It’s over a year now since Nintendo’s hugely successful Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released to much critical and commercial success. The game which launched the Switch and was the swan song of the Wii U has generally been regarded as one of the best of all time. It looks great, plays fantastically well and there is so much to see; it’s near perfect…… and I don’t like it! Here’s why….
I started to play this game on my shiny new Switch and so of course, I was very excited. The first thing I noticed was just how good the game looked. OK, so it’s a little bit ‘cartoony’ but at the same time the world of Hyrule does feel real and the bright vibrant colours seem to enhance the strange land you find yourself in.
We begin with Link being woken up by a mysterious female voice, finding the Sheikah Slate, some clothes and leaving the Shrine of Resurrection. A little cinematic sequence showing us Hyrule begins and ends and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! This looks darn good!’.
And then I started to explore this huge world. Fortunately the first part of the map has relatively easy enemies and simple to find Shrines, in fact the game kinda holds your hand through it. ‘What a nice gentle introduction to the game’, I thought and indeed it is.
I get the Magnesis Rune, use it, exclaim ‘Wow! That looks good!’ and of I go exploring and killing a lot of Bokogoblins.
I go at a slow pace, exploring every nook and cranny, plodding along with the story until I hit the 5 hour mark and then something occurred to me…..
I’d solved Shrine puzzles, found Runes, killed Bokogoblins / Cursed Bokogoblins, had a good look around, picked up weapons, broke them and picked up some more, but, I noticed, the amount of hearts and stamina I have, is exactly the same as when I started.
Now at this point I have a confession to make, I have never played a Zelda game up until then. They just did not appeal to me. Hell I thought Link was actually Zelda, that’s how naive I am about the Zelda games. The one thing I thought I knew was that Zelda is an RPG game.
Of course I now know this is wrong, massively wrong.
I was playing Zelda at the same time as I was playing Fallout 4 and so I had it in my head that hours of exploration, killing monsters and collecting things would result in health increases, exp points and my stamina increasing. They do not in Zelda, never have done, never will do.
And so it occurred to me that after 5 hours, apart from moving the story along ever so slightly, I had actually achieved very little. Link was still this unfit dude who gets killed with a couple of thwacks from Bokogoblins arm. WTF!?!?
Of course I now know that you collect Spirit Orbs from solving the puzzles in the Shrines and you then exchange them for more hearts or stamina. This one realisation massively turned me off the game, I mean, what is the point of killing monsters then? Why go exploring? What is the payoff?
You can literally walk around exploring and killing for days on end and you would not have levelled Link up one little bit. Not a sausage.
This led me onto the realisation which would actually take all of the joy out of the game for me, Zelda is actually not a big game, it really isn’t. It’s 120 Shrines, 4 bosses and 1 big boss. That is it!
Concentrate on these elements and you can whizz through the game in no time, or that’s my theory anyway, because sadly once I realised exploration achieved little and monster battles produced nothing more than some extra breakable weapons, I gave up.
Now it’s probably not the game’s fault. I had an assumption and it was wrong. Zelda is not RPG, you have never levelled up in Zelda games and it’s always been about puzzle solving and boss battles. But I thought it was and so my level of disappointment was high.
I will go back though and I will complete it, I just need to get over the fact it’s a different game to what I thought it was. Oh and I do need some time to get over the menu system, OMG it is so clunky and cumbersome. There is nothing worse than in the middle of a battle, the sword breaking after 2 hits and desperately mashing buttons to try to bring the menu up so that you can select another weapon! The in-game shortcut seems hit and miss and many a battle has ended with me, weaponless and on my arse!
Sorry, but the menu system really makes me want to launch my joypad. However, as the joypad in question is a £280 Switch, I decided that was not wise and so had a beer instead!
So there you have it, I am in the minority. I recognise that this is a great game and richly deserves the praise it gets. I understand that, I really do.
But as it stands, unfortunately, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the perfect game I don’t like.