“The princess can only thrive out here in the wild.” ~ Zelda
Breath of the Wild (BotW) was my primary game these past two months, even knocking Persona 5 out of the running (I promise I’m coming back, Morgana). Beyond being a fantastic game, BotW has been special to me because it marks my first Zelda game since childhood and heavily contributed to my love of the Nintendo Switch.
BotW actually arrived before my Switch did, and I was stuck staring at that beautiful box, anticipation building. When the Switch finally arrived, I soon set out on a long journey through Hyrule. I traversed plains, forests, desserts, and mountains. I burned up over a volcano, solved a puzzle on a tropical island, and chased many many horses all while fighting against a menacing and ancient foe.
My beginnings were meager, but I quickly felt that spark that has kept me playing hours upon hours of video games—the ones I look back on and can say they were special. BotW offers an open experience, a vast map with multiple biomes, and many encounters with a variety of characters and creatures.
Oh, and I died.
Boy, did I die.
But seriously, I died a lot even mid to late game when I got too cocky or just plain reckless in haste. Honestly, that’s one element of the game’s combat that keeps things interesting. Many times I had to assess my approach, weapons and gear, and buffs in order to advance through an area and/or to beat a particular enemy. The same can be said of the puzzles. Some are fairly simple in their design and others drew me to madness.
In terms of combat and puzzles, I found BotW to be just difficult enough to keep me challenged and engaged. I’m not sure if anyone else experienced this, but I found several of the Blight Ganons to be more challenging than the final battle. I had to take a break, upgrade my gear, and try again. Some of the shrine puzzles were quite fun; the ones involving electricity are among my favorite. And I was relieved to learn that discovering a shrine was enough to unlock its location on the map. We won’t talk about how many times I died early on to some of those “Test of Strength” shrines…
As mentioned in a previous post, outside of the main story missions and side quests, I found plenty to do in-game. I did a lot of gathering, cooking, and taming amidst exploring the map, which I really pushed early on to unlock. The world is big enough to get lost in—something that threw me off for a little while—but players don’t have to explore to the extent that I did. I spent so much time completing other tasks, some of my own and others the game compelled me to complete, outside of the main story that I questioned if and when I should really return to fighting Ganon. In fact, my main criticism of the game (please don’t hate) is that the story is not that compelling. If the Blood Moon didn’t act as a reminder of the primary task at hand along with the captured memories, I’m not sure I would have cared to beat Ganon except to beat Ganon.
I’m sure many will disagree with me on that point, but BotW does so much well it’s a shame that I didn’t find the story to be more present. I do recognize that this is probably one of the greatest challenges with open-world video games, and BotW certainly does not fail in this regard. I do think the story could have been stronger or that the way the story is relayed to players could have been stronger.
“But courage need not be remembered…” ~ Zelda
Ninety-five or so hours later I set my Nintendo Switch down after beating Ganon. But I didn’t stop playing there. I loaded an earlier save the next day and went back to exploring. The world is so seamless that I’m still not ready to say goodbye for good. The last time I felt that way was when I played Horizon Zero Dawn. However, that feeling was stronger for the latter, which probably relates back to the story.
I could talk more (a lot more) about how much I loved the open world, the crazy characters scattered about, the combat, Link’s funny expressions, and the joy I experienced loading up the game nearly each play session, but I’ll leave it at this: Breath of the Wild is a game that I easily see myself revisiting again, beginning to end, in years to come.