The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is arguably the only game at launch that is really going to ship Switch consoles like hotcakes, so it’s no surprise that Nintendo is letting the good news out of the gates sooner rather than later. Last week critics were allowed to share some initial thoughts on their experience, but today is all about those full reviews. Numbers, scores, opinions, they’re all below.
The real question is whether Breath of the Wild is possibly the revolution the series has been waiting for, and a new bar for fans to compare every other title in the series against. Does it stand up to that?
I guess, in the end, it’s not just that Breath of the Wild signals that Zelda has finally evolved and moved beyond the structure it’s leaned on for so long. It’s that the evolution in question has required Nintendo to finally treat its audience like intelligent people. That newfound respect has led to something big, and different, and exciting. But in an open world full of big changes, Breath of the Wild also almost always feels like a Zelda game — and establishes itself as the first current, vital-feeling Zelda in almost 20 years.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in open-world design and a watershed game that reinvents a 30-year-old franchise. It presents a wonderful sandbox full of mystery, dangling dozens upon dozens of tantalizing things in front of you that just beg to be explored. I’ve had so many adventures in Breath of the Wild, and each one has a unique story behind what led me to them, making them stories on top of stories. And even after I’ve spent more than 50 hours searching the far reaches of Hyrule, I still manage to come across things I haven’t seen before. I’ll easily spend 50 to 100 more trying to track down its fascinating moments.
No matter how gorgeous its environments are, how clever its enemies are, and how tricky its puzzles get, the fact that Breath of the Wild continues to surprise you with newfound rules and possibilities after dozens of hours is by far its most valuable quality. It’s a game that allows you to feel gradually more and more empowered yet simultaneously manages to retain a sense of challenge and mystery–which, together, creates a steady, consistent feeling of gratification throughout the entire experience. Breath of the Wild is a defining moment for The Legend of Zelda series, and the most impressive game Nintendo has ever created.
This sense of wonder is something that I haven’t felt so strongly since I played A Link to the Past when I was seven years old. Ocarina of Time was able to capture some of that same magic in my teenage years. Now that I’m in my thirties, I don’t think that I expected it to be possible for a game to make me feel like that again. I’ve been reviewing video games for twelve years now, and I’m used to describing games in a certain way. “This game controls well. This mechanic is innovative. The graphics are stunning. The skill tree feels limited.” That type of language doesn’t adequately convey how Breath of the Wild made me feel. Nintendo may have changed so many long-standing traditions of the Zelda franchise, but the spirit of discovery is as strong as it’s ever been no matter your age. I didn’t think I’d feel the Zelda magic this strongly ever again, but I couldn’t be happier to be proven wrong.
This isn’t your typical boiler plate open world cash grab, rife with to-do lists and busywork. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an evolution of the formula for both eastern and western philosophies alike, and a new blueprint.
I don’t think there’s much else to be said. Seems Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece. It’s out tomorrow.