It's The Perfect Time To Return To Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Recently, a friend of mine started playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the first time. This has had an interesting side effect: Any time I try to play anything else, I just wish I were playing Breath of the Wild. My ironclad resolve to continue making my way through games I hadn’t yet played lasted two days. So anyway, I’m playing Breath of the Wild again.

It’s been surreal to fall back into Breath of the Wild’s world so easily, especially considering how I’ve felt about new games that have come out in what was supposed to be a packed month. I ended up having mixed feelings about Metro Exodus, Anthem might be a good video game in a year, Crackdown 3 is less a meal than a throwback snack — the Dunk-a-roos of video games — and I got my fill of Far Cry New Dawn back when it was Far Cry 5, Far Cry 4, Far Cry Primal, Far Cry 3, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

Breath of the Wild came out two years ago, but there’s still nothing out there that replicates the sheer joy of exploring its world. While other open-world games that arrived before and after rely on quest icons so plentiful that they threaten to blot out the map, Breath of the Wild lets you plot your own course. It trusts you to have a good time. You can always see the next interesting, weird, or harrowing thing just over the horizon, or peeking out from behind a particularly inviting hill. Every piece of terrain you have to negotiate is its own stamina-based puzzle. Then you reach the top, see a veritable promised land of intrigue beckoning you onward, and glide down into the still-mostly-unknown. That moment is perfect: An exhilarating reward and a trepidation-soaked dive into the deep end. Breath of the Wild strings these perfect moments together, turning them into an irresistible rhythm. When I first returned to the game last Sunday, I planned to mess around for 30 minutes or so, maybe do a shrine. I played for eight consecutive hours.


Curiosity is constantly rewarded, most obviously with puzzle-laden shrines, but also with fairy fountains, oddball characters, location-dependent survival mechanics, dragons, mysterious ruins, special items with unexpected interactions, food recipes, and of course, demigods who can bring horses back from the great pasture in the sky. I love the little touches that go into making those things feel like more than just video game rewards. After I discovered the horse reviver’s pod-shaped pad for the first time, I encountered an adventurer who’d heard tell of a horse god not long after. “I wonder if it’s actually real,” the adventurer said. I got the impression that I was supposed to meet this person before I met the god of life, death, and horses, but it still added to my experience. “The horse god is real!” I wanted to shout. “I just met them and paid them a fuckton of rupees to bring back my dead horse! I’m poor now!”

In hindsight, I realise that I never really quit Breath of the Wild like I did with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Far Cry 5, Spider-Man, and even Red Dead Redemption 2. I never completed yet another mission that felt less thematically appropriate and more like Content (TM) and said, “OK, I get it. That’s enough.” Because it wasn’t enough. After 40 or so hours of playtime, life just got in the way. But returning to it now, it’s still just as special as it was back then—in some ways, it’s even better after so much time away.

What’s changed most, I’ve realised, is my approach to playing Breath of the Wild. I’m much more methodical now. I creep up on everything: bokoblin camps, camouflaged lizalfos, dogs I want to feed. This, surprisingly, is not a byproduct of the fact that all weapons are breakable, a system I actually love because it forces experimentation and creates occasional moments of absolute, hilarious desperation (eat it, haters). Rather, it’s just kind of how I play most games now.

I stealthed all of Metro Exodus, for example, while I played its two predecessors much more violently. My general video game play style was still in flux when Breath of the Wild first came out, but it solidified after more time passed and even more games presented stealth as an option in most scenarios. I’ve found myself more and more inclined to explore these games’ stealth options as they’ve become more prevalent (to varying degrees of success), and when I returned to Breath of the Wild, I had a new layer of the game to dig into. 


Sure, there’s an appeal to emerging pristinely unscathed from a sword (and spear and boomerang and lightning) fight with a small army of enemies, but I love messing with them when they can’t see me. Dropping bombs downhill, watching curious enemies scratch their heads and investigate, and then sending them flying is one of life’s simple joys. Similarly, who doesn’t love stealing weapons from idle enemies and then watching as they go bonkers in frustration while trying to fight you? These are, I recognise, not the machinations of a Machiavellian brain genius, but one of Breath of the Wild’s greatest strengths is that it can combine majestic exploration, larger-than-life heroics, and dumb slapstick antics, and there’s no dissonance. Unlike in the Far Crys and Red Deads of the world, it all feels like it belongs.

Breath of the Wild took the rigid, sometimes awkward underpinnings of the open-world genre and made them feel as natural as a dip in a secluded river. It’s one thing to play such a mind-blowing game upon its release, when it can only be compared to its peers. It’s another to see it put countless games that have come after to shame, too.


