The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may not be the perfect game, but it is easily one of the best games of the year, and we feel confident saying that.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild starts quietly when you first boot it up: Small white text on a black screen, simply telling you the title. There’s no Link riding across a moonlit Hyrule Field, as he does in Ocarina of Time. Sure, the first thing that happens is Link’s awakening — pun so fully intended — but from there, you are into, as I said in my first impressions of the game, a Zelda game that breaks the rules while still maintaining the feel of the series.
Now, we said above that this game is not perfect, and it isn’t, but the flaws are so comparatively minor that sinking an inordinate amount of time into exploring this Hyrule over the past week did not feel like a chore.
We mean “this Hyrule” both in terms of the world and in terms of the story told throughout the game. Now, you can very much avoid figuring out a significant portion of what went on 100 years ago. If you don’t want to explore, you don’t have to. You can run around to the points marked on your map or even straight to Hyrule Castle if you want to, and damn the rest. But Breath of the Wild rewards exploration in ways exceeding past games by a wide, wide margin. You can find sidequests, shrines, treasures, more of the story, and some utterly gorgeous visuals.
And yes, Breath of the Wild is a beautiful (and huge) game. Don’t be surprised if you spend time just trying to figure out how to climb up a wall and then find yourself looking around at the land sprawling beneath you. The Switch’s screencap function will almost certainly do some work for you.
The story, meanwhile, doesn’t necessarily go to the dark places that something like Majora’s Mask did. However, it feels more mature and even, dare I say it, nuanced than previous games in the series. I would rather not spoil it further than that. Suffice it to say that once I’d found a significant portion of the sealed memories, I could piece together the entire story, but still wanted to see what happened next with Zelda especially.
That’s just it: Breath of the Wild makes you want to play more. It lets you choose when and where you will go certain places. If you don’t want to rescue the Divine Beasts, you don’t have to. You can avoid doing shrines. You could spend hours just exploring the map and unlocking each of the Sheikah Towers, letting you zip around. If you want more powerful weapons, you can go find more powerful weapons.
That brings me to one minor complaint, though. Weapons break in this game. Finding more isn’t that much of a problem — and stealing them from your foes is hilarious, even without using a skeleton arm — but the durability feels a bit too opaque. The inventory management aspect is hard in and of itself, so having both could have been balanced perhaps a bit better. For once, Skyward Sword may have done it better with its shield durability meter. But that’s an inconvenience in the bigger scheme of things.
This game is hard, too, and not hard because the controls are mapped differently. Each of the dungeons requires you to think differently about how to access places. You don’t have the huge amount of items that other games do.
So, not only does this game pull you in to keep playing, it pulls you to reorient your thinking about how to solve puzzles. Long-time Zelda players (like yours truly) can and will get stuck in this game and have to remember that you can do certain things that other games didn’t let you do.
The last quibble I have is some issues with slowdown and lag occasionally, normally while on the overworld and in combat.
It may not be the best game ever. It’s certainly close, at least in this reviewer’s opinion. But it’s easy to see how this game will end up as one of the best of 2017, and probably referred to in the same hushed tones that Ocarina of Time is almost 20 years after its release.
We give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch a 5/5. Play it if you can.