MetalFRO's Blog

Posted on May 8th 2017 at 12:00:00 PM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda, TLOZ, BOTW, Link Zelda, Nintendo, Switch

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The box art can't even begin to intimate how beautiful this game is.

Ah, The Legend of Zelda series.  Legendary to most, and rightfully so, though not for everyone.  I consider myself among the uneducated, when it comes to the adventures of Link (sorry, pun intended).  I had very little exposure to the original game in the series, as my friends didn't all have it, and it wasn't a good coop or competitive game, so it fell to the wayside in favor of Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Dr. Mario, among many others.  One of my acquaintances from school had The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link that we messed around with once or twice, but with the short sword range and tricky combat, we never got very far the 2-3 times we played it together.  As mentioned in my review of Link's Awakening, I've never been a "Zelda guy" in any sense.  I bought Link's Awakening DX as a new release for the Game Boy Color, played it some and shelved it because I didn't understand the nature of the puzzles.  I played and enjoyed Ocarina of Time on my brother-in-law's N64, but didn't finish it due to not having access.  My first real foray into the series was the 2016 RF Generation play-through of the original game.  I fell in love with it, and that led me to finally playing through the only original Game Boy outing in the series, linked above (minor pun intended).  After anticipating the release of the Nintendo Switch, it only seemed natural that my newfound love of the Zelda franchise would culminate in playing the newly released Breath of the Wild, right?

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This beautiful vista is a tiny fraction of the gorgeous scenery found in the game.

I mentioned in my previous article that I purposely didn't play Breath of the Wild first, opting instead to test my Switch with Super Bomberman R, and then playing BotW in handheld mode the first handful of times I played it.  While I have played it in handheld mode some since then, the vast majority of the 190 hours (as of this writing) has been spent in "TV Mode" with the Switch docked, and a good percentage of that has been split between the Joy-Con controllers in the Grip accessory, and the more traditional Pro Controller.  I have found both to be equally good for playing the game, though as a long-time gamer, the comfort and layout of the Pro Controller is slightly preferable.  Still, any way I can play this game is golden, and I'll take what I can get.  I've played BotW to the exclusion of ALL ELSE in the last 2 months, save for the occasional few minutes with a mobile phone game while on a break, or while fixing a meal.  This game has become my obsession, and I've loved every minute of it.


To say that I was unprepared for the sheer size and scope of this game would be a giant understatement.  I've played a handful of "open world" or "sandbox" games, but most of those have been relatively small in scope.  I think the biggest world I've been in during a 3rd person action romp might be the cities in either inFAMOUS or inFAMOUS 2.  I haven't delved into Skyrim (YET! Waiting on that Switch release...), any of the Assassin's Creed series, or many of the other larger, open world games yet, and being that the map in BotW is supposed to be significantly larger than that of the aforementioned Elder Scrolls game, so my experience traversing large worlds like this are essentially non-existent.  The closest parallels are Xenoblade Chronicles and its sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X, which is a fairly sizable world.  Leave it to Nintendo to finally pull me into an experience like this, and make me want more, even after nearly 200 hours of play.

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"Don't go around tonight, well it's bound to take your life. There's a blood moon on the rise."

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (henceforth known as "BotW") is a departure from the traditional series formula in a number of ways.  First, it's the first truly open world Zelda game.  Sure, Ocarina of Time felt pretty open when you could ride Epona all over Hyrule, but the size and scope of that game pales in comparison.  Second, this is the first installment with voice acting.  Sure, it's only during cuts-cenes, and no, all of Link's grunting in OoT doesn't count.  Third, this game introduces a somewhat controversial element, in that, weapons and shields have limited durability (save for the Master Sword, of course), which means they will break after so many uses.  Some people really hate this mechanic, some are okay with it.  I actually quite like it, and within the context of the game, it makes perfect sense.  Fourth, there are many different outfits and clothing items to find, buy, or earn in the game, and you'll need to change frequently, if you're going to survive the elements.

