Taking elements from previous Zelda games and mechanics from other games, the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a truly revolutionary game for the series. This game calls back to the open feel of the original Legend of Zelda and the storytelling of Ocarina of Time while tapping into the open-world survival genre. Nintendo has outdone themselves by creating something wholly new for the Zelda franchise, and regardless of your opinions of the series, this is a game you should play.
Zelda games in the past have been formulaic. Each game played in this order: You are asleep. Someone wakes you up and tells you that you are a hero. You visit dungeons where you solve puzzles to get a map and a special item. You use that item to beat the dungeon and usually the boss at the end. Rinse and repeat until you fight Ganon. In all of that, there is usually some gimmicky item to go along with the theme of the game such as a magic ocarina, an evil mask, or something of that nature. Breath of the Wild throws the formula out for an open game where you can literally try to beat the game from the start.
Breath of the Wild begins in a similar fashion to old Zelda games. You are woken up from sleep and told you are a hero. After that, it is up to you what you want to do. The game does not point you in any direction or hold your hand. Initially, you have some clues to get you started, but after you leave the Great Plateau, everything is up to you. This iteration of Hyrule is by far the largest in the series, and in this kingdom, you can traverse any mountain, hill, or river so long as you have the stamina.
Zelda games are usually dominated by dungeons packed with puzzles, mini-bosses, and a boss with tastes of the world in between. However, Breath of the Wild practices the inverse. The game is filled with shrines which typically have one major puzzle or an enemy to fight. There is a collection of larger dungeons, but they are still smaller than your typical Zelda dungeon. These dungeons are heavy on the puzzles with only a sprinkling of enemies.
When you start the game, you have some threadbare clothes and a stick to defend yourself, but it doesn’t take you long to build up your weaponry. Due to weapons degrading and breaking with use, you will go through scores of weapons during your time in Hyrule. This is strange due to the fact that gear typically defines your progression through a Zelda game. However, progression in Breath of the Wild is determined by how many shrines you’ve completed, how many hearts have or how much stamina you have. Breath of the Wild gives you all the tools you need to succeed at the beginning of the game. With those tools, you can solve puzzles in ways that the developers didn’t intend. Luckily, the game doesn’t punish you for breaking the puzzles.
In previous games, the enemy AI was polite enough to take turns fighting you, but that is different in Breath of the Wild. All the enemies come at you all at once, and some enemies will arch bow shots at you if you are off in the distance. Another interesting point, as you get stronger so do the enemies. The enemies know how to fight and evade obvious attacks. I’ve even had enemies kick bombs out of the way before I could detonate them.
Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule is a joy to explore because as you go you will always find something interesting to do, similar to the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Nintendo has crafted an excellent world to get lost in. I’m about 60 hours into the game, and I am still learning new things. I just learned that blocking arrows with my wooden shield, then putting my shield away will add those arrows to my inventory. During a lightning storm, having metal armor or weapons equipped can get you electrocuted fast.
Exploration is extremely rewarding because you never know what you will find on top of that mountain or across this valley. While exploring, your survival hinges on your harvesting what you need from nature. Hunting and gathering are essential parts of Breath of the Wild, and you would be hard-pressed to make it without doing both. Piggy-backing off hunting and gathering, cooking is a must. When doing so you can create meals to heal and buff you or potions made from reptiles, insects and monster parts. Without food or potions, you are doomed.
Even with all of my time logged in the game, there are still enemies that can kill me in 2 hits, and they aren’t even some of the land's toughest. I use everything the world offers to my advantage which means scoping out an enemy camp below a cliff to see if there is a boulder to drop on my foes.
I’ve written about all I dare without spoiling too much, but the game is gorgeous. While nothing that Breath of the Wild does is new and groundbreaking, what it does, it does well. Nintendo has crafted an amazing, essential game, and created a new direction for the Zelda series. While other games do open world gameplay better, Zelda has an unmistakable charm. Everything in this game was done deliberately and nothing is filler.
TL;DR: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing game filled with possibilities that are unlocked by your creativity. While other games say, “No, you have to play this way,” Breath of the Wild says, “Do what you want.” Certain Zelda games stand out as cultural icons, but Breath of the Wild stands on the shoulders of the series as the new golden child. I cannot recommend this game enough to fans and newcomers. Enjoy.