Does Breath of the Wild Deserve the Praise it Gets?
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has received massive widespread critical acclaim ever since its release on March 3rd, 2017, being hailed as not only the best Zelda game ever made, but perhaps the greatest video game of all time. But, are these claims reasonable? It's Zelda, so it's bound to be an amazing game, but does it really deserve to inherit the title of "the greatest game of all time?" Perhaps. Let's take a good, long look at this game and see what it did right, and what it did wrong.
Starting off Strong with an Amazing Atmosphere
The very first thing I feel the need to discuss about this game is its atmosphere. Breath of the Wild has successfully crafted the most immersive, believable, and downright beautiful atmosphere that I've ever seen, and have yet to experience from any other game. The vibrant colors accompanied by the soothing, and almost surreal sounds of the natural world around you do a fantastic job of immersing you within Hyrule. It's so easy to find yourself completely lost inside this game, it truly does feel like you're exploring the fields, mountains, and deserts of the world. When you're in the desert, it's not hard at all to imagine the blazing heat, as the game does an amazing job at realistically portraying said desert. The same is true of the mountains -- you can easily distinguish and imagine how cold it is, as the game portrays these areas perfectly.
The villages and stables both boast an incredibly cozy and friendly atmosphere; they feel vibrant and alive. Not to mention the fact that they all feel geographically coherent, as if everything belongs exactly where it is. Nothing seems out of place in Breath of the Wild. Every single thing in this game retains a high level of believability, no matter where you are, or what you're doing. If that wasn't enough, this game beautifully incorporates that staple Zelda charm that we've come to know and love. It does this through its use of quirky and lovable characters, incredibly fitting and memorable music, and its use/re-imagining of recognizable Zelda locations. Places such as Kakariko Village, Zora's Domain, Death Mountain, all make an appearance in some form.
Gameplay That Never Ceases to Entertain
Now, the most important aspect of any game is its gameplay -- that much cannot be disputed. But, it just so happens that gameplay is where Breath of the Wild shines the brightest. This game's exploration is absolutely flawless, not to mention the fact that this game is highly expansive. I've played for over 200 hours, and I still haven't seen everything.
Not only this, but since you're so immersed in the world, the exploration aspect is made much more satisfying. Also, the incredible level of polish and detail implemented into every corner of this virtual world makes the game an absolute joy to explore. It's already enough that you can go where you want to go, and when you want to go there with zero restriction whatsoever, but the fact that the process of doing so is so satisfying makes the gameplay so much more potent.
Speaking of satisfaction, puzzles in this game are also lots of fun. There are a lot of them, and not a single one is dull. Nintendo's creativity really shines here, as it always does when it comes to puzzles in Zelda games.
Another gameplay aspect that has been perfected here is the combat system. It retains the same style of combat from the other 3D Zelda titles, although it is much more simplified in this game, which actually works in its favor. You can still tap the attack button, you can still lock on, back flip, side hop, jump attack, spin attack, and so on.
However, stabbing and other directional attacks have been omitted, instead replaced by two new fighting mechanics. The first one is shield parrying. Basically, you hold out your shield (which is the same button used to lock on), wait for your foe to attack, and tap "A" to deflect their attack, stunning them briefly and giving you a chance to attack and potentially disarm your foe.
The other new mechanic that has been implemented is known as a "flurry rush," which actually works similarly to the shield parry, although it allows you to do much more damage. You lock onto your attacker, wait for them to attack, and dodge just as the attack is about to strike you. This will launch you into a flurry rush. Time will slow down, and you'll be harshly striking your foe with many, many attacks.
These two mechanics add an interesting layer of depth to combat that other Zelda games lacked. Not only this, but they both give you a great feeling of control while fighting these enemies. Lastly, I'd like to point out the fact that bows, shields, and weapons break. This may annoy some, and I can see why from their perspective, but I feel as if it is actually a very good way to encourage players to try new play styles. Not only that, but it adds actual value to the strongest weapons in your arsenal.
I've not even mentioned the cooking mechanics, which are surprisingly well implemented and fun in their own right.
I'd also like to discuss a much smaller, but still very important aspect of this game. The sense of progression is perfectly paced. Very gradually, you begin to feel more powerful. As time progresses, you'll have much more powerful weapons, stronger shields, different types of armor, new bows, even more heart containers and bars of stamina. By the end, you genuinely feel stronger as a hero, you feel as if you've evolved into someone new.
Breathtaking Visuals, Great Voice Acting, and Amazing Storytelling
Now, let's talk visuals. The Legend of Zelda has gone through a variety of art styles, and this one, by far, is my favorite. Everything is bright, vibrant, colorful, and stylized, while also being incredibly detailed. Additionally, the character and enemy designs directly compliment the game's beautifully crafted art style. Not only is the art style good, but the graphics themselves are astounding. It is one of the most visually pleasing games I've ever laid eyes on. Unfortunately, the graphics may prove a bit too much for the game's hardware to handle, as the frame rate will occasionally drop while in towns, and other certain areas in the game. However, since the frame rate drops never interfere with gameplay, I don't consider them an issue.
One of the first things you'll notice about Breath of the Wild when you pick it up is the fact that there's voice acting. While off-putting to some, I personally find the voice acting to be very fitting for the characters, it really helps gives them an identity, and while other Zelda games perfectly manage to convey a character's emotions through facial expressions, dialogue, and weird moaning noises, the voice acting really drives it home and allows them to be much more animated. The voice acting itself can be pretty cheesy, but it's the enjoyable, lovable kind of cheesy, and I wouldn't have it any other way for a Zelda game.
I would discuss the story of this game, but I'll refrain from doing so in order for this review to remain spoiler-free.
Breath of the Wild is a flawless experience that I genuinely could not poke holes in. I couldn't bring myself to nitpick it either, as there were never any small details that bothered me. There wasn't a single thing that I found myself disliking about this game. It was, overall, a perfect experience, and it certainly lived up to my expectations.