My first few hours with Breath of the Wild were fraught, at best.

“My weapons break after killing literally one enemy!” I proclaimed. Enemies were brutal, and the limited stamina coupled with the temperature gauge system seemed perplexing. This was too hard. Everything was so unforgiving. I was seeing the ‘Game Over’ screen more often than I was seeing the beautiful, rolling landscape of Hyrule. This wasn’t the Zelda I’d grown up with. I wasn’t sure what it was trying to be, but I didn’t like it. I despaired at the sheer cacophony of adoration for the game; the endless 9s and 10s it’d scored on Metacritic. I just couldn’t see it.

Thankfully, I had the sense to persevere through the game despite my reservations. And, oh, how glad I am that I did.

Breath of the Wild is a marvel of design; it’s a wonder of ingenuity, and it has completely changed the standard when it comes to open world game creation.”

No, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not perfect. it’s not without its flaws nor is it without tiny niggles that we wish were different. But once Hyrule truly has you in its all-encompassing, powerful grip, there’s no getting out of it. Breath of the Wild is a marvel of design; it’s a wonder of ingenuity, and it has completely changed the standard when it comes to open world game creation.

A Link to the Past was the first game of my ‘own’ I’d ever played. I was seven years old when my parents gifted me a SNES one Christmas; I was no stranger to video games having played my older brother’s Commodore 64 and Amiga 500 since I was old enough to toddle into his bedroom, but the Super Nintendo was mine. For the first time, I was in charge of when and what I played. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came bundled with my console, and it didn’t take long for it to become my favourite game. It’s the first game I ever completed by myself, and, along with a select few others, is one of the games I hold most highly in nostalgic regard.

I’ve played several other Zelda iterations since then – Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy Colour, Ocarina of Time on the N64, Phantom Hourglass on DS and Twilight Princess on Wii. I expected something similar from Breath of the Wild: a formulaic yet wondrous journey across multiple lands, very prescriptive in where and what it leads me towards. Yet, what I actually got was a completely blank canvas. At first, the sheer scale of Breath of the Wild is overwhelming; when you’re used to carefully laid-out paths marking your route and not-so subtle nudges in the direction you’re meant to go,  having complete freedom over where to go and what to do feels alien. Initially it was unwelcome; I longed for the comfort of guidance but it was nowhere to be found.

Actually though, this very thing is what becomes the beauty of Breath of the Wild. Unlike many games of today, it doesn’t question your intelligence as a player. It trusts that you’ll eventually know what to do and it sits back while you make your own decisions. What has always felt a little like a young person’s franchise – a “My First RPG” if you will – has finally grown up. It’s for the people like me, who played Zelda as a youngster, now adults in their late twenties and thirties, needing more from their video games. It’s for the newcomers to the series – and even to gaming in general – wanting an accessible yet sophisticated, epic adventure with no boundaries nor restraints. It’s for everyone, with any type of play style catered for in its vast, open arms.

Breath of the Wild begins by easing you in gently. You’re given a small section of the map to get your bearings before being let loose to explore the far reaches of Hyrule. Even this starting section feels daunting at first. You’re given several objectives, but how and when to complete them is entirely up to you. That’s a theme continued throughout the game. You always have a main goal to work towards – if you want to. You can run straight to fighting Ganon, the final boss, if that’s what you want to do. Or you can do what the game intended you do, and savour every last second by exploring all the nooks and crannies; talking to every townsperson you come across and celebrating every tiny secret that your own curiosity has helped you uncover. More than it is an adventure or a action-driven story of good versus evil, Breath of the Wild is a game about discovery and exploration. And in one of the most rich, varied and exuberant landscapes I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend time in, you haven’t truly experienced the game until you have thoroughly explored the vast array of what it has to offer.

“In one of the most rich, varied and exuberant landscapes I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend time in, you haven’t truly experienced the game until you have thoroughly explored the vast array of what it has to offer.”

In almost every way, Breath of the Wild is absolutely breathtaking. Its art style screams renaissance watercolour; beautiful but subdued, and yet begs to be admired. It’s easy to lose hours simply taking in the scenery. From grassy knolls high above quaint villages to snow-covered mountains, the locations are constantly evolving around you. As you run through valleys and across rivers, seasons change in front of your eyes; night becomes day; a blizzard becomes a thunderstorm before transforming into a beautiful summer’s day. Despite how desolate and dilapidated the world can feel at times, it’s actually teeming with life. From tiny bugs hopping through the grass to majestic deer grazing atop a hill, everywhere you look, Breath of the Wild literally breathes life.

