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Old 04-02-2017, 04:13 PM   #1
The 7th Patriot
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Review: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Platform: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
Platform Reviewed: Wii U
Developer:Nintendo EPD
Publisher:Nintendo
MSRP: $59.99
Release Date: March 3rd, 2017 (NA)
Writer: The 7th Patriot


"Open and Closed "

The release of a new Legend of Zelda is always momentous. Nintendo treats most of its own titles in a special way, never releasing entries hastily and instead with copious attention and care. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no different. The latest entry in one of the most famous series of all time, Breath of the Wild is a game that has some continuity with its own legacy but in other ways is a marked departure from it. In some cases this works, but not in all.

The game begins with Link's awakening (heh) from a century old slumber into the world of Hyrule, a land that was once peaceful and orderly but has now become moribund and small because of the presence of Calamity Ganon. One hundred years prior, Princess Zelda, along with Link and four champions (one from each race present in Hyrule) faced Calamity Ganon in battle and lost. Since that time, the world has been slowly decaying and is on the brink of total destruction when Link suddenly arises and attempts to challenge Ganon to a final battle that will hopefully save Zelda, Hyrule Castle, and the world itself. To do so he needs to visit the homes of the four races present within Hyrule and reclaim control of ancient behemoth weapons known as Divine Beasts, weapons that were supposed to be used a century ago but were instead manipulated by Ganon into destroying the very champions meant to wield them.



The story is fairly simple and while it is punctuated with some enjoyable exchanges between characters, some of whom are voiced better than others, it plays out just as I have described it. I suspect that part of this has to do with the way the game has been designed. The player can complete the four regions in any order he pleases, meaning that as long as you can overcome the obstacles that stand in your way you can access each region quite early in the game. The narrative, therefore, doesn't undergo much development as your progress. The path is laid before you almost immediately and your are left to fill it in as you see fit.

One of the major differences between Breath of the Wild and previous Zelda titles is that this game has an open world structure. This time around Hyrule is absolutely massive. The land is brimming with forests, mountains, rivers, and general regions that are distinguished by unique weather patterns and natural elements like snow, sand, water, rock, and grass. Zora's Domain is filled with waterfalls, giant lakes, and frequent rainfall while the Rito Village sits atop mountains with large chasms in between them and extremely cold weather. The world is rather beautiful and the art style compliments it well. Like many Nintendo games, but unlike many other developers' titles, Breath of the Wild knows how to use color to bring all of these elements to life. Deep greens saturate the forests and the bright red and orange of Death Mountain can be seen from almost anywhere. The music, on the other hand, feels remote and absent for most of the game with some villages having pleasant themes but nothing ever strays too far from the actual silence of the over world.



The basic gameplay structure of Breath of the Wild is open world exploration with simple combat scenarios and the discovery of structures called shrines which dot the landscape. Link can climb almost anything and you will do so frequently in order to search for new areas or treasure. Horses can also be tamed and ridden but they are not as useful as they should be since they cannot go everywhere and can only be summoned from specific parts of the map. The player will therefore mostly use Link himself as a means of travelling, but there are certain limitations that the game places upon him. Link has a classic Zelda styled heart meter which indicates health but he also has a stamina gauge which limits his ability to glide, sprint, climb, and swim. In order to increase his hearts or his stamina, Link must find shrines and complete the puzzles or combat challenges within. These puzzles are small slices of traditional Zelda dungeons which are usually interesting and take only minutes to complete. I am unsure, however, about the general concept of creating a large open world which is both horizontally and vertically imposing and then intentionally restricting your ability to fully explore it. Most players will eventually gain enough stamina to climb for a decent stretch, but I do wonder from a design perspective whether this is a smart challenge or something much less clever. Also, you cannot climb when it is raining, which is another idea that seems interesting when it is introduced but ultimately becomes exactly what it sounds like, another random limitation on your ability to explore.



