It’s already being touted as a contender for greatest launch game ever released, and in all fairness to The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild on the Nintendo Switch, it’s praise it genuinely deserves. Expectations were riding very high for the first Link adventure in an Open world setting and it really doesn’t disappoint with sumptuously styled graphics, a sweeping and epic storyline, brilliant gameplay mechanics and the type of immersion that could easily become a full time activity.
The story is both classic Link, while also pushing the boundaries of storytelling for the series. There’s the tradition wake up start, along with a few friendly faces, an old legend that stretches back through time, the missing Princess Zelda and an ancient evil known as Calamity Ganon that is gaining power in a bid to finish the job it put in motion 100 years ago.
However, it’s the drama and detail of the storytelling that brings it all to life with excellent cinematic scenes and a slowly unfolding plot that sees you unpicking the mystery of it all bit by bit. It leads you through the game with a drip feed of revelations, which sees you understand things a little better as your skills and strength grows.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is an expansive open world adventure with third person platform and RPG influence, and what a world Nintendo has created. From some of the most complex and detailed villages ever seen in the series to snow capped peaks, an impressive palace compound and smoking volcano, this is a brilliantly diverse environment to explore.
It’s fair to say that a few of the gameplay mechanics owe something to Assassin’s Creed III, with wall climbing, sneaking, trade and hunter gathering all taking their bow in BOTW. While Ubisoft should take at least a little pat on the back, the reality is that this is very much a natural evolution of the genius of the Legend Of Zelda games and every element – old, borrowed, new and fine-tuned – combines to deliver an absolute joy of a game to play.
Link moves incredibly smoothly with pinpoint controls in everything he does, whether it’s his transition from steep slope to vertical climb, sword skills, dive into water or the sheer wonder of the Stasis and Magnetic Runes. The last two come from the high-tech might of the Sheikah Tablet, which is one of the coolest new features. It introduces an element of sophisticated technology that we haven’t seen before and it works very well to make the game as cool as it is.
This is added to by the Guardian machines that show up all over Hyrule, putting up some of the most difficult battles you’ll face. It’s like The Legend Of Zelda meets Horizon Zero Dawn and it’s ferociously good. They’re not the only nasties dotted around the landscape, and there’s a lot to take on, but the new mix of fantasy with sci-fi works very well.
The addition of both foraging and hunting for food to get health boosts, as well as the weapon degradation system, makes the adventure feel more real world than any other series game before it. This is taken to the next level by the cooking system, which allows you to combine ingredients to make different meals and elixirs, which come in handy as you attempt to make it through the game.
Travel has clearly been given a lot of thought with so much expanse to move around in. To begin with you only get your own steam, which isn’t too bad on the Plateau, but it does start to become laborious as your world map expands. Luckily, there’s also the quality of fast travel between towers and shrines, which takes a lot of the leg work out of moving in areas you’ve already explored.
However, its with your first ride of a horse that the wide open spaces of the game opens up to you. They’re great fun to ride and the whole taming and soothing mechanism adds to the real feel of the gameplay.
This is one hell of a stunning game, delivering the majority of its impact thanks to the beautiful HD cel shading style it has enhanced since it was last used in The Legend Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. The cinematic cut scenes are awe inspiring at times and it all combines to make this one of the must play games of the year.
You could easily become a bit of a game tourist and just wander around gawping at all the impressive visuals, but with such strong gameplay and story there’s a real drive to take on the challenge of the game. If anything, though, that just brings more and more incredible graphics your way as you explore more of the environment, battle bigger and more intimidating monsters and take in more of the cinematic story scenes.
Looking at the game a little more critically, it’s fair to say that it isn’t flawless when it comes to the graphics. Draw distance is good, but there’s an element of items just popping into existence as you get closer and the details of horizontal lines can mesh a little from further away. They’re minor points though and while they are noticeable it doesn’t really happen all that often, so it has only a little impact on our review score.
The sound and music for The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is definitely worth a little shout out. It’s beautifully crafted with soft notes when needed and wild intensity when things get a little hairy. Unlike previous installments in the series, the theme tune isn’t always on as you move around the game wold. Instead, it’s used infrequently to remind you of past glories. What this means is that while you’re climbing a mountain or running along a forest trail, all you have to accompany you is the atmospheric sounds of the wild, which fits the game perfectly.
When the music does kick in, it’s as rich and diverse as the gaming environment, ranging from playful notes to symphonic crescendos. However, our favourite sound-based development in the game is the introduction of actual speech on the part of the part of the main characters during larger cinematic scenes. Most of the dialogue is presented in the same old screen text that we’ve always had, but every now and again the traditional reading approach changes and the characters speak. We hardly noticed this at first with Zelda’s dreamlike “wake up” chat at the beginning of the game, but when the old man reveals who he really is and starts to speak the game takes another step up in terms of its impact.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a glorious game to play, with a whole lot of exploration, drama, mystery and action to take in. It’s a big game with big ambitions, and it delivers on them to near perfection.
This is the Zelda game we’ve all been waiting for and it’s even better than expected with finely honed gameplay mechanics, an Oscar worthy storyline, eye candy graphics and inspirational sound and music. It may not quite have the tech fire power to deliver it without flaw, but it comes very very close. It’s a wonderful achievement for the developers and the fact that you can play the game anywhere on the Nintendo Switch only adds to its gleaming shine.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild review: 4.9/5