Solo Gamer Reviews

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Page 2

GAMEPLAY (cont'd)

Link climbing
Ain't no mountain high enough

With so many creative options at Link's disposal, combat is handled surprisingly well, with many enemies forcing you to come up with unique strategies and tactics. I've even seen video of someone throwing a Cuccoo at an enemy and watching the unrelenting horde of angry beaks and feathers do Link's dirty work for him. This kind of freedom and creativity has never really been possible in a Zelda title before, and it's amazing.

Possibly the most controversial change to the Zelda formula, though, is in the lack of true dungeons. There are over a hundred Sheikah shrines to uncover--which serve as very small mini-dungeons that tend to rely more on puzzle-solving than combat skill--and there are four main quest areas that get close to being dungeons but are again more about puzzle solving than enduring wave after wave of enemy. Getting to those quest areas--which are known as the Divine Beasts, four steampunkish giant automatons that have been hijacked by Ganon's evil--involves some cool action set-pieces like firing cannons at Death Mountain or shooting arrows while sand-skiing at high speeds on your shield while being pulled by a desert seal (trust me: if you play the game, that combination of words will make sense). These are the game's biggest highlights, and if anything, it's a shame there are only four of them to uncover.

The wedding
There's an enormous side quest that ends with a wedding

That said, almost everything in the game is completely optional. You can, if you so desire, go straight to Hyrule Castle to confront Ganon as soon as Link awakens at the start of the game. This would be pretty darn stupid, though, and only the most hardcore of players could even make it to the final battle, much less have any hope of completing it. The shrines and Divine Beasts can be played in any order--or can be skipped altogether--and it is entirely up to the player how best to prepare for Calamity Ganon. This makes Breath of the Wild the most liberating Zelda experience since the NES original--if not even more free--and speaks to what Nintendo has truly accomplished here. This is an adventure that you play however you please, is as difficult as you make it, and is filled with secrets you can only uncover if you devote plenty of time to exploration and experimentation.

Perhaps the best way I can explain that is by telling you I've only scratched the surface. I haven't talked about the towns, the Great Fairies, the use of Spirit Orbs to increase your heart containers and stamina wheel, the benevolent spirit dragons, the incredible enemy variety, the shooting stars, the dizzyingly tall towers you can climb to reveal more map (à la Assassin's Creed), the mini-boss enemies hiding in plain sight, the ability to look at a distant spot on the horizon and tag it with the press of a button, the Guardians, the wealth of side quests, the ability to take pictures and build a compendium (à la Windwaker), the magic spells you receive for reclaiming the Divine Beasts, and much more. This game is not only physically enormous, but there is an almost bottomless depth to the gameplay options available to you. Even after playing the game nearly non-stop for a month, I feel there are still hundreds of things I must have missed.

[GAMEPLAY: 10 - Sure, there are some minor complaints to be found in frequent weapon breaking or frustrating rain mechanics, but this is not only the most Zelda-esque game experience ever, it may be one of the friendliest and deepest RPG experiences in all of gaming.]


A Divine Beast
Everything is stunning

This is the most beautiful game Nintendo has ever made. Full stop. There are no limits to the game's draw distance or its variety in lighting, texture effects, atmospheric filters, and particle effects. Games like Windwaker and Skyward Sword have neat artistic styles, but you can't look at Breath of the Wild and wonder if the designers used artistic license to mask graphical limitations. Instead, they clearly refused to accept any limitations.

In addition to running through an incredibly crisp and vivid universe, Link can sprint from one corner of Hyrule to the other (no brief task, mind you) and never once encounter a pause to load the map. The game doesn't even break when you go through a door. The only times you will encounter the load screen are when you fast travel, skip a cutscene, or enter a shrine.

However, the game isn't devoid of graphical hiccups. The frame rate doesn't drop very often, but it does drop occasionally, and some textures get muddy up close. There are also a small handful of places--usually at the edges of the map--where some of the textures are poorly mapped. A couple of hit detection glitches and rare pop-in quirks might show up, too, but nothing game breaking or even all that distracting. Ultimately, the flaws are there, but pointing them out feels like nitpicking given how much else the game gets right.

Approaching Hyrule Castle
I stood here for a full fifteen minutes, just listening to the soundtrack

The music is astounding, too, with no nitpicks to be found. Familiar melodies from Zelda's entire history are remixed through a fully orchestral score that perfectly matches the various settings and towns of Hyrule. Despite this, the music rarely gets repetitive and never gets overly distracting. Words cannot describe the best music in the game, however, which happens during the climactic Hyrule Castle area and the final cutscenes, because it's just something you have to experience for yourself.

This is the first Zelda game to feature real voice acting, though it is limited to cutscenes and other big moments. As voice acting goes, it is neither terrible nor great. Some voices are better than others, and of course, Link himself never offers more than his trademark shouts and grunts. Most of the game is more typically text-based, but having any voice acting at all is a major step forward for the series, even as Nintendo still hasn't matched the modern standard.

[PRESENTATION: 9.5 - The graphics and music are Nintendo's greatest achievements to date, and though the voice acting that is there is a welcome jump into the modern age of gaming, it's too average and limited to be terribly remarkable.]


Link of the Wild
Link of the Wild

This is a console-generation-defining experience and undeniable proof that Nintendo is still at the top of its game. It belongs on the same high pedestal as its more "mature" contemporaries like Skyrim and Horizon Dawn, if not a higher one for the sake of its much bigger legacy. It may not be absolutely perfect, but it's about as close to perfect as Nintendo has ever gotten. In the years to come, it may be remembered as fondly as Ocarina of Time, the Zelda game that tops many a chart of greatest video games ever made. It is an adventure without equal, a well-balanced RPG experience that is both incredibly fun and impossibly deep.

STORY: 9.5


It would be very difficult to set your expectations too high for this latest Zelda masterpiece.

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-e. magill 3/30/2017

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