The other side of the gameplay coin is combat. In Breath of the Wild, enemies litter the map in outposts and encampments that Link may approach stealthily or aggressively. These locations often have a treasure chest which will unlock upon defeating every enemy within the camp. They contain either resources for crafting, weapons, shields, or bows and arrows. These last three items are susceptible to breaking, meaning that you can only use any particular weapon, shield, or bow for a limited time. Now while combat is basically fun, this mechanic positively discourages you from engaging in combat any more than is necessary. You will eventually come across weapons that you will not want to use on regular enemies, and the only real reason to fight regular enemies is to pick up the items they drop and the treasure chests they protect. As I stated previously, however, these chests more often than not contain the very types of items you are using now, and you can't know with certainty whether or not the weapon you are using right now is inferior to the one contained within the chest. Meanwhile, almost none of these fights are necessary, you are completely free to avoid them. They also respawn automatically after three in-game days have passed. So why fight them? I honestly do not know. The weapons themselves are interesting and fairly varied, with some having elemental properties like swords that freeze or shock enemies. They are fun to use against some of the tougher enemies and optional bosses found in Hyrule, which are the most interesting things to find off the beaten path.

Also available to Link is the ability to cook food and craft elixirs. Slain enemies will drop bits and pieces that can be used and the world itself is filled with gems, animals, fruits, and plants that can all be collected. Anything edible can either be consumed as it is for a small recovery of hearts or cooked with up to four other items for massive healing benefits as well as added effects like extra hearts, faster movement speed, more attack power, and resistances to elemental effects like shock or cold. It is generally a nice little reward for foraging and collecting and sometimes these items are ingredients of more important equipment like clothing upgrades. The one caveat is that Link has to be near a pot over fire in order to cook meals and elixirs. They are usually located within the few villages and the many horse stables throughout Hyrule.



Finally, there are the four Divine Beasts that are part of the main quest. The beasts themselves act as dungeons that most closely resemble the ones found in older Zelda titles. They have varying degrees of difficulty but are generally well done, and each is capped off with a boss fight. These bosses are challenging and fighting them is mostly enjoyable but sometimes frustrating. Each boss has a second form which requires a unique method to defeat it. These methods are sometimes not obvious and you can waste precious resources like weapons, meals, and elixirs on trial and error.

Breath of the Wild has some excellent mechanics and inventive ways in which the player can interact with the world around him. The world feels like every bit of it was crafted with detail and purpose and this is certainly impressive for a game of this size. It is also clear that Nintendo has decided to try its hand at emulating the western open world genre, whether it was for the purpose of mass appeal or experimentation I cannot say. What I can say is that, like Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain which released in 2015, Breath of the Wild makes me sincerely wonder what it is that an open world is supposed to add to a series that formerly did not utilize the style. In the case of The Phantom Pain, while it was fun initially, the game sacrificed almost everything that made the Metal Gear Solid series so unique and excellent. It was easily the worst Metal Gear Solid game ever made. Now Breath of the Wild does not reach these levels of disappointment, I do think that people who enjoyed previous Zelda games should play this if they get the chance. But it is also very clear that the open world design combined with the gameplay limitations placed upon the player create an experience that is more fun at the outset than it is approaching the ending. Once you realize that most of the exploration in this game is rewarded with a visit to a shrine and that there are over one hundred of them (I completed around seventy), your impetus for exploring severely wanes. Add to this the in-game hindrances like the weather or the stamina gauge and the fact that you do not need to visit many shrines in order to complete the game and the overall structure of Breath of the Wild does not appear to be superior in any way to more traditional Zelda titles.



The reason these criticisms are sorely needed is because, while in fact true, they also highlight the general distinction between games made in the west and games made in Japan. Western developers have for years been approaching open world design as if it were axiomatically true that it is superior and more immersive than a more linear structure. But this has simple never been true. Players enjoy worlds that feel detailed and alive, and an open world seems in many ways like a marketing ploy created in order to sell the idea of a world that is detailed and alive without actually creating one. In many ways Super Mario World feels more alive than any Assassin's Creed game even though the latter has always been open world. Geometric size actually counts for very little in the long run. Skyrim is a massive game in terms of its area, and yet Final Fantasy VI for the Super Nintendo still feels bigger.

