Breathing new life into The Legend of Zelda
Confession: I have not completed this game. But it is not because I can't (though I was really short of time), but because I really don't want it to end so soon.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (BOTW) is an adventure role-playing game that does not provide you with a linear passage of play.
Yes, like most Zelda games, you still play the main hero Link. And, as always, your main quest is to defeat the game's prime evil Ganon and rescue Princess Zelda.
But, in BOTW, you explore the game world on your own terms, take on quests at your own discretion, find different approaches to tackle a situation or solve a puzzle, and beat the game at your own pace.
Graphics-wise, it is still the typical Zelda's cartoon anime-aesthetic, but that means it is still absolutely gorgeous. Music and audio effects are great too.
Most importantly, the game world is totally interactive. If you think you can climb a mountain, you can do so - provided you have enough stamina or it is not slippery from rain.
You can opt to pluck one apple at a time from a tree, or cut down the tree to get all the apples at once.
At first, you might be a bit stumped on how to go about doing things. Fret not, the area where you start will provide you a fair amount of training before you venture off to greater things.
Apart from trying to complete the main and side quests, you will find yourself visiting shrines and solving puzzles inside these shrines to get enough Spirit Orbs to increase your health or stamina. Again, there is no single way of solving puzzles.
For example, one of the puzzles is a ball maze that you control by manoeuvring the Joy-Con to drop the ball into a bowl. If you fail, another ball will drop into the maze. I managed to move the maze such that the ball drops near the maze's exit, so I can drop the ball straight into the bowl.
Furthermore, apart from your usual swords, shields and bows, you get to use runes, which allow you to use magic. You can create a bomb, stop time for a while, or create an ice pillar. You can use these powers to help you blow up obstacles or create a bridge.
Even in battles, there are multiple ways to engage enemies. For example, when you are nearing an enemy's camp and there are too many of them, you can shoot a fire arrow at a bomb near the camp, or sneak in quietly to steal their weapons for an easier fight.
There are so many things to do and many ways to do them in BOTW. You can talk to anyone, disturb a chicken and tame and ride a horse. You can pick up mushrooms, kill a boar for meat and cook up a dish to get an extra boost in health, stealth or cold resistance.
Cooking alone will take time. It requires some trial and error to get the right recipe for the dishes you want. Plus, these dishes can sell for a good price.
And you will need a lot of rupees - the game's currency - as well. With more rupees, you can buy better armour, weapons and even a house.
The only quibble I have about BOTW is the durability of the weapons. Most swords, shields and bows will disintegrate into smithereens after a battle or so.
Thankfully, you can pause the game anytime to change weapons and arrows, or switch to using runes during battle.
But this is not an easy game. Be prepared to die a lot. So I am glad the game frequently auto-saves your progress. You can save anytime too.
The weapon slots are limited, but the inventory slots are infinite. So be a hoarder and keep everything to sell and earn extra rupees. The merchants will buy anything from you, regardless of whether they are selling armour or vegetables.
You never know which items are needed for a side quest or when you need to upgrade your weapons.
But if you want to power up your Link faster, you can use amiibo (Nintendo's NFC-enabled figurines) to get extra items. To do so, change to the amiibo rune and touch the amiibo on the right Joy-Con's thumb stick. Certain amiibo will drop special items. For instance, the Link (Rider) amiibo will drop a special sword and saddle.
Seriously, I think you have spent enough time reading this review. It is time to go out and grab this game, be it on Nintendo Switch or Wii U, and discover the legend of Zelda yourself.
Verdict: With its endless possibilities with regard to quests, huge interactive game world and addictive gameplay, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is currently the best role-playing game for the Nintendo Switch and probably the only reason to buy the console. Definitely a contender for The Game of 2017.
PRICE: $83.90 (Nintendo Switch, version tested; Wii U)
This article was first published on March 15, 2017.
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