SHORT REVIEW: wii u VERSION
This is a game where most reviews are rendered null and void, as they simply do not matter. Didn’t you see the word Zelda in the title?
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game of discovery, secrets and surprises. So in essence, fuck the internet right now. It’s like the games media’s running a competition as to who can spoil the game in the most. They might as well start every article with ”ave you seen this, mate!”.
So indulge me as we enter none-spoiler valley, to peek at the most well received game of our time. Incidentally, I won’t insult you by explaining any of the light story elements. Newcomers only need know this; you are the hero Link in the land of Hyrule.
Can you feel it? Yes, the public backlash is imminent. How many times have we seen this before? The critics adore a well-established game, only for the public to chuck it in the stocks.
“C’mon lads, this games too popular! Guys! I found a real problem with the frame-rate! Get the tomatoes ready! I don’t agree with the masses, I am an individual! If I don’t like it, you best not either!”
Soon the scores will come into question. Fuck, who cares about scores. They are at best a guideline, at worst a reason not to read something. Many opinions should be gathered when making the important decision to spend your hard-earned loot. There is only one question you need to answer for yourself. Is this game for me? Which is what i’ll try to help you with… right… cough…. about… NOW!
I’d already mentioned discovery and secrets, so let’s start there. Breath of the Wilds greatest strength is the world map. Most open world games are content to have you go from point A to point B, without concentrating too hard on the journey; relying on wildlife or enemies to fill gaps of design. Sure, you might stumble across Bigfoot or a glyph, but with Breath of the Wild the whole map is a large puzzlebox. Everything’s designed with real care and attention, not just the important bits. The land of Hyrule weaves stories throughout the land without a single world of dialogue being uttered. You might notice something out of place, you may stumble across the unexpected.
Breath of the Wild rewards an inquisitive mind.
Of course, some people fear the open world. It overwhelms, provides too many distractions, or appears unfocused. Whilst the game does a commendable job at prodding you in the right direction, those unhappy to wander a land might suffer. You might come across a premature stiff challenge, which is the downside to secrets and surprises. Some might not enjoy the serene, eager to get to the next exciting moment. Newcomers might be inclined to stay away, which would be a shame. This isn’t like most traditional open world games, remember. This is a giant puzzlebox. Nintendo have the uncanny knack of making the potentially mundane interesting and the grandiose more personal. Whether it’s the wonderful animation, dancing food (with appropriate jingle), or the frequent little touches. These moments help alleviate those unable to stomach unfocused free choice. Accessibility and charm is a keen ally. The counterpoint to great freedom is that you are never without something to do.
Charm generally holds hands with fine art direction and beauty. Breath of the Wild is a fine goodbye to Nintendo’s first HD console. The art direction and scope of the world are supreme. An ambitious open world does introduce technical hiccups. Mostly framerate dips in bustling towns where smooth framerates aren’t as life threatening. The minimal use of music compliments everything, and is capable of prickling the hairs on the back of your neck. Everything gels together, nothing is out of place and the cohesion is perfect. Almost perfect. This being trailblazing Nintendo they seldom follow the examples of others and a few quality-of-life design issues appear. Wouldn’t it be nice not to drop out of stealth, when dropping down from a small ledge. An unlucky few have found more serious bugs, which regards a game mechanic I won’t spoil for you. A few of the in game challenges have been described as simple physics puzzles, not up to the same standard as previous titles, but that’s disingenuous. There are proper puzzles scattered around, often holding great prizes. Oh, and there is something I love about physics puzzles, as long as you get to the solution, you can bodge and scam your way to success. Who doesn’t love taking a shortcut?
When you think of Nintendo, you don’t generally think ‘sweeping epic’. You normally associate them with clever design and polish. The novel and quirky. Not so much day and night cycles and Hyrulians living their lives in a shattered world. Odd design flaws are insignificant when you consider a few of the tweaks Nintendo have made to the open world format. Some of which so simple, you can’t believe similar games didn’t already think of them. My personal favourite being.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that odd running sideways up a massively steep hill animation, I really do. Link automatically grabs on to vertical surfaces and bloody hell, that makes sense. Of course, you can’t climb forever. Which explains a tiny stamina bar. Now this has the potential to annoy. Than again, what’s the point of riding a horse if you can Mo Farah it everywhere? What’s the point of intelligently designed maps if you could climb to the greatest heights from the get-go. People are too quick to complain about restrictions with purpose. Of course some restrictions do grate. I’m talking about breaking weapons. How happy can you be after your mighty claymore swords shatters, after a few swings. Why can’t I repair my unique fancy-pants bow.
Then again, I did steal that sword from an idiot monster. It’s not like I bought it brand spanking new from a shop, complete with warranty. Oh yes, it is important to note that I’ve seldom run out of weapons. They are everywhere. Not to mention you have an unlimited supply of bombs, and powers. You can also use the environment to deadly advantage. I’m pretty sure Link could wipe up a goblin hoard wielding just a pen. Than again, maybe not, as Link sometimes has trouble locking onto enemies. Something as simple as a rock being between you and your prey is enough break it. The locking’s frequently loose and has the potential to frustrate. Eventually you learn to overcome this.
These nitpick’s are minor. I’m hoping to paint a picture of the things that might genuinely bother you. Other than that, the game is supreme.
You can approach deadly situations in the same open ended spirit as the world map. You can sneak, boldly attack head on or even cheat with devious powers and tricks. You track down taxing puzzles, where you use various powers and tools. You never feel deceived by the challenges, as it’s all fair. You partake in an entertaining array of sidequests, and you are never without something you want to do. Not just ticking off things on a checklist. The game’s chock full of character and devours your spare time, even if the traditional story elements are hands off and light.
I’ve only one personal and only true complaint of the Wii U version. Early in the game Link picks up a Sheikah slate, which is an in-game representation of the Wii U tablet. How cool is that, until you realise it does nothing. You can’t use it to flick through your inventory, or use it as a map. It’s been neutered, as you can play it on the pad, or not. The official line from Nintendo is “we realised that it actually works better if you can keep your focus on the TV screen”. You can make up your own mind on that, but my instinct screams ‘bullshit’. Additionally I’m happy to report that you can play on the tablet itself and in game motion controls can be disabled; although a few motion control puzzles remain and are inoffensive.
A nine or a ten…. What’s the big difference really? For starters other open world games will have to think twice before release. Having an open world isn’t enough, you’re going to have to fill it with strong ideas and a coherent unified voice. The kinda voice to introduce game elements and restrictions that people may not like.
The first perfect score, but we all know perfection doesn’t really exist. So if you find yourself shaking ya’ fist at a numbered score, remember this. It’s not a demand you love a game with breaking weapons. It won’t change the opinion of the person who doesn’t like being lost in an open world.
Breath of the Wild will affect open world games of the future.
Howdy all and welcome to Friendly Quote Corner: –
“Framerates arguments between versions aren’t very important, unless there’s a real discrepancy between the two. Or you’re all totally insane.”
“No, you don’t need me to talk about the story, most of you already know it, and those that don’t should discover it for themselves.”
“I’m not saying Breath of the Wild is the first to do climbing in games… oh, you know what I meant!”