By Rebekah Brancato
Having bought the new Nintendo Switch console and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the weekend of release, I was more than a little hyped for Nintendo’s newest releases, and I was not disappointed. As a note, I will limit this review to only light spoilers about gameplay and will avoid mentioning any story elements.
The new Zelda game is a huge differentiation from previous entries, throwing away any linear gameplay and ramping up the difficulty. At the same time it hearkens back to the roots of the franchise, with a beautiful open world environment reminiscent of the original Zelda on the NES.
While there is a tutorial-esque starting section like Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, amazingly it doesn’t feel like a tutorial at all. Rather than explaining to you the mechanics of the game up front, it lets you explore and discover how the gameplay works naturally on your own. The map, while large, is anything but empty and feels full of life.
The combat in the game is new and refreshing, with a durability system that forces you to use a variety of different weapons, such as spears, bows, swords, and heavier two-handed weapons, which all have different advantages and disadvantages. This combined with the complex AI of the enemies makes you strategically think about the best method of attack.
But despite all this, the game isn’t perfect. While all of the villages in the game are beautiful and full of interesting character designs, none of the NPCs feel quite as in depth as they should. For instance, one NPC asks you to fetch a number of bugs so that he can gift them to a girl he has a crush on. Once completing the quest, however, nothing happens. He continues to whine about his crush, and the two never interact. It makes the quest feel dissatisfying, as it doesn’t actually affect the characters in any way and dissolves into a boring fetch quest. Unfortunately, many of the side quests follow this same pattern.
The few dungeons in the game, which are built up to be large imposing threats, are similarly shallow. They had very interesting concepts behind them, but unfortunately it felt like they didn’t go far enough with their ideas. The game tries to make up for this by having over a hundred bite-sized dungeons known as “shrines” scattered throughout the world, which were truly a joy to discover and solve, but the dungeons were not much longer than some of the shrines themselves, leaving me disappointed.
Overall however, the game is beautiful and atmospheric, with a fun combat system and a map full of puzzles and secrets. The game is a refreshing entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise.