Okay, so we needed a new lockdown game and decided to run through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the second time.
We reviewed it back in March 2017. Four years after its release, it remains pretty much our favourite game of all time. And replaying it only cemented that opinion in our brains.
Returning to Breath of the Wild
Four years, eh? They sure flew by. Nintendo’s first open-world game took an established formula, grabbed the very best bits, and totally revolutionised the genre.
It’s been quite difficult to try other open-world games since—you don’t have anywhere near the same level of freedom.
Even in something like Red Dead Redemption II (2018), the flexibility isn’t the same. It’s quite a linear world you’re in, even though we do love the game (despite its flaws).
But Breath of the Wild is on an extra level. Game designer Hidemaro Fujibayashi directed the project, with series creator Shigeru Miyamoto acting as a guide for the teams working on the project.
He helped them in the early stages by offering guidance for its first 30 minutes. Then he left everything else up to them.
So, straight off, what did Nintendo get right with this?
- You can go anywhere—again, that sense of freedom is astonishing.
- It has an introspective quality that’s unique and refreshing.
- There’s a major emphasis on just wandering about enjoying life in the game.
- The scale and spectacle of the experience.
- Using Link’s paraglider.
- The enormity of the intricacies in the game world.
At the start, you spend the first few hours contained on the Grand Plateau learning the basics.
After that, Nintendo dumps you into the enormous digital world and (other than a few minor instructions) leaves you to it.
It’s with tentative steps you head out into the massive environment. And you need to find your feet quickly.
But as you progress, the charm of the game kicks in. Its sense of peace and wonder quietly envelopes you, so you’re left to revel in the endless exploration.
Anyway, we’re taking a look at a few of our favourite moments from it all.
Revel in the Solitude
One of the big things about Breath of the Wild is its focus on your time alone in Hyrule. If you have an introspective nature, this really is something special.
A big part of the game for us involves stopping entirely, taking in the scenery, listening to the wind howling through the trees, and enjoying a sunset.
Nothing happens. You can do this out of the way of everything and enjoy the peace and quiet.
We’ve not come across a game before that revels so much in doing nothing.
It’s an action-adventure game, sure, but it’s also one of the most relaxing and joyous titles we’ve ever played.
The game is dramatic when it needs to be. Thunderously so.
And those moments are all the more dramatic for the otherwise chilled out nature of the experience.
Taking in the Sunsets
Since Ocarina of Time in 1998, sunsets have become a big deal in a lot of games. Breath of the Wild is one of the best modern examples.
They’re a huge part of the experience. You’ll often stop what you’re doing to leg it to a better vantage point.
Again, this highlights our point on the sense of peace and quiet the title promotes.
Breath of the Wild is a solitary experience, one we think is best enjoyed alone. No screaming kids running around, or whatnot.
Just get your headphones on and immerse yourself into it all.
The inclusion of the paraglider is one of Breath of the Wild’s many clever additions. It helps you to get around in some serious style.
You can launch yourself off anything and glide wherever you want.
Again, that’s relaxing. It’s also a lifesaver at times, as you can leg it to safety at key moments. It’s effective for battles, too, as you can swoop in and surprise the enemy.
Alongside all the other action, the paraglider complements Link’s climbing abilities perfectly.
And this is another essential part to the in-game world.
You can climb anything. This becomes a game in itself as you’re constantly looking for ways to get up, over, and around the likes of huge mountain ranges.
And when you get to the top? You just hurl yourself off and glide down to earth. Fantabulous.
The Dueling Peaks
You discover this place early on into your run, it’s after you launch off the Great Plateau for the first time.
It’s impossible to miss. Two giant mountains split in half, seemingly having an en garde moment like in The Duellists.
We still find ourselves really drawn to this place and hang out around it a lot.
You can walk right between the two mountains—a river runs between them. Or you can climb right to the top, if you’re skillful enough. There are surprised up there!
And, of course, you can then hurl yourself off once you’re up that. After enjoying the amazing view.
The Relentless Surprises
When we first played Breath of the Wild back in 2017, the one thing that stunned us is its intricacies.
For months on end as we progressed, something new and incredible amazed us. Every single time we played.
Take the dragon clip above. There are several of these beasts, they serenely float around the world you’re in. Usually, you only see them from a distance.
On this occasion, the thing was right there. I had no idea, so what followed was a mishmash of trying to survive the encounter with the electrical thing. While enjoying the moment.
Then you get the mini-shrine levels, where there’s always something about to happen.
It’s endlessly clever game design. Wherever you are in the vast world, the little details keep you on your toes.
They also keep you enthralled, as exploration is key to the title’s brilliance.
You want to see everything. And your natural inquisitiveness will lead you to explore every nook and cranny in the game.
What Nintendo did with the title is, 99% of the time, reward you for these efforts. Even when it’s a minor thing, such as discovering another Korok seed, it’s rewarding.
Breath of the Wild’s Soundtrack
Breath of the Wild’s often minimalistic soundtrack is one of the most beautiful aspects of the title.
The Sheikah Tower composition, for example, captures the essence of these huge structures spread across Link’s world.
You need to scale them to reveal new areas of the map, which is a rather mystical moment.
But there are also more reflective moments, such as at Hateno Village. This reminds us of the inns from World of Warcraft.
Or Sanctuary in the Glades from Ori and the Will of the Wisp’s soundtrack.
Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai were responsible for the original score.
There’s a notable move away from upbeat tracks that make up many of the other Zelda titles. Instead, there’s a major focus on ambiance.
This works very effectively when you’re out and about on the main map. It’s often such a hellishly dangerous place, you’re always on guard.
That side allows you to revel in the quiet moments. But it’s also a real treat when you drift near to one of the game’s sanctuaries—the stables.
You hear this music drifting into the mix and you get a great sense of relief, knowing you’re safe for the timebeing. Rest up and whatnot.
Complementing that side, the sound effects are also integral to the in-game world.
If you’re out on the main map, for example, there’s little music other than occasional piano tinkles.
Accompanied by the sound of chirping crickets and singing birds, it’s all rather fantastic. It helps make the environment feel authentic.
Breathe Out—It’s a Classic
Yes, so it’s fair to say we love it. It’s unquestionably in our top five games of all time, battling it out for the top spot. And for now, it wins out.
Whilst it’s become trendy since 2017 for a sect of gamers to downplay the game’s qualities and suggest it’s not all that, we can’t agree with them.
And we often find the arguments against Breath of the Wild are, at best, flimsy.
We had one guy on The Guardian comments section complaining about the menu screen. A really fickle issue, but apparently enough to ruin the whole experience for him.
Another said he’d played it on his PC with an illegal mod. His thoughts? He described the game as “shite”, with no other feedback.
Some gamers have a tediously dismissive way of discussing games, should it not happen to meet their biases or often inflated expectations.
Upon revisiting Breath of the Wild, there are certain things Nintendo could have done better. For sure. Odd oversights, in fact.
One instance is when you’re building a house in Hateno Village, you can’t just ask a bloke to build everything at once. You have to go through one option at a time. It takes bloody ages.
Some gamers also found the weapon system frustrating, for example, although we found it created new strategic opportunities through forward planning.
The sequel is on the way for (probably) 2022 and will no doubt address these issues. All of which are minor.
As on the whole, we find Breath of the Wild to be exceptional in its vision and accomplishments. It’s quite the experience.
Worthy of owning a Switch just for this? Absolutely a million times over. We have here an all-time classic.