The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the first Zelda game that I have played in around seven years, and boy am I happy this is the title that broke the drought. There are a myriad of reasons that this game is my favorite of 2017 thus far, and it’s going to be tough to cram them all into 499 words.
The first thing that hits you as you load into Breath of the Wild is the overall design of the game. The artstyle of Breath of the Wild, while mildly cartoonish, is truly a joy to look at. I frequently found myself taking screenshots of set pieces and landscapes. The game runs smoothly in every scenario on the Switch, aside from a couple of frame drops in a certain forested area. Not only is this iteration of Hyrule beautiful to look at, but it is also a joy to explore and adventure through. The map feels organic, and it transitions between climates and areas smoothly. The game spits you out into a short tutorial area and quickly takes off the training wheels to let you roam freely throughout the rest of Hyrule. I didn’t encounter many restrictions for exploring anywhere in the map, which gives you a sense of freedom in choosing the path that Link takes to eventually rescue Zelda.
Breath of the Wild certainly ramps up the difficulty compared to any other Zelda titles I have played. You will die. Often. Especially shortly after leaving the starting area. Combat is the only mechanic the game uses to restrict you, and when you get familiar with the system this “restriction” is more of a curb than anything. Combat is fun and hardly ever stale. Link is equipped with so many creative ways to deal with the vast amount of baddies you encounter while exploring, the only real limit on ways to deal with enemies is your own creativity. One of the biggest changes in this title, compared to the rest of the series, is the introduction of item durability. Weapons and shields break after what feels like not much use. I personally did not mind this addition, it forced me to be more creative and flexible in combat, which in turn kept combat from becoming dry.
The story is creative and just ethereal enough to keep driving you to learn more. While the overall idea of the game, save the princess from Ganon, is the same as it’s almost always been; it manages to not feel like a cookie cutter Zelda game. It feels like an entirely different quest in Hyrule. Progressing through the map and unlocking memories of other champions and Zelda draws you into a different kind of story than most open-world games.
Overall, Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece and surpassed all of my expectations. The beautiful design and clever use of mechanics makes it my favorite game in 2017. Good luck beating it.
Author: Alex Greenwood
499 rating – 10/10