Zelda – Breath Of The Wild (BOTW) – Current review (Mild spoilers)
Before expressing why this game is such a masterpiece it is important to mention I have not finished the main quest, far from it actually. In exploration terms I have discovered approximately 1/3 of the map, leaving much of the land and waters to be explored later. It is also important to note that I have never played a Zelda game. From the trailers, word of mouth and the highly reputable brand Zelda has become, I couldn’t help myself. What a decision. Ten hours in and I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what there is to be discovered.
When the game begins and lays out the foundation of what is evidently going to be a remarkable story, I am grasped immediately. Rarely, I can be swayed from becoming gripped in a story; maybe for its non-engaging plot or lack of innovation. Despite this, this was not the case with Zelda BOTW. When I emerged from the cave to discover the humungous landscape on the edge of that cliff I knew it was going to be a pleasure to follow the story. After exploring slightly to gain the four ‘treasures’ for the old man I had learnt many of the important aspects of the game such as climbing, swimming, shrines and more. It was more difficult than I expected to begin with, having to naturally learn small important aspects such as the effect rain has on climbing, the effect holding metal weapons has on lightning , items and their purposes and more. Even though there was a lot to take in and many aspects were important for later, I really enjoyed increasing my knowledge of everything.
I have to admit, I didn’t see the old man’s ‘transformation’ coming at all (I’ll never know how). After learning more about the main quest I began to branch out from the comfort of the initial section of the map to follow the story. This was completely my choice, though. I could have taken a completely opposite path. I could have explored the whole land before even hardly beginning the main story. That’s what is so good about BOTW. You can go wherever you want and take any approach you want.
Exploring further to the distant landmark of the next quest, Kakariko Village, I came across an abundance of characters, enemies and useful items. The world of Hyrule is dense and I was regularly invigorated to explore areas in the distance just to see what was there. I have progressed only a little further in the story but will not spoil it here.
Scenery – The amount of detail you can find throughout Hyrule is simply astounding; from the deep orange sunsets in the distance to the chilling breath of Link at the top of a freezing mountain. The amount of consideration to each individual aspect is something to admire. You can actually see his grey breath disperse and swirl in different directions into thin air. The careful consideration to each element showcases the talent at Nintendo. One of my most favourite aspects of the beauty of Hyrule is the bright, dense colours found throughout. You can be standing next to a small fire near a lake with grass surrounding, mixing lush greens, oranges, reds and blues all in one.
In a sense, the art design is quite cartoon/anime like, which I don’t usually bind to. In the case of BOTW though, I absolutely love it. It makes the character creation, scenery, weapons etc a lot more interesting. Everything seems exaggerated and smooth and makes exploring, collecting items, combat and everything else more pleasurable.
Exploration is something that is a lot more enjoyable in BOTW in comparison to many other open worlds. The reason for this is because there are many unique items and characters to find. Simply going off the beaten path to see what’s around the corner can result in getting tied up in semi-interesting side quests that I find impossible not to complete. For example I spoke to a random character, and after the lengthy dialogue he tasked me with a riddle as to where he heard some bandit treasure was hidden. Quite an expected stereotypical side quest synopsis, however I still wanted to discover what was hidden. After figuring it out I found many items I hadn’t come across that were useful, which invigorates me to accomplish these in the future.
Character innovation – This game pretty much combines every animal, monster, human, insect and more to create an abundance of creatures. The enemy I have encountered the most so far are the varied types of goblins. With grouchy voices and aggravatingly ugly faces it is very satisfying taking out a small clan. There are many different kinds that I have encountered, each varying in colour and size and become increasingly more difficult to kill. There are many other kinds of enemies that fly, swim and more which, makes each combat situation interesting and thought provoking. Learning about some of the more peaceful characters offers interesting background stories to learn more about Hyrule and its history. Some characters on the other hand simply bad mouth you, which angered me considering I wasn’t allowed to set him on fire.
Environment – The environment itself has had a lot of thought put into it and makes the world feel more real and challenging. For example rain prevents the ease of climbing, lightning strikes if you are holding a metal item, fire spreads through the grass in a chain reaction. There are also tiny little details. If I chop down a tree it will fall in the direction of the way I chopped it. If I climb a mountain the air will get colder, resulting in diminishing health. There are many other tiny details and all need to be considered when approaching situations which makes the experience a lot more thrilling.