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Looks like Link forgot to use some sunscreen.  Doesn't he know about the dangers of skin cancer?

Along with that is the addition of a new device called the "Sheikah Slate", which is like an ancient tablet computer that allows Link to do all sorts of cool things.  That acts as your map, which also expands to giving you the ability to place "pins" on the map to mark certain areas.  You can denote the existence of monsters or enemy camps, certain resources, or set up a handful of temporary pins that act as beacons for destinations you can see off in the distance.  You can set a pin on the map, or if you use the "zoom" feature of the Slate, you can set a pin as well.  In addition, after completing some of the early Shrines in the game, you'll earn new abilities you can access through the Slate, known as Runes.  These runes give you the ability to generate unlimited bombs, use magnetic power, temporarily freeze an object in time, create a block of ice from water, and also eventually give the Sheikah Slate a digital camera ability.  Whodathunk those kooky Sheikah would have invented the iPad 10,000+ years ago, huh?

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It's okay kid, I won't bite.  I only hunt the non-sentient birds for food...

Speaking of Shrines, that's another major change to the formula.  Gone are the large, expansive dungeons of previous Zelda titles.  In their place are 120 shrines, littered all over the map, that you can explore.  As mentioned, some of the first handful you'll encounter will grant you abilities you'll need throughout your journey across Hyrule.  The rest offer you puzzles, to help you master those abilities, give you a chance to battle smaller Guardians (mechanical foes bent on your destruction), or sometimes just reward you for being clever enough to find or uncover the Shrine itself.  Some Shrines are out in the open, and you just need to reach them.  Others are hidden, and need to be uncovered or unlocked by obtaining a Shrine Quest, and then usually completing a task (or series of them) to do that.  None of the shrine experiences are overly long, but some of them are quite fun, and a handful of the puzzles are quite devious and clever, and may take a while to figure out how to solve.  Each shrine has at least one treasure chest as well, allowing you to earn precious gems, weapons, shields, or other items, and some of these chests are harder to reach than others.  Once a shrine is completed, it can act as a waypoint, allowing you to quickly travel to a location via the map.  Just a helpful tip: you'll be using that ability A WHOLE LOT during this game.

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A great Calamity has befallen Hyrule.  It's up to you, Link, to defeat it.

BotW introduces additional new elements like the ability to climb nearly any surface.  See a hill, mountain, or high wall?  You can climb it.  Want to get to the top of that plateau?  Climb away!  With that, however, comes the caveat of the game's reintroduction of a Stamina meter.  When you start, you have a limited amount of Stamina with which to climb surfaces, or for Link to run at top speed.  Once the Stamina runs out, you either change to a slow walk, or if you're climbing, you fall.  Link can't fall from to great a height, or he will lose energy, so you have to manage your Stamina very carefully.  As the game progresses, and you gain more, you'll be able to add to your Stamina Wheel, and climb ever higher.   Stamina also comes into play with another new element: paragliding.  At some point in the game, you earn a paraglider, which is essentially a small-scale hang-glider that allows you to jump or fall from a great height, and slowly sail down, or even glide to a fair distance away.  This element will help you travel great distances from heights you wouldn't be able to climb down from, because you'll use far less Stamina when paragliding as you will climbing.

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Before this game, Link getting this up-close and personal with a goddess statue was Hylian likely.

On top of all that, the game introduces a lot of really natural, organic elements into the mix.  Weather will affect you in the game.  When it rains, you'll have a hard time climbing anything, as you'll slip and fall down most of the distance you just climbed.  Also, it's a good idea to unequip any metal weapons or armor, lest you be struck by lightning.  Oh, and if you happen to encounter enemies with the ability to electrocute you, those are definitely ones to avoid or kill quickly during a rainstorm.  There's also fire, ice, and water to be concerned with - Link isn't immune to any of those things, but then, neither are enemies.  You can also refill health by eating food you'll find throughout Hyrule.  Make sure you harvest mushrooms, pick apples off trees, and learn to hunt wild game, because you'll need all of it to make the kind of food you'll need to survive.  Some mushrooms, herbs, and other ingredients will grant you special bonuses as well, such as defense or attack increases, resistance to cold, heat, electricity, and more.  You'll need to quickly learn to cook foods that will help boost your stats, to allow you to venture further and further out into the great unknowns of Hyrule.

