Review

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

 

 

 Game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch(reviewed), Wii U

Release Date: March 3rd, 2017

Price: $59.99

In 2017, it is fair to say that The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that Nintendo has kept pretty close to the chest.  While they’ve never turned out something truly horrible, the past ten or so years have seemed somewhat stagnant. Windwaker is a fantastic game with some slow points, Twilight Princess has some amazing Dungeons, but it’s bleak and dark art design left me wanting. While other titles like Phantom Hourglass tried too hard with gimmicks like touch based controls.  Most of these games are fantastic on their own merits, yet still, stick to concepts and gameplay elements Nintendo had been using since the era of the SNES and A Link to the Past.

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I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

 

After multiple delays on Breath of the Wild, which many had begun to speak of as Zelda Skyrim, I was starting to doubt how open or impressive the title could be. Well, Nintendo didn’t just tweak the formula of one of it’s oldest series. It threw the whole recipe out, and the result is a beautiful, breathtaking game, that feels like a new experience littered with charm and familiarity in the form of a few base concepts that still make it feel like a classic Zelda adventure.

The most obvious and arguably most welcome change to Breath of the Wild is how little it holds your hand at the start. Skyward Sword, the last big release in the franchise has a solid two or three hours of heavily scripted tutorial based gameplay. In Breath of the Wild Link wakes up from his one hundred year slumber briefly gets some direction from a cloaked old man( it’s dangerous to go alone, take this) and you’re thrown out to explore Hyrule at your leisure.17349714_1476346705711018_9193550976783032304_o

The first hour or so of the game does take place in a slightly more contained area. On the Great Plateau, the aforementioned old man will ask you to gather treasure from four shrines. Each shrine is essentially a mini dungeon that provides you with a rune that grants you a new ability. These abilities, include bombs,  the power to stop time, create columns of ice from water, and a magnet based ability for moving metal objects. A puzzle in each shrine will force you to prove you can use each rune competently. Once this is done, you’ll be granted a paraglider and turned out to Hyrule with a simple task, defeat Ganon.

These four core abilities will replace the old Zelda system of finding new tools and weapons in dungeons. It’s easy to be skeptical of this change, at first I was worried that with all of these powers front loaded that sense of discovery would be lost. The feeling of realizing you can hit a distant switch with the boomerang you just acquired would be gone. Instead, I found over time that the sense of discovery comes from other places. With these four runes, you can solve the puzzles in all of the Shrines, there are over 100 in total.

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Keep an eye on that stamina wheel

 

With these runes in hand and the paraglider at Link’s disposal, the game essentially tells you “here are the tools, go explore this world.” You’ll find that the only thing stopping you from going where you want is Link’s stamina meter. The little green circle is something you’ll constantly have an eye on as it is important for almost everything you do. Stamina is drained when running, climbing, swimming, and paragliding. It’ll recharge after a brief rest, but you don’t alway have that option. Mountains that seem insurmountable can be tackled early on if you’re smart about looking for outcroppings to rest at on your way up.

What you will be climbing most is the Sheikah Towers. These towers glow bright orange and fill in portions of your map and turn blue when activated with your Sheikah Slate. These towers don’t fill in your map in the traditional open world game sense, and that may be one of my favorite things about Breath of the Wild. Sheikah Towers will only fill in large map features like mountains and bigger bodies of water. You’ll have to spot things like Shrines and villages from these and other vantage points. This task is easily accomplished using multiple pins and stamps available through the map screen. I used these tools a whole lot to mark shrines, as well as, mineral deposits, enemy camps, and places that just looked interesting. Unlike other open world games Breath of the Wild doesn’t populate your map with a million things to do. This feature of spotting and manually marking encourages more exploration and is a ton of fun.

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The Zora Prince is confirmed best character

 

More changes come in the form of Heart Containers. While you’ll still receive Heart Container(the item that increases Link’s overall heart count) for defeating dungeon bosses, Heart Pieces are gone altogether. For those who have played past Zelda titles, you’ll know that finding four pieces of a heart( five in Twilight Princess) out in the world would add another heart as well. In Breath of the Wild, you will receive Spirit Orbs every time you complete a shrine. For every four you acquire you can visit a Goddess statue to upgrade either your hearts or stamina pool. These Statutes can be found in most towns, as well as the Temple of Time.

Weapon degradation also presents a new take for Zelda. Swords, shields, and bows all degrade and break over time. For this reason, you’ll wanna be grabbing anything you can get your hands on early on. From Travelers swords to Bokoblin clubs, grab whatever you can. Armor, however, is forever. Some armor is acquired through story quests, and other sets can be bought in towns.  Link’s clothing factors big time into the weather system of the game. Wearing metal in a lightning storm can result in an electric shock, having wooden equipment out in the heat of Death Mountain can cause it to go up in smoke. You’ll also have to dress accordingly in super hot or cold environments, or Link will take damage over time. You can also buy or craft potions to resist the heat or cold temporarily.

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Sneaking up on foes deals extra damage

 

Cooking adds an interesting but not overly complex layer to surviving in Hyrule. You’ll no longer discover hearts out in the open to refill Links health. In place of this Link will have to eat like the rest of us. Raw materials will work just fine, but to really fill up those hearts and maybe add a little bonus effect, up to five ingredients can be cooked in a pot over a fire. Cooking isn’t exactly complicated, raw meat plus rock salt equals salted meat. While combining a Moblin horn with and Octorock tentacle will result in something barely edible.

