I’m going to let you in on a little secret, folks: I hate writing previews. You can’t win with them, really. Either you’re too hyped and you end up overselling a game, or you end up disliking something that turns out amazing. Or, well, you say nothing and it’s a waste of time.
But look, you only live once, and right now all I can say is that Breath of the Wild is absolutely incredible.
From the opening moments, it took my breath away, and brought a lump in my throat that I wasn’t expecting. It’s beautiful, like some sort of painting come to life, full of personality and wonder, and it just left me breathless, ready to start my adventure.
In many ways, though, it feels unlike a Zelda game. Picking up anything you find and using it as a weapon, though, works well. In fact, it was a while before I found the traditional sword and shield combo, and realised I could cut the grass and find bugs and trinkets. It was even longer before I realise “Oh yeah, Rupees are a thing!”, and, well, any more and I’ll be both spoiling things and breaking an NDA, but yeah, there is a lot to do.
It’s worth saying that Breath of the Wild appears to be massive. I don’t want to wheel out the “bigger than Skyrim” cliches, here, but, well, it’s almost daunting how large that map is. What is so impressive about this Zelda, though, is that you can kind of just go anywhere right away. Sure, there are main quests that will grant you items, powers, and skills, but if you want to just go and climb the mountain you can see, then do it. Whether your stamina will allow you to is another question, of course, but the possibility is there. On the other end of this, however, I’ve encountered enemies I clearly shouldn’t be tackling yet, and they’ve decimated me very quickly. This truly is an open world, and with that comes risks. It’s not gotten annoying yet, but it’s a concern, because saving seems generous, but a few times it’s put me back a little way on the map.
After a while, the series staples start to appear. Chests, adventuring, and a combat system that feels familiar but fresh. The thing about this Zelda is that it feels infinitely more modernised than any before it. Snappy movement, responsive controls, and just a feeling that you are in complete control of Link. Switching between weapons is easy (a simple case of holding the corresponding D-pad and flicking through with the right stick), as is switching shield, and bow. Cooking is fun, and evokes memories I can’t quite connect: you can throw anything you want into the pot, but whether the recipe is a good one or not, you might not always know in advance.
There are issues, of course, but the occasional frame rate drop and some slight camera issues when in tight spaces are easily forgiven when, seconds later, you are skulking through the grass, stealthily sneaking upon a bandit camp, before firing a fire arrow at some explosive barrels and watching the watercolour-like beauty rain all around you.
So far I’ve ridden horses; I’ve changed outfits; I’ve met villagers, and I’ve done (quite frankly) some very modern video game trope-y side stuff. I’ve collected X amount of Y, and I’ve helped out person Z. I’ve enjoyed some puzzle solving, and I’ve scaled icy plateaus that feel like I shouldn’t be able to survive, but have by the skin of my teeth conquered because I was well prepared. I’ve cooked a mushroom dish, and I’ve hit the screenshot button on my Switch about fifty times. I’m unapologetically enamored with this game, because unlike Skyward Sword, which took an age to get going, Breath of the Wild respects the player. Nintendo’s team has decided “people have probably played a Zelda before” and they just let you loose on this picturesque world.
But look, I don’t want to say too much ahead of my final review of the game, but (so far) every time you feel as though you’ve gotten to a place that allows you to feel on top of things, something comes along and opens up the world even further. This is a magical game, and gives me a feeling I don’t get too often these days. In many ways, it’s familiar, but Breath of the Wild also feels exciting, enticing, and rewarding. Genuinely, I’m going to cut myself off here, because I want to go and play it some more.