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At night, you will encounter "Stal" creatures, which are essentially skeleton versions of enemies you'll encounter during the day.

One more new element is the additional of these little woodland sprite creatures called Koroks.  There are 900 of these little buggers scattered all over the map, and if you can discover them, or solve their puzzle, they will reward you with a Korok Seed.  At first, you just collect these, and they seem to have no purpose.  However, eventually you encounter a giant Korok named Hestu, and in exchange for giving him Korok Seeds, he will expand the size of your inventory in 1-item increments.  You can choose whether he expands your weapon stash, your bow stash, or your shield stash.  Your main item stash appears to be practically limitless (where does Link hide all those items, anyway?), and your food and potion storage is limited to 3 full screens full of cooked items.  See a flower that looks out of place?  Check it out!  Spy a grouping of rocks with one missing?  Replace it!  See a pinwheel randomly placed and spinning around?  Go to it!  Koroks are cute little things, and just add an additional element of puzzle solving to an already sprawling adventure.

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You'll encounter 3 of these magnificent dragons during your travels, & can interact with them in different ways.

So what's the point of finding and completing Shrines, exploring Hyrule, and earning all these abilities?  Well, you've woken up after a 100 year nap in a state of suspended animation, devoid of your memories, and with Hyrule in ruins.  You quickly learn that 100 years ago, a group of Champions fought against Calamity Ganon, the dark force surrounding Hyrule Castle, and while they failed to defeat him, he remains trapped in the area around the castle, all thanks to the magic wielded by none other than Princess Zelda herself.  To help you weaken Ganon, and give you a fighting chance, you need to locate and disable the 4 Divine Beasts, giant mechanical creatures, thought to have been created over 10,000 years prior by the Sheikah.  These magnificent inventions once protected Hyrule, but were corrupted and taken over by the power of Calamity Ganon, defeating the 4 of the Champions, and leaving only Link and Zelda to face off with Ganon himself.  Of course, if you want to have hope of defeating Ganon, you'll need to increase the number of heart containers you have, which you obtain when you beat the Divine Beasts, but also when you complete Shrines, and earn the Spirit Orbs that you're granted by the keeper of each Shrine.  4 Spirit Orbs can be exchanged at any Goddess Hylia statue throughout Hyrule, for either a heart container, or an additional segment of Stamina Wheel.  You'll also need to find the Master Sword, known as "the sword that seals the darkness" in this game.

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" Here, in Hyrule Field, in competition: A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy."

There's so much to love about this game, it's hard to know where to begin.  First, let me say that I really enjoy the combat in the game.  It's easy to learn, but tough to master, as should be the case with any game with multiple skill sets to wrap your head around.  You have a choice between one-handed weapons with immediate shield access, for quick strikes and easy blocking, or you can wield a two-handed weapon, and take the chance that you won't be able to sheath your weapon and pull out your shield quickly enough to block or parry an attack.  If you can successfully dodge an attack at the right moment, time slows, and you can execute a Flurry Rush, which is essentially a quick succession of attacks, quite similar to the Witch Time technique in the Bayonetta games.  Not into melee combat?  No problem!  Find yourself a bow and some arrows, and you command flying fatalities from a distance.  You can also find, or buy, elemental arrows, such as Fire Arrows, Ice Arrows, Shock Arrows, or the returning Bomb Arrows, to help take out enemies quicker, or utilize those elements strategically against enemies in different areas of the game.  Eventually, you'll run across Ancient Arrows, which are highly sought after for their ability to down a Guardian (large robotic  creatures that roam Hyrule) in potentially a single hit.

