Unprecedented free­dom

The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

HWM (Malaysia) - - GAX / REVIEW - by Michael Low

Open-world Hyrule

Look­ing back at Nin­tendo’s con­sole legacy, we came to the re­al­iza­tion that his­tory has a way of re­peat­ing it­self. The swift ar­rival of the Switch, which sig­naled the pre­ma­ture re­tire­ment of the Wii U, mir­rored the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of the GameCube fol­low­ing the run­away suc­cess that was the Wii. In both in­stances, an oft-de­layed new in­stall­ment in The Leg­end of Zelda se­ries served as the swan song for the fledg­ling sys­tem, while also pulling dou­ble duty as the must-have launch ti­tle for the new con­sole.

As the 19th en­try in the long-run­ning fran­chise, ex­pec­ta­tions were at an all-time high for Breath of the Wild, and the five years that went into craft­ing the mas­sive open world of Hyrule was ev­i­dent in the way its breadth of game­play me­chan­ics are clev­erly in­ter­wo­ven into just about ev­ery facet of the in-game world. Upon awak­en­ing from his 100-year slum­ber, Link found him­self with no mem­ory of his past, but is im­pelled to de­feat Calamity Ganon and re­store peace to Hyrule by the urg­ing of a mys­te­ri­ous fe­male voice and sub­se­quently, a strange old man that he en­coun­ters out­side the Shrine of Res­ur­rec­tion. In a se­ries’ first (and no, the Philips CD-i ti­tles don’t count), the story cutscenes fea­ture voice act­ing, although Link re­mains the silent pro­tag­o­nist once again.

No more hand­hold­ing

Un­like the slow, drawn-out tu­to­ri­als of Sky­ward Sword, Breath of the Wild drops you into the Great Plateau and Link is free to ex­plore his sur­round­ings,

some­what like The Leg­end of Zelda on NES/Fam­i­com. Frankly, there’s noth­ing to stop you from head­ing straight to Hyrule Cas­tle for the fi­nal bat­tle, but whether you can sur­vive the en­counter is another story en­tirely. Such is the open­ness of the ex­plo­ration that the map is pur­ported to be 12 times the size of the over­world in Twi­light Princess.

The vast, des­o­late land­scapes – made be­liev­able by the water­color-like vi­su­als, soft pi­ano score and am­bi­ent sound – can feel re­mark­ably lonely as you trek across ru­ins and rem­nants of a long-gone ad­vanced civ­i­liza­tion. Oc­ca­sion­ally, when Link is not chop­ping down trees or scal­ing cliffs, you’ll come across friendly NPCs out­side of their set­tle­ments and towns. There are also many ways to take down en­e­mies at their camp­sites. Link can go head on with the right weapon (and shield), on horse­back or em­ploy sneak at­tacks by way of ex­plo­sive bar­rels and boul­der rolls. Due to the dis­pos­able na­ture of weapons, you’d do best to leave no stone un­turned when it comes to scav­eng­ing for food, ma­te­ri­als, and re­sources. We do en­joy cook­ing up new recipes that not only re­store hearts, but po­ten­tially add stat bonuses for a given du­ra­tion of time. The Sheikah Slate, a multi-pur­pose tablet that Link picked up at the be­gin­ning of the game, al­lows you to ac­ti­vate tow­ers to fill in the gaps in your map, place mark­ers on said map in tele­scope view, gain ac­cess into shrines, and a few other surprises that you can dis­cover on your own. Shrines are es­sen­tially minidun­geons that are more about puz­zle solv­ing us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of Runes that are at your dis­posal. These do get chal­leng­ing as you progress, but you’ll be re­warded for your ef­forts in the form of rune up­grades and trea­sure chests.

Be­ware the Guardians, es­pe­cially in the early part of Link’s jour­ney.

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