You wake up from a coma with amnesia to a Hyrule that has been conquered by Ganon. It’s up to you to piece together what occurred 100 years ago and defeat Calamity Ganon to save Princess Zelda and all of Hyrule. This is of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Everything you’ve known about the series has trained you to explore dungeons and find new items to help you progress through said dungeon. Nintendo decided to throw all those old tropes out and start fresh by going back to the first Zelda game’s original concept, freedom of exploration. Exploration is the fundamental factor that defines Breath of the Wild’s gameplay. All of Hyrule is an open world that can be freely explored at your own pace. Never have I felt this much freedom in a video game. Being able to explore Hyrule at my leisure was an amazing experience because there was never a dull moment. No matter what direction you head in, chances are you’ll find some sort of secret that will enhance your playthrough.
Shrines are the most common locations encountered in Breath of the Wild. They are scattered all over Hyrule; some can be spotted in plain sight while others require a puzzle to be solved first in order to be opened. Shrines play out similarly to previous Zelda dungeons, but are much shorter in length. Each shrine contains puzzles or challenges that will grant you a spirit orb once completed. Gathering four of these orbs will let you upgrade your health or stamina, making shrine hunting an important aspect of the game. Another secret sprinkled throughout Hyrule’s diverse geography are hidden Koroks that gift you a Korok seed if found. These seeds are used to upgrade Link’s inventory. Trekking every corner of Hyrule to uncover these things are part of what makes Breath of the Wild such an enduring Zelda title.
Climbing is the most important gameplay mechanic added to Breath of the Wild. Link can climb just about any surface so long as he has the stamina to do it. In addition, climbing is essential to reach many areas in the game, and it is a good way to promote shrine hunting for more stamina upgrades. The game’s combat works fine for what it is, but it lacks any noteworthy sword skills like in Twilight Princess. I can only hope this gets remedied in the next Zelda installment so players can have a bigger move pool to utilize against enemies. What is the best part of Breath of the Wild’s gameplay you might ask? No tutorials. Nintendo treats their fans with respect and allow us to figure the game out without Skyward Sword’s “Fi tutorials”.
Breath of the Wild isn’t just about exploration. There is a story to the game as I’ve mentioned before, but it isn’t as critical as the plots of previous Zelda entries. I would say that it is the least important aspect of the game. It took me 24 hours of playtime before I reached the first dungeon because I was too fixated on uncovering secrets within Hyrule. I actually had to force myself to stop exploring so I can make some sort of progress to the story. I realize I may be bashing Breath of the Wild’s story (which I still loved by the way); I just felt it was overshadowed by the game’s core gameplay mechanics.
The Switch isn’t known to be a power house of a console, but every imaginable shot in Breath of the Wild looks gorgeous. I would find myself stopping what I was doing to admire the art style that Eiji Aonuma chose. These moments are made even more tantalizing due to the almost nonexistent soundtrack. Most of what is heard while exploring Hyrule are the ambient sounds of nature. The ambiance itself really made me appreciate the sound work that went into the game. In fact, infiltrating Hyrule Castle in Breath of the Wild is one of my favorite gaming moments of all time simply due to the theme song playing in the background. Music may not play a pivotal role in this game, but the little music that you do come across is outstanding.
The lack of music and a deep story didn’t hurt Breath of the Wild in the slightest because of its amazing gameplay and open world environment. Breath of the Wild is a game that lets you do whatever you want with nothing to hold you back. The whole game is a breath of fresh air to the Zelda series that has been long overdo. I consider it to be a near perfect title, and I would love to see what Nintendo can do to follow-up this instant classic. Breath of the Wild started the Switch’s lifespan with a bang and it has earned the highest accolades possible.