Breath of the Wild isn’t a perfect game, but it’s still a 10/10 experience.
I’ve had over two weeks to marinate on my opinion of the latest Legend of Zelda game. After 100 hours, all 120 shrines, 1 defeated Calamity Ganon, and a whole arsenal of broken weapons, my astonishment at what Nintendo has accomplished with this game remains unchanged. Breath of the Wild changes what a 10/10 game means to me.
Altogether, it’s far from perfect, a requirement I thought would have to be met if it were to be given a review score of 10. Over the course of the game, it’s difficult to wave away all its faults, and there are many. The story is practically non-existent, the UI can be clumsy and irritating to navigate, many gameplay aspects like cooking or weapon management lack nuance, and the frame rate is a bit of a mess. And yet despite these issues, Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
From the moment I first leapt off the Great Plateau to the seemingly endless expanse of Hyrule, I was filled with a child-like wonder for Breath of the Wild’s world that I haven’t felt in years. Despite spending a hundred hours exploring this world and uncovering its secrets, this sense of discovery and amazement never left me. And it’s this feeling that propels Breath of the Wild past its faults and allows them to completely fall away when I think critically about this game.
Nintendo has delivered a world unlike anything before. The Assassins Creed’s and Grand Theft Auto’s of recent years have left many, including myself, with a feeling of open-world fatigue. Developers would craft lovingly detailed and beautiful worlds, only to fill them with boring and trivial collectibles and side quests. The open-world formula, which had once promised a huge scope of limitless freedom, now felt even more constrained to checklist collection and tedious gameplay.
Breath of the Wild managed to truly deliver an open world experience like none before. I did eventually become aware of its gameplay loop however – discovering a shrine and solving the puzzle within would only ever yield a spirit orb, with maybe a weapon or rupee along the way, and side quests would rarely result in anything of momentous worth. But this is truly a case of the reward being the journey rather than the destination. Never once did the spirit of adventure and my curiosity for exploration diminish, despite almost always knowing what would be waiting for me in the end.
I didn’t seek out all 120 shrines for a complete collectible count, but discovering them in the world and unlocking their mysteries was the goal in itself. It was always fun, and it was always satisfying to find a hidden cave, journey to the top of a mountain, or sail to a deserted island; the actual treasure was eventually just a bonus. And Zelda accomplishes all this without actually telling you to, which lends a sense of self accomplishment in every discovery. Nobody told me to travel into the heart of the jungle, but my own curiosity lead me to venture forth, finding hidden ruins and altars and carving my own story.
As you can hopefully tell, Breath of the Wild left me more excited just to be playing it than any other game has in years. Its enormous world filled to the brim with beautiful locales and mysteries, all without the too familiar hand-holding nature of many games today, has rekindled the reason I love to play games in the first place. It’s a total engrossment of another world, a complete fulfillment of my childhood dreams to journey out and battle unknowable monsters and explore fascinating lands. It taps into something deeper that video games may have lost sight of, with their emphasis on making sure the player is comfortable and guiding them rather than trust in them to seek these out for themselves.
Despite my intentions of trying to move on from the game now and get my life back after sinking so many hours into it, my mind still returns to it constantly. Every time I think I’ve heard and seen all that can be found in Zelda, I’m told of a new secret, a new item or encounter that I missed. In the end, it’s still a game, hampered by issues that should be determinants on my feelings towards it. But they don’t. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is above its flaws, it may even be above criticism. Because despite its faults, when I sit down with my controller in my hand and all of Hyrule before me, I’m suddenly 10 years old again, and I’m ready for adventure.