While some areas can feel barren, you’re never running for long before you stumble across something of interest. Maybe a lone enemy, or perhaps an enemy hideout with treasure waiting for you to steal. There’s towns and villages to explore, each one brimming with activity and people waiting to give you side quests or clues about places to visit. Everywhere you go you’re always only a stone’s throw away from some kind of puzzle, too, with over 100 Shrines dotted all over the map and, allegedly, over 900 Korok seeds to find, each hidden via a small puzzle in the environment. If you wanted to do everything that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild throws at you, you could spend several hundred hours in the game and still not run out of things to do.

With the typical dungeon pattern of older Zelda games a thing of the past, the new Shrines make up the bread and butter of what’s missing. Each Shrine contains a puzzle – or occasionally, the puzzle is in locating the Shrine – and for solving it, you’re rewarded a Spirit Orb. Get four Spirit Orbs, and you can unlock a new heart container or an upgrade to your stamina wheel. The puzzles are very reminiscent of what you may have found in a traditional Zelda dungeon; a series of switches or environmental blocks to get around. Occasionally there are enemies to fight, but usually, these are tests of your ability to think logically. The vast range of puzzle types on offer is quite a feat, and the majority of them are a pleasure to solve – with some being much more fiendish than others. As are most things in Breath of the Wild, the Shrines are completely optional, but you’d be wise to dive into as many as possible.

Closer still to the typical dungeons of past games are the Divine Beasts – four mechanical giants that form part of the main storyline of the game. Although intrinsic to the story, their completion is still optional – but you’d be a fool to skip over them. Each Divine Beast is a protector of one of Hyrule’s towns that has been overtaken by Ganon’s evil power, and your task is to enter its giant mechanism, solve the puzzles inside and defeat the evil form that’s possessed it. You’ll experience the rich cultural diversity of Hyrule as you make your way along a Divine Beast’s questline, each interaction a reward in itself. Once you’re inside the Beast, your logic skills will be taken to their limits as you rely on ingenuity and trial and error to proceed through a number of intertwining and well-designed puzzles.

What initially seemed like negatives as I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild actually ended up being integral and important parts of the game design. Breaking weapons felt like an unnecessary annoyance – why not just give me upgraded weapons as I advance through the game? But in a game that allows you complete freedom over your own progress, that wouldn’t be entirely feasible. Link’s short stamina supply is important too; you can climb absolutely anywhere in the game and your only limit is that little green circle of stamina. Paying attention to it means you need to think carefully about how to access particular areas, and makes the reward of reaching that high mountain peak, or the other side of that lake, all the more sweet. Enemies that one-hit killed me, or initially felt too difficult to beat were soon enough greater victories as I improved Link’s health and armour. If enemies in a particular area seemed too hard, it was soon a good indicator that I should perhaps travel in a different direction for a while.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is yours to experience however you want. It’s a new generation of Zelda, and it’s a whole new breed of open world gaming. And it’s brilliant.”

I’d be merely nitpicking if I drew attention to anything that was less than perfect in the game. Yes, there are occasional drops in framerate when you’re playing in docked mode.  Sure, the draw distance isn’t the best and you may not see an enemy outpost until you’re already too close to avoid it. In the grand scheme of things, the sheer brilliance of everything else that makes up Breath of the Wild‘s whole far outweighs the bad, and to focus on those few issues would be doing the game a genuine disservice.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece that’s been 30 years in the making. Every Zelda game so far somehow feeds into its rich tapestry; with familiar names and places popping up to remind us of the game’s rich heritage. The amount of love and care that’s gone into creating Breath of the Wild flows from every tiny detail. It’s perhaps the most carefully thought-out open world we’ve ever encountered; not only is it vast and beautiful, but everything has a purpose. It’s almost a giant sandbox for you to explore and experiment with in any way you want. The number of ways you can interact with your surroundings never fails to astound me, and even after 80+ hours with the game I’m still finding clever little nuances that I didn’t know were there.

