Over the holiday season I’ve started this article about three or four times. Initially the title had the prefix of “Love & Hate”, but the more I played it the hate seemed to seep away. Not that I don’t still have issues with certain aspects of the game, just that those problems are way in the past now that I’m around 40 hours in.
I haven’t completely forgotten the issues, however. Starting off in the game is a daunting prospect, not just because of the vastness of the world, but because of how easy it is to get murdered. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just jarring when everything you know about past Zelda games has been replaced. Hearts no longer dropped by enemies, instead health is recovered by eating raw ingredients (fruits, meats etc.) or cooking them. This in turn also sometimes giving you buffs, whether it attack power or a stamina boost.
Stamina is the other difference that gave me an instant dislike to the game when it came to the first few hours. Your initial stamina wheel is criminally small and makes traversing the environments a bit of a chore. And like a lot of the game, once you put a lot more time into, upgrading, getting new weapons and generally building your Link up to be more of a formidable character, is when the fun starts to begin.
The early game for the most part was spent staring at Game Over screens, which to be honest, felt a little deflating. It wasn’t till I conquered a number of shrines that I started to get a feel for the game. Shrines (or mini dungeon puzzle rooms as nobody calls them) are incredibly fun, challenging and fill you with a sense of accomplishment whenever you complete one. Aside from the motion control dungeons that are truly horrific, broken and a blemish on an otherwise great part of the game.
Outside of the shrines, the world of Hyrule is nothing short of a technical marvel. To create such a large open world with zero load times, zero bugs (from what I’ve seen) and a number of neat little secrets is mightily impressive. After climbing a tower, surveying the environment you notice a number of things in the distance that you want to explore. Rarely are these to do with the main quest of freeing the Divine Beasts and defeating Ganon, you just want to know what secrets they hold. You wonder what’s on the island on the east of the map, or what secrets lie in the wasteland of Gerudo desert. When it boils down to pure exploration no game in 2017 is better.
It’s when you’re on the path of the main quest where a number of quibbles rear their ugly head. A forced stealth section, an escort mission, having to acquire specific clothes to enter certain areas, none of these sections are fun. Part of it could be my mind-set. I’m not one to use a guide if I get stuck, often thinking it’s a sign of failure, but with Breath of the Wild it was required to continue my enjoyment. And I’m glad I was able to escape this game guide mentality, because once I got past the frustrating or puzzling sections of gameplay, the fun began again.
As I write this final chapter all Divine Beasts are now back under control (they’re amazing little dungeon environments by the way), I have obtained a good chunk of weapons and armour, and I have captured half of Link’s memories. I’m not exactly looking forward to Ganon’s castle. Not because I think I’ll be hitting my head against the wall in frustration (this is a possibility), but because the castle itself has looked so ominous throughout the game. I would never get too close to it out of fear at what it contains.
However I suppose Hyrule won’t save itself….