Breath of the Wild is here! It’s finally here, the super different, super massive Zelda game we have all been waiting for! I reserved the game (the Wii U version) at my local game store the day it was released, as I worried the insane hype over not only the game itself, but the Switch, would make obtaining a copy rather difficult. I can’t say whether or not such measures were absolutely necessary, but boy, was I not taking any chances. (I do know that by the time I arrived at the store, there was a sign on the door saying they had sold out of Switch consoles.) I started playing the game that evening, and it’s pretty much all I did over the weekend.
While I plan to write more about my experiences with this game as my time with it grows, right now, I just want to focus on my early impressions, so if you’re worried about spoilers, this post should be pretty safe, on the most part. I can’t promise the same for later posts. But we’ll see.
First of all, were my original assumptions about the game correct? Well, yes, actually. Based on the name “Breath of the Wild”, the images of a rock-climbing Link, and the video clips of deer and other wildlife, I thought that the game would be themed around surviving in the wilderness. And it seems as if my initial assessment was pretty much spot-on. Go, me! It becomes clear quite early on that Link will succeed or die depending on how good the player is at hunting or foraging for food and obtaining better weapons and clothing. Item management is essential in this game because weapons and shields break and hearts are nowhere to be found. Unlike previous installments, you can’t simply cut some grass and easily find some hearts or fairies to replenish your health. If poor Link is ailing, you better have some food he can eat, or he won’t last long. Or if you’re somewhere cold, you’ll need to plan accordingly with warm clothes or spicy food that can keep Link cozy.
But I get ahead of myself. Let’s step back a moment and discuss my very first hour or two with the game, shall we?
As soon as I began the game, it became increasingly clear that this was going to be unlike any Zelda game we have ever played before. Shortly after Link awoke, rather than begin some strict, tutorial stage of sorts, I found myself distracted by gathering mushrooms and apples. I then found a handy tree branch for fending off enemies, and shortly afterward, a rusty sword. And while a spot was marked on the map to which I should have been headed, I quickly became lost in the sheer wonder of this massive world I had been thrust into.
The first thing I did after obtaining those initial items was explore. I visited the Temple of Time, which I recognized from Ocarina of Time, and pondered whether or not this place was indeed modelled after the Hyrule Castle Town we knew from the Nintendo 64 days. I found it to be great fun pushing boulders down onto unsuspecting Bokoblin camps. I learned that apples will disintegrate if you cook them for too long. I also took great pride in my ability to clear out an entire group of Bokoblins that were camped out in a giant skull thanks to a new shield I had obtained and some nimble footwork. And of course, I had an awesome time with the game’s pretty interesting physics. I love that there are multiple ways of getting stuff done and that most things behave pretty much as you’d expect them to in the real world. For example, a pack of Bokoblins hiding out in a narrow trench between the mountains stood no chance when I lit the grass on fire just outside the entrance. Mwahaha, Link is a formidable force indeed. The physics also work against you from time to time, as well. I tried to cook a mushroom on a campfire when it was windy out, and it blew away. Woops.
When I finally got around to working on the game’s early objectives, I discovered a few more details about the game that left me rather relieved. One, there is actually pretty minimal voice acting, so the same old chuckles and grunts and what have you that the characters are known to make have not changed. Voice acting is reserved for more important dialogue, but on the most part, it is absent. And while I had initially hoped the game would have had little to no guidance so that we could really get a feel for the Hylian wilderness, I actually prefer the game’s mix of story and exploration. There is a plot. You are given objectives. But you are still given the freedom to explore this enormous world and get to the story when you so choose rather than certain areas being blocked off until you progress through the next part of the story. The only part of the game that is a bit more structured is the very beginning, on the Great Plateau where you wake up. And even then, I spent far more time just having fun and running around than actually doing what I was told.
Anyway, let’s address a few more past concerns before we end this post. First of all, I was super pleased to find that the huge world was not barren as many of us had initially feared. There is actually plenty to do. Plenty of items to collect, chests to find, side quests to complete. In fact, it’s actually quite overwhelming, but at least I can safely say the issues I had with Wind Waker’s expansive ocean and Twilight Princess’s Hyrule Field have been solved. Continuing from there, there are a ton of Shrines to locate, as well, and they are scattered everywhere. Each one contains a puzzle, and thus far, they have largely been pretty good.
All in all, Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be an epic entry in the Zelda series. I love how massive the world feels. I love that mountains are no longer there to box you in, but rather, can be climbed and explored just like anything else. I love the sheer beauty of this land we get to explore, complete with weather and wildlife and even the delightful hoots of owls and the chirp of crickets at nighttime. I’m just shocked how quickly I warmed up to the idea of hunting deer and goats for food. I also really like the fact that this game somewhat mixes in things from previous games in the series. The Korok and Rito from Wind Waker make a comeback, and elixirs and other various upgrades from Skyward Sword have returned, as well, but this time, they feel a lot more necessary and helpful.
My only complaints are these: I don’t really like how some enemies can wipe out five hearts in one blow. That seems a bit overkill for me. I suppose you’re supposed to obtain armor and the like to face these stronger baddies, but I’m not used to this in a Zelda game. It’s rather frustrating when I’m retreating from a tough group of Bokoblins, only to die when a Keese swoops down and attacks before I even see it coming. And this is with full health, mind you. Secondly, I do miss the large dungeons from previous entries. My favorite part of the Zelda series are the dungeons, so the fact that this game, so far anyway, seems to only include what are essentially extra-mini-dungeons, leaves a bit of an empty void inside of me. It’s like a Mario game without Yoshi. Sure, it’ll probably still be awesome, but that doesn’t stop me from missing my favorite green dino.
Who else has been having a blast playing Breath of the Wild? What are your favorite new features? Is there anything you wish was different? Please let me know in the comments below.
Duck of the Wild: I Am Not Food, Link!
Image from Flickr User: Jeux Video