Additional thoughts by Jason Waggoner
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that invites a sense of nearly addicting freedom and wonder, something that prior games in the series had, but is highly improved upon. The game is, as usual, set in a new Hyrule with wide, open roaming explorable environments that you can climb, swim, and investigate for hours without seeing all the same sights. It’s easy to get lost looking for something, only to come upon two or three more areas that take your breath away. Exploring in this game is often rewarded, if not by vistas, but by monster encampments that you can raid for weapons and loot, or areas in the varied, biome diverse landscapes with new items and shrines. This sheer scale brings you into a world you can explore for hours without getting bored. The people you’ll meet on this adventure, are also varied, each given a touch that makes them relatable, and to tell that their world is alive.
Gameplay is fantastic, you can try your luck and skill in being able to defend yourself with the game’s large choice of weapons and weapon combos. You get full control of Link, with the ability to parry blows with a shield or jump away from a hit and deliver a flurry of blows with a mêlée weapon. Combat on horse back and archery makes a return, with a new addition of stealth attacks and different outfits, each one with different effects and set bonuses. Food plays into this luck and skill reward system, with each environment boasting new foods, used to make dishes that give stat boosts. Exploring the environment can be tricky, the limited/restoring stamina system allows you to climb, swim, and run. Other effects play into this as the weather systems change, lightning can electrocute you, heat and cold can kill you, and rain keeps you from climbing normally accessible rock walls. This leads to balancing out the luck system for a more skill-based affair by completing the fun and challenging task of upgrading your abilities, which can be done at the various shrines, whose puzzles can range from easy to hard, or by collecting items for certain people. Pairing the right tools is key to survival, but the other key is the abilities. From freezing water to form traversal blocks, to locking a target in time while hitting it to build up it’s force, you got a lot of tricks. You also got bombs, infinite remote bombs. From giants, to Chu Chus, you get a full spectrum of nasty things to kill and collect from.
Graphically fantastic, with only minor hiccups on the frame rate. The grass sways with the wind or your movements, while rain pours and lighting can hit with full particle effects. Each of the parts of Hyrule boast a beautifully designed level of scenery, all boasting beautifully crafted building, plants and elements that are rendered in a beautiful art style. This is added with a great score, ambient noises and voice acting. It, at times, it makes me think I am watching a Miyazaki film, even when on the lower res Switch screen. Owing to ingenious design, the game’s art leans towards the brightly colored to highlight points of interest, and sometimes dim areas to also catch the player’s eye. I would be lying if I told you I did not stare slack jawed at some of the scenes.
All-in-all, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a welcome addition to the series, and will go out of its way to invigorate gaming itself. The environments and freedom to roam any peak and valley makes it a masterpiece in the open world game genre. And, when combined with the art, the atmosphere, the gameplay, lends itself to a story bigger than its separate parts.
From a Developer’s Perspective (by Mario)
The game is like-for-like on both the Nintendo Wii U and Switch consoles, save the slight boost in bilinear filtering and 900p resolution in Switch’s docked mode. Both console experiences are hampered by slight dips in frame-rate, probably caused by the use of Double Buffered VSYNC on the older IBM Power PC architecture on Wii U and the higher memory bandwidth of Switch’s console mode. The undocked mobile mode on the Nintendo Switch however, rarely suffers from any stutter or frame-drops at all.