Comments

    For me the only time it would be the "perfect time" to revisit this game is if they patched out the stupid durability system, stopped the game actively penalizing you for trying to explore by climbing by constantly summoning a goddamn rainstorm, and actually got some proper interesting content for its dead empty world. Or maybe had a proper dungeon or two rather than tiny bite-sized things everywhere that take all of two minutes to figure out and reward you with a weapon that breaks the next time you use it anyway.

    Still for the life of me cannot understand what it is about this game that people are so into. Nothing about it clicked for me at all and it was one of the most disappointing releases for me that entire year.

      So easy to reply with a cheap "username checks out".

      Do you really expect BOTW to not throw a few obstacles in your path? I'll tell you how I coped with weapon durability and thunderstorms. I managed my stock of weapons, and only used the best for the hardest fights. If a thunderstorm hit, I'd search for an alternate route that was less prone to needing climbing, or I'd hone the timing of my leaps to allow slower climbing progress.

      You come up with your own methods. That's what a good game can do; bring out your ingenuity. BOTW is a good game.

      Don't understand why you'd think it's a dead world. I found little curiosities and intrigues around most bends, and many of the characters you ran into were just delightful. This encouraged me to explore just about every nook I could find in the game. I'm sure I have not discovered them all.

      I've finished the game, but I'll jump back in one day and explore around again. It's a shame it didn't click for you, but for me, it hit the spot perfectly.

        I am aware that I'm not toeing the Accepted Consensus line on this game, but I do not care.

        I found the world to be really bland and empty. Plus the game actively penalizes you for engaging in combat by breaking all your stuff, so I very quickly learned not to bother with combat at all - what's the incentive to fight anything if all the game rewards you is more stuff that's going to break? What's the point of exploring at all when they undermined their own reward loop so severely? What even was the point of exploring at all? The game has no plot, no motivation for doing anything. There are no proper dungeons, no unlocking new traversal mechanics. You get given everything at the start. So what am I even meant to do? Where am I expected to go?

        If you're going to throw me into a lifeless, empty, pointless, directionless sandbox, your core mechanics better be really fun to engage with. And they just are not. In fact, I'm penalized for actually doing the one thing that at the core always *was* fun in these games, which was the combat, by being forced to always use the worst and most disposable bits of gear because I don't want to actually use the good gear because it'll break and then I won't be able to have fun with it any more. I don't understand why people don't find this as immensely frustrating as I do. The mechanics literally force you to use the weakest gear you have, and penalizes you for finding other gear. And this is leaving aside the frustratingly tiny inventory space.

        Exploration is the same. "Go climb this thing there might be something cool at the top" the game hints constantly. But you're not actually allowed to climb it because again, the mechanics get in the way. Either your stamina runs out or it starts fucking raining while you're halfway up. The entire game is you struggling to find the fun while fighting against bad mechanics that are actively sabotaging you. Like you're Sisyphus, cursed to push a fucking boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down whenever you think you're finally at the top. Only everyone else is doing it around you and are talking about how much fun it is to do. Did I just get a heavier boulder or a steeper hill? Why should I keep doing it? How does everyone else enjoy this?

        Breath of the Wild constantly had me asking "what is the point of all this?" And it never gave me a satisfactory answer. It was *boring*. I tried my best to find the fun in the exploration, but there wasn't any *reason* to explore. There's no reward, no incentive. Why spend hours carefully making your way through an area to get to a treasure chest when all you're going to get is a thing that will break the next time you use it? Why spend all that time exploring when there's nothing actually worth finding? I spent hours wandering around trying to find the missing fun bit, and never found it. I was *bored*. I had no motivation to play it. The whole game is completely pointless. Worse, it wasted my time. I would spend hours in it and come away having accomplished nothing. Never got a sense that I had progressed because the game doesn't even give you icons on a map or a checklist or anything.

        I wish I could have had the experience everyone else seems to have with it. The game they describe sounds awesome. I want that game, not the one I played.

          Your opinions are completely opposite to mine. I didn't mind weapons breaking, once I got used to managing weapons and not becoming "attached" to any particular weapon I just used what was right in a certain situation, it's easy enough to get more. Taking down Silver Lynels to farm their gear was a fun pastime. Managing what you had and finding creative ways to take down enemies was half the fun for me.

          I really enjoyed exploring the world, finding new areas, quests and little things hidden like Koroks or Dungeons. I never really found rain to be a barrier to that enjoyment at all, like DeeK said you find alternate routs, go to sleep, warp somewhere high and float down or shield surf etc. I guess I don't need constant feedback to keep me engaged, I was happy just finding somewhere cool. First time I saw a dragon was dozens of hours in and it just felt like yet another awesome discovery.

          About the only thing I didn't like was lack of proper dungeons. The four Divine Beasts were all basically the same and I found myself really wishing for a proper dungeon. Hyrule Castle was neat because it was a change of scenery but you could skip most of it.

          Also lack of decent rewards from quests did annoy me after a while, but it wasn't a deal breaker.

