It’s no secret to you guys that we love The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Many people have touted it as being one of the best games ever made. You can count me amongst them.
While not a perfect game, BotW is a deep experience with tons of character and an expansive world that should be exhibit A of a video game truly being art.
The world is huge. I mean huge. Way bigger than Skyrim. Bigger than the Witcher 3. Possibly bigger than GTA V, but sans sports cars and super bikes, so it feels much bigger.
The size isn’t on its own an asset, though. In fact, one of the Metacritic reviews we mentioned on the first show we talked about BotW stated, “Sadly, the open world is often empty and soulless, lacking a proper soundtrack, characters or stories that make for a truly unique experience.” While I understand how someone could come to that conclusion, I couldn’t disagree more.
The environment of BotW is the star of the game. It’s the best character. It is not densely populated with NPCs, quest givers, and baddies itching to kill you like the Witcher 3, for instance. But the world itself is the reward for your exploration.
Each region of the map has its own character with its own landscapes and nuances. Some places are cold while others will literally set you ablaze if not properly equipped. There are areas ripe for hunting wildlife, climbing mountains to survey the landscape, zipping around by skitchin’ on a sand seal, or creating giant snowballs and slamming them into unsuspecting enemies.
The video below shows my personal journey through the map, thanks to the Hero’s Path feature of the first DLC. As you can see, from the Great Plateau where you start, I weaved through each of the areas of the map, mostly stumbling upon the awesomeness that the game offers instead of seeking out locations intentionally.
Watching the path drawn above brought back so many memories about different experiences in the game. For instance, there was my unsuccessful attempt glide to Eventide Island at 0:41 and then returning at 1:51 to complete one of the most unique and rewarding experiences in the game. There’s also the shrine hopping at the end of the video as Jamie and I sought to and succeeded in completing all the shrines in the game during E3.
The world is what will bring me back to this game over and over. I’m shocked by how many places I haven’t explored after watching the Hero’s Path.
In my opinion, BotW is either the first or second best Zelda game along with Ocarina of Time. I’ll now follow that sentence with something that seems nonsensical as a Zelda fan – the dungeons and bosses of BotW were entirely lame.
Zelda has always been built on great dungeons and boss fights. Just think about the Shadow Temple or, heaven forbid, the Water Temple both from Ocarina of Time. Or the Tower of Hera from a Link to the Past. And the bosses! Volvoagia, Phantom Ganon, Majora, Dark Link, and giant pig Ganon, to name a few.
BotW lacks in both memorable dungeons and bosses. The final fight with Ganon is somewhat memorable, but the other bosses a meh at best. But BotW introduced a fantastic new addiction – Shrines.
Shrines are essentially mini-dungeons. They come in two varieties – combat Shrines and puzzle Shrines. While the combat shrines are cool at first, they sadly get old after a while as they lack diversity aside from the difficulty. It’s one of my biggest complaints of the game.
Thankfully, most of the shrines are puzzles very much in the tradition of Zelda, but updated for modern gaming sensibilities. Some of the puzzles rely on you to creatively use your abilities such as bombs, time stopping, or tapping your inner Magneto. Others are physics based or timing trials. And whereas the combat shrines get repetitive, the puzzle shrines are amazingly different and diverse.
The most fun part of BotW for me was stumbling upon shrines or trying to solve Shrine Quest riddles given by the traveling accordion-wielding Rito minstrel Kass. I was genuinely excited every time that annoying beep of the Shrine detector starting hassling me like a smoke detector with a dying battery.
The thing I want most out of DLC is more shrines. New map areas to explore would be great, and additional story would be fun to play, but honestly I’m addicted to those shrines.
Give Me a Blacksmith!:
One of the new gameplay elements to BotW is that equipment breaks over time. It applies to melee weapons, shields, and bows, but notably, not to armor. The concept is cool, but the execution is flawed.
I’d use Diablo as a great example of how to do breakable gear well. Give me a blacksmith that can repair stuff! One of the things I remember from Diablo was certain gear that couldn’t be repaired, called ethereal. A similar system could work great in BotW.
I would suggest making the standard gear in the game repairable, while better gear, such as ancient weapons found from defeating guardians, wouldn’t be repairable. That would leave a level of gear preservation strategy in tact in the game. Also, I went through much of the game with an excess of rupees – this would have given me some spending incentive.
The gear was also pretty disappointing as you get into the end-game. Because there’s no linear path for completing the game, there’s very little sense of gear progressively getting better until you get to Hyrule Castle at the very end. It would have been great to have a more dynamic weapon upgrading system so that you’re still excited to get chests at the end of the game.
This whole gear thing culminates in another way that BotW strays from previous Zelda games. There’s not the excitement of getting new toys, like the boomerang or the ice arrows. Instead, you get almost all of your powers near the beginning of the game and the gear, aside from armor, is almost completely disposable.
Armor is the one exciting gear upgrade throughout the game. Because so many regions have climate-induced restrictions, you must find or purchase certain gear to get through the game. Also, the reward for completing all 120 shrines is <SPOLER ALERT> the classic Link outfit, green hat and all.
What BotW does best is both feel like a classic Zelda game while feeling totally different all at the same time.
The first video game I fell in love with when I was 5 or 6 years old was the original Legend of Zelda.
I played Zelda II: Link’s Adventure obsessively. Honestly, it’s a subpar Zelda, but I still love it.
Before the Internet, I remember calling the pay-per-minute Nintendo hotline to get help when I got stuck in A Link to the Past. I even rekindled a lost childhood friendship with a kid named Billy over our love for the SNES Zelda.
I discovered my mom hiding Ocarina of Time in a closest as a Christmas present and convinced her to give it to me early so I could start playing early in return for feigning surprise on Christmas morning.
My friendship with my Gaming Uncensored cohost Jamie blossomed over us playing through Wind Waker together. You have Zelda to thank for 12 years and counting of Gaming Uncensored.
Breath of the Wild scratched my Zelda itch. It felt more like Zelda to me than many of the recent iterations, especially the most recent console titles on the Wii. I can’t quite explain why, but it reminded more of that childhood joy of A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time than any game, Zelda or otherwise, that I’ve played in my adult life.
If you visit our Top 10s page here on the Gaming Uncensored website, you must know that my list is now out of date. Breath of the Wild is without a doubt one of my 10 favorite games of all time, and will be near the top of that list when we revisit our favorite games.