As an avid ‘gamer’, it’s rare to find that hidden gem of a game that will take you into a new world and away from the daily grind, akin to how a devout reader might find that rare novel to them them far, far away from everyday responsibilities. When I take a look at my virtual map of Hyrule on my “Sheikah Slate” (Link’s iPhone), I don’t see a generic map … I see a story.
Unlike many other standard and similar games with maps and directions to follow, locations in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild aren’t just points and oddball names. They have meaning and history. They remind of the time I found a flaming dragon flying around deserted volcanos, the eerily spooky woods in which I became lost temporarily, and the silent and mysterious circle of statues I found towering above me in the desert. I think about the little guy who taught me how to snowboard on my shield on top of a hill, the whacky kid scientist running an ancient technology lab, and running scared from a half man-half lion creature. More importantly, i remember elements of games past, from my childhood (Old school Nintendo Zelda) and from college (Link to the past on N64), taking me back to another time when i last visited Hyrule.
Hyrule isn’t just the game’s setting. It’s the game. So much of what we do is utterly tied to the world in which it takes place. The action is intrinsic to and designed around the environment, whether we need to scout a location to recover a memory, steer Link’s paraglider through windy allies to reach a plateau, survive the bitter cold and extreme heat of exotic locations, or maneuver though ancient, stony mazes. We’re playing both inside and with the world. There’s never been anything quite like it.
More than that, the world’s painting-like splendor gives soul to the story. It’s gorgeous vistas help to make this incarnation of Link and Zelda’s fight against Ganon a memorable exemplar of simple, traditional fantasy yarn-spinning. The world’s beauty is a big part of what makes their struggle worthwhile, what makes it a world worth fighting for. It’s also a world that I don’t want to leave. I keep thinking that I must be close to reaching the point where I’ve seen just about everything, but then I’ll find a new grotto or ruin or hidden cave in a nook of the map that I originally skirted around without realizing, and within it will be yet another treasure chest, block of precious ore, seed-bearing Korok, or shrine.
I’d have thought our experiences would be largely the same, but another thing I’ve learned about Hyrule is that it is an experiment in – perhaps even an ode to – player freedom. Once you’re off the plateau where Link revives, you can go anywhere you like. There are no barriers, either physical or imposed by your abilities. No order in which things must be done. More than that, how you accomplish your objectives is almost always up to you. It’s a marvel of emergent play, with rarely a single right way to do something, both in fights and puzzles. It’s for you to decide which of your abilities, weapons, gear, and elixirs to use and how. Some tasks and challenges becomes easier as Link grows in strength and earns the special powers of the Divine Beasts – giant machines that are themselves intricate puzzles – but with a little gumption and ingenuity you’ll be capable of every task in the game as soon as you soar off the starting plateau.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a perfect game. Now go play. It’s almost unimaginable that you will be disappointed.
Update! Nintendo has finally released details about the upcoming DLC pack, coming out Summer 2017. Here is a breakdown of everything The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The Master Trials DLC has to offer:
- Trial of the Sword: By accessing this location, players can challenge the new Trial of the Sword (previously known as “Cave of Trials Challenge”), where enemies appear one after another. Link starts without any armor or weapons, and if he defeats all of the enemies in the room he can proceed to the next area. Trial of the Sword will include around 45 total rooms for players to complete. When Link clears all of the trials, the power of the Master Sword will awaken and always be in its glowing powered-up state.
- Hard Mode: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is already considered one of the most thrilling games in The Legend of Zelda series, and fans looking for a challenge are in for a treat with the new Hard Mode. In Hard Mode, the “ranks” of enemies in the game are increased (i.e. Red Bokoblins change to Blue), and players might even encounter higher-ranking enemies they wouldn’t find through normal play. Enemies will also slowly recover health in battle, forcing you to defeat them more quickly. They will also more easily spot Link as he approaches them, making these enemies tougher to sneak up on. In addition, floating planks held aloft by balloons will be scattered around Hyrule. By successfully reaching these planks, players can battle enemies and collect treasure.
- Hero’s Path Mode: Exploring Hyrule is exciting, but with such a large world it’s sometimes hard for players to remember where they’ve been. To help with tracking progress, the new Hero’s Path Mode will document every step players take, and mark their path in green on the map. The route taken will be tracked for the player’s last 200 hours of play time, with an included slider to track footsteps on a timeline. This even works retroactively, so players that have already put many hours into the game will be able to see where they have traveled. This feature will help in identifying the locations they haven’t visited in this vast world, and may help players find those Shrines they haven’t encountered yet.
- Travel Medallion: There will be a new treasure chest somewhere in the game world which contains the Travel Medallion. With the Travel Medallion, players can create a temporary new travel point on the map where they are currently standing. Link can then transport himself to that point at any time. Only one travel point can be registered on the map at a time.
- Korok Mask: By finding the new Korok Mask, players will have a much easier time finding Korok locations in the game. When equipped, the mask will shake, indicating that a Korok is hidden somewhere nearby.
- New Equipment: Eight new pieces of equipment inspired by previous characters and games in the series will be added to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild after downloading the first DLC pack. Once discovered by the player, they will yield equipment themed after fan-favorite games and characters such as Midna, Tingle, Phantom and Majora’s Mask.