I've been trying to get motivated enough to finally sit down and finish The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (the Wii U version). Part of what helped spur me on was the latest Power Pros podcast that looked back at the game, six months after its release. [In case you don't know, Power Pros is a solid podcast by former Nintendo Power editors.] I was definitely wary of the game even before it was released. Yes, it looks gorgeous (it really reminds me of Studio Ghibli films, which I love in general), but the open world gameplay was actually a pretty big turn-off for me. I already know that I prefer my games to be more structured without a lot of filler sidequests, and this was probably the main thing that caused me to feel fairly lukewarm about the game during my entire playthrough.
It seems churlish to be in the dissenting minority of a game that is so universally praised, but I found the game's individual parts to feel too familiar (Gorons and Zoras, check, desert area, check, Lost Woods, check, and of course the requisite stealth sections, yawn). The "go anywhere, do anything" format definitely changes things up, and it's impressive that the world is so vast. I actually played the game a ton when I first got it (like 60 hours), and a lot of that was motivated by finding all the towers and unlocking the entire map, and tracking down the "memories" (cut-scenes triggered by finding particular locations). I did most of the shrines I came across (about half of the 120), and I liked the four dungeons overall. They were very short, though, which wouldn't have been a bad thing if there were more of them. I did some of the other (optional) dungeon-esque areas, but overall I felt the game was too homogeneous. I was really disappointed that all the shrines have the same aesthetic, and that the four dungeons also share the same aesthetic. The dungeons were fun, but there was nothing reaching the heights of unique and memorable design as Ocarina's Forest Temple or Jabu-Jabu's Belly or Wind Waker's Forsaken Fortress or Twilight Princess's dungeon in the sky. Towns were pretty boring, and there wasn't enough enemy variety, and although climbing up mountains and paragliding off of them was fun for a while, it definitely gets pretty boring before you get to the end of the game.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the Zelda series in general is gaining items over the course of your adventure. In this game you get all the items at the beginning of the game, and this also makes the game feel like it lacks a strong sense of progression. Yes, you do get more powerful weapons as you defeat more powerful enemies, but a lot of the time the weapons are basically just the same as lower-ranked weapons but with more attack power or durability.
I liked the game well enough overall, but after beating it I feel like for me it winds up in the middle of the pack in terms of Zelda games. I'm disappointed that after such huge acclaim for the game that subsequent games are going to be heavily based on it, but it may be that Nintendo improves on the design and alleviates the overall lack of variety and innovation I felt during my playthrough. I'm curious about how the DLC turns out, but unless it sounds like something really different I doubt I'm going to get back into this game again. I have dipped into replaying more games in the series, but I'm not in a big hurry to finish any of them, given all the other great games that are being released seemingly every week. The curse of too many games!
Climb every one of these The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild links:
- Official site. Includes details on the DLC, videos, concept art, and wallpapers.
- Walkthrough at zeldadungeon.net, with an interactive map
- Write-up at Lofi-Gaming, which offers the perspective of someone who never finished the other 3D Zelda games
- There's no shortage of articles about the game. Here's a random one that takes a look at things that happen when you play the game as naked Link.
- Cool speed run
- Entry on Metacritic. Apparently the game set the record for the most perfect scores for a single game.
- Review on NintendoLife