A great addition to the “Legend of Zelda” franchise, that is clearly inspired by games like “The Elder Scrolls” series. While it surpasses these games in some ways, and falls short in others, the game has reinvented the series just as it was starting to show its age. The Zelda games were starting to feel rigid. While you could explore a fair amount of the world at any time, the basic structure was the same. Complete a task, go to a dungeon. Use the item you find there to solve puzzles and beat the boss. Repeat. In “Breath of the Wild,” after passing a brief introductory section, you can proceed how you want. Any dungeon, in any order. Fight the boss with whatever tactic works for you. In fact, you can actually make a beeline for Ganon right away and end the game. (Granted, this will probably be a suicide mission if you try it too early.)
It’s the little things that make this game fun. Traveling through dessert heat will sap the life out of you, unless you travel early in the day before the sun gets too hot. Heading to the frigid mountains will have you needing to wear articles of special clothing or carry a torch to keep from freezing to death. Chop down trees and then chop them again to make firewood. Throw in a piece of flint and hit it with a metal weapon and you have a fire. Or just hit the wood with a fire weapon. You’ll be amazed at how many things you can try to do that will actually work.
On the negative side, some things just make the game miserable to play. Every shield and weapon breaks after enough uses. This is extremely frustrating early on when all you can find is wooden sticks that break after a couple hits. And, taking into account you’re limited on how many weapons you can carry, you’ll find yourself avoiding fights all together. Eventually, you do reach a point where your weapons last a lot longer and you can carry more of them, and then it because fun again. Another downside to the game is the elements. Rain is a major headache. It’s almost impossible to climb in the rain, and you’ll find plenty of moments where you’re just about to get to the top of that cliff you’ve been scaling, only to have the rain send you sliding back down. Traveling at night brings its own problems. Skeletal monsters pop up left and right and always seem to get in your way.
The game’s story is at its core, the same story we have from every Zelda game. But, as usual, there’s just enough new material to keep it interesting. There are also dozens of side quests to occupy your time, but they’re all relatively short and they tend give you too strong of a hint sometimes on how to complete the task. In general, the NPCs are just there and rarely feel like they’re people in this world. They’re just props to help Link along in his quest. This is where “Elder Scrolls” still has the advantage. With dynamic schedules and the way that the characters personalities change depending on how you interact with them, they almost seem to have lives of their own.While fighting through the main dungeons (plus the smaller challenger shrines) and completing quest are more than enough to enjoy the game before beating it, attempting to get 100% is beyond frustrating. Even using internet guides to help you, finding all the Korok seeds and all the locations will take hours. And you’ll probably miss some and have to go through again. Factor in the rain and skeletons slowing down your progress and you’ll just want to give up after a while. And if you decide to max out your armors, expect to do battle with the game’s toughest monsters over and over.
This is a fantastic game and sets the bar higher for not only the Zelda series, but a few other franchises as well. While the early parts of the game can be frustrating (and trying to accomplish everything there is to do is too), the bulk of the game is just a joy to play.
****1/2 out of *****