BotW has amazing graphics with a unique art style that straddles the line between the cell-shaded look of Wind Waker, and a more realistic look of Skyward Sword, or the Wii U Zelda tech demo that was shown off before the console's launch.  It's a very nice look, and allows for interesting, pretty scenery without having to get down to the tiniest details, making the animation and gameplay quite fluid.  The framerate issues, especially with the Switch version, are well known by now, though some patches from Nintendo have improved that somewhat.  Even with occasional frame dips, the game looks amazing.  Some areas are lush and green, or have loads of color and interesting stuff to look at.  Other areas are desolate and bleak, but still fun to look at, because of the ruins and other things dotting the landscape.  Character animation is well done, and when the framerate is consistent, everything looks butter smooth.  Enemy designs are nice, and there are so many nice little touches here and there that really complement the overall look of the game.  For example, one of the Shrines I found was partially covered in moss, and when you use the Sheikah Slate to zoom in, you could see the moss in greater detail.

The game's soundtrack is also amazing, though that has been a bit controversial as well.  In previous Zelda titles, from what I understand, music is almost constantly playing, as with many games.  In this outing, however, Aonuma and company elected to use music as more of an accent, to highlight certain things, or in specific areas.  Each town has its own theme, there's one for the various stables across Hyrule (I forgot to mention you can capture, ride, and tame horses!), a theme for the Shrines, a song for riding horses, and more.  But different bits of music will play at different times, often to indicate something important, like a surprise enemy encounter, a large mini-boss fight (with a Stone Talus, or large Hinox creature, for example), or when you encounter a dragon.  There's a small ditty that plays when you activate one of Hyrule's large Scout Towers as well.  There are callbacks to earlier games in the series as well, such as when you activate a control station at a Scout Tower, or the map station inside a Divine Beast, or the Shrine music itself is evocative of a past Zelda game theme.  The original Hyrule overworld music also makes its way into the game in a couple different forms, in very interesting ways.  The music in the game, when utilized, is lush, expressive, and evocative, and most of it is very catchy.  I have found myself whistling the theme to Rito Village or Zora's Domain at work on a number of occasions, and I could listen to the music in Hateno Village all day long; it's just a gorgeous theme.  Sound effects are great, and help provide some of the feedback you'll need during combat, or just in general.  Voice acting isn't the best I've heard, but for the first appearance in a Zelda series game, it fits the bill.

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This is funny to see, but it's also absolutely true.
You will buy a metric ton of arrows in this game.

I could go on and on about this game, because it's become absolutely engrossing for me over the last 2 months.  I haven't even finish the game yet, either.  I still have about 8 shrines left to find, a handful of Link's memories to recover, a few side quests I want to finish, and then Calamity Ganon to take on.  By the time I'm done with the primary game, I expect I'll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 hours into the game, which is probably the most of any game in my entire adult life, save perhaps for Final Fantasy VII, and that's only because I started the game multiple times and didn't finish, and kept restarting it.  I'm already planning on purchasing the full DLC pack for the game, to get the new "trials" stuff, as well as the forthcoming "hard mode", which I guess is equivalent to a "master quest" kind of thing, though I don't know if that means shrines will move around or if it will just be harder enemies and more brutal combat.  Either way, despite the enormous size of my backlog right now, I fully intend to play through the entire game again in hard mode, and I suspect that with all I've learned from my first play through, I'll have a lot of fun exploiting the game's many secrets.  The game's physics and elemental engines are so strong, and there are so many fun things you can do in the game.  I have spent some evenings after working doing nothing but hunting animals and cooking, or an entire evening figuring out one particularly difficult shrine.  I just can't say enough good things about this game; it has quickly become among my favorites of all time.  I don't want to say that with the Nintendo Switch, it will all be downhill from here, but it's going to be hard to top The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in terms of how much fun it has brought me.  I can't recommend this game enough.  If you own a Switch, you need this game.  If you don't, but are on the fence, this game is one that I believe is worth owning a Switch for.  If you have a Wii U, and are looking for that last great experience to round out your time with the system, make it this game.