Breath of the Wild, for the first time, features, cutscenes with full voice over, with the exception of Link himself. These bits of story are shelled out from flashbacks that Link can experience via twelve memories locations that will cause Link to remember events from 100 years ago. These sequences are great and lend themselves to the incredible writing of the game. Even in basic conversation NPC’s are loaded with smart, funny things to say instead of one generic comment. They’ll react to Link based on what he is wearing or doing making them feel more alive. Link doesn’t speak aloud ever, but his dialogue options are often quippy dry humor that I enjoy quite a bit.

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Am I a chef now?

 

Dungeons have been altered in a large way. In addition to exploring the fields of Hyrule taming horse and finding Shrines, there are four main dungeons you can conquer before fighting Ganon. Staples of the series like the Big Key and compass are gone completely. Your first task upon entering is to obtain a map. Getting the map gives you special control over each dungeon that I won’t spoil for you. It is also worth noting that each dungeon is 100% optional. You can take on Ganon without doing these but don’t expect that to be easy. Beating each of these weakens him significantly.

It can’t all be sunshine, Breath of the Wild does have its problems. For one, inventory management feels like a mess. Moving ingredients around and moving in and out of the menu to drop weapons when your inventory is full is a hassle. In addition, you’ll occasionally see some frame rate issues when playing in TV mode. Thankfully a frame drop here or there is far from game breaking, and the great moments I’ve had with Zelda far out way any of these minor gripes.

I explored Hyrule’s sprawling fields and mountains for close to 100 hours before I finally put Ganon down. I felt a slight disappointment in ending my adventure so I find myself going back to look for secrets and shrines I may have missed. I didn’t think that I’d be able to recapture the magic that games like A Link to the Past held for me as a child, but Nintendo made me a bright-eyed child again in my mid-twenties. Breath of the Wild is a game changer for Zelda as a series, and hopefully just the first steps in a renaissance for one of my favorite series of all time. Whether it’s on the Switch or Wii U, everyone should check out this fantastic game.

Score: 10 out of 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

Game: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

Developer: Comfox & Bros

Publisher: FDG Entertainment

Platform(s): ios, Android, PC( reviewed), PS4, PS Vita(unreleased) Xbox One, Nintendo Switch(unreleased)

Release Date(s): November 14th, 2013 (ios), March 17th, 2015(Windows PC), September 7th, 2016 (Xbox One/PS4), December 15th, 2016 (Android), 2017 (Nintendo Switch), TBA (Vita)

MSRP: $5.99(mobile devices) $14.99(PC and console)

With a short lull in between all the big Resident Evils and other big titles on the horizon, I found time to give due attention to a little game that has been crowding my Steam library for over a year. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was described upon its original release on ios back in 2013 as a beautiful mobile tribute to Zelda. I am not the biggest fan of mobile gaming; I’ll play on PC or console over my phone in a heartbeat. So it’s no surprise I hadn’t heard a damn thing about this game before it came to PC and even then it took me some time to finally get around to it I can at least say I’m happy I did, and you should too.

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Just be cool, nobody thinks you’re a Zora

 

Oceanhorn is most easily explained by its likeness to Zelda, specifically its similarities to A Link to the Past and Windwaker. In usual Zelda fashion, you’ll explore dungeons and fight enemies using your trusty Sword and Shield, bombs, and bow and arrow. Through a brief look at the environment and simplicity in the many islands, you’ll explore it’s obvious that this game was built on a phone, however, the addition of gamepad support has you feeling like you’re on a real Hyrule adventure in no time.

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Maybe the Zelda homage is too on the nose

 

Oceanhorn follows a young boy on a journey to find his father and defeat the legendary Oceanhorn, the last of the living fortresses. You’ll travel from island to island in search of three medallions you can use to call forth Oceanhorn. Traversing diffrent dungeons and puzzles.

Oceanhorns biggest weaknesses are in its camera perspective. The isometric viewpoints can make puzzles frustrating at times and bring progression to a frustrating slog. In addition to a camera built for phones, Oceanhorn’s likeness to Zelda can be as bad as it is good. It wears its influences on its sleeve sometimes it just feels like a plain rip off. Heat containers are just called heart containers, save for having no control over it everything about the boat design just screams Windwaker. Oceanhorn even uses the typical structure of a Zelda title, three dungeons to obtain three stones or medallions of legendary power. One of the races called the Gilfolk are very clearly the equivalent of Zoras from the Zelda series.oceanhorn-steam-screenshot-6

Oceanhorn does have a few key differences from Zelda, for one it has a leveling system. You’ll gain experience as you defeat enemies and finish goals outlined in your journal such as breaking a certain number of pots or knocking an enemy into the water to defeat them. As you level up you’ll be able to carry more ammo for weapons like the bow and arrow and unlock some new equipment like the pumpkin seed gun, a projectile weapon used to defend yourself from your boat.

Oceanhorn might be something of a lower quality Zelda clone, but it’s something charming in its own right. For the low asking price of fifteen dollars(as I wouldn’t recommend playing on mobile) its a short little adventure to tide you over until Breath of the Wild launches and best of all can be played on almost any device you already own. Oceanhorn has a sequel in the works, and I hope with a bigger budget, the team at Comfox & Bros make an excellent second outing.

Score:7 out of 10

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