A review by Malindi Chipenzi
The year 2020 was not an especially great year for the majority of people. Due to the pandemic, I, like many other people, found myself confined to my home for a good portion of the year. It’s due to this global isolation that 2020 was declared “The Year of the Gamer.”
Last year, I finally got the opportunity to get my hands on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and what a wild ride it has been. As known to most gamers, The Legend of Zelda is considered something of a series. It is possible to play any one game without knowledge of the other and Breath of the Wild is no different. Here’s my review of the game and some details on some interesting aspects you’ll find in BOTW.
Out in the wild
The game is set in the fictional land of Hyrule where our protagonist Link awakens in a chamber of healing from a 100-year long slumber. Link has no memory of the events leading up to said slumber. Upon waking up, he begins to hear a voice in his mind that instructs him on how to leave the chamber. As our hero sets foot in the outside world, the voice tells him that the people of Hyrule will be counting on him.
Upon leaving the chamber, you’re greeted with a beautiful cut scene of Link running to the edge of the cliff to get an almost birdseye view of the breathtaking world of Hyrule. It is at this moment that the player becomes acutely aware of the vastness of the world of Hyrule and the map you can traverse.
One notable thing about this game is that it gives the player an incredible amount of freedom. When the game says it will let the player do whatever they please, it is not an exaggeration at all. After exiting the healing chamber and witnessing the map-revealing cut scene, normally the player is expected to run a little to the right to talk to an NPC that will take you through a tutorial of sorts. Instead, the player can ignore this and try to defeat some minor enemies roaming around the area. The player will not be prompted to return to the “mission area” or anything like that and I found that pretty interesting.
Once you complete the tutorial, the NPC (to avoid spoilers, I’ll avoid naming them!) informs Link that 100 years ago, a great calamity befell the kingdom of Hyrule. The thought-to-be sealed away Ganon, who is malice and hatred incarnate, returned to plague the land of Hyrule after 10 000 years. The Princess of Hyrule named Zelda has been trying to keep Ganon at bay for 100 years. It is also revealed to Link that the voice that has been guiding him belongs to none other than the Princess herself. It is then made clear to Link that his goal is to find his way to the castle and aid the Princess in defeating Ganon, saving the land of Hyrule in the process. This is when the game truly begins. After leaving the tutorial area, the player is equipped with some basic weapons and armor that will enable them to explore the surrounding areas and defend themselves from some of the surrounding monsters.
It is at this point that another freedom is afforded to the player. You get two main quests: one that will enable you to gather more intel and items to make Link stronger, and another to go straight to the castle and battle the main boss and end it all right there and then, but of course, that is easier said than done. The wiser option is definitely NOT to go straight to the main boss with some measly starter equipment (haha).
Unlike most games, in BOTW, there isn’t a system to allow Link to buy weapons. The only ways to get weapons in this game is either by finding them randomly strewn about or by prying them from the cold dead hands of your enemies (literally!). The easier way is to defeat monsters and take their weapons from them but the (somewhat?) safer way is to go in search of the equipment.
Another thing about weapons in this game is that they all have a little trait known as durability. By this, I mean that weapons can only be used a certain amount of times before they eventually break and can never be used again. The durability of each weapon varies so certain weapons break sooner than others. Because of this, I constantly found myself not wanting to use my rarer weapons for fear of breaking them. (That and certain weapons were so pretty I had qualms about eventually breaking them). This trait of durability is also applied to any shields collected. Countless times I found myself trying to block an enemy attack with a shield that was breaking, only for the enemy to break right through my shield and take a huge chunk of my life and in worst-case scenarios, kill me and bring up that Game Over screen that I know too well.
When you first start, the number of weapons and shields Link can hold before your inventory is too full quickly begins to feel small as you begin to stumble across more and more weapons. Thankfully, there is a way to expand your inventory. On your way to one of the villages in Hyrule, you stumble upon a crying large tree-looking spirit called Hestu. He tells you that some nearby monsters stole his maracas and he needs you to retrieve them for him. After doing so, he tells you that there are no seeds in the maracas and they are too quiet without the seeds. Hestu informs you that whenever you find any seeds, he will increase your inventory for a certain amount of seeds. There are 900 seeds in total to find. Luckily for us, it is not mandatory to find them all. (I am almost 100 hours in this game and I am pretty sure I’ve only found about 80!)
Link starts with a limited amount of stamina and only three hearts to work with. The game offers the player a way to increase Link’s vitality and stamina by way of some mini-dungeons called “shrines” strewn all over the land of Hyrule. The shrines usually present certain puzzles that must be solved for the player to reach the end. Sometimes the puzzle may even be to find the shrine itself! At the end of every shrine, Link comes face to face with a monk who congratulates the hero for quick thinking that is befitting of a hero such as himself. The monk then awards Link with a spirit orb.
To make use of these orbs, Link must pray to a statue of the Goddess and she will grant either an extra heart or some extra stamina, it is up to the player to pick which.
These little dungeons were always fun for me but I can shamelessly say that for some of these shrines I was forced to pull up an online guide that would show me the solution for the puzzle I was struggling with. Some puzzle solutions are extremely obvious while others would require some serious out-of-the-box thinking.
My overall experience of the game
Picking this game up felt incredibly daunting, at first. Learning all the game’s mechanics as well as trying to learn what I could about the story sounded like it was going to be too much. But the more of the game I played the more I fell in love with the beautiful but fallen world of Hyrule.
The music in this game is nothing short of beautiful. Each musical piece heard in this game perfectly correlates with the situation at hand and serves to magnify whatever feelings a certain scenario is trying to put across. The battle music heard when battling common enemies is completely different from battling the sub-boss tier enemies, immediately letting you know what kind of foe you are facing. The music heard in the villages is friendly and calm, letting you know that you are finally in a safe area. The music played during the boss battle almost makes it feel as if the voices of the fallen soldiers are calling out to Link and encouraging him to go on.
The weight of Link’s situation really hit me when I was going through some harder portions of the main quests. Almost all his friends from 100 years ago were long gone. There were no other knights around to help him on his journey. The responsibility was his and his alone. As if to emphasize this point, the only other cut scenes that can be viewed in the game are known as Memories. Link has to go to certain places in Hyrule that will help jog his memory and remember certain things from a hundred years ago.
I also smiled at the fact that the game also hides little Easter eggs that veterans of the Zelda series will be happy to see like certain game mechanics carrying over or whole buildings resembling certain establishments from the previous games. I haven’t played many Zelda games myself but I was quite pleased with myself for noticing some of the little references to past games.
All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that I would recommend to everyone out there. I could honestly write a whole book about this game alone. It is akin to a beautiful journey: the experiences to be had and the sights to been seen will only have more impact if they are seen by oneself. This game requires a good amount of patience, but take it from me, the payoff at the end of it all is wonderful.
About the author
“My name is Malindi Chipenzi. I’m a 20-year-old Zambian woman studying economics and finance at ZCAS. Whenever I’m not in front of my computer watching anime, you can find me gaming. I’ve been into gaming ever since I was a child.”
You can check out Malindi’s Youtube Channel Mali-Chan’s Bizarre Adventures