Wait, you want more? Alright, well strap in. Most reviews make you wait until the end to get a review score, but I’m going to do something different this time around. I will tell you right now this game scored a perfect 5/5 stars here at Nintendo Prime. Why am I telling you this now? Because Breath of the Wild is not a perfect game. In fact, in our amazing Breath of the Wild review discussion video above you’ll quickly notice that I keep noting ways Breath of the Wild could be even better.
I implore you to watch that video as it brings three very different perspectives to the forefront, but we all conclude it’s the best game we’ve ever played.
This review is going to seem overly critical at times, maybe even nitpicky. It’s not going to be a review that sits back and praises this as the greatest thing since sliced bread (even if it is). However, getting a perfect score isn’t about perfection – Breath of the Wild is now the new baseline under which all future game reviews will be based. That is, of course, until another game tops it. Okay, enough preamble. First, let’s dive deep into what makes Breath of the Wild tick.
To find faults with Breath of the Wild isn’t hard, but to find faults that fundamentally should be replaced is another story entirely. One significant issue with Breath of the Wild is the voice acting, but no I don’t mean that I fault the quality of the voice acting. I am probably one of 10 people on the planet that enjoyed the English voice acting completely. What I mean is the abrupt pacing of the voice acting. You see, voice acting is exclusively put into cut-scenes, which isn’t a problem if the game itself didn’t contain many, many cut-scene like moments in the gameplay. Here is one example that is fairly jarring.
On your way to Zora’s Domain you eventually meet Prince Sidon. He introduces himself in a rather emphatic manner with some excellent voice acting too boot. After explaining a few things about the state of the Zora, you begin your journey to Zora’s Domain. Along the way, Prince Sidon will frequently stop you mid gameplay (a bit jarring at times) to talk to you about himself, about the Zora… and well, mostly about himself. It takes control of the camera and the player has basically no input. In all honesty, these are cut-scenes masked within the game. Prince Sidon, however, is not voice acted during these parts. Then magically you’ll get to Zora’s Domain and experience something very similar, but this time it is apparently a cutscene and he talks.
This sort of treatment of the voice acting in the game is extremely jarring and it feels inconsistent. This is the first time the Zelda series has dove this deep into voice acting and while I applaud the effort, I know they can do so much better. The easier solution is just to make all voice acted characters fully voiced. That means every single interaction with that character should be voiced. It takes care of the flow of voice acting and maintains consistency throughout.
I could argue every character in the game should be fully voiced as well, but baby steps. Let’s just make sure the voice acting that is present stays consistent instead of creating a jarring feeling to the player.
Most of the rest of the criticisms laid out in the bad category are not fundamentally terrible, but just areas where the game itself could take massive steps forward in the future. One example are the Shrines themselves.
The game is littered with 120 shrines, this game’s replacement for extremely long dungeons and an excuse to explore nearly every corner of the game (that is if you don’t count the 900 Korok’s to find). There are a few aspects of shrines that need to be re-examined in the future.
The first bit is the combat shrines. There are around 40 or so combat shrines (minor/major tests of strength) and they feel extremely lazy. As you progress further in the game, the shrines don’t get more difficult. You may struggle with a Major test early in the game, only to face a minor one 100 hours later that you can defeat without even seeing the second phase of the fight. The fights themselves are all identical, with the mini-guardian simply wielding a different variety of weapons. There is no true variety to the combat here and once you figure out one, you basically know how to beat them all. There is zero variety in enemy type, combat styles, or even the three phases of each fight. While thrilling right away, it quickly becomes boring. Some of this is because the game itself allows you to out gear it (you can literally make Calamity Ganon and even Silver Lynels a complete joke eventually), the other is that the game doesn’t scale well.
This applies to more than just combat shrines, but these are simply the greatest example. Once I am rocking weapons that are all 30+ damage, I should not ever face a minor test of strength, but I will, because the game doesn’t care what gear I have, or that I have arrows that can one shot every single one of them. It’s whatever, here is your test that is as hard at that point as starting a fire with some sticks and a rock.
Other aspects of shrines could be better too. Some of the gyro based shrines were great, while others felt broken entirely in extremely frustrating ways. You were fighting the controls to make aspects behave as intended – either there is an issue with the actual gyro sensor or the game itself is poorly coded. Either way, they can (and have done so in the past) do these things much better.
Beyond the shrines, there are a few other aspects that could use some touching up. For starters, it rains way too often in the game. They can remedy this in a future update by either lessening how often it occurs or at least allowing certain gear or elixirs to bypass it. Essentially, climbing is a massive part of the game you can’t do well while it rains. There are boots you can get eventually that say “non slip”, but they still slip in the rain like any other pair of boots. They can either make it rain less or let those boots actually allow us to climb in the rain. Either way, it takes away the fun of the game during moments of expansive exploration.
Also, the Master Sword in this game breaks the combat system. There is a lot of things I love about the equipment and item system in this game that most are either going to love or hate, but because I love it the Master Sword feels like cheating. It doesn’t break (yay!), but it “recharges” every 10 minutes, which seems very strange. Why not have it break and just make me have to reforge it like you can with other items? What is it recharging from? I chipped it, what’s a recharge going to do? Does it have batteries or something? It’s very off putting and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the combat system. It’s also the only item you can’t store at your house. Strange, considering it’s not close to the most damaging weapon in the game.