          I agree about general consensus. We're mature enough to make up our own minds, and also deal with conflicting opinions.

          I found the environment to be engaging and interesting. Terrain was well varied. The little korok puzzles scattered throughout were amusing, and could be surprising and challenging. NPCs had good character. There were scattered treasures to be found all over the place, some hidden quite craftily, and often calling on creative use of your powers. Just about everywhere had points of interest that rewarded you after exploration.

          Combat was a good challenge, and breakable weapons and shields added to that challenge. The reward for combat was replacement gear and cooking/crafting items. The incentive to engage in these fights was in the items you received, or the freedom to look around and discover that area uninterrupted. I enjoyed the game giving me incentive to not use my highly powered gear all the time, and to make me to be efficient and clever in the use of resources I had.

          To say that the game had no plot and no motivation for doing things is hyperbole. There was a plot, though I grant you it was not strong. There was motivation, in saving the world and Zelda from Gannon. That was established when meeting King Rhoam. This was further enhanced by unlocking memories at particular locations, and just plain meeting different NPCs around the environment.

          The four divine beasts are the best equivalent to a "proper" dungeon. They were all excellent. Otherwise, the shrines act as mini-dungeons, and there were more than enough of those. I found it a good mix, though I agree that it would have been nice to have one or two more divine beasts.

          You are not given everything at the start. That you say this shows how little you know of the game. You are given your basic powers. These are enhanced later in the game, as well as your inventory expanded, better armour acquired, recipes discovered, and one very special weapon that will never break (though will not always be usable).

          As it is, I believe BOTW is a very special game. If you don't think that, I'm perfectly fine with it. I do find it interesting that there's such contrast in our opinions, though. Glad you could air them out.

            You're right, I only spent around 10-15 hours with it before I gave up. But I'd argue that if it failed to get its hooks into me by that point it was never going to.

          Hey there's nothing wrong with not liking something that others do like. But i think this is just a case of BotW not being for you, rather than it being a bad game.

            Not once did I say it's a bad game. Just that I can't understand why people like it because my personal experience doesn't mesh with everyone else's at all.

              Eh, it's not that I feel the need to disagree with you, because you're totally entitled to your opinion on the game, but I'd say things like:
              - bland and empty
              - The game has no plot, no motivation for doing anything
              - lifeless, empty, pointless, directionless sandbox
              - The entire game is you struggling to find the fun while fighting against bad mechanics that are actively sabotaging you
              - Breath of the Wild constantly had me asking "what is the point of all this?"
              - I was *bored*. I had no motivation to play it. The whole game is completely pointless. Worse, it wasted my time

              could be construed as you suggesting it's a bad game :D

                It should be pretty obvious from context that I was talking about my experience and impression, but I guess it is the internet so no one cares about things like context, only sensationalism, you either have to 100% hate everything or 100% love it and there's no middle ground.

          I see your point, but if the BFG had infinite ammo, Doom would be incredibly easy to beat. Same goes for the best weapons in Zelda. It's a very different concept to the past games but it isn't the only one that uses it (the Metro series comes to mind, limited ammo, guns jam, etc.) and I kinda like it that way myself. Challenges me more instead of going all out instantly.

            Not a good example since you don't have to find a brand new BFG every time you fire it. And you have a ton of other stuff that you can use instead that's often more effective anyway, and there isn't artificial scarcity on ammo.

            I think I'd hate it a lot less if condition wasn't completely hidden from you (it just breaks), if you could actually repair stuff, and if it actually had some half decent durability to begin with.

              In the early game, I assumed I could repair or enhance gear using some of the gems and ores you got from mining. That would've been a fantastic idea.

              Maybe in the next game.

                You can repair champion weapons with gems, makes them a little more special than regular weapons but generally not enough to not just keep using whatever is on hand.

          I am aware that I'm not toeing the Accepted Consensus line on this game, but I do not care.

          Did you hear what happened to Jim Sterling when he reviewed BoTW? He gave the game a 7/10 and got death threats from Zelda fans.

            Jim is basically the only person I've found that seemed to share a lot of my opinions about the game.

          It seems to me that you tried to play the game in a way that you may have played other games and when it refused to be played that way, you grew frustrated instead of adapting and trying new approaches?

          Re: Weapon durability. It's an inventory management thing (which, btw, you can grow--one of the "points" of exploration and discovery). While it's true that you usually will fight with your "weaker" stuff, getting yourself into combat often (rather than avoiding it) will keep you stocked up with enough weapons that even your worst ones (i.e. "everyday" use) will be quite decent. And then, there will be a time when a bigger challenge appears and you'll get to use your better weapons! That in itself has its own thrill: "will my best weapon be strong enough to kill this guy before it breaks, or is this guy so tanky that even my best weapon won't suffice"? And then you see that it's about to break and you throw it at the enemy's head in a desperate sacrificial act (it deals double damage) and the enemy falls and you mourn your fallen weapon, but hey, you'll find another soon enough, anyway.

