It worked out well for Nintendo that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild got stuck in development hell for years, spinning its wheels for so long that it outlasted the lifespan of the Wii U. The deep, sprawling saga is the ideal launch game for the Nintendo Switch, showcasing the raw power of the hybrid console in both its home and portable forms. Whether you are huddled on your couch or in the backseat of a car on a road trip, the sweeping, grandiose adventure is by the far the largest-scale game the series has seen. With the likes of Skyrim, Read Dead Redemption and The Witness showing as heavy influences, this reborn Zelda stays true to the spirit of the series, lifting it to lofty new heights.
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Consoles: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Wii U
Release Date: March 3
You start the game as a half-naked version of Link, equipping yourself with some ragged clothes, a clunky weapon and a mystical device that acts something like a Grand Theft Auto V smartphone. There’s no obnoxious fairy to bark hints into your ear, so you are left to gather clues and plot out waypoints on the map yourself. The harsh, unforgiving world in which you’re set free has a million ways to kill you. In addition to roaming, bloodthirsty beasts, there’s lightning and landscape hazards waiting to slash your stash of hearts. Weapons wear down and break, your stamina meter dwindles when you’ve sprinted or climbed too much without rest, and you need to scavenge and craft food to keep your health up. That’s a lot to manage, but the upside is that you are free to explore far and wide rather than be forced to find an item in a dungeon that unlocks a walled-off section of the map until later in the game.
With far more voice acting and cinematics than the story has previously seen, Breath of the Wild comes alive in far more cinematic a way than Zelda fans are used to. Picturesque visuals emerge out of every turn, and there are more ways to explore the terrain than ever before. Whether you are hoofing it, on horseback, hang gliding or sledding down the slopes on your shield, you’ll find yourself happily lost in the country for hours, digging up the myriad secrets that lurk just out of sight. Combat focuses more on strategic sword-and-shieldplay than before, requiring you to block, parry and move in for the kill at opportune times to stay alive. Enemies swarm you rather than sticking to a preset, mindless path, making it all the more rewarding when you’re able to fend them off in a multitasking frenzy to keep your heart beating to see another battle.
If there’s a fault to the game, it’s that casual players may find it too intimidating to stick with. There is so much to see and do that the effect can be discouraging, if not paralyzing. Because the world is truly open from the outset for the first time since the original game, it’s easy to stray off the main path. Many players who plunge into the world will find themselves too tied up on side quests and distractions to push through the main campaign, but that’s just a testament to how rich the world is. This is a game that makes strategy guides and online walkthroughs pretty close to a must for players determined to see the story through to the end.
Evolving and growing like a moving masterpiece on a boundless canvas, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a sweet reward for fans of the series who have waited since the Wii’s Skyward Sword to take another sojourn into a 3D, console-geared series entry. Following proudly in the lineage that started with the Ocarina of Time and carried into Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, the new adventure dwarfs its predecessors in scope, visuals and focus. Any Switch owner should pick this up on day one, if only because it’s the only game with serious meat on its bones available at launch. Wii U owners who are skeptical of the new system can get the presumably scaled-back previous-gen version of the game, but those looking to push forward into wild new frontiers need to pick up a Switch and Breath of the Wild and never look back.
‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ Around The Web:
“Finally getting to spend some time in this massive world was thrilling.” –Nintendo World Report
“My impressions of it are so good that I want to talk about it in detail.” –ShackNews
“Like ‘The Witness’ meets ‘Don’t Starve.'” –Game Revolution
‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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