas. Climbing is also heavily dependant on your stamina but it’s generally better to get to the high ground to find secrets and survey the area and you’ll have to climb up a number of Sheikah Towers in order to painstakingly map out the massive overworld map.
Since Hyrule is the biggest it has ever been, Breath of the Wild can be extremely daunting; travel is helped not just by the fast travel system but also the inclusion of horses and other ridable animals. When you come across a horse, you should press the left analogue stick to make Link crouch and take slow steps to approach it undetected, then you can mount the animal and sooth it with L. Once you’ve calmed the horse, you can ride it to one of Hyrule’s many stables to register it (for a price, of course); while your horse can’t follow you everywhere (they can’t cross the Gerudo Desert, water, or rockier areas, for example), you can call it by pressing down on the directional pad (D-Pad) to whistle and recover them from a stable (so, if you’re in the far West but left your horse in the far East, you can visit a stable and they’ll bring your horse to you). Horses can be named and have different statistics that determine how tough and fast they are but there are a couple of things to consider: thanks to the game’s dodgy physics, it’s easy to fall into water with your horse, which will cause it to become trapped if there’s no way for it to return to shore, and horses can also be killed if they take too much damage (usually by Guardians), though a Great Fairy will resurrect them if this happens. Similarly, as I mentioned, you can’t take your horse into the desert, but you can temporarily commandeer a Sand Seal to quickly traverse the temperate sandstorms.
Link’s journey involves a great many side quests and interactions with the largest number of non-playable characters (NPCs) ever seen in a Zelda title; even when journeying from one town to another you may stumble across NPCs who have side quests and missions for you, ranging from collecting a number of items, photographic objects, defeating enemies, or bringing them something. In the game’s larger towns, you’ll find more substantial side quests, many of which are tied into the game’s main objectives; you can’t just climb up Death Mountain to reach the Divine Beast Vah Rudania, for example; you first have to cook up an elixir to resist the heat or complete a side quest to earn heat-resistant armour, rescue a Goron from captivity, and then make your way up the mountain shooting at the Divine Beast while defeating enemies and taking out drone-like Guardian Skywatchers first, all of which can take a good few hours. Every time you complete a main or side quest, you’ll be gifted with access to Rupees, weapons, or other items so it can be worth it to veer away from your main objective and help out the multitude of NPCs in their often strange and convoluted requests.
There is, honestly, almost too much to do and see in Breath of the Wild: wild animals roam the countryside as often as enemies, many of which will randomly attack you but all of which can be killed off for ingredients; camp fires are scattered around, which allow you to advance time to avoid night-time attacks and weather; Beadle wanders around to give you the chance to buy supplies; NPCs randomly get attacked by monsters and will reward you with cooked dishes; towers can be climbed to find chests; enemies camp out all over the place; rafts often sit near bodies of water for you to sail to far off islands by using a Korok Leaf; chests must be magnetically pulled out from water, sand, and snow; and it’s super easy to stumble into ruins, small villages, and other areas of desolation or civilisation when trying to follow the main story. It can get a bit daunting at times: you’ve got the cooking, the breakable objects, and the Shrines to worry about, keeping you constantly on edge. Even when you conquer the Shrines, you need to travel to a town or village and find a Goddess Statue to pray at in order to receive your Heart or Stamina Container and, thanks to how easy it is for enemies to overwhelm you and defeat you, you’ll be seeing the “Game Over” screen over and over again without boosting your odds through food or clothing. Autosaves are frequent, however, and you can manually save whenever you like and it’s very easy to reload a previous save if you make a massive blunder along the way.
Graphics and Sound:
Full disclosure, the last 3D Zelda game I played with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo EAD, 2005), which was the biggest Zelda adventure at the time so to say that Breath of the Wild blew my mind is an understatement. Without a doubt, the game is absolutely gorgeous to look at; the overworld is gigantic, ranging from wide, seemingly endless fields to the explosive, lava-filled region of Death Mountain, to the desolate wastelands of the Gerudo Desert and snowy mountain peaks, with some areas featuring more than one weather and seasonal effects to worry about (the Gerudo Desert, for example, can be boiling hot in the day and freezing cold at night).
