Breath of the Wild is simply breath-taking

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Graphic by Sophie Lin
Graphic by Sophie Lin

The big talk in gaming circles this week is almost certainly going to be Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, I’m trying to hold off on buying it until I’ve at least finished exams, so I can’t weigh in on it. I can, however, give my impression on the Switch’s biggest selling point, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, thanks to a very tolerant friend letting me occupy their couch to try it out for something like four hours.

One of BotW’s main draws is its massive, beautiful landscape. Even from the opening moments of the game, it’s immediately apparent that the world was crafted with immense detail and care. While my limited time only had me traversing through the starting area, known as the Great Plateau, there was still a huge diversity in the scenery.

Over a few hours, I dug through crumbled ruins, went hunting in lush forests, scaled massive rocky heights, and attempted (poorly) to brave the cold at the Great Plateau’s peak. On the horizon, I could see even more to discover, including deserts and a particularly eye-catching volcano. My major regret while playing is that I didn’t get to see more: I didn’t quite manage to get my hands on the paraglider that could take me out beyond the Great Plateau’s walls, and I’d love to see what other options become available in the world beyond.

But as wonderful as it was to just explore Hyrule (or whatever it’s choosing to call itself these days), my favourite part was hands-down the combat. The combat in BotW immediately seems more diverse than that of any previous Zelda, largely due to a weapon durability function that means your weapons will regularly break, forcing you to pick up new ones when needed.

Fortunately, weapons are in abundance (to the point where I often had to discard weapons to make room for better ones). In addition to the many swords, spears, clubs, and detached limbs I found myself using as melee weapons, the game offered a variety of arrows and some extremely cool tech for me to make use of. Combining my veritable arsenal of weapons with the interactive environments that offer strategic ways to take out your foes, I spent most of my time just combing the lands for Bokoblins to fight, forcing myself to find new ways to win.

The melee system in BotW also features a parry system which is actually a little difficult to pull off, thanks to the surprisingly smart AI in the game. Foes won’t try to hit you the same way each time, which means that you have to be quick on your feet if you want to counter their blows and maximize your damage. It’s a bit tricky, but the few times I managed to time my blocking properly were immensely rewarding.

The last thing I’d note is Breath of the Wild’s shrines. Shrines are essentially mini-dungeons (not to be confused to the game’s more-traditional dungeons), providing you with neat new tricks for you to use and then throwing puzzles at you to test your wits. The gadgets you get in this game are extremely cool — some of the ones I had let me freeze certain objects in time or manipulate metallic objects — and the clever physics engine in place in Breath of the Wild has me excited to see just how intense the puzzles become in later shrines.

All in all, Breath of the Wild amazed me, even in the limited window I had to play. The combat, the items, and the world itself are different from previous Zelda games, yet still familiar enough that I never questioned if I was really playing Zelda. Breath of the Wild is filled with neat changes that I’m ecstatic about discovering, and has that classic Nintendo charm that pulls you in and doesn’t let go for hours. Nintendo couldn’t have a better game to offer for their newest console.

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