I would caution against praising Breath of the Wild simply because it is open world. In fact, I don't even consider it obviously better than A Link Between Worlds, the last Zelda to release on the 3DS. While it does have very fun and exciting aspects to it, it also has drawbacks that hurt the experience, and yes some of these are directly related to the open world structure of the game. Without serious adjustment, I hope this remains an experiment.

Score: 3.5 out of 5


The Good
  • Beautiful and diverse world
  • Well designed puzzles and small dungeons
  • Simple and somewhat satisfying combat
  • Decent length (around 40 hours)

The Bad
  • The world is not as interesting as it first appears
  • Some mechanics get in the way of both combat and exploring
  • Pacing and size of the game suggest low replayability
  • Voice acting is not always great

The Ugly
  • Occasional framerate dips
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Old 04-02-2017, 07:52 PM   #2
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Phantom Pain was not the worst Metal Gear. Take that shit back!

I haven't been able to pick up BOTW again. I have tried multiple times but I just don't find its world very fun. The first few hours where intriguing, but I don't enjoy the shrines generally, and the dungeon in the Zora area wasn't very great. The frame issues and the repetitive enemies have so far not been super fun. I HATE the weapon breaking and stamina bullshit so much I don't want to go back. Maybe sometime down the road when there is a lack of good games. Just too much good stuff out right now to waste time on something that isn't doing it for me.
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Old 04-02-2017, 10:12 PM   #3
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Phantom Pain was not the worst Metal Gear. Take that shit back!

I haven't been able to pick up BOTW again. I have tried multiple times but I just don't find its world very fun. The first few hours where intriguing, but I don't enjoy the shrines generally, and the dungeon in the Zora area wasn't very great. The frame issues and the repetitive enemies have so far not been super fun. I HATE the weapon breaking and stamina bullshit so much I don't want to go back. Maybe sometime down the road when there is a lack of good games. Just too much good stuff out right now to waste time on something that isn't doing it for me.
Do you hate stamina in Skyrim? Just wondering...
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Old 04-03-2017, 06:07 AM   #4
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Do you hate stamina in Skyrim? Just wondering...
Not like in BotW; stamina is used for a number of things, all of which are important. Whether you're climbing, gliding or using the classic spin-attack, it's all linked to your stamina meter.

It can be frustrating at times, although the stamina meter was a necessary evil due to the fact that virtually everything is climbable.
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Old 04-03-2017, 08:52 AM   #5
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3.5? I've played this game since release and still have much to see and I simply cannot agree with this review. It's a wonderful world, charming, engaging, challenging, colorful, and massive. The mechanics in this physics based world are spectacular the more you experiment. Go see some you tube videos on how a flame sword can add to your warmth in a cold region for instance. The cooking is a brilliant way to extend your life and it diverts link to hunt and forage to create meals with substance. This game is nothing short of brilliant and deserves nothing less than a 9.
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Old 04-03-2017, 09:02 AM   #6
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Just because there is a lot to do, does not necessarily mean that it is better. If that is the only metric, then we should stop making games since Minecraft is available.

I personally do not like games that require a lot of inventory management and window navigation because it slows down the gameplay. So Breath of the Wild, though very open ended because of its physics world design and interaction, really annoys the shit out of me because you have to do so much in the menus to take advantage of different tools that you have available to you.
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Old 04-03-2017, 09:46 AM   #7
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3.5? I've played this game since release and still have much to see and I simply cannot agree with this review. It's a wonderful world, charming, engaging, challenging, colorful, and massive. The mechanics in this physics based world are spectacular the more you experiment. Go see some you tube videos on how a flame sword can add to your warmth in a cold region for instance. The cooking is a brilliant way to extend your life and it diverts link to hunt and forage to create meals with substance. This game is nothing short of brilliant and deserves nothing less than a 9.
Completely agree. It's become "hip" to give this game an average to above average review because everyone else called it a masterpiece. After the game got a ton of press for breaking review records, you saw some 7's start to role in right at the very end.