Combat – After gaining runes and more exciting weapons, combat can be very fun. There is no better feeling than smashing a Bokoblin off the side of a cliff. Visiting some shrines enables to gain new abilities for combat. For example completing one shrine allows the ability to dodge and, if successful, unleash a slow motion fury attack. I can creep up on enemies, going for a more stealth approach or drop from the skies in surprise using the Glider. I like to use a number of approaches and this actually feels necessary. If I had abysmal armour or ventured out too far into more dangerous land it was obvious I would die if I attacked head on. Using stealth paid off massively on occasion. Depending on the player, all approaches can be considered.
Climbing/gliding/swimming – I have to admit I didn’t like the stamina meter, swimming or climbing to begin with. It felt like such an effort just to cross a lake and it felt like the stamina meter ran out almost immediately. Even though I still think this way slightly, it makes way for a determination to improve this ability. Improving the stamina meter enables gliding, swimming and climbing to last longer in order to reach more valuable areas. Once again, it resulted in consideration for alternative ways when approaching situations. Gliding however, is more enjoyable. Jumping and gliding from high towers helps to see a bird’s eye view of potential areas to explore.
Cooking – Cooking is a lot more engaging than I was first expecting. After collecting many items I hadn’t yet stumbled across in the world, I would take the time to experiment with different ingredients and create many dishes that gave me significant advantages. As well as increasing health, different dishes could give Link other abilities such as increased temporary stamina, increased stealth, weather resistance and others. Instead of just simply eating ingredients in combat I would pre prepare dishes, as combining ingredients enhanced the benefits significantly; well worth making the effort.
Inventory and gear – The inventory for each aspect starts very small apart from the Armour, Materials, Food and Key Items sections. You can pretty much collect as many of these items as you want. Despite this the Weapons, Bows and Arrows, and shields inventory spaces are very small. This can be quite infuriating when you could have collected weapons that would be useful later on and actually cant because of lack of space. In some situations I actually ran out of weapons and think of all the weapons I left behind. Despite this you can actually increase space by collecting and using Ancient Items which can be collected in a few different ways. After collecting a specific amount you can upgrade each inventory space which you will thrive from. There are quite a variety of different weapons, bows and shields to be found in the world however there is little customisation. I didn’t really mind the lack of customisation considering the variety of other customisable elements. Weapons vary from small sticks, clubs and axes to two handed swords, boomerangs and many more. Different bows allow for better attacks and different elemental arrows help to fend off enemies with elemental abilities. For examples you can shoot a shock arrow into a lake for severe damage. I haven’t really explored many armour options yet however there also come with different abilities. Some enhancements include the ability to climb waterfalls, reduce/increase temperature and more, giving reasons to experiment and purchase new gear.
Shrines – From the offset I was excited to battle through a few puzzles. It was expected that the first initial shrine puzzles were going to be easy (they were) and that they would gradually increase. I started to believe this may not be the case when they continued to be easy however the last four or five have started to become a lot more difficult. Its pleasing to know that they become a lot more challenging.
Switch to TV and TV to Switch.
The Nintendo Switch is quite an impressive piece of kit, and is different enough from my other consoles (PS4, Xbox one), which invigorated me to buy it. In terms of Zelda, the visuals are stunning both on the Switch and on the TV. I played Zelda on the Switch for about an hour before eventually hitching it up to the TV thinking that I was going to be somewhat disappointed. I was very wrong. My 50 inch TV showcased what felt like a whole new game. It was sensational. I have spent about 50/50 of my time with Zelda on each and really enjoy both. However, the motion controls... the motion controls are not my most favourable of things on this earth. Whilst playing in a moving car I tried to fire an arrow and I think it actually landed on the moon. Another occasion I was trying to solve a maze puzzle in a shrine and almost threw my Switch out the window. It was justified however, considering the drive felt like a Rhino smashing into the side of the car every five seconds. I don’t think the Switch was designed with that in mind. On the whole though, I would probably prefer the TV as it fully justifies the beauty of the game.
Despite a few frustrations I can’t take away the fact that this is an absolutely gorgeous, sensational, unbelievable game. The story is amazing (so far), the gameplay and combat is exciting and engaging, and the world is dense with things to do and find. I can’t wait to continue exploring for many more hours. 10/10
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Written by Daniel Rankin