I’m the last person that needs to tell you that Breath of the Wild is a great game. It was a launch title for the newest console from the originators of video gaming as we know it. As we all know, The Legend of Zelda is a storied franchise known for innovation and evolution of the Role Playing genre. But the Nintendo that developed the Switch and TLoZ: BotW isn’t the same Nintendo as today. Nintendo enjoyed untold success with the release of the Wii. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurred when they released the WiiU. Basically they failed to sell any consoles. The last few Zelda games also garnered mixed feelings even among die hard Zelda fans. The deck was definitely stacked against them; we just didn’t know they had a few tricks left up their sleeves.
The Nintendo Switch is amazing. Again I don’t need to tell anyone who has held one or played anything on it. It’s portable with a giant beautiful screen, but if you want, you can play on your TV in a second. That alone is an amazing feature that makes X-Stationers jealous. I know because I am one. But imagine a world where instead of a giant immersive Role Playing Simulation of a post apocalyptic Magical Kingdom to explore on your Switch, you just had a handful of indie titles and a game that should have been free. Or what if that great immersive RPG was on a console that you probably didn’t want to get or know about that was also running on older hardware. The Switch and Zelda didn’t need each other, Zelda was already in development for the WiiU (it looks better on it in some people’s opinions) for at least 4 years before the Switch was announced. This force the team to make a last minute port. But the fact they came out together has cemented it as a cultural phenomenon. The Switch has only been readily available for the last few months and BotW for the Switch outsold Switch consoles for a brief period of time. It is the game to have for the console, no question.
There is a basic tenet to design that states, good design is invisible. You shouldn’t notice someone’s work, it should just feel right and where it should be. This applies to everything from the UI experience on your PS4 to bathrooms and most importantly in our case, Video Games. It’s easy to think that making an open world is an easy thing to throw together. Lay down a flat ground in whatever game engine you build in and boom, play space. But gamers will never be satisfied, so you throw some mountains, a river or two, maybe some lakes and some vegetation and some rocks. The engineers have coded in some more stuff so we drop in some animals and some towns. At this point it’s not that much but it has to make sense and feel real, and we haven’t even added the big stuff. Non Player Characters, weather systems, quests that connect all the towns and people you’ve put there, plus the puzzles both secret and obvious have to fit in the world and make sense and not be overwhelmingly difficult. That’s the art of this game. I’m not quite to the end game, where I know it starts to get a bit repetitive, but the entire experience of the story, which can take as long as you want from the start of the game, feels alive and real and right. What at the end of the day is ones and zeroes actually feels like an animated movie where your actions are driving the story and your story is different from anyone else’s. I started a journal at the beginning of my journey through Hyrule. Not something I’m entirely used to so I totally dropped off of it, but that was also because it started to have spoilers that I didn’t want to ruin for anyone. There are so many surprises in this world that make it stand out from everything else that came out last year. Your story is all that matters and that makes it magical.
As I stated earlier, I don’t need to tell you how good this game is. Even as good as the console and game experience, it is priced around $400 to get going with this combo. I can’t tell you drop that kind of cash unless it’s not going to break your bank. It’s still a toy; pay your bills first, play later. And there are hundreds of actual reviews from a ton of very respected people in gaming journalism; some people loved the immersive nature of the game while others couldn’t let the thin story and subpar voice acting go by the wayside. To expand on the inner workings of the story or gameplay after the first few hours of the game just starts to get into spoiler territory. A lot of the “leveling up” is done by the player without you knowing it. You just get better and its evident as you play. Enemies that once caused headaches are trivial obstacles that waste your time. I mean it is an RPG and if you’ve ever seen a speedrun of a game like Dark Souls or Skyrim, a lot of time is spent running past what should be tough enemies meant to challenge you and make you think about your gear or class set up. BotW lets you fight Calamity Ganon, the final boss, as soon as you finish the tutorial. It’s hard, trust me, I tried.
What’s crazier about this experience isn’t the stunning graphics or crisp and responsive gameplay, it’s the fact that a group of dedicated Game Developers put together a cohesive and believable world. NPC’s react to the rain, the grass catches fire if you’re overzealous with a mistimed fire arrow. That might hurt you or help you depending on how you react and how fast you do it. It’s never overwhelming, unlike the real world, but the game presents you with challenges to help you nudge forward to your ultimate goal. Someone did that. The minds that put it all together are the best at what they do, and it shows with this game. There’s also an amazing talk from the Game Developers Conference 2017 that featured the directors of the game and showed their inspiration for the game, a 2D prototype of the open world modeled after the original Legend of Zelda, and the process of building the world, crafting the systems for cooking, and setting the tone with music. It’s a testament to the work that makes games like these possible, especially when it comes from the people responsible for starting this mess in the first place
At the end of the day it is another game. One of a handful of big name games that came out last year and everyone will tell you to play if you even consider yourself a true gamer. It is an amazing time to play video games and BotW is proof of that fact. Whatever you take from it, your eventual journey is yours and yours alone. Maybe you storm the castle as soon as possible and save the day. Or you take the time to recover all your memories and help restore Hyrule to its former glory. Either way it’s your chance to explore. For me, it let me get lost in something when I needed something to get lost in. I had followed the game for the year it was out and had an idea of what to expect from the get go, but holy shit did it still blow me away.
Check out the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild –
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