As soon as you step out of the Shrine of Resurrection, you can see the vastness of Hyrule but it’s not until you paraglide down into Hyrule proper that you see just how huge Hyrule now is. Without a horse or fast travel, it can take many actual, real-world minutes just to travel from one point to another and you’ll be beset by all manner of dangers along the way. Winds blow, rain falls, lightning strikes trees (and you…), and day turns to night turns to day in a constant cycle, all of which brings Hyrule to life as, perhaps, the most lively and realistic gaming environment I’ve ever seen. The remnants of Hyrule’s past glory and iconic locations from the Zelda series are everywhere, including destroyed outposts, the overgrown wreckage of the Temple of Time, and scattered, destroyed Guardians (be cautious when approaching for loot, though, as they’re often playing possum).
Like any good Zelda game, variety is the name of the game when it comes to Breath of the Wild; a degree of traditional society is retained throughout Hyrule thanks to places like Kakariko Village and Hateno Village but you can also visit the rock-eating Gorons, the sea-faring Zoras, the woodland imps known as Koroks, the desert-dwelling Gerudos (a society comprised entirely of women), and the man/bird hybrids the Ritos. Each one has their own visual style and a lives in a distinct area: the Gorons dwell in and around Death Mountain, working in mines nearby; the Zora’s live in the gorgeously ornate Zora’s Domain, which is full of water and waterfalls; the Rito are surrounded by snow and mountains; the Koroks are hidden deep within a dense, misty forest that will kick you out if you wander in unaided; and the Gerudo dwell within a desert town and set the guards on any males who dare intrude.
Character models are of equally high quality; they don’t necessarily move all that much but they are generally quite varied and full of life and personality. Each of Hyrule’s races can be found all over the land as well, with Gorons wandering around selling wares, Zora’s popping up in bodies of water, and Korok sprouting out of the most random of locations. Each one communicates using speech bubbles and text but, when the game switches to its higher quality cutscenes, characters will also talk as well. Link, however, remains silent which, to be honest, is a bit weird as the game’s story and script is often geared towards characters specifically addressing him or asking him questions, which makes his silence really stand out. Oddly, many conversations you have with NPCs give you the option of one or more answers, implying that Link can speak so it just feels like the game could have been tweaked a little to cover for his silence in speaking cutscenes.
Cutscenes come in a variety of forms, from in-game graphics, higher quality cinematics, and distorted flashbacks to Link’s past as he uncovers more of his memories. Thankfully, you can speed up text scrolling with B and skip cutscenes if necessary and, often, the game skips over them for you (such as if you fall to a dungeon boss, for example). Musically, Breath of the Wild is the most elaborate of the series I’ve ever seen; a lot of the time, music gives way to ambient effects and slowly creeps in or suddenly kicks up to set the tone of an area or emphasise an enemy attack. It’s a grandiose, operatic score that escalates as you conquer the four Divine Beasts, defeat Ganon’s underlings, and take on the calamitous King of Evil himself in the finale, when the traditional Zelda theme kicks in with suitably dramatic impact.
Enemies and Bosses:
Hyrule is, as always, also populated by a wide variety of enemies, all of which freely roam its fields, mountains, and wastelands and will attack you on sight if they spot you, often calling for reinforcements if near an enemy camp, and all of which will drop weapons and monster items for your use. Some of the basic enemies include gelatinous Chuchus and bat-like Keese, which can be protected by elemental conditions, but, primarily, you’ll be fighting different varieties of Bokoblins. These goblin-like creatures like to set up camps, shoot at you from on high with arrows, and attack with spears and swords; they’re the most basic of enemies but are formidable through their sheer numbers and your comparative weakness and even rise from the grave to attack you in skeletal forms.
They’re often accompanied by the much larger Moblins, which attack with kicks and bigger, longer weapons, but you’ll also have to contend with a variety of Lizalfos, who are often camouflaged or leap out at you from hiding, damn annoying Octorocs, who pop out from water to spit rocks at you that always seem to hit, and robe-clad Wizzrobes, who dance around mockingly shooting elemental magic at you and teleporting all over the place. Easily the most daunting of the regular enemies are the Lynels; these centaur-like creatures are basically like mini bosses and you won’t actually be able to defeat one for a long, long time as they’re just too tough. Once you get a healthy stock of hearts, food, and more powerful weapons (particularly the Master Sword), though, you’ll stand a much better chance of besting these ridiculously powerful enemies.
