Regular readers of htxt (along with the four people who listen to our podcast – and thanks, by the way) will know that we’ve been slightly unkind about the Switch.
Oh, once we had it in our hands, we were suitably impressed – and justifiably so – but we have to hold our hands up for taking potshots at Nintendo’s new console for its near-anorexic launch line-up. Yes, we know there are more games in the pipeline, but really? A console launch with eight titles? Most of which are older games already available on other platforms? Really?
Well, in the interests of fairness – and we at hxt.africa are all about the fairness – it’s time for us to eat some humble pie and make the following admission: until that stream of games for the Switch starts flowing, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild will be more than enough to satiate the Nintendo faithful and make the console worth buying. It’s really that good.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review – Checking expectations
I say this, incidentally, as someone who has never really prayed at the altar of Nintendo. Where Nintendo-heads see lovable quirks, I see annoyances. I also have to say I’ve always slightly resented the fact that players seem to gloss over some of the silly things Nintendo has done in the past – such as its lousy YouTube policy – when they would have absolutely roasted Sony or Microsoft for similar behaviour.
I am not a Nintendo fanboy, but this shouldn’t get in the way of me telling you that The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (hereafter known as simply ‘BOTW’) is one of the best launch titles for any console in the history of gaming. Yes, I know, it shocked the hell out of me too.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review – Come new, come old
BOTW is sure to satisfy Zelda veterans as it combines the strongest features this series is known for while taking several pages out of the playbooks of other open-world exploration games – such as The Witcher 3 and Skyrim. That having been said, the end result doesn’t feel like some mash-up of these games; rather like any piece of entertainment that rises above the pack, it feels greater than the sum of its influences.
This is also a pretty great entry point into the series for Zelda newbies. While there are a couple of quirks to get to grips with, the satisfying gameplay loop, lush visuals and fantastic story is sure to help them overcome any irritation. Furthermore, since the story begins with Link waking up after several hundred years’ worth of hibernation unaware of what’s happened while he’s been asleep, the player enters the land of Hyrule with about as much information as the game’s protagonist.
It turns out that Ganon’s back, except now his full moniker is Calamity Ganon and instead of a rather porcine beast or hulking bloke with a sword, he’s a cloud of malevolent smoke. As the plot unfolds – and really, these are the bare bones because the less prospective players know going in, the better – Princess Zelda tried to contain Ganon, but once he’d gained control of Hyrule’s Divine Beasts and Guardians, Link needed to be awakened.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review – I’m in a wide open space
Players can go after Ganon right from the beginning, by the way – although Link will be turned into paint if they do – as, once they leave the starting area, all of Hyrule is open for exploration. There’s a loose structure to the proceedings involving Link having to find four main dungeons to seek out four Divine Beasts but as is the case with all great adventures, the player’s journey matters as much as the destination.
And what a journey lies in store for players. As they traverse the gorgeous and varied landscape of Hyrule – which looks like a painting come to life – they’ll engage in myriad activities. They can fight enemies, capture and break steeds to ride, cook food and eat it and cut down parts of their surroundings.
There are dungeons to raid, shrines to uncover that offer their own benefits and towers to climb in order to unlock fast-travel points – which likely they’ll never use. All of this is packed with lore, underpinned by an engrossing plot and, while some of the voice acting is a bit flat, the game envelopes the player and whisks them away to a magical place.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review – Quirky
Now, since this a Nintendo game, some uninitiated players may find some of BOTW’s peccadilloes hard work at first. To start with, all weapons in the game have a limited life-span. On the one hand this means that players won’t be able to rely on the same big sword for the entirety of the game, but they also are encouraged to mix things up, using all the weapons they’ve collected in their inventory. At the very least it means one won’t be sentimental about a particular weapon, since it’s going to break at some point.
Second, there’s the weather to consider. It can be troublesome and, in some cases fatal. When it rains, for example, Link struggles to climb rock faces and trees and if you’re caught in a storm while half way up a cliff, you’re in deep trouble. Furthermore, if Link’s holding any metal weapons in a lightning storm he can get fried; the only options the player has is to discard the weapons or find shelter until the storm abates.
Link’s stamina is also worth keeping an eye on. Once it runs out Link will have difficulty sprinting, jumping, climbing and hefting a weapon. In the heat of battle it can make the difference between winning and losing. It also limits how high Link can climb, but players can take a quick bite to eat half way up a cliff to replenish. When you set out on a climb, take food, and when all else fails remember you can use Link’s paraglider to gently waft down to safety.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Review – Verdict
But perhaps for the first time, these Nintendo quirks are more endearing than annoying, harkening back to a time when RPGs were something of a challenge and a mystery simultaneously. BOTW is a fantastic game, but more than that, it’s something the Xbox One and PS4 didn’t have at launch: it’s a bona fide system-seller.
- The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch. A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher.