The Moment I Realised Breath Of The Wild Was My Favourite Game Of This Generation

Image: Kotaku

On Saturday night I went to bed, stared at my ceiling in the darkness. I pursed my lips, brows narrowed in thought. Then I nodded to myself, resolute in the decision I was about to make.

Yes. Decision made. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: best game I've played since Dark Souls.

I took a deep breath, exhaled, secure in this big decision I had just made. I made a half attempt to explain the sheer importance of this decision to my wife, who gallantly restrained her laughter.

I made this call after a three hour stint with Breath of the Wild. A stint that began with one plan, which splintered into another, then another... to the point where I ended up in a strange land doing weird shit that had nothing to do with my original goal to begin with. Good times. This is par for the course with Breath of the Wild; a video game where adventure is loosely-defined but exists around every corner. Plans evaporate with every rolling vista, every suspicious trail of smoke, every strange looking shape on the horizon.

Adventure is out there!

I had originally wanted to cash in my Korok seeds. That was the plan. After completing all four dungeons and finding the Master Sword, I was finally at a point where I could feel confident heading to Hyrule Castle to take on Calamity Ganon, but nah... I was feeling something out of the ordinary. In a time where I usually rush towards endgames, towards final bosses and new video games and new worlds, I was feeling a new sensation... a sadness, a nostalgic sadness I guess. For the experience I just had, and was currently still having. I had a feeling that I would look back on this fondly and I wanted to somehow stay in that moment.

I didn't want this video game to end.

For me, Breath of the Wild crawled its way towards greatness. I began a little confused. "What's everyone so excited about?" That apathy soon turned to resentment. "Why is this world so empty?"

Eventually I grew to enjoy Breath of the Wild's commitment to pacing, to its sparse set of goals. Eventually I'd fall completely head over heels for its pure sense of adventure. I can't imagine ever going back to managing a quest log in Fallout after witnessing the seamless world Nintendo built, with its endless surprises. With the sense you are alive within this eco-system, that adventure is a consequence of these systems that collide in opposition to one another. Chemical reactions unique to you and the impact you have on the world. Tread on a butterfly and next minute...

One time, at the base of a mountain, fighting my way through an army of Bokoblin, as you do. I'm at the base of the tower and one pesky bastard is firing bomb arrows from above. At one point he barely misses me, setting some nearby grass alight. Soon, a blazing inferno. I spot the resulting updraft and jump into it, flying skyward. At that point I draw my bow, time slows. I take my time, headshot three bad guys. I float safely to the ground in awe of what I had achieved and the systems that allowed me to get there.

This video game, man. This video game.

But that wasn't the moment. That wasn't the moment when I realised that Zelda might be one of the best games I've ever played. That came later.

That moment came on Saturday night, when I was supposed to be exchanging korok seeds for weapons slots. That was the plan, but plans are useless in a game like Zelda where curiousity is a 180 degree head turn away from another three hour adventure. Instead I found myself lost in a labyrinth for an hour, then stuck inside a shrine or two.

Eventually I decided to make my way back to Eventide Island.

Eventide Island: it's arguably Breath of the Wild's most fascinating 'Shrine'. When you land you are stripped of your gear. Your food, weapons, clothes and armour is gone. After spending the many hours comfortable with the 'stuff' you've accumulated, players are shocked straight back to square one. You must survive with your 'wits' alone. It's a fascinating transition.

First I found a stick, then a spear. Eventually I'd come across a bow and, ultimately, a halfway decent sword. All the while you're slicing up Bokoblins and trying to survive without your usual stock of handy, health replenishing foodstuffs.

It can be quite brutal.

The island's ultimate challenge: a tremendous Hinox that you must take down in order to complete the Shrine.

"What am I gonna do?" I asked myself. "Hit it over the head with a fucking tree branch?"

I started off stealthily. I tried to roll a giant rock on top of his head, which barely missed. Then I decided to slash at his feet with the one good weapon I'd found on this god-forsaken island.

Panic set in around the time my sword shattered. That was the moment I realised I had nothing in my inventory except a wooden spear and a lonely, sad tree branch. That's the moment I realised I was one hit away from death with no way of replenishing my hearts.

When I charged up a nearby hill and stumbled across a trove of explosive barrels my heart began pounding furiously against my rib-cage. Holy fucking Jesus Christ this is it! My only path to victory. I waited, barrel above my head as the Hinox plodding aggressively up the hill.

"Is he in range?" I asked myself.


Fuck it.

I throw the barrel. I screw it up. The resulting explosion sets of a chain reaction, exploding all of the barrels. I'm hit, bad. I roll lifelessly down the hill. I have two hearts left. But did I hit the Hinox?


I don't know but I soon get my answer. Yes, I hit the Hinox, but he's still alive. He's plodding towards me and I only have one viable option. I start lobbing bombs in his direction, one after the other, slowly -- oh so goddamn slowly -- depleting his health as I try to keep at range.

The Hinox, in his desperation, rips a literal fucking PALM TREE from the ground and starts swinging it at me like a baseball bat. I had never seen that happen until that very point and, in the midst of this incredible duel to the death, it feels like an impossibly amazing and emerging inevitablity. Of course this happened. It had to happen. Because this is Breath of the Wild.

Bomb. Reload. Bomb. Reload. Bomb Reload.

He is dead. It's over.

It was as draining as a Dark Souls encounter, but the culmination of something. Eventide Island is frequently referred to as Breath of the Wild in miniature. It functions as a perfect vertical slice of what you might expect outside of that island. Perhaps that intense, shrunken experience helped reaffirm the brilliance of what I'd been experiencing, on a far broader scale, for the past 60 hours. An experience that put into perspective the genius of Breath of the Wild.

Adventure is out there. But it was also here, in miniature scale, and it was awesome.


    Mark's wife was right to laugh. It had good climbing. This 'realization' is like when a good friend comes to you and confesses that they think they want to date the 'cool person' they've met who and wouldn't shut up about for the last couple months, and all you can do is restrain your laughter at their surprise that they have feelings for this person they've been obsessing about.

    I wish I could enjoy this game the way everyone else is able to. The more people talk about it the more disconnected I feel. I don't mind having a different opinion but normally I can at least see that a game is actually good and just not for me.

      I felt the same about The Witcher 3.

        I think we're basically exact opposites - I loved every minute of The Witcher 3 and would play another game like that in a heartbeat.

          @negativezero @bb8 I loved Witcher 3 and am enjoying BotW. But Care little for Portal 2, and anything BioWare has made. Skyrim i also find overrated but did enjoy.

          The point is who cares. Some games are great and you might not enjoy them. Lets all just agree that we deserve a Skate 4 and a Burnout Paradise 2 EA you fuck please end my misery.

          Both The Witcher 3 and BOTW are my 2 favourite games of the generations, they were the absolute last thing I thought about before I went to bed and the first thing I thought about when I woke up, they basically took over my head for the 3 weeks each I put into them

          Sometimes if I woke up in the night I would be so excited by getting back into the world I would have to go down play it, where eating and sleeping just got in the way of playing, its s shame you arent getting into BOTW I have never been so enticed by an open in a videogame in my life when I first got off the plateau it was gaming nirvana.....I just love BOTW its pure exploration, pure discovery, pure freedom

      You're like that random person that liked No Mans Sky and every one hated it.

      Its ok.

      There will be more Legend of Zelda games!

        Yeah, except after how successful Breath of the Wild has been commercially and critically, there won't be. I liked the old Ocarina structure, BotW just does nothing for me.

          The next one will have towers you have to climb to reveal the collectables.

          Don't worry, there'll be a bunch of indies that will do something very similar except it'll have a roguelike component and also miss the point.

            The only companies to do the formula justice were Clover with Okami and Vigil with the Darksiders games. And look where both of those developers ended up :(

              Funny you should mention Darksiders, because I've pulled my 360 out of the box and am going through the games I didn't quite finish (or even open!) that I feel like I should have, and I only did the one playthrough of Darksiders 2. So I played it through.

