The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review-In-Progress
Ever since I got my hands on my Nintendo Switch I’ve been doing the exact same thing as most Australians – smashing through some Bokoblins and trying to save Hyrule. While I’ve seen a whole lot of the latest iteration of Hyrule, I don’t believe I’ve seen enough yet to form a full narrative and give you all the review I know you want. Instead, I’m here with my current review in progress, which includes my experiences up to and including the second dungeon I have found in the game. While my thoughts aren’t yet fully formed on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, my experiences thus far have been better than anything I’ve seen in Zelda before.
From the opening minutes of Breath of the Wild, I realised that I was in for an experience that was completely different from past Zelda titles, except for Link once again being an amnesiac. Awakened from a deep slumber, Link ventures out into the world of Hyrule without you having any story or background information. You’re thrown straight into the game, expected to begin exploring the world and crafting your own adventure. The world and story are open in a way that most games avoid, allowing you to complete as much (or as little) story content as you want. The freedom is incredibly refreshing, allowing me to craft the Zelda experience that I want, instead of hemming me in and forcing me to do things in a set order.
The environments are massive and everything you see really can be travelled to. That statement has never excited me about an open world game in the past, but the climbing mechanics that allow you to scale any structure in the world really bring it to life. Whenever I see a mountain I begin climbing it, not because I need to get around or over, but simply because I want to see if I can. Stamina can be an issue, especially early on, but that just means I have to think strategically whenever I begin climbing a particularly large cliff. The freedom of movement is fantastic and the feeling of accomplishment after scaling a cliff or tower is unlike anything I’ve felt before from a climbing mechanic.
The formula changes don’t end there, with the dungeon template completely changed from past games. While there are some dungeons within the game, which I won’t talk about further to avoid spoilers, the majority of your underground exploration will be in the game’s new shrines. These shrines don’t unlock new powers beyond the first four, instead being filled with a range of different challenges for you to try. These can range from motion puzzles, to platforming puzzles, to power-based puzzles and combat trials. As of now I have completed 21 shrines and I have yet to find any two that are the same. Combat trials can feel similar, since they have all had me face a different type of Guardian, but the puzzles have all felt unique. They’re also relatively short, generally only lasting for 5 minutes at most, allowing you to smash through them quickly and preventing them from overstaying their welcome.
Combat itself is the biggest change in Breath of the Wild, with what is easily the best combat system ever in a Zelda game. Comparisons are going to be made to Souls games, and they’re not entirely unfair. Attacks have lead up times and blindly swinging will result in a swift death. Dodging is mandatory if you expect to survive and a perfect dodge allows you to unleash a flurry of attacks against your opponent. Combat never feels unfair or frustrating and that is largely since you die, not because of unavoidable attacks or poor controls, but because Link is extremely fragile early on. The combat controls are incredibly responsive and the motion controls for aiming your bow are fantastic. Never before have I felt as accomplished an adventurer as when I wander into a group of enemies, sword swinging and dispatching them with ease as I dodge around their attacks. Link finally feels like the Champion of Hyrule that he has been for two decades.
While my experiences have largely been positive so far, there have been two points of frustration during my early exploration of Hyrule. One is that while the world is beautiful, there are continued frame rate issues throughout the game. While they certainly aren’t as plentiful outside of the Great Plateau, you will still run into frame rate issues during combat and sometimes in environments. These were more common when playing in the docked mode, but the handheld mode also wasn’t free of problems. The other point of frustration has been the weather system. While the changing weather is wonderful to watch, the rain can get particularly frustrating at points. Most of the way up that tower you’re climbing and rain kicks in? Either leave the area to pass time or hunker down and wait for it to stop. Generally the rain tends to last for about five minutes, although I have had one instance where it lasted for over fifteen minutes, during which I waited for it to stop to climb the last few metres of the tower I was on. As far as frustrations go, these are both relatively mild compared to most games I’ve played in the past and haven’t overly detracted from the experience thus far.
There’s no doubt that my journey to date with Breath of the Wild has been incredible, with the game grabbing me in a way that no 3D Zelda ever has before. There are a couple of minor frustrations that I’ve felt so far, but it’s shaping up to be one of the best games I have ever played. Stay tuned for my final review once I’ve completed the full story of Breath of the Wild.