Release: Out Now
Formats: Switch, Wii U
Rating: PEGI 12
Price (RRP): £59.99
Awakening after a century of slumber, you discover that Hyrule has been living in fear all the time you were busy sleeping and forgetting everything and everyone he knew. Calamity Ganon looms in the distance, surrounding the castle, and only Princess Zelda holds him at bay. Your only chance is to become a mighty warrior once more and awaken forces powerful enough to take down Ganon. However, there’s no rush. As Link, you can just head off into the world and do what you want, and go fight the big bad whenever you’re ready.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’s Hyrule is gigantic, and for the most part free to explore at your leisure. While there are of course main quests to follow and plenty of optional side-quests to take on, there’s nothing to stop you going off on your own little adventure. You’ll probably not have a great time hightailing it to Ganon straight away anyway, and you’ll more than likely find yourself encroaching into territories where even the weakest enemies can destroy you in one hit, but the freedom you’re offered is far more intoxicating than in most recent open-world games.
Rather than progressing in a linear way and slowly increasing Link’s overall arsenal, you’ll be faced with weapons and shields and bows that all have limited durability. You need to be always on the hunt, collecting and switching your weaponry and defences. Add to that a progression of new clothes with new stats, tons of resources to find and use, and it’s clear that BotW borrows heavily from survival RPGs.
It’s overwhelming at first, as you’ll be switching weapons mid-fight as everything breaks after a few hits. But Breath Of The Wild is at its most eye-opening and maddening during these opening hours. It doesn’t help that item durability isn’t clearly defined. Still, you’ll be discovering all manner of cool new things to cook or collect, as you stop every few minutes to stock up on gear.
Things improve the more you dig in, once you’ve got a few main quests under your belt. Exploration is more invigorating than it’s ever been in a Zelda game before, thanks to a world that feels lovingly crafted and filled with life. It’s also genuinely challenging, as going too far in the wrong direction too early can be a bruising experience and you really have to stay on your toes when outnumbered.
Although there are some performance issues and its opening hours can be very frustrating, Breath Of The Wild offers a breathtaking new approach to a series that had been leaning too heavily on formula. The game throws you into the world and doesn’t hold your hand, but gives you enough to know what you can do next, leaving it up to you to decide how to tackle things.
Whether you’re cooking up meals to find new buffs, taming a horse to ride, solving a tricky shrine puzzle, or just exploring and taking out bad guys, Breath Of The Wild is an open-world masterpiece. It trusts you to have whatever fun you want, and gives you every tool you need to enjoy yourself for dozens and dozens of hours.
Review by Martin Wharmby