However, there are only a handful of Lynels to worry about; the Guardians are far more frequent and troublesome as they often sit amongst the wrecked shells of their kind and fire what basically amounts to an instant-kill laser in your direction. At first, you have no chance of destroying these bastards and they’re only found in a handful of places but, once you conquer the Divine Beasts (and when you storm Hyrule Field on the way to Hyrule Castle), they’ll start to scuttle around the overworld in regular patrols. If they spot you, do everything you possibly can to avoid them, even if it means going far out of your way, and don’t even think about trying to outrun them without a horse! They can be defeated using special weapons and by targeting their limbs and eyes but, most of the time, it’s a fool’s errand and it’s simply easier to flee for your life! The flying variants are much easier to take out in comparison but once you see they’ve got a lock on, make sure you pace yourself to sprint away at the last second or else you (and your horse) will be toast.
As there are only four dungeons in the game, Breath of the Wild is quite light on actual bosses; you will, however, have to do battle with Master Kohga of the desert-dwelling Yiga Clan in order to reach Vah Naboris, the Divine Beast of the Gerudo Desert. Kohga likes to hurl boulders your way but you can easily stun him with arrows and use Magnesis to repel his attacks in the brief windows of opportunity you get; honestly, sneaking through the clan’s hideout was more troublesome than the fight itself. The reverse is true of the dungeons, which focus on annoying puzzles and are largely devoid of enemies and populated mainly by “Malice”, a health-draining black/red goo that must be dispelled by shooting an eyeball. Just getting to the Divine Beasts and, thus, their bosses is like a boss battle in itself; each one can be tackled in any order and all of them must be quelled before you can enter them. I took on the Divine Beast Vah Ruta first, which spits ice projectiles at you that must be smashed with your Cryonis ability before using the bow and a special Zora outfit to swim up waterfalls and destroy the cannons on the Divine Beast. Similarly, Divine Beast Vah Rudania needs to be shot at by loading cannons with your bombs and a particularly hardy Goron. To bring down the Divine Beast Vah Medoh, you must protect yourself from the frigid cold and use the paraglider to destroy cannons on the Beast’s sides with Bomb Arrows while the Rito, Tiba, draws its fire away from you. Easily the most difficult of the Divine Beasts to bring down, though, was Vah Naboris, which forces you to stay within a protective field and surf, almost uncontrollably, across the sand using a Sand Seal while shooting a limited supply of Bomb Arrows at its feet.
Inside each of the Divine Beasts, you must first rotate, tilt, and manipulate the gigantic structures to activate five terminals and then you’ll do battle with a “phantom” aspect of Ganon, each of which sports two attack phases that will truly test your mettle, especially in the early going and if you’re underequipped. I first took on Waterblight Ganon and it was like hitting a brick wall! Teleporting around the arena and attacking with a long spear, Waterblight Ganon can be hurt with Bomb Arrows but can end you pretty quickly with just a couple of hits. In the second phase, the arena floods and you’ll need to shatter Waterblight Ganon’s ice blocks with Cryonis and dodge its thrown spear, again using Bomb or Shock Arrows (or Ancient Arrows if you manage to get some) to deal the most damage. This was a tough hill to climb for me and the first time I had to go off and cook up some defensive food to give me an edge as its attacks were too much at the time.
Next, I took on Thunderblight Ganon, who was also quite the formidable foe thanks to his incredible speed! Thunderblight Ganon throws a few electrical balls your way, which are easy to dodge while firing arrows at him, but you have to have your shield up pretty quick when he dashes in for the attack or else you’ll miss your best opportunity to strike him. In the second phase, he drops a number of metal pillars into the arena and then electrifies them; you need to stay the hell away from these, grab one with Magnesis, and move it near him so he shocks himself, all of which is really hard to do as the camera and controls really get in the way here. This only stuns him, though, and he then follows up with even faster, more frequent attacks and you absolutely must make sure that you don’t have any metal weapons or armour equipped or else you won’t last long at all and eat or drink some concoctions to increase your defence, attack, and resistance to electricity.
