The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is receiving nearly unanimous acclaim and currently sits as the 8th best game of all time per Metacritic appearing to be basically the argument for the Nintendo Switch. We’d argue that Nintendo developed games by default get graded on a curve (Twilight Princes is not 95 good) but the hyperbolic reviews have us intrigued and, though we’re only a few hours in, we agree this does feel like a different Legend of Zelda game. Here now are 3 things Legend of Zelda: Breath of Fire does well (and two that it does’t).
Good: It’s actually hard
Since the original NES classic and its strange sequel, every entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise has never really been that challenging. Sure some boss fights can go south quickly but hearts usually are always a chopped bush or broken pot away. That all changes in Breath of the Wild.
For us, at least, this game is brutal. Occasionally we can blame a death on a challenging control scheme (I meant to jump up the cliff’s edge, not let go!) but normally it’s because we take an enemy encounter for granted. As you can venture just about anywhere from the start, it’s not uncommon to run across an enemy encampment way above your current gear level that will make quick work of you while one goblin lookout heckles your corpse from the watch tower. We’ve died somewhere around 20 times and we’re only a few hours in. Save often, travelers.
Good: You have to adapt to this world
Going in hand with the previous observation, to adapt means to survive. There are new rules to learn to make your way in this world. Learning to cook recipes is a must. Knowing how to spot a climbable ledge or water source to can cross without drowning is key. Early on we heard about an opportunity to find a shirt to keep us warm in the colder areas that quickly became our top priority as every little bonus helps. This brings us to our third point.
Good: A genuine sense of discovery is back
Gamers collectively are quickly learning the intricacies of this new world. The map is simply massive and its very likely we won’t see all of it so we have a strong desire to join the collective gamer groups to map out this world. There are shrines to find and hidden bonuses within each shrine to discover. There is unique and matching gear to discover across the world. We’re not trying to rush to the water temple to unlock the hookshot anymore.
Right now, the game feels extremely personal and chock full of possibilities. Stumbling upon a particular unique headpiece or curiously chopping down a tree to cross a pit is exhilarating because those are my experiences. Other games are having completely different experiences as they take a different route through this world. You can follow the nav points or, as we recommend, you can just pick something interesting on the horizon and go for it.
With that said, there are two things about this game that make us concerned about the overall experience.
Bad: Climbing is torturous
Arguably your first challenge in the game is to escape your chamber by climbing a boulder. It’s a quick lesson to indicate that walls aren’t constant barriers in this game. They’re meant to be climbed. Mountains will have narrow ridges to give you purchase to catch your breath as they want you to reach the top. One of the core game mechanics is finding a high lookout point to spot key locations to explore (again part of the tutorial).
Why, oh why, then does Link climb like an arthritic old man? We appreciate it’s more realistic that he can’t climb like Peter Parker but it’s not uncommon to spend 10-15 minutes scaling particularly tall structures which seems like an excessive waste of time. Climbing is an exhilarating addition at first that will quickly wear out your patience.
Bad: Is leveling up broken?
We honestly don’t know yet. As mentioned, the game can utterly destroy you if you wander into some higher level monsters too early. But considering upgrades are tied to your health bar and all weapons apparently break, we’re not sure how we’re going to be decidedly stronger later. Maybe we can just take more injury or maybe we just continue to find stronger and stronger weapons later and never have to resort to a tree branch or skeleton arm in a pinch.
For now though, as we’re not really upgrading Link’s capabilities, just his ability to take a hit, how we’re going to be more formidable the more we play.
With that said we completely understand the hype and the game, so far, does seem to justify much of the praise – we can confidently say it, along with every other game, finally justifies the purchase price of the Wii U!