              Lemme tell you, that is a very 7/10 game, as Rock Paper Shotgun would put it. Certainly in terms of how much of it was finished - it's pretty clear that they wanted 4 acts just like Diablo II but ran out of money, and spent most of it making lots of little side dungeons in Acts 1 and 2 - but also in terms of level and combat design. Not a lot to the combat, especially since Merus 2012 steered immediately to life steal weapons which are a) stupidly overpowered in this game, like most games, and b) my favourite kind of stat, but the dungeons are not a patch on even late-era Zelda dungeons - very linear, rarely any puzzles, mostly a collection of rooms with a 'goal' every 20 minutes or so.

              Imitation Zelda is worse than not trying because imitation Zelda gets my hopes up.

              Vigil or who ever has the rights now to the Darksiders games are just flogging a dead horse, how many times has it been re released.

                The re-releases were because it's owned by another publisher now (THQ Nordic) I think.

                  Bring out the 3rd, I know Id pick it up. The second game wasn't that great.

          Let's just hope the hand-held team do some more traditional projects.

      Or you could be like me, who's never gotten into Zelda ever. One game is fine, saying you're not a fan of the whole series generally raises a few eyebrows...

      I can appreciate why people like the games, I just cannot get into them when I play them though.

      I'm in the same boat. I just dont find the game that great and have other games i would rather play. I brought a switch just for it and as such I've hardly used it

    I'd have laughed. Yeah, it's an OK game but nothing special. 7/10.

    Probably my favourite game of this generation too.

    You totally didn't have to fight the Hinox, though. I just glided down from the cliff, gingerly landed on his stomach without waking him, then plucked the orb off his necklace and made a mad dash up the mountain where the last altar was located. Sneaking up on a Hinox and robbing him blind is one of my favourite things.

    Eventide island was the last moment to what is the best gaming session I've ever had. After finishing the two nearby shrines by the skin of my teeth as I was only a few hours into the game (maybe ten), I then proceeded to eventide island. After an epic journey through the island's trials I had nothing left for the hinox but a twig and a few arrows. I then fired a boulder off a cliff edge and hit it square on the noggin using the stasis skill. The the absolute joy I felt was a revolution in game design for me. I then proceeded to run circles round the beast while firing the boulder at it with a tree branch until I finished it off with my last arrow to the eyeball (wish I'd gone for the knee). The fact that I could beat such a massive enemy (this was the first time I'd seen a hinox) with a twig and a boulder was such an eye opener in terms of how you could approach any given situation.

    I had the exact same relevation but with Horizon Zero Dawn. I'm one divine beast in, can't shake the feeling that the world too empty and there's no side quests.

      I feel the same about HZD. I'm playing both that and BotW, but Horizon has impacted me in a way I haven't felt in a long time. I often think that if BotW wasn't a Zelda game, there would be a lot less hype behind it. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

        Not sure I'd agree there - this story articulated quite well how the game stands up without any need for nostalgia. In fact, it's the freshness and, um, anti-nostalgia (?) that many (myself included) love. I'm a fan of how the game is a true adventure: set out in the direction, see what you find, damn the story.

        see its funny.
        i just started playing HZD and cant help but feel that it is so restrictive in comparison.
        the simple act of being able to climb everything and then glide from anywhere has made me very spoilt and ive had to adjust back into it not being there.

      Honestly I also adored Horizon: Zero Dawn. Crazy how two of my top 3 games of this generation came out within a week of each other.

      Also, it's tough to play both these games at the same time. They don't compliment each other.

      Zelda makes Horizon feel a little 'video gamey' and lifeless.

      Horizon makes Zelda feel empty. I recommend playing one, then the other, and appreciating both for the incredible games they are.

        And it's funny -- I felt the same. When I started playing Zelda I was like... what the fuck is this? I was halfway through Horizon at the time and couldn't understand why this game was stealing its thunder. It was weird getting past that.

