Reviews: The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild

Freedom of all kinds makes the game

Youíre wandering through Hyrule. You come across a mountainous wall blocking your path, and a guard demanding you show some kind of proof that youíre allowed in. Sorry, you canít go here until you get the next quest item. And if you wanted to go up there, you needed the hookshot. Sorry.

Breath of the Wild finally throws that in the trash. You can climb anything and go anywhere. Some limits exist, but there are ways around them. Donít have clothes that allow you to survive low temperatures? Rather than search for the place that sells them, why not cook some body temperature-raising foods and eat those, then plow through? Canít climb a particular structure because your stamina meter hasnít been increased yet? Eat some temporary stamina-increasing foods. If youíre willing to search for workarounds, theyíre there.

This applies to many of the gameís puzzles. In one of the shrines, there was a puzzle involving spiked balls on chains. Was I supposed to make them swing back and forth and then run past them when itís safe? Too bad. I instead wrapped the chain around a pole on the ceiling and hung them out of the way. Problem solved.

Likewise, I visited some of the gameís major areas before story elements showed me why they were important, all because I was exploring so much. And thatís just fine. The game is designed around this kind of freedom.

Distractions are everywhere. I keep seeing fascinating looking places everywhere I go, and wondering what theyíre like to visit. A ruin covered by a heavy fog. Giant mushroom-like plants under a heavy, never-ending lightning storm. A labyrinth. All of the world feels designed by a human level designer, and none of it feels random or algorithmically generated.

The world feels very alive. Sneak up on a deer and start riding it to the nearest stable, whose owner tells you that only horses are accepted. Then jump off and kill the deer for meat, if youíre feeling mean. Rescue some traveling townspeople who got accosted by monsters. Watch people rush for shelter when a lightning storm shows up.

Every little gameplay element feels like a game in itself. Unlike in Skyrim, cooking is now a minigame. Pick the ingredients, toss them in, and see what happens. I even cooked one of my favorite meals in real life! (Eggs and rice) Climbing is more involved than it was in the Uncharted games, and now has you seeking safe spots to recover stamina before you set out again. Riding horses now involves dealing with each horseís own personality and stubbornness.

The game still has structure, but in a very freeform way. Find locations shown in photos and try to recover forgotten memories of the past. Complete the dungeons (not shrines; those are different). Fulfill the requirement for obtaining the Master Sword.

Unlike Super Mario 64, which was something no-one had ever seen before, Breath of the Wild is something weíve seen before. Just not done nearly this well.