I then decided to give myself a break and tackle Fireblight Ganon next; this battle takes place in a much bigger arena, making it a bit easier to keep your distance and catch your breath, though Fireblight Ganon wields a massive sword so it helps to stay up close to him. In the second phase, he launches a massive fireball your way so be sure to hide behind the main terminal in the arena; you should also use this for cover if he busts out his Guardian laser and be sure to unequip any wooden weapons and utilise any Ice Arrows or ice-themed weapons you have to hand (though I also did some decent damage with Shock Arrows when I ran out of Ice Arrows).
Finally, there’s Windblight Ganon which, again, takes place in a much bigger arena that is full or destructible columns that you can use for cover. Windblight Ganon hovers out of reach of your sword strikes and rapidly shoots at you with a laser pistol but you can bring him down using air currents to glide upwards and fire a few Bomb Arrows at him. In the second phase, he throws out tornados to wreck the arena and also sends out four drones to heavily magnify his laser attacks but I found it easier to simply concentrate on attacking him whenever possibly, scoffing down food as and when necessary, rather than be distracted by the drones.
With the four Divine Beasts restored and taking aim at Hyrule Castle, you must then storm the Malice-ridden castle itself, which acts as a quasi-dungeon of sorts and is full of Guardians, enemies, and treasure, with only one Shrine for fast travel. There is, however, a shortcut up the West-side waterfall that takes you to the inner sanctum, where Calamity Ganon dwells. A monstrous, nightmarish amalgamation of the four phantoms, Calamity Ganon is the most horrific form I’ve ever seen Ganon in but this fight can be tipped greatly in your favour by defeating the other bosses as the Divine Beasts will drain half of Calamity Canon’s health. If you are stupid enough to go straight to the final boss without conquering the dungeons, or with less than four beaten, you’ll have to fight Ganon’s phantom forms before you can even take on Calamity Ganon so I really wouldn’t recommend going into this with just a stick and your undies.
Calamity Ganon mixes and matches attacks from the other bosses, swinging a gigantic, flaming sword at you, causing flames and fireballs the scatter across the arena, throwing a spear at you, and blasting at you with a Guardian laser. I rushed up close and went to town on him as quickly as possible with the Master Sword (which doesn’t lose its charge in Hyrule Castle), dodging and hitting flurry attacks if I was lucky enough, and shooting at him with Ancient Arrows when he scuttled up the walls. In the second phase, Calamity Ganon protects himself in an impenetrable, flaming shield and is completely immune to your attacks; he ups his fire game with Fireblight Ganon’s fireball and also conjurs Windblight Ganon’s tornados. In this phase, you really need to have mastered the “Perfect Guard” move (hold ZL to target and, right before an attack hits, press A to knock it away/back with your shield) as the only way to stun Calamity Ganon and thus damage him is to reflect his Guardian lasers back at him, which I found to be incredibly difficult to get right.
Once defeated, Calamity Ganon transforms into a gigantic, Malice-infused, boar-like creature, Dark Beast Ganon, and rampages across Hyrule Field! Similar to the final boss of Twilight Princess, this battle takes place on horseback and the hardest thing about it, really, is keeping control of your horse as the camera and controls make manoeuvring around Ganon troublesome at times; touching Dark Beast Ganon will hurt you and cause you to be knocked from your horse so keep your distance and stay away from his face to avoid his big laser attack. When Zelda gives you the nod, golden symbols will appear on Ganon’s body and you must shoot at them with the Bow of Light (which, thankfully, has infinite ammo). When Dark Beast Ganon’s health is down to one sliver, a glowing weak spot appears on his forehead; now you must use the updraft from Ganon’s laser attack to glide into the air and use your arrows to strike the Malice eyeball and finally defeat Ganon and be treated to the game’s anti-climatic ending.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Breath of the Wild has an abundance of items, weapons, pick-ups, and power-ups for you; an overabundance, it seems at times, as you can pick up a variety of monster parts, minerals, food, and weapons to be equipped, sold, or cooked for a variety of effects. With all the food, meat, and fish (thankfully there’s no fishing mini games this time around) in the game, you can either eat some of them for a quick health boost or cook them up in a variety of combinations for stat boosts and extra help. I may have missed something but it doesn’t seem like there’s a way to keep track of your recipes so I kind of just tossed them in a pan and hoped for the best. When around a Great Fairy Fountain, you can sneak up on fairies and grab them, which is super helpful as they’ll restore your health a bit when all your hearts are empty.
