Nate Horton

Contributing Writer

At E3 2014, gamers finally got a taste of what was to eventually become “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” in a short trailer showing off the art style and giving us a brief look at what this incarnation of the hero looks like. Zelda fans were overjoyed at finally seeing a glimpse of this new Zelda game.

We have been waiting to hear about this for two and a half years, since Skyward Sword released in 2011. Little did we know that it would be another three years before Link’s next outing hit the shelves. Was it worth the wait for Eiji Aonuma and his team to polish and fine tune this massive adventure to make the game as good as can possibly be? Yes.

Series producer Aonuma mentioned he wanted to rethink the conventions of Zelda. With all the changes, “Breath of the Wild” is indeed a big leap forward for the franchise. The whole experience, from the combat, open world, and the dungeons, evolves the series but still keeps the Zelda DNA ingrained into its very being.

The combat is fluid, fun, and easy to use but it takes some skill to master. Back flipping or side stepping at just the right moment before contact makes our beloved hero go into a series of fast, intense attack combos, giving the enemy no time to strike back while it is basically frozen in time (from our point of view at least) and helpless as Link mercilessly slices the monster again and again with his lightning fast attacks. Using your shield at the right time gives birth to the perfect guard technique; opening an opportunity for a parry or deflecting a projectile back to the enemy. These two new elements add a level of fun and diversity to the combat that we haven’t seen in a 3D Zelda title before.

After the linearity of Skyward Sword, fans were clamoring for a more nonlinear experience, and that is what we ended up with in spades. Anything you see in the distance you can get to. There are no barriers; Link can walk, run, climb, and paraglide anywhere. The degree of freedom you have in traversing this beautiful iteration of Hyrule is staggering. In lieu of the game’s subtitle, it truly feels like the wilderness is alive and calling to you. This is magnified by the gentle, subtle tunes of the soundtrack. Every sound effect in the wild, the music, and the overall art style combine together to make the land of Hyrule a fantastic, immersing, beautiful sandbox. It’s easy to get lost in here for hours.

Dungeons have always been the meat and potatoes of the Zelda games (alongside the sense of adventure, of course). The four main dungeons in here are very nontraditional but evolved, like the rest of the game. There are still puzzles, but they are bigger and encompass the whole dungeon themselves. This adds a new sense of scale to the formula that we haven’t seen before. The fact that you’re moving and manipulating the dungeon itself speaks volumes. Completing them doesn’t take too much time, but that is made up with the 120 shrines there are to complete, mini dungeons if you will. The shrines are full of traditional puzzles as well as new and exciting ones, thanks to the Sheikah Slate. It’s the most important item in the game. The Sheikah Slate not only gives Link access to traditional bombs and the new square ones, but also allows him to manipulate the puzzles using stasis, magnesis, and cryonis. “Breath of the Wild” is chock full of physics based puzzles; trekking through the dungeons and shrines is an absolute blast.

The voice acting is nice but it wasn’t entirely needed. Keeping Link silent was a great choice because his silence has always been what embodies him, as the determined courageous hero of Hyrule. “Breath of the Wild” is a fantastic Zelda game and as a whole an engaging, fun, and epic piece of entertainment. It does to the series what Ocarina of Time did nineteen years ago. That speaks volumes, and this adventure will resonate with fans for years to come.

Rating: A