Game review: new Legend of Zelda a Breath of fresh air – and perfectly suited to Nintendo Switch
Zelda players will never have experienced the degree of freedom the new title offers as they explore an enormous world filled with challenges
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The ingredients to becoming a hero in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – quick reflexes, expert knowledge of swords and bows, and the culinary ingenuity of a trained chef.
Survival in Nintendo’s fantasy epic for Wii U and its latest device, Nintendo Switch, requires a different set of skills compared to previous entries in The Legend of Zelda’s 31-year run. You have to mind your stamina. You must preserve your weapons lest they break. And you need to cook your own food.
It’s a major reason why Breath of the Wild is one of the best launch titles for a new video game console ever, not to mention a journey worthy of Zelda’s glorious reputation.
Launch titles for video game consoles are usually there to highlight the hardware, such as that racing game showcasing just how pretty new games look on your new device. Ultimately, at best, the experience is shallow. There are exceptions, such as Super Mario 64 for Nintendo 64 or Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox.
Breath of the Wild is also an exception. It not only demonstrates the value of Switch (which allows you to play in front of a TV, then quickly pick up to enjoy on the go), but it’s a rich, rewarding adventure regardless of platform.
The game starts with the hero, Link, awakened from what looks like a long slumber by a mysterious female voice. As Link initially begins exploring the land of Hyrule, he learns the villain, Calamity Ganon, has been contained in Hyrule Castle, which appears engulfed by his dark presence. Link must defeat Ganon before he escapes and destroys the world.
When Link emerges from sleep and enters the outside world, it’s immediately clear the environment he will explore is massive. Players will find themselves in forests and deserts, on chilly mountainsides and even near a volcano. If Link sees a mountain, he can start climbing. Zelda players have never experienced so much freedom before.
It also places as much value in the journey as the destination. Brave players can climb that tall mountain, but if you lack the stamina, you will crash to death or serious injury. Creatures pop up out of nowhere, in varying sizes and shapes. The adventure feels more perilous.
Developers created a world with a bit more authenticity. Weapons and gear degrade over time, so if you use that sword or bow too often, it will shatter. Players can earn back health by finding a place to sleep or by eating food.
Players can eat raw food in a pinch, but the real value comes in cooking. Pots are scattered around where players combine ingredients to make a meal to boost health, or provide resistances to heat or cold. They can also create elixirs to receive the same benefits. It requires experimentation but will be well worth your time.
When players aren’t completing tasks tied to Zelda’s main story, they will seek out shrines – rooms doubling as puzzles yielding special rewards. Early shrines add powers to the Sheikah Slate, a device players receive displaying maps, quests and inventory. Powers include Stasis (freeze an object in place), Magnesis (turning the slate into a giant magnet), Cryosis (turn water into blocks of ice), or Remote Bomb. The shrines also help players learn new skills, or boost their health and stamina through the collection of Spirit Orbs.
The Legend of Zelda’s magic is in the ability to discover new things, whether it’s a hidden treasure or the solution to a challenging puzzle. Breath of the Wild amplifies this in a powerful way, providing a huge world to explore and opportunities to test your skills at every corner.
It’s a game perfect for Switch: between playing at home or on the go, you will never want to put Zelda down.