machofantastico's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch) review

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Review.

Link's latest adventure is one of his greatest to date, a game that all but changes the DNA of The Legend of Zelda franchise whilst still feeling familiar enough to satisfy even hardened fans.

See that mountain? You can climb that.
See that mountain? You can climb that.

From the first moments Link walks out into the vast and beautiful lands of Hyrule, you know Nintendo have created something special. The Japanese developers have long promised fans an open world experience like no other and they've done just that. Climb every mountain, swim in every lake and tackle any situation as you see fit, the level of freedom in Breath of the Wild is a great reminder why open world games can be so special. Wherever you might traverse, be it on foot or horseback, you'll continually discover new things to see and do whilst feeling like a small cog in a much bigger machine.

Upon waking from a 100 year sleep, Link's task is a familiar one. Defeat Calamity Canon and rescue Princess Zelda. But with no memories of his past he must venture forth in hope of recollection and help in defeating the vile villainy of Canon whose evil as not just corrupted Hyrule Castle, but the lands themselves. It's in discovering these memories that much of the story is told and in quite a reserved manner. Cutscenes are rare throughout your 100-plus hours spent traversing Hyrule (though expect that to rise dramatically if you wish to discover everything the world offers). Breath of the Wild is brave enough to let you tell your own unique little stories whilst still providing you with a much greater thread of story to help you along, it's a welcomed approach to the more linear storytelling of recent Zelda games.

At one point early on, you can head in one of four different directions and the choice is absolutely up to you. Never does it feel like the game is forcing you down one particular pathway and that's such a freeing experience. Want to climb those snowy peaks to see what monsters, bugs, animals or even shrines you might discover, well you can do just that. Although you might want to wrap up warm or brew up a cold resistant elixir so you don't freeze to death. Next thing you know you'll have invested a good 30 hours before you've even tackled your first big story objective.

Breath of the Wild's storytelling is surprisingly reserved, but it works wonders.
Breath of the Wild's storytelling is surprisingly reserved, but it works wonders.

To help Link meet the many challenges he'll face, he now as access to a number of essential runes which provide a variety of powers from being able to form ice blocks in water, two forms of bombs to use in both combat and puzzle solving and even a camera required for cataloging weapons, bugs, monsters and much more in your compendium. You'll use the vast majority of these powers in shrines of which there are over 100. These shrines vary from simple puzzle solving to combat trials and are there for you to hown your skills for the inevitable battle against Calamity Canon. These shrines are scattered throughout the lands of Hyrule and discovering them all will take dedication and time, though the rewards come in the ability to upgrade either your health or your stamina.

Combat is a more familiar experience, though not without one or two key changes. First of all is the fact that weapons no longer last forever, as durability now affects weapons, shields and even bows. At first this might be of frustration to some, but I came to appreciate the need to tackle any situation with the weapons that were available to me. A two handed great sword might do the most damage, but it left me vulnerable and with the inability to block enemy attacks. Combat can feel simple at first, but there's definitely depth and skill there for those looking to master it. Even after a hundred hours in, I still found myself challenged in combat especially against a large group of enemies.

Weapon durability forces you to experiment and tackle combat situations differently.
Weapon durability forces you to experiment and tackle combat situations differently.

There's no hiding the fact that the Nintendo Switch isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse, but much praise as to be given to the art style which left me gawking at the scenery on numerous occasions. The lands of Hyrule are beautiful, only helped by a splendid soundtrack and some wonderful ambient sound design that only helps Hyrule feel like a living world. Yes there's no getting away from the fact that performance isn't always great, the fact that framerate can drop dramatically in some towns and in one area in particular is a real shame. These technical issues can disrupt immersion at times, but there forgivable given how good the game can look whether in docked mode or played portable.

Breath of the Wild is a breath of fresh air when it comes to open world games. There's so much to see and do throughout Hyrule, from collecting bugs, plants and vegetables for a beneficial meal or elixir to help you tackle that tough enemy, to climbing the largest mountains and gliding your way over volcanic pools or iced over lakes. Breath of the Wild lets you the player decide how to tackle the many challenges the world as to offer. It's a wonderfully freeing experience, one that rewrites how open world games are looked at or developed from here on out.

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