I’ve owned my Nintendo Switch for years, but I only finished Super Mario Odyssey and Luigi’s Mansion 3. There’s several games I’ve played, but finishing Zelda Breath of the Wild was daunting. After finishing up AC Origins, I committed to finally finish Zelda. For awhile, I did not see why people labeled it as possibly the best RPG, but now I understand. It’s a masterpiece.
Is Zelda Breath of the Wild Really the Best RPG?
When I first played Zelda BoTW, it was obviously one of the best Nintendo Switch games. I did not think it’s the best RPG as many fans claim. For me, the Witcher 3 is the best. The typical nonsensical mumbling language with text box dialog is too common in Nintendo first party games.
Comparing to the fully voiced dialog in something like the Witcher games is painful. At least, besides the text dialog and mumbling, sound in the game is great. A fully voiced Zelda game could be epic.
Graphics are better than most Nintendo games, but still a bit cartoony. Over time, the art style really grew on me and I’d no longer consider the graphics a weakness in the game. The vistas, weather affects, rays of sun and more, all contribute to a great art style.
Controls are solid, especially after mastering the tilt function of the Switch to precisely aim the bow shots. There’s plenty of variation like block, jump and then parry to shield surf. Trust me, do it.
The game mechanics are where the game truly shines. In the beginning, there is a learning curve, but after learning enough of them the game really amazes. I remember trying to chop a tree down to bridge a gap I could not jump, when it worked I understood the draw of the game.
I won’t label it the best RPG, but it is for sure a masterpiece. You could practically write a book on cooking in the game alone.
Below are some of the things that stuck out most to me.
Playing with the Weather and the Elements
Weather and the elements play a huge part in the game.
Fire, Wind, Water and Earth, can serve as great tools or great obstacles. Other RPGs utilize weather well, but Zelda Breath of the Wild is greatly detailed in comparison with others, even now.
Burns, lights the way, and also cooks. Brush or wood will catch fire and spread. Dip arrows in the fire to create flaming arrows. Both of these are handy as battle tactics and for solving puzzles. Carrying a torch lights up the dark, or ignites fires and other torches.
Affects the path of arrows and the paraglider. A nice breeze can push along the small sail rafts in the game. Waiting for the wind is no fun, so swinging a big Korok leaf like a fan generates some artificial wind to get things going. It’s also fun to roll remote bombs into wind pushing towards enemies.
Extinguishes fire and even prevents bomb arrows from igniting. Climbing rocks during a rain storm forces Link to constantly slip every other grip. It is useful in puzzles by flooding or freezing areas.
In BoTW, earth is a little more indirectly used. A good incline is great for shield surfing. Rocks cover important areas at times, so bombs or puzzle solving take care of those.
I’m actually a fan of RPGs that require wearing the right gear to survive the environment.
Causes damage to Link unless a special potion, food or armor is worn. When it’s really hot, like around a volcano, any weapons or armor with wood catch fire. It’s fun rushing to remove that equipment before Link catches fire.
Causes damages without potions, food and special armor. I remember a puzzle with a big door down a slope. I wondered if I could roll a snowball down that hill and it grew on the way down, busting open the door. Those moments where the game rewards those ideas is fantastic. Also, everyone must ride their shield as a snow board at least once.
There’s always a chance of a lightning strike during a really bad storm. Wearing metal armor or carrying metal weapons serve as lightning rods. Nothing like the rush to remove metal items to avoid a lightning strike. At least the game is nice enough to allow them in your inventory without the shocking penalty.
There’s also sand storms and snow flurries, but those mostly affect visibility and mask the map.
The attention to detail of all the weather and elements in Zelda Breath of the Wild are great. There’s so much variation to solve various problems and deal with combat with these affects.
Breath of the Wild Gear and Weapons
One of the the things I hated in Zelda was the whole weapon durability mechanic. Use a weapon or bow enough times and it breaks, then simply disappears. This is super frustrating when I’d find an epic weapon and hesitate to use it for fear of it breaking. The whole lost forever thing is lame and the next game really needs a repair option.
Besides that, weapon variety is great. There’s weapons with elemental damage of various types, clubs, swords, two handed, single handed, spears, wands, boat oar and so much more. Sometimes weapons include bonuses for more thrown damage, durability, melee damage and more. The only benefit to the durability mechanic is how it forced me to try various weapons.
Shields had a bit less variety with no elemental stats that I saw in my playthrough. Once I was able to get enough ancient shields, I really stuck with mostly those. Their ability to deflect guardian blasts is a must and solved one of the early game annoyances. I no longer avoid those robots like the plague.
Bows are technically weapons too, but are their own separate category. There’s plenty of variety there too, but the elemental damages is specific to types of arrows found or purchased. Those arrows include standard, ice, fire, shock, bomb and ancient. All of those are obvious, but the latter does the most damage to guardians (robots).
Luckily there’s no durability with armor, because they are hard to find or buy. Potions help counter act extreme weather, but armor can permanently solve the problem. Exploring in the cold was tedious until I bought Snowquill armor. The volcano region was like a literal fire until I bought Flamebreaker armor.