Every moment spent with Breath of the Wild is pure joy. It’s the sheer delight of discovering something new: the first time you accidentally hit a cuccoo, or the first time you throw some ingredients into a cooking pot. It’s the incredible reward of reaching the top of that tower and seeing fresh, unexplored land laid out before you. It’s the feeling of exhilaration when you land a killing blow on a colossal Hinox or a brutal Lynel. It’s the sum of all those things; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is yours to experience however you want. It’s a new generation of Zelda, and it’s a whole new breed of open world gaming. And it’s brilliant.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available on Switch and Wii U. We reviewed the Switch version.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review
The most incredible and varied open world to exploreIt's yours to experience however you wishCare and love has been poured into every last detail
Framerate drops/low draw distance may be irksome to someInitial difficulty needs to be overcome
10Overall Score
  • Azor Ahai

    overrated

  • MTC001

    well deserved.

  • Gray-Haired Gamer

    Great review! I’m about 75 hours in, 2 divine beasts complete, and I’m loving it just as much — if not more so — than I was during those first few “honeymoon” days with it. It’s simply one of the best games I’ve ever played.

    • Kim

      Couldn’t agree more! The more you explore and find out about the world, the more there is to love. I did all four divine beasts and a bunch of side stuff, and finally got up the courage to explore Hyrule Castle. Accidentally ‘ran into’ Ganon, and I’ve never been so upset to see the end credits roll! I’m a little disappointed the game doesn’t let you continue adventuring in the world once Ganon has been beaten, but thankfully it autosaves right before so I can jump straight back in and continue. Still got another 50 or so shrines to find… somewhere!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      • Gray-Haired Gamer

        You bet! It was a nicely written review. I get slight anxiety every time the loading screen appears and I see that I only have about 1/3rd of the shrines and 1/10th of the Korok seeds LOL, but I think the beauty in this game is that none of it’s required. It makes things easier and more convenient if you spend the time to complete them (and the shrines themselves are a lot of fun), but the game lets you make those decisions on your own, which is one of the best and most liberating parts of this game.

      • Lee Henderson

        Thanks for the heads up. I’ll avoid Hyrule Castle until the very end.

        • Kim

          You should definitely visit sooner if you can – just be careful where you go, because there’s a LOT to explore in the castle and some awesome loot to be had. If you approach from the North, heading south to the back of the castle, that seems to be the best route to take. When I tried going in from the front, wherever I went I’d end up in Ganon’s hands!

          • Gray-Haired Gamer

            Just wanted to follow-up to say that I finished the game last night. 100 hours, 85 shrines, 180 some-odd seeds, all memories. Amazing, amazing game. Ending gave me chills, it hit all the right notes. I can’t wait to hop back in to at least go for the rest of the shrines and sidequests, and with DLC coming this year, I think all of us will be heading back to Hyrule at least two more times. I’m half-tempted to wait until I have a Switch to play this from scratch again this holiday.

  • Lee Henderson

    I purchased a Wii U last weekend. It would be overly romantic to proclaim i bought it solely to play Breath of the Wild, but there are numerours games i have longed for on this console and Breath of the Wild was that ‘Buckeroo’ moment where i thought, “Screw it. I’m getting a new console”
    When i registered for a Nintendo ID, it asked me what genre’s i like to play. RPG, Adventure and Puzzle.
    Zelda games have always been the very best of these, but Breath of the Wild takes it to a whole new level. As an open world game, you can’t let it slip that this experience is the pinnicle of Einstien’s expression “If i have seen further, it is because i have stood on the shoulders of giants”
    BOTW borrows elements from other games, but any game within a certain catergory has embedded within it the same tropes and tricks all the rest do. But every one has its own little quirks that pull you in, or have you turning away.
    Though i am loath to compare games as it does neither any justice, in this instance i must, but i only compare BOTW to games i have a fondness for too. This Zelda game does everything right. The compat is diffcult enough that i feel a sense of occomplishment when the last enemy disappears in a puff of black smoke. If i am defeated, i do not blame the game, and it my lack of skill that has brought about my demise. And the weapons breaking is hilarious sometimes. I once took on some diffuicult enemies and used up my entire inventory of Bows, Shields and swords. I took on the last two armed only with a wooden spoon. The cooking is so much fun. As there are no recipes it gives you the sense of exploration like the whole land does, and again, there is a real sense of acheivement when something special leaps out of the bubbling pot. In fact, it’s that whole lack of help that makes BOTW so more superior to other games for me. You have a chat with a guy in a lonely cabin who is obsessed with a mystery puzzle. In other games, after the conversation, many would place a marker on your map and you would simply trot off and solve it; Not so here. I guessed the location would be near to the cabin, once i’d found it, i still had to solve the puzzle. I had a eureka moment but i needed a bale of wood and some flint and an arrow. Puzzle solved and a huge smile on my face.
    Another mystery, told by two bickering brothers about a treasure over a small bridge and follong a river to its source seemed easy, until i accidentially woke up a giant skeleton thing.
    Also, the joy of exploring has never felt so glorious. In other games, you are kind of expecting certain things, even in the dungeons. BOTW is contantly surprising me. Just when you think you’ll clear another grassy hill for another, something appears that is completely unexpected.
    Finally, as an artist (atleast in the past) i find the graphics exhilarating. While other games aim for realism, Zelda is a living work of art. Focusing on details like lighting and tone to create a beautiful world.
    To use a bad pun. This game is a Breath of fresh air.

