You might have heard the praise that's been showered on Nintendo's latest game starring everyone's favorite sword-swinging, boomerang-tossing hero. So let's be clear: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a once-in-a-generation kind of game.
Its look and style have the kind of sparkle and charm you'd expect from a classic Disney film. The title's gameplay is deeper than that of any Zelda game that's come before it, and with a giant open world packed with puzzle-filled dungeons and secrets galore, there's a ton for you to explore. Whether this is the first title you try out on the Switch or the last game you ever play on a Wii U, Breath of the Wild can't be ignored.
Familiar World, New Rules
Like previous Zelda titles, BotW starts out as Link awakens to world in need. After a short greeting by a mysterious old man, our hero is cast out into a harsh, but stunningly gorgeous world. Along the way, you'll find familiar equipment, including swords, shields and bows, but unlike previous Zeldas, everything has a specific durability.
Even in the middle of a fight, your sword can break or your shield can be reduced to ashes, which gives BotW's combat a level of danger and vulnerability that previous games didn't have. Then, you add in environmental dangers, like deadly mud pits and craggy cliffs, and you're left with a game that presents threats on multiple fronts.
But one of the best things about Breath of the Wild is the large range of methods you have for conquering these obstacles. You can take out packs of Bokoblins by rolling boulders into their campsite, or instead, you could set a branch on fire and throw it at a conveniently placed explosive barrel and blow them to smithereens.
Combat may not always be easy, but you'll always have options, whether it's due to a variety of weapon types or Link's vault move that slows down time so you can execute a perfect midair slash after jumping off your horse. You'll even have fun when you die (and you most certainly will die), thanks to a well-designed autosave system that rewards you for exploring and experimenting rather than forcing you to replay long stretches to get back to where you were.
So much to do and even more to explore
New to Zelda is the cooking system, which lets you make food that will boost specific attributes as you see fit. There's also new magic such as the magnetism rune, which lets you move metal objects around at will; that turns this lovingly crafted sandbox world into a real playground. But beyond that, there's still so much more. You can chop down trees to cross ravines, ride down snow-covered mountains while using your shield as a snowboard and use updrafts to paraglide across the land.
However, even with all the changes, this is still a classic Zelda game at heart. You're collecting hearts, clearing dungeons and unlocking new abilities, so Link can eventually take down Ganon and save Hyrule. And all the while, the game builds upon your newfound skills to create even harder and more engaging puzzles.
When you finally get tired of wasting time chasing butterflies and collecting mushrooms, dozens of shrines need your attention. Breath of the Wild doles out its story in bits and pieces. It's a slow burn to start, never so little going on that you're lacking for motivation, but also not too much that it feels like you're getting hit over the head. And when the time is right, Breath of the Wild's story peaks too, in ways that make previous Zeldas seem bland.
My only issue, which is pretty minor, is that BotW's control scheme takes a fair amount of time to get used to. Even after 15 hours, I still found myself occasionally fumbling to switch weapons quickly, as it felt like there was an extra command that didn't need to be there. And compared to bow-shooting in games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Link's archery could be a little more precise.
Breath of the Wild is a game so good, it makes me rethink what scoring a review really means. Sure, it would be nice if the game ran at full 1080p and if the controls had less of a learning curve. But neither of these things came anywhere close to diminishing what is an absolute masterpiece, even among an already storied franchise.
So when recommending this game to others, there are no caveats or reservations that even briefly come to mind. Breath of the Wild is something anyone can enjoy and a title every gamer needs to play. It's one of the rare releases that truly deserves a 10 out of 10.
Next: I finally fell in love with Breath of the Wild — here's why it took me so long.