Various Zelda BOTW armor pieces remove weaknesses to weather and various attacks. I wish I saved money on weapons and put it all towards armor early on. Climbing and swimming, for example, were dicey with my low stamina. There’s a choice to upgrade hearts or stamina and I mostly opted for the hearts.
That choice is great for surviving attacks, but I fell and drowned due to loss of stamina more than I like. With armor specially for swimming and later one for climbing speed, those activities were less stressful. There’s even a point in the game where I could buy disguises to hide among monsters.
Maybe the horse is not technically gear, but it is as useful. Unlike many other RPGs, you can’t simply whistle and the horse comes running. If it was too far away, my only option was to find the nearest stable to have them recall. At least that part is almost instant, but I spent most of my time on foot due to that.
When I was on the horse it could gallop, brake, jump, walked to the sides (fancy) and turn in circles. Of course the real use of the horse was to travel fast and fight on horseback. There was additional horse gear to win or find, but I never did.
I’d really like to see the sequel improve on the horse and add inventory to it or make it available anywhere on flat land. Either of those and I’d use the horse a lot more.
The Sheikah Slate is the ancient tech that really powers so much in the game. It’s the method to unlock towers and shrines. The latter leads to either puzzles or combat trials to earn Spirit Orbs. Those orbs are the source for heart or stamina upgrades.
Runes add extra abilities to the slate. Each useful for puzzle solving and combat. There’s the Sensor, Camera, Remote Bombs (round and square), Magnesis, Stasis and Cryonis.
Helps ping (like sonar) nearby shrines to unlock and later can track creatures or items. The latter feature is helpful for those that want to complete the tedious item collection missions (55 Rushrooms? Ridiculous!) or find enemies they found before.
Is mostly their to satisfy all those Breath of the Wild photo freaks out there, but it’s also useful. Taking pictures of creatures or items add them to the compendium to look up later. Very useful in combination with the upgraded sensor to find things quicker. I hate taking pictures, so I had maybe 10 lol.
Come in both round and square varieties. The round are great for throwing or dropping down a hill. Square is great for specifically placing charges. They are useful for both puzzles and combat. Who doesn’t like bombs (in games)?
Great for moving small and large metal objects around. It was fun dropping large metal blocks onto the guardians to destroy them. Also great for pulling chests and weapons from underwater. It’s actually surprising there’s no scuba or snorkel set now that I think about it.
Freezes select items or creatures in place. Hitting the object in this state transfers that kinetic energy into potential energy (with an arrow to show direction). Once Stasis wears off, the stored potential energy turns back into kinetic energy. In layman’s terms, hitting an item will launch it once stasis wears off. Again great for puzzles and combat
Freezes water into a pillar of ice. That action can serve as a platform to climb or to stop the flow of water. It’s mostly useful for puzzles, but in some cases it can put up a defensive block of ice during combat.
Zelda Breath of the Wild Divine Beasts
Part of the whole backstory involves Ganon corrupting the four Divine Beasts (giant animal-like robots) meant to fight him. Those were piloted by four champions who fell in the fight with Ganon. I thought these were required giant boss fights I’d have to endure.
Turns out I was mostly wrong on both fronts. Gaining control of them was not required to finish the story, but it’s absolutely worth doing (knocks the final Ganon boss health way down). Those missions also provide a lot more Zelda Breath of the Wild backstory and better end game.
They also were not giant boss fights. Each ended in a mini-Ganon fight, but most of the Divine Beast missions were like a separate level. Plenty of puzzles to unlock control points required to finally take full control of the beast.
The puzzles involved changing the configuration of the beast at points. For example, I enjoyed moving the giant trunk of the elephant-like beast. Tilting the bird-like and the lizard-like beasts was nerve racking. The camel-like beast interior had 3 sections that rotated, which was probably my least favorite.
Although each ended with a mini-Ganon fight, it was not the giant boss fight I expected and the puzzles to control the beasts was mostly enjoyable. The scale was definitely impressive and was satisfying when they pointed their lasers at the castle. All 4 under control is a great sense of accomplishment.
Zelda Breath of the Wild Story
There’s plenty of story, but it boils down to Ganon won. Princess Zelda, Link and the Champions lost, but over 100 years ago. Link awakes from the slumber with no memory of those events and slowly regains them. The 100 year slumber and amnesia is a good way to explain why Link starts the game so weak.
I’m definitely glad I took the time to complete the Breath of the Wild Divine Beast missions. Upon completion, I learned more about the champions that fell trying to pilot them against Ganon. It definitely added some color to the story.
It was also very worth visiting the lost memory locations to see flashbacks leading to the battle 100 years ago. Honestly the story was a bit weird and not the strongest part of the game. The mostly text conversations and mumble noise take away from the story. It was really about the journey and fantastic game mechanics.
That said, I’m definitely looking forward to the Zelda Breath of the Wild sequel and would 100% preorder. I’m glad I stuck with the game to learn all the mechanics to appreciate this masterpiece of a game. Now hopefully Nintendo doesn’t take a whole other year to release the sequel that’s “Coming Soon”.