(Reposted from John Daniel's Video Game Reviews)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an action-adventure game for the Wii U and Switch. It was developed by Nintendo.
In Breath of the Wild you once again play as Link, who wakes up in a tomb with no memories. Wandering outside he meets a man who tells him that a hundred years ago Princess Zelda sealed the monster known as Calamity Ganon inside Hyrule Castle after a battle that left Link critically injured and placed in stasis, and has been trying to keep him there ever since. The man begs Link to rescue Zelda by travelling across Hyrule and repairing the four Divine Beasts, humongous machines that could harm Ganon if Ganon had not taken them over first and used them to wreck Hyrule.
As Link, you travel all around Hyrule, fighting monsters and solving puzzles as you eventually get to the Divine Beasts. Link does not start out with any weapons and has to get them off of dead monsters and in the field, both melee weapons, bows and arrows, and shields. Weapons degrade quickly when you use them but can be easily replaced. Link also has access to a Sheikah Stone, a magical device that allows Link to move metal objects with magnetism, create unlimited bombs, and stop time for objects. These abilities help him solve the puzzles he will run into when fixing the Divine Beasts. Link recovers health by finding cooking materials and making them into food.
The biggest draw is Breath of the Wild is the exploration. Hyrule is absolutely massive and filled with everything, all of it unique and detailed. Hyrule is divided up into twelve sections and it can take days to explore just one section, trying to find all the secrets and quests and shrines, and it almost never gets boring.
What the game also does well is properly reward the player for exploration. Scattered around Hyrule are shrines that house a puzzle for Link to complete using the Sheikah Stone. Completing the puzzle always reward Link with spirit orbs that increase his life and stamina, and you always need more hearts and stamina. There are also magic seeds you find wandering around Hyrule increase your carrying space, and you always need more carrying space. And there is always money to find, which you need since arrows and armor are so expensive.
Further props to Nintendo for making the game non-linear, which also adds to the joys of exploring. You can fix the four Divine Beasts in any order, and there is no time limit on fixing them. You can even skip fixing the Divine Beats and confront Ganon immediately, though you will almost certainly die in the attempt.
Combat is tough, mainly because enemy attacks take off massive amounts of health. Monsters, which there are not that many varieties of, have several different kinds of attacks that can all be dodged by Link’s side jump or backflip, and dodging attacks is easy to learn but to master. Despite this and the limited types of enemies, their attack methods vary enough that fights do not feel repetitive for a good portion of the game, and by the time they do feel repetitive you will be finding strong enough weapons that they can end quickly. Attacking is mostly button mashing though, and shields are useless since most of the weapons you will pick up are two-handed weapons.
The story is a letdown. The backstory of the ancient robots that sealed Ganon 10,000 years ago and were dug up a century ago to do the same thing only for Ganon to take control of them is potentially interesting, but Link’s story is nothing. It’s just go the Divine Beast, solve the problem in the area, fix the Divine Beat, repeat three more times, and kill Ganon. The lack of a strong story is to allow more freedom and flexibility for the player to enjoy the game as they see fit, but the player should get a narrative reward for going out and fixing all the Divine Beats and tracking down Link’s lost memories.
The end is abrupt and disappointing too, and the main cast, except for maybe the Zora prince, are two dimensional clichés whose entire stories and character could fit on a notecard. Ganon got the worst of it, he has merely become an obstacle to overcome, a living bomb to defuse, the cunning and ruthless character from games past is nowhere in sight.
While I found exploring to be well and above the best part of the game and the reason I played it for so long, I worry that the game lacks replayability. I am a big fan of The Legend of Zelda series and I got a kick out of seeing what Nintendo did with this incredibly detailed rendition of Hyrule. But I worry if I played it again I would get bored. The world is massive, and several areas do not add a lot to the game. Plus the area design is basic and fuzzy, and the color scheme is simple, it is made up of standard video game areas, your plains area, desert, snow, jungle, water, forest. It might have been better if Nintendo refined the map, cut out some of the excess areas and put the important bits in other areas.
Weapon degradation was not well thought out. While there are plenty of weapons to find eventually, at the start it can be a pain when there are only a few tree branches to use that break easily, leaving you helpless. More importantly several puzzles require repeated use of a weapon, and it is annoying to have to leave a puzzle until you find a weapon and bring it back. There should have been an unlimited emergency weapon, even if it was weak, like a punch.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing time waster. Despite a few hiccups the level of detail and huge world to explore can keep everyone entertained, from fans of the series to newcomers, for days if not weeks.