Breath of the Wild’s magnificent rendition of Hyrule: Spoilerless first impressions
by on March 2, 2017

If there was any shred of doubt in your mind about whether or not you should get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, erase it right now and go buy this game. It is an utter delight, and the more I play, the better it gets.

We knew that Breath of the Wild was promising to be a great game from all of the trailers and material that Nintendo has been releasing since E3 last June. And although I tried not to let my expectations get too high, lest I be disappointed, they grew with each new piece of information, and ultimately ended up being pretty darn high. So far, it has exceeded those expectations.

Breath of the Wild presents a version of Hyrule that’s far more alive than any of its previous iterations. This is despite the fact that it takes place in a land that’s been devastated by calamity. The game dumps you out in this beautiful, rugged, ruined landscape and lets you do pretty much whatever you want. The amount of detail that has been built into this world is impressive. The sheer number of different ways that Link can interact with the environment, people, and creatures in it leads to surprises. They might not always be pleasant surprises, but they’re entertaining nevertheless.

Breath of the Wild presents a version of Hyrule that’s far more alive than any of its previous iterations.

Although you’re free to do (mostly) whatever you want, the game doesn’t leave you without guidance. The very first part of the game serves as a tutorial that doesn’t feel like a tutorial; it’s a very natural progression that feels more like exploration and getting a feel for the world and the gameplay. The early parts of the story – should you choose to follow it and not just wander off to explore on your own devices – will teach you skills to help you progress.

And even if you go directly against some advice you’re given early in the game, which I did, the game is still a lot of fun. You can wander into areas where you know you’re in way over your head and still have a good time with it. The gameplay provides so much flexibility that you’ll find yourself trying whatever you can to see if it works to help you get past a difficult area or enemy, or into a place that’s hard to access. There’s no one way that you have to do things.

I can’t find anything to fault with the gameplay so far. I don’t even mind when I die; in fact, I relish the way that the world can be harsh because it makes each achievement that much more satisfying. The combat is good, and Link can use a variety of moves and weapons when he fights. Puzzles are satisfying. Even the process of building up the inventory to increase Link’s skills and items doesn’t feel grindy, at least not so far.

The visuals are simply stunning. Breath of the Wild is like an animated film come to life, and, despite the fact that it’s not photorealistic, it still manages to make the world feel very lifelike. I found myself constantly being distracted by pretty things such as a sunset or body of water. It should be no surprise that I prefer playing in TV mode, and the bigger the screen, the better!

The atmosphere of the world is beautifully and subtly enhanced by the use of sound effects and music. Sometimes there is no music at all. Instead, you’ll simply hear birds and the sound of the wind. When you couple this with the sight of plants swaying in the breeze, the moving shadows of clouds overhead, and seeing wild creatures going about their business, you can’t help but feel a connection to the land. At other times, such as when you’re in danger, the music lets you know that you’d better hustle or end up toast.

This is a game that Zelda veterans and people brand new to the franchise will equally enjoy.

Despite the fact that Breath of the Wild represents something of an overhaul for the Zelda series, it still feels like a Zelda game. I’m not going to reveal anything about the story except to say that so far, it’s great, although it hasn’t blown my mind yet. I’ve been playing Zelda since the very first game. So far, this is exactly where I’ve always hoped the series would go from about the time when Twilight Princess was first announced. This is a game that Zelda veterans and people brand new to the franchise will equally enjoy.

Time to dive back into my adventures!

Full Disclosure
A copy of Breath of the Wild and Nintendo Switch were provided to Zelda Universe by Nintendo Australia for review purposes. We received our copy later than most outlets, which is why a full review is not ready; the game is big enough that we want to do it justice before making a final judgement.
 
Look out for our full review coming soon, and we’ll also be reviewing the Wii U version and comparing any differences to the Switch one.
Shona Johnson
Shona is one of Zelda Universe's webmasters and has been running Zelda fan sites since 2001. She's an aspiring fantasy author, an avid reader and gamer, and loves bringing her favorite characters to life through cosplay.
  • ???

    This is kind of cheesy, but whatever: Hyrule, the most beautiful place on the Earth, is once more in danger, and in less than a few more hours, it will be time to save Hyrule, no, our home, once more.