    Favourite Game Of This Generation

    But isn't the Switch the start of it's own generation? So it's your favourite game out of like 6 games.

    A friend brought her Switch around while she slummed it with us during a boozy Sunday afternoon BBQ. She had, of course, the seemingly only decent Switch game currently released.

    So,... I played for 20-30 minutes. During that time I (a) couldn't find a weapon that didnt' need replacing mid-fight, (b) couldn't understand a word of the Japan'engrish (that's a copyrighted word - look it up), (c) was interested to find that I would die if I fell off a very tall tower-thing, but not if I jumped at just the right time before hitting the ground.

    Overall-all, as a part of the gamer generation that missed the Zelda thing, I have to say "ho hum".

    On the flip side, my kids seemed to like the Switch and that game. So yeah, what do kids know?

    Honestly guys if your on the fence and this gushing article is pushing you into getting a switch, let me offer a counter opinion. BotW is a good game, and the sheer scale of the game world is very, very impressive but it has its fair share of problems.

    There is maybe (discounting reskins) about 10 types of badguys, and you'll run into the same ones - again and again. Or, if your anything like me, you'll run *past* them, because the combat mechanics are far too basic and boring, not to mention your 'resources' (your breaking weapons) are totally wasted on most enemies. Even the 4 bosses and Ganon are unmemorable.

    The climbing is cool, but can be very frustrating, especially with the small amount of stamina you begin with. Also any time it rains (which is quite a lot) you basically get a 60-70% climbing debuff. Incredibly annoying.

    The 4 core dungeons are nothing special, you might get slightly stumped with a puzzle here or there, but they are pretty easy and not especially engaging in general. Once again the best part about them is the huge scale of the beast your in and the view it offers of the outside world.

    If you have much interest in a good video game story, there is nothing too see here. Very basic premise, which the various townsfolk will recount to you endlessly.

    The collecting, cooking and elixir making is overrated, and you might find that you stop bothering to do any cooking unless begrudgingly to get more healing food. Cooking is very clunky, and you can only cook one thing at a time. Then you have to watch atleast half the cutscene till its done. The shrine cutscenes are just as annoying, you have to skip about 4 of them before you can actually DO the shrine! And you will be doing ALOT of shrines.

    Good game, 8/10. But the circle jerk is getting out of hand, as it tends to with tentpole Nintendo franchises. Skyward Sword had a 93 metacritic rating, Twilight Princess a 95.
    Opinion on Twilight Princess is divided these days, some still love it but many see it as the first not amazing Zelda game, and no one even remembers Skyward Sword, yet they both have insane ratings. Time will tell how BotW fares, but I suspect there will be a bit of a backlash against its legacy over the next few years.

    Hands game I've ever played. Mark summed it up perfectly. This game just has magic in it.

    It's been a pleasure watching my 7 year old son devour it too.

    I am possibly off to buy a Switch now. Held off as long as I could on principle alone, but these articles are killing me.

      You should try heroin it's a tasty snack and good for weight-loss and it's "simply magical".

    BTW Mark With the hinox you can just sneak onto his hand get lifted up onto his stomach then just steal the orb. there is no need to actually kill him

    Man this comment section seems to be full of backlash, but I totally get you. This game is something truly incredible, when you really get it.

    One side note - apparently you can actually climb on the hinox if you're sneaky and steal the bloody ball without fighting it! Blew my mind. I even read a story where someone lured the hinox up to the platform, knocked it over on top of it and the ball fell in the hole to activate it. The possibility space in this game is incredible.

    I love this. I just jumped up on the hinox, grabbed the ball and ran off.
    Our different experiences are what makes this game so good.

    Dark Souls>Zelda games

    I am really curious about BOTW though, Serrels has so much in common with me. We both like oats, Dark Souls and breathing.... my back doesn't have a demons face in it à la Yujiro Hanma though, not yet.

    Edit: and another thing! Great article *thumbs up*

    Last edited 25/04/17 11:59 am

    I beat that Hinox in the same way. Spamming bombs. took me about 30 minutes lol.

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