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Great review! As someone who's always had trouble getting interested in 3D Zelda games (it will always be a 2D series in my heart), I was pretty skeptical about BotW. That is, until the reviews started flowing in, I saw gameplay footage of it, and actually played it for myself. I was very impressed, to the point where this is the first 3D Zelda game other than Wind Waker that's made me want to play it for more than a handful of hours. A big open world means nothing if there's nothing fun to do in it, and this game is packed with things to do and discover. It genuinely feels like the realization of what the original Zelda on the NES was trying to do. More than I expected to, I enjoyed how they changed up the formula in A Link Between Worlds by taking away the linearity of the dungeons, and BofW feels like that game was a test bed for truly breaking the mold of what Zelda had become. This series needed a shot of adrenaline so badly for so long, it seems Nintendo has finally managed to do that, and it's paying off.
I would say that BoTW is very similar to the NES original in design. I'm very much looking forward to playing this at some point!
I played this game for a few hours with my son, and I have to say that it is a lot of fun!  An easy recommendation for lovers of open world games, and lovers of Skyrim.  It still isn't my favorite Zelda game (prob Wind Waker or Link to the Past would be), but it stands near the top.  I can only hope that a future Elder Scrolls incorporates some of the improvements (climbing, for example).  And vice versa.  I imagine even the most stalwart of Zelda fans would cackle if one of those armored Bokoblins could hit you (literally) into the lower stratosphere.

I plan on doing a full playthrough once I can manage to peel it out of my son't hands.
@zophar53: Totally agree - I'm not a Zelda veteran, but BotW really does feel like a spiritual successor to, or re-imagining of, the original game's ideas and ethos.

@Link41: I can't recommend it enough, that's for sure!

@bombatomba: One thing that surprises me is that, no matter how much you've improved in terms of combat ability, upgraded armor, weapons, etc., you can still get completely owned by a low-level enemy who gets the drop on you.  It keeps the tension of the experience still pretty high, and keeps you on your toes.
I read your review with great pleasure. BotW has its flaws and certainly was overrated in this age of careless youtube enthusiasm and cursing, but it is one of the most immersing and engrossing games I ever played. I was skeptical at first disliking the lack of the traditional dungeons, tedious tasks and awful weapon breaking-system, but the game has one incredible advantage and ingenious game design: it is an incredibly fun invitation to explore the landscape and discover your environment.

At times I felt like a kid again exploring forests and caves. The vast map which at the same time let you see the most important landmarks in the distance so you never feel overwhelmed is a fantastic part of game design. (Although at the cost of pop-ups close to you as a trade-off due to the underpowered hardware.) The more time you invest to explore the vast variety of landscapes the the more the game makes sense; the items found can be used to help you immensely which is a great motivation to explore more. Even the weapon breaking system, by far not ideal and should be modified in the next iteration, made the careful and inventive killing of the enemies enjoyable.

I enjoyed this game so much that I didn't want it to be over after I did all the shrines and defeated Ganon. First I maxed out the inventory slots (441 Korok seeds), then I defeated the 40 different forest giants and Stone Talai(?) to get the medals from Kilton, and then I hunted more Korok seeds (now I have 850) --  and all of that just because there was so much more to discover and see in the game. The entire game is an invitation to explore and to figure out gameplay elements.

The Eventide shrine quest offers the concentrated gameplay of the entire game. At first frustrating, then discovering what the environment has to offer in order to defeat enemies, and then the very satisfying implementation of items and weapons to reach your goal  -  and there are many ways to reach that goal, leaving it to the player which path he likes to take. In the end BotW has one feature every great game of every genre has: It lets you figure stuff out, every very good game is a puzzle game, even racers.

I have now easily over 200 hours of gameplay invested in BotW, and it was a fantastic investment.

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