Taking my first trip into Hyrule with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
By Teddy McHugh
When I was six or seven I got a NES for Christmas from my parents. I don’t remember how long it was before I went into my local video store (children ask your parents), but at some point I rented a copy of the original Legend of Zelda. I remember seeing the gold cartridge and thinking it had to be awesome. The problem was I had no patience to play it at that age because it wasn’t very clear on what you were supposed to do. But even then the music captured my attention. So because of that I never tried to experience the games again. Fast forward almost thirty years and my best friend buys a Nintendo Switch on a whim and being a massive fan of the Zelda series (especially Link to the Past) he also grabbed Breath of the Wild. While he was playing it he was constantly telling me how amazing it was and how when he was done he was going to make me play it so I can finally see what I have been missing. Needless to say he did just that.
Admittedly it did take a while for the game to really grab me. I just felt that I was missing something in the early stages before the story really starts moving. As if not knowing all the lore of Zelda was a disadvantage. But once I got out of the opening area of the map I quickly realized that the entire Plateau section was just a tutorial in disguise, and had taught me most of the game mechanics in a basically safe environment so when you move on you just naturally do what needs to be done.
There was a lot for me to love in Breath of the WIld once I really started to get immersed in the world. For example the story unfolds as Link trying to remember who he is and what his purpose is after being asleep for a hundred years, so since I knew very little about lore it felt more immersive to me that the main character is just as lost in the world as I was. This also made so I was learning who Link was at the same time as he was when I would uncover a memory. Now in the long run I don’t feel like I was missing much by not having played earlier installments but I am sure that there are plenty of references hidden within the massive world of Hyrule.
Throughout the massive map of Hyrule there are shrines which serve as challenges to earn soul orbs which you can then turn in at altars to the goddess for either an extra heart or more stamina bar. Now I didn’t complete all the shrines but I did do enough of them to know that any shrine you decide to take on will be fun a challenging. Most of them are basically puzzles that are themed around one or two abilities that Link possesses. But there are also certain shrines that are combat challenges ranked as Minor, Moderate, and Major tests of strength. If you are not properly equipped the tests of strength can be quite frustrating (I know from experience), so I suggest skipping them till you have gotten a few extra hearts or some better equipment.
Where BotW really shines to me is when you decide to start tackling the divine beasts of the different races. Each race has their own challenge to tackle to get to their main village. From having to find a way to get through extreme heat on the way to the Goron village that will cause any wooden shields or weapons that are equipped to catch fire, to just having to survive waves of enemies with lightning weapons on the way to the Zora. Then once you have made it to the village you will meet the elder and be asked to help with their problems being caused by the divine beast in their area. All of the races of Hyrule are interesting and engaging making it fun to walk around and talk to everyone to see what they have to say or if they might have a side mission for you to take on. Now the divine beasts are actually giant moving dungeons that you first have to weaken in someway so that you can get inside of them to try and get control of them back from the corruption of Ganon. But it is when you enter that the true fun begins, because the divine beasts each have a special control you take once inside that will change the dungeon in someway to allow you to get to different areas within which forces you to get really creative. And of course what would a dungeon be without a boss at the end to make you earn your victory. All of the end bosses have a little trick to them that makes them just challenging enough without inducing too much rage.
The combat system was really fluid and easy to use once I got the grasp of how it worked with each different enemy and situation. Even though there were times where I felt that the timing on dodging and deflecting an attack seemed too confusing. Working one time when timed with the enemies attack and failing to work other times when done at that same timing, but it didn’t hurt the game too badly in the long run. However if there was one small thing I thought held back the game on a combat level it was the fact that all the weapons and shields you pick up are breakable but not repairable so you can be in the middle of a battle with a group of Bokoblins when your primary sword or shield breaks which forces you to either grab a weapon from a nearby fallen enemy if there are any or quickly equip a new weapon. The latter of which was a problem for me because I tend to panic when I am suddenly defenseless. The only exception to that is the Master Sword which just depletes power and needs to recharge before you can use it again.
My overall impression of Legend of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild is that while it isn’t the greatest game I have ever played. It is definitely up there at the top somewhere. I also feel that this was probably the best intro to the world of Zelda for me and I am actually excited to try and go back and play some of the earlier entries to the franchise. If I had to give a rating on Breath of the Wild I would give it a solid 4 out of 5. Not perfect but not far off.