Sunday, February 3

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Review

The version played for review: Switch
Available on: Switch, WiiU
The price I paid: £40
Other Notes: N/A

Breath of the Wild does a lot of firsts for the series, it's the first HD Zelda game, the first with voice acting and the first 3D Zelda to be open world. While this changes a lot of concepts that have become the tradition for modern Zelda's it doesn't feel out of place in the series. This is beyond anyone's doubt a Zelda game, just a newer, fresher and more modern one.

We play as the newest incarnation of series hero, Link. This is the first time we are unable to change the hero's name. Fully voiced characters will call Link by his name. I love this as it really brings some of the supporting cast to life. Breath of the Wild's version of Princess Zelda is my favourite of all her appearances. She is strong yet is allowed moments of doubt, weakness and affection. The relationship between her and Link is one of powerful friendship and respect. Link awakens 100 years after Ganon has defeated Hyrule's 4 champions. He's also seized control of 4 massive mechanical Divine Beasts and an army of smaller robotic Guardians. Zelda is holding Ganon within the grounds of Hyrule Castle and has been for the last 100 years. Link must uncover his memories, take back the Divine Beasts, defeat Ganon and save Zelda.

What this means in terms of gameplay is that you have a massive open map with 4 giant machines to conquer. You can find and climb a tower in each area to reveal the local map. This won't show you everything in the area like in Ubisoft games, it will just allow you to see the topographical map. It's up to you to scope out and mark anything you want to investigate using the vantage point. From here you can discover and solve puzzle shrines to increase your stamina or health. I'd advise doing so as you are rather weak to start with making combat and climbing difficult. You can also help out the locals with side quests. These are not that important and don't change the ending of the game at all. One of these quests has you using photos to try and find a bunch of areas related to Link's past with Zelda. After finding all 13 of these Link will fully recover his memory. I thought this would change the ending seeing as Link now fully remembers his time with Zelda and the Champions from 100 years ago. But no, this game only has one ending. It doesn't matter if you run right to Ganon after the tutorial or if you finish every side quest in the game it's still the same. I found this very disappointing as it made all my efforts feel pointless. You can't continue playing after finishing the final boss so there really is no reason to uncovering these memories or doing any side quests.

Breath of the Wild is undoubtedly beautiful. The art style here really takes some rather standard graphics and just makes them feel like a watercolour painting. Every character is able to express lots of emotion through just their visuals. The wide open world of Hyrule feels fantastic with each environment feeling distinct. This is done via separate weather systems for each. The Gerudo desert will have the hot sun that makes Link dizzy without water or shade. Zora's domain is pouring with rain making climbing next to impossible. The area around the Death Mountain volcano will be blisteringly hot. Without protection Link will burst into flames, any wooden tools or weapons will catch fire and food will cook if just left on the floor. There are so many different areas and similar to what I've described they all feel like their own thing. These unique weather effects as well a bright but varied colour palette really bring Hyrule to life. Most of the fun I had with Breath of the Wild came from exploring this world.

One of the worst moments that I feel I can't ignore in Breath of the Wild is the time spent in and around the Gerudo Town. This town is home to the all-female race of Gerudo. Only one male Gerudo is alive at a time with one being born around every 100 years or so. This is the race that Ganondorf, the predecessor to Ganon belongs to. As only women are allowed into this town and Link is not a woman you need to find a way in. My first thought was that I'd need to prove myself as the champion capable of stopping the divine beast to be allowed entry. So I defeated the 3 other beasts, recovered my memories and claimed the Master Sword but I was still not allowed in. What you need to do is talk to some guy trying to spy on the women inside. He then points you to someone else who made it into the city disguised as a woman. You can talk to this person. It's never made clear if they are a man or a trans woman but you're given the chance to out them "as a man". They sell you an outfit that lets you pass as a woman. After this, some wind blows away their veil showing a bearded person. Well, the joke here is "she's a man" and that itself is transphobic as heck. What really bothers me tho is that it backs up the ridiculous claim of men dressing up as women to sneak into women-only spaces that conservatives and TERFs always go on about. Here you are doing just that and it's horrible.

I have a lot of problems with this game. The ending is disappointing, the weapons break all the time, it forces in motion control puzzles and it gets really transphobic out of nowhere. Thing is, it's not a bad game. I did enjoy my time with it and I do plan on replaying it. Exploring this version of Hyrule is amazing. The Divine Beasts are some of the best puzzles in Zelda history in my opinion. I also love how open the game is with players. You can rush straight to Hyrule Castle and take on Ganon with no equipment or extra hearts if you like. While very difficult I love that the game lets you do so. I plan on doing a vegan run soon. I can only eat fruit, plants and nuts, no animal or monster parts. This limits the food I can make and removes elixirs entirely as they include insects and monster parts. That's what's great about Breath of the Wild, you can just play it however you want to. While it isn't perfect, it's not even the best Zelda game, it is fun and if you're a fan of the series then you should check it out.

Recommendation Rating: 8 out of 10

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