  • Lee Henderson

    I purchased a Wii U last weekend. It would be overly romantic to proclaim i bought it solely to play Breath of the Wild, but there are numerours games i have longed for on this console and Breath of the Wild was that ‘Buckeroo’ moment where i thought, “Screw it. I’m getting a new console”
    When i registered for a Nintendo ID, it asked me what genre’s i like to play. RPG, Adventure and Puzzle.
    Zelda games have always been the very best of these, but Breath of the Wild takes it to a whole new level. As an open world game, you can’t let it slip that this experience is the pinnicle of Einstien’s expression “If i have seen further, it is because i have stood on the shoulders of giants”
    BOTW borrows elements from other games, but any game within a certain catergory has embedded within it the same tropes and tricks all the rest do. But every one has its own little quirks that pull you in, or have you turning away.
    Though i am loath to compare games as it does neither any justice, in this instance i must, but i only compare BOTW to games i have a fondness for too. This Zelda game does everything right. The combat is difficult enough that i feel a sense of accomplishment when the last enemy disappears in a puff of black smoke. If i am defeated, i do not blame the game, and it my lack of skill that has brought about my demise. And the weapons breaking is hilarious sometimes. I once took on some difficult enemies and used up my entire inventory of Bows, Shields and swords. I took on the last two armed only with a wooden spoon.
    The cooking is so much fun. As there are no recipes it gives you the sense of exploration like the whole land does, and again, there is a real sense of acheivement when something special leaps out of the bubbling pot. In fact, it’s that whole lack of help that makes BOTW so more superior to other games for me. You have a chat with a guy in a lonely cabin who is obsessed with a mystery puzzle. In other games, after the conversation, many would place a marker on your map and you would simply trot off and solve it; Not so here. I guessed the location would be near to the cabin, once i’d found it, i still had to solve the puzzle. I had a eureka moment but i needed a bale of wood and some flint and an arrow. Puzzle solved and a huge smile on my face.
    Another mystery, told by two bickering brothers about a treasure over a small bridge and follong a river to its source seemed easy, until i accidentially woke up a giant skeleton thing.
    Also, the joy of exploring has never felt so glorious. In other games, you are kind of expecting certain things, even in the dungeons. BOTW is contantly surprising me. Just when you think you’ll clear another grassy hill for another, something appears that is completely unexpected.
    Finally, as an artist (atleast in the past) i find the graphics exhilarating. While other games aim for realism, Zelda is a living work of art. Focusing on details like lighting and tone to create a beautiful world.
    To use a bad pun. This game is a Breath of fresh air.

  • cc

    “low draw distance” Are you kidding? You can see for miles and miles in this game. You can see mountains that are way, way off in the distance.

    • Kim

      I wrote 1,800 words poring how much I love the game, and *that* is the one thing you take away? Ok then.

      And yes, it does have a low draw distance. Sure, you can see valleys, mountains and lakes from miles away, but you try gliding onto a field from a nearby tower and tell me that enemies don’t suddenly pop into your view about 15 metres from the ground.

      • Lee Henderson

        I have on occasion looked through the Sheikah Plate to see things, like a enemy encampement, to use their cooking pot. Seeing there is no one around i have paraglided down only for the enemies to appear as i approached. Does this bother me; not in the slightest.