As you explore, defeat enemies, and open chests, you’ll acquire different melee weapons; these come in all shapes and sizes, from simple branches and torches, to skeletal arms, to rusty swords, double-handed blades and axes, and even elemental weapons. You can also grab Magic Rods for limited elemental attacks and a lot of these weapons have buffs applied to them that increase their attack and durability. Each handles differently as well; bigger weapons will deal more damage and break tough rocks but are painfully slow and you can’t use your shield at the same time. Eventually, you’ll be able to acquire the legendary Master Sword but, to even pull it from its pedestal, you’ll need at least thirteen permanent hearts (temporary hearts are no good) to yank it free and, though it’s the only weapon in the game that doesn’t break and you can shoot beams of energy if you have full health, it does run out of energy and become unusable for a few minutes.
Still, it’s doing better than the game’s shields; again, these come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and with different buffs but the difference is that you can’t ever acquire a permanent shield. The best you can hope for is to liberate a powerful shield from Hyrule Castle but I found I was too afraid to equip it in case I wasted it defending against a regular Bokoblin attack. You can also acquire a number of different bows; some of these shoot further than others or even shoot multiple arrows at once, which I found to be more of a hinderance than a help as I was constantly running low on arrows. You can pick up elemental arrows (Fire, Ice, and Shock), which are super useful against water and fire enemies, Bomb Arrows (which are great for rock-based enemies and bosses), and the super powerful Ancient Arrows. Any Ancient gear is the most powerful in the game, especially against bosses and the Guardians, but they’re extremely rare and expensive.
You’ll also acquire various items of clothing, each of which has different benefits; some protect you from extreme cold, heat, and lightning, some allow you to swim faster or up your defence, attack, or stealth, and others are more cosmetic or needed to enter specific areas. You can mix and match them, pay to dye them different colours (which is largely pointless), and upgrade and strengthen them at a Great fairy Fountain. Some are acquired through Shrines and side quests and the only way you’ll ever get Link’s trademark outfits is if you’re patient, skilled, and dedicated enough to conquer all one hundred and twenty Shrines (or fork out for special Amiibos).
Your first task at the start of the game is to power up your Shiekhah Slate (an obnoxious device that resembles a tablet or Nintendo Switch) with four Runes: the Remote Bomb allows you to throw or place either a spherical or square bomb; Magnesis allows you to push, pull, and move around magnetic metal objects; Stasis freezes certain objects in place and allows you to attack them to build up kinetic energy and move them about; and Cryonis allows you to form and shatter ice blocks. Later, you learn another Rune ability, Camera, which allows you to take photographs to solve side quests and such and each of these can be upgraded to make them more powerful or useful. Since Breath of the Wild is one of the few Zelda games to not give you a magic meter or other actual items (like the hookshot), these Runes take their place and the bombs are especially helpful for dealing some extra damage and saving your melee weapon from wearing out as you can throw an infinite supply and a limited only by a brief bit of cooldown.
Similarly, every time you conquer a Divine Beast, you are awarded with a Heart Container and a key item that will greatly assist you in your quest: Mipha’s Grace is one of the best as it will completely restore your health and award you with additional temporary hearts upon death; Urbosa’s Fury allows your spin attack to unleash an electrical blast, which can be great for stunning enemies; Daruk’s Protection protects Link with a protective aura for as long as ZL is held down and will parry incoming attacks to give you a window to attack; and Revali’s Gale allows you to charge up a jump by holding down Y and blast you high into the air with an air current. You can activate and deactivate these at any time but, honestly, I don’t know why you would do that; each also comes with a limited number of uses and a cooldown period, meaning you have to wait about ten minutes before you can use them again.
As I mentioned before, there are numerous side quests in Breath of the Wild and one hundred and twenty Shrines to find and conquer. The rewards for these vary from a few Rupees to new weapons and armour and, generally, it’s not always worth your time completing every single one of them unless you’re aiming for one hundred percent completion (which you thankfully don’t need to finish the game). However, the only way you’re going to see Link in his traditional outfit (or unlock the Dark Link outfit) is if you complete each of them; primarily, though, the side quests are there to emphasise how big and alive this version of Hyrule is and to strengthen your immersion in the game, so it’s entirely up to you, but it can lead to you acquire stronger weapons, armour, and some unique riding companions.