And thinking about "how the game doesn't seem as full as it did early on", I had the opposing experience. I started on the plateau and after a few hours I thought. Okay, interesting, but it's not that mindblowing. It was only after I played more and more, and saw the beauty in the details and the surprises and the varying landscapes, did I fully appreciate the game.

While no game, no matter how great it is, will appeal to 100% of everyone, I think the consensus is already in that for most people, the game is a master class.

That said, that's just my personal opinion for the most part. Good writing here, The 7th Patriot. Thanks for the review. Even if I don't agree with everything, I think you nailed some things I do agree with, and it was well written.
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Old 04-03-2017, 10:23 AM   #8
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It is almost as if personal opinion is subjective...

I'm personally taking a break from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There is far too much open world fatigue due to a lack of structure (story incentive) and loot (player incentive). I'll be picking it up again this summer when things die down a little, but the Switch is definitely on the back burner (literally it is behind my couch) until further notice.
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Old 04-03-2017, 11:01 AM   #9
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Only honest review I've seen of this game yet. Kudos.
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Old 04-03-2017, 11:08 AM   #10
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Do you hate stamina in Skyrim? Just wondering...
I don't enjoy skyrim so there is that. When I think of stamina done well I think Dark Souls has it pretty well implemented. Climbing having stamina is one thing, running shouldn't have stamina penalties.
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Old 04-03-2017, 07:16 PM   #11
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lol, this is Armond White level. Come on man.
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Old 04-04-2017, 06:12 AM   #12
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I thought it was a well written review. I look forward to playing the game at some point.
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Old 04-10-2017, 08:18 AM   #13
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Skyrim is a massive game in terms of its area
uh, no it's not, perhaps you should google that. sorry but that's a pet peeve of mine, skyrim fans always laude the size of the world without ever realizing how small it is.

Quote:
I do think that people who enjoyed previous Zelda games should play this if they get the chance. But it is also very clear that the open world design combined with the gameplay limitations placed upon the player create an experience that is more fun at the outset than it is approaching the ending. Once you realize that most of the exploration in this game is rewarded with a visit to a shrine and that there are over one hundred of them (I completed around seventy), your impetus for exploring severely wanes. Add to this the in-game hindrances like the weather or the stamina gauge and the fact that you do not need to visit many shrines in order to complete the game and the overall structure of Breath of the Wild does not appear to be superior in any way to more traditional Zelda titles.
several things here. First, there's more than one way to play the game. If you don't like the stamina limitation there's a shrine that will let you swap hearts and stamina chunks at will. On that note a little creativity will get you further than a larger stamina bar. I don't think there's anything in the world you can't get to with your starting stamina and a little creativity. Getting more hearts and more stamina just makes the game easier.

weather can be annoying, just like your weapons breaking but it also forces you to deviate. The game forces you to go to different places because of the weather just as it forces you to use a variety of weapons because the break. That being said you don't have to wait, each weather pattern only lasts a few minutes or you could warp to a difference place and do something else in the meantime, or sleep/sit at a fire to pass the time in seconds.

I think that's prolly the single best thing about the game, the many ways you can play it. There's something there for everyone, and like the sailboat picture in mallrats, it might take a while to see it but once you do, you break out of your gaming mold that's holding you back and you find new and better ways to do things.

The game does not force you to do anything after the starting area. Even if your goal is to defeat ganon (as it should be) you're not forced to do it any one way, you don't even have to defeat those divine beasts mentioned in the review.

Anyway, as someone who is a huge fan of all things zelda upto OOT (don't like anything more recent than that), this game brings me back to LttP (which I would consider open world for it's time), my favorite zelda until now.

I feel like this reviewer fails to see the magic of the game and that's too bad. Exploring is so satisfying, the shrines are fun and I found myself compelled to find all 120 of them, hell everything from cooking to combat adds to the overall enjoyment of the game and makes every minute of it fun and not frustrating like many games these days.
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