          And what do you do until then? You'll have to make do with the crappier stuff, make better use of stealth and precise sniping, learning the strengths and weaknesses of each weapon type and, overall, having to think about what you do instead of automatically equipping the latest "biggest number increment" weapon and hold a button until stuff is dead.

          Re: Lack of dungeons. Maybe you didn't even get to the point where this is told to you, but there are 5 big "dungeons" in the game.

          Re: Stamina and climbing. Another "point" for exploration: the gathering of different foods. Certain ingredients cooked together not only can restore stamina to you but also, give you tons of "extra" stamina. Just keep yourself stocked up and you'll be fine. (Also keep an eye of the--admittedly, easy to miss--weather clock that lets you know if rains will happen soon before attempting a massive climb.)

            Or, you know, I could play a game that I don't need to consult a FAQ before I'm permitted to enjoy myself.

              I think the game is kind of "old-fashioned" in that respect: You are meant to find out these things by yourself (NPCs provide lots of gentle encouragement) rather than either being given a full in-game dossier, or expecting you to consult external sources.

      I'm really scared that I'm going to have the same reaction.

      I love the Zelda series and I've played pretty much all of them outside of a few gameboy games but I have a love/hate relationship with open world games and feel like I am either going to be completely overwhelmed with the lack of direction or the lack of 'progress' in a sense will stop me from being fully invested. I've started Skyrim about 6 times and have clocked about 10 hours each time I try and play it but the scope of the game is too much for me to handle. At least with Skyrim there is some basic direction and regular rewards that should keep me invested but it still doesn't work. Maybe I'm getting to old and my attention span is starting to go.

        Honestly it is an enjoyable game, and you can either play it non-stop or pick it up and put it down if you are busy.

        I recommend playing it.

      Yeah classic everyone loves it, so I wont mentality.

    I must say between the 2 sides that people present, i will really like it which is great especially as i got it and my Switch for free, and if i don't like it i got it for free. just a little time wasted

    I played 140 hours or something. Missing some shield slots because I didn't feel the need to get all the koroks and maxed out weapon and bow slots instead. Completed all the shrines. I did all the quests, side quests and dlc, but could only upgrade the master sword one level in the trials, was a little too difficult and a frustrating waste of time.
    Got all the armour but didn't upgrade everything to max, only to set bonuses except for 1 or 2 full sets which I maxed.
    I've thought of maybe playing again from the start but don't know if there's anything left for me. The idea of the master mode doesn't seem like a big draw. Also, does starting a master mode game erase your original game?

    I kind of wish the game could let you redo some things. Like redo the beasts. I used to love going back into Majora's Mask on the 64 after finishing it because the game resetting meant that you could just adventure and travel around or redo things.

      It's been a while but I'm pretty sure master mode is a separate game save, even if you use the same player profile.

      Last I checked you switch the game modes at the main menu before even loading in.

      Master Mode is a separate save file.
      I did a Master Mode playthrough about a month ago, did all main quests including the champions ballad.
      Got just as distracted by everything as I did when I played through originally. Had a great time.

    I would love to come back and play The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild but the DLC isn't really worth my cup of tea.
    I think it would be better for me just to stick to buying a PS4 along with a Playstation VR headset later this year because we all know the PS4 is Australia's best selling console and what we should be looking forward to later this year is an announcement from Nintendo on their plans of bringing Virtual Reality to the Nintendo Switch.
    And as part of Microsoft's partnership with Nintendo I hope Microsoft brings their Xbox games on to the Nintendo Switch.
    So as I said I would love to go back and play The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild but the DLC is not worth my cup of tea.

    Great read Nathan!

    I'm terrified of starting a game that big but the Zelda fan in me will relent one day soon...

    The sheer freedom of the game was amazing. You could actually get to anywhere you could see and then from there, use your glider to reach all sorts of places. I found the exploration to be extremely rewarding, koroks are super valuable until late game and everywhere. Finally scaling a peak and seeing several new shrines come into view. Wish I could experience it all over again. Hopefully they are working on a sequel.

    I didn't like the durability system at first, but after expanding my inventory a little really came to enjoy playing with all sorts of different weapons instead of finding a good one and using that exclusively until you get the next upgrade.

      Yeah the durability system really isn't a big deal. At the start when you only have bad weapons it's annoying, but better weapons tend to last longer and your inventory always ends up full anyway so as long as you don't get emotionally attached to that boko club, it doesn't really matter.

        Heck, fighting lynels was super fun and they dropped really awesome gear. Dodging at just the right moment and getting in those extra attacks was super satisfying. If you did that with a lynel weapon, Link would just go nuts.

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