Some of the Shrine challenges are very unique, though, like the one on Eventide Island that sees you stripped of all of your weapons and left to fend for yourself with whatever you can find as you strive to recover three orbs all without being able to save. Three others see you navigating labyrinths and one particularly long side quest sees you visiting specific areas of Hyrule to recover Link’s lost memories. Hyrule is also populated by a number of gigantic sub-bosses; be wary when you approach a big stone as it will probably come to life as a Stone Talus, which can only be felled by bringing it to its knees and climbing up it to attack the weak spot on its “head”. Far more frequently, you’ll come across the massive cyclopean Hinox; these are much easier to take on and defeat as you can stun them with a shot to the eye and attack them at will but they do have a tendency to rip up trees to swing at you and chase you almost relentlessly. Out in the desert, you’ll also encounter the Graboid-like Molduga, which burrow under the sand to attack you and are best tackled with your bombs. While you’ll also encounter three elemental dragons in your travels, these cannot be defeated and are simply there to cause destructive weather occurrences and to be mined for rare materials.
I mentioned before that the ending is very anti-climatic and it’s true; it’s much more sombre and reflective than the massive celebration seen at the end of Ocarina of Time, for example, and it kind of felt like the developers either ran out of time or didn’t put much effort into the ending as the journey was the primary focus. When you finish the game, your save file gets a star marked on it but that’s it; you can return to your last save (which should be an autosave right before the final fight) so you can go after anything you’ve missed along the way but the only way you’re going to get additional content is if you shell out for the DLC. The expansion pass adds new gear, enemies, and challenges to the game and also includes an even harder story mode to play through but, since I struggled so much with the base game, I don’t think I’ll be paying for this any time soon.
There’s no denying that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a stunning achievement for the series, and in videogaming; the game is massive, full of life and variety and things to do, and will keep you busy for hours on end (it took me at least thirty days just to clear the main story objectives). Never has Hyrule been bigger and more immersive; just travelling a short distance can be an adventure in itself and you’ll find yourself fighting tooth and nail against even the most basic of enemies for the smallest rewards but even a bundle of five arrows can be a blessing when you’re running short on supplies. The graphics are more than impressive, bringing the Zelda concept truly to life in a way that titles like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess hoped for but could never quite achieve; it never feels like anywhere or anything is off limits and you can travel to the highest, furthest points as long as you’re properly equipped and prepared without worrying about barriers or invisible walls.
And yet…Breath of the Wild is one of the most frustrating an inaccessible videogames I’ve ever experienced. There really is far too much going on, way too much to think and worry about, and the simplicity and accessibility of earlier Zelda titles has been lost in service of appealing to fans of games like Skyrim. I think if Breath of the Wild had focused on one or two mechanics, or tweaked some of them a bit, it would have been much more enjoyable for me; as I said, not having every weapon break would be a good start, as would putting less focus on cooking and eating food to survive. In many ways, it feels like the most Zelda game ever but also, paradoxically, the least Zelda game ever as all the recognisable elements are there but they’re so drastically different, and the game is so dramatically difficult at times, that it was actually a turn off. I was expecting an epic, sprawling, immersive adventure and Breath of the Wild delivers but every battle is a stress as you can easily die or break your coveted weapons in the smallest of skirmishes, some mechanics like jumping, the frustrating instances of forcing you to use motion controls, and climbing can be a bit janky, as can the in-game camera and physics, and I just felt like the game was punishing me over and over again. To make matters worse, I didn’t even feel a cathartic sense of accomplishment after beating the game since the ending was so anti-climatic; I just felt drained and relieved and I’m hoping that approaching the remainder of the game’s Shrines and side quests in a more casual manner will allow me to think more highly of the game in time.
What did you think to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Where would you rank it amongst all the other Zelda titles, specifically the 3D adventures? Were you a fan of the new elements introduced in this game, the breakable weapons, and the difficulty and challenge offered by the game? Did you every conquer all the Shrines and which was your most, or least, favourite? What order did you tackle the Divine Beasts in and which of Ganon’s phantoms was the most difficult for you? Which area and/or race of the game was your favourite and what was your preferred clothing and weapon load out? What did you name your horse? Which Zelda game is your favourite and why? Whatever your thoughts on Breath of the Wild, drop a comment down below.