A lot of reviews try to cap things with what a game didn’t do well, but I wanted to flip the script because I feel like all conversations about Breath of the Wild should start with how it can be better. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t do anything brilliant.
The first thing I want to talk about are the good shrines. The game’s best shrines take you by total surprise. Eventide Island? Arguably one of the best things this game has and it takes you by complete surprise that the whole thing is just a huge outdoor shrine. There are other outdoor shrines too. I remember one where I had to get three orbs onto these three platforms in the middle of a non-stop rainstorm, forcing me to manipulate things with my ruin ability and think completely outside of the box to get them to a higher platform I couldn’t climb up. I didn’t even realize it was a shrine until the end.
These sorts of shrines are so brilliant, I really wish the game was full of 120 outdoor shrines. They fit better in the world in my opinion and felt like a true exploration reward, where you don’t even realize you’re completing a shrine as the thrill of solving the puzzle enthralls you.
Of course, this dives deep into exploration. There is no two ways about it, Breath of the Wild offers the best exploration ever seen in a video game. Does the world feel empty at times? I guess, but who cares? It’s all about whats over the next hill or down in the next ravine. What’s underneath that rock over there? This game doesn’t reward your exploration by giving you a clear objective to do it. Sure you can search for Shrines or Koroks, maybe some odd side quests, but the reward of exploration is simply the thrill of discovery. The act of exploring is simply stunning on its own without needing an end reward, and that’s a feat I never thought video games could deliver.
To correlate this to the real world, you may feel amazing after you hike 4 miles up some cliff to turn around at the top and just take in one of the most gorgeous views you’ve ever seen. The reward is in the view itself and how hard you worked to see such beauty. This happens frequently in Breath of the Wild, and it’s not a feeling I expected to experience going in.
Inside all of this exploration is the combat system. Starting with the breakable item system itself, I found myself enjoying this system more and more. I was constantly trying out new weapons and new combat methods occasionally out of necessity, then eventually out of pure curiosity. My best weapon broke? It’s all good, I have 7 more. By the time I got to writing this review, I almost wished my best weapons broke more often, because I am leaving so many great weapons behind and I’m not experimenting nearly as much as use to. I’ve grown almost too comfortable with the weapons I do have. But that’s the beauty in this sytem. Some are going to, understandably, hate it. It is probably the one aspect of Breath of the Wild that is going to have a love/hate relationship with fans, but it became integral to my experience with the world itself. To me, Breath of the Wild is a much better experience for having it than not.
I also thought I would miss getting hearts in grass and pots. Not because I was reliant upon it, but because it’s been a staple of the series dating back to the 1980’s. Turns out, I really enjoyed the cooking and elixirs mix. The game desperately needs a recipe/cookbook like feature that remembers recipes you have tried and what they create for quick reference, but that’s an aside as I enjoyed tossing 100’s of different things together just to see what happens (dubious food be damned).
Beyond that of course is the overarching story. At the time of this review I have completed almost every major story element in the game, including seeing both endings (the regular one plus the extended). What I can say is – I loved it. The memory system is quaint and I don’t know that such a system would really work a second time around, but for this singular game I thought was brilliant. The story is rather simple in terms of the main manifestation of evil. While Calamity Ganon may be a let down for some, I viewed him as evil in its purest form, so the lack of villainy dialogue and reasoning didn’t bother me. Besides, this was a story truly about Link and Zelda’s relationship in trying to stop the ultimate evil more than anything. It’s the first time in a Zelda game we actively know that Princess Zelda… well, she loves Link, and not like a friend if you know what I mean.
I also love how some of the story itself isn’t baked into the cut-scenes that make up Link’s memories. Rather, some of it is again, through exploration. You’ll understand once you read the stones at Zora’s domain or a certain diary at Hyrule Castle.
What is interesting to me is how many people seem to think they know exactly where this game goes in the timeline (it happens 10,000 years after Ocarina of Time). I still stand by the dragon break concept of a reunification of all three splits, but I have seen compelling arguments for all sorts of places. Reality is, we still don’t definitively know and even as Eiji Aonuma stated that players would figure it out while playing, it’s definitely not clearly laid out. History of the Zora’s points here. History of the Master Sword there. Characters in the world here. Sheikah? Pfft, that calls back to another game. It’s so all over the place it’s tough, and what makes it harder is that the game takes place so far in the future compared to any game before it, so much of the history is completely muddled. What became clear to me, however, that the conclusion of this story is the new foundation under which future games are going to build off of… at least for awhile.
Even after everything stated to this point, there are still endless possibilities to talk about. Main and side characters are a pure joy that liven up the world in a way I haven’t seen in a Zelda game since Majora’s Mask. The side-quests all feel real and believable. Cuccos are now amazing weapons you can take advantage of. The freedom of the game’s physics engine and ruin abilities allow you to build epic catapults, flying train cars, floating airships, and even can cause you to break the game through unintended measures. Freedom doesn’t just rest in exploration alone.
We didn’t even touch upon the Divine Beasts, and how they represent some of the best designed dungeons in recent memory. Breath of the Wild is such a vast, truly endless game, that we’ll have something to talk about with it for decades to come. Something new, something fresh, something that went overlooked for years. Breath of the Wild is literally a breath of fresh air during a time in the video game spectrum when many wondered if open world games are growing stale. It reals you in and never lets you go.
Breath of the Wild is not a perfect video game. But it is the best I’ve ever laid hands on. Here’s hoping the future of the series builds on top of this greatness.