The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time is regarded by many (myself included) to be the best game ever made. It set the bench mark for every Zelda game that came after it and it’s effects can still be felt in many games in the video game industry even today. To produce such a game is a rare feat for a video game, for two games from a games series to arguably have such on an impact is unheard of. With the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we have just that.
Ironically by going back and looking at the original Zelda for the NES, Nintendo has now set the new bench mark going forward in making future Zelda titles and quite possibly all open world games in the industry. In an attempt to break away from the formula set by Ocarina of Time, Breath of the Wild creates a truly open world and gives all of the power to the player.
The world of Hyrule is probably the most impressive part of this game, it is teeming with challenges and secrets that are just begging to be found. Zelda seems to have looked at modern day open world games, but always puts an emphasis on exploring. In many games to unlock the map you have to climb to the top of a structure and “sync”, unlocking the map of the immediate area and also points of interest. Zelda follows this approach but instead of telling you what is interesting, it lets you decide for yourself. It gives you a vantage point, a telescope and the ability to mark points of interest and then you are off to explore them at your own pace, it will never force you down a road. Allowing you discover the world whatever way you want, climb everything, go anywhere, allows you to make your own journey and story. In this way when you talk to others about what you did, you will have different tales to tell. These are the reasons I love games like Skyrim and Fallout, but Zelda also has the finesse of a Nintendo title to boot.
In giving you a world to explore, where you dictate the pace and direction it conflicts greatly with the Ocarina structure. These games are very linear in their story with an obvious end game, but BOTW is not. In order to have a story mode which still adheres to these new principles of player power, much of the standard Zelda tropes had to be addressed, for better or worse. Dungeons are now replaced with Divine Beasts, which are more aptly described as mini puzzle rooms, but with more meat on the bones than a shrine. These serve as story progression but actually can be totally avoided if the player so chooses. For anybody looking for a Zelda type dungeon you will not find it here, and it that regard Zelda definitely disappoints, their could very easily have been Dungeons buried away in the map instead of Divine beasts. However this may have taken away from the player freedom of being able to completely ignore them if they wanted to. The dungeons in themselves do not offer much to get excited about, their mini counterparts, shrines, are more plentiful and therefore their small completion time can be overlooked.
Other tropes had to be addressed as well, Link awakes almost naked, symbolic of a fresh start but also has him casting aside his well worn green tunic. This simple act gives you the freedom to collect and swap out different outfits and armour pieces. In similar fashion Link now starts without a weapon and this encourages you find weapons and experiment with them. There is also a durability system which means your weapons have a lifespan, causing you to constantly look for new weapons and also to adapt to different fighting styles, sometimes (most times) mid-fight. The chaos this causes is another testament to creating your own adventure, players aren’t going to be talking about the main quest story as much as they will describe a battle they had that went ‘off script’ because of the rules the game introduces.
BOTW sets the new standard for open world games and Zelda games a like. It takes tried and tested formula from both the genre and the Zelda series and shakes them up, it does not reinvent the wheel but it will make it hard for you to go back to tell ‘old’ ways. It gives you a world which is vast and wild, waiting for you to explore it’s many intricate details and wonders. If you own a Nintendo Switch (or WiiU) then you absolutely need this game.