The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past will forever be one of the best Zelda games of all-time and one of the overall greatest of all-time. But it also had some unforeseeable side-effects to the series going forward. Primarily, the rigid dungeon structure of A Link to the Past became the formula for the franchise for decades to come. A great formula, but one that has gotten stale over time and one that strayed away from the open-ended nature of the original.
Nintendo sort of took a stab at breaking the cycle with A Link Between Worlds, where weapons and items could be rented out or bought at any time. This time, they’ve gone even further, crafting an experience that’s almost entirely open-ended. How did they do it? And does it make for a better game?
At the start, you’re tasked with collecting a handful of key items you’ll need for your adventure. The area you start in is already pretty big and the task of going through the shrines to get the items is fun. After that, the world opens up and it’s massive. Roughly two weeks into playing, and I still haven’t uncovered the whole map yet.
The best part of it is that you can literally go anywhere you want, tackling the quests in pretty much any order you want. Heck, you can run right up to the castle, fight Ganon and beat the game if you want to. Granted, it’s probably insanely difficult, but it’s crazy that you have the option to do so. Once the game opens up, it essentially boils down to you building yourself up to the point where you’re ready to take Ganon on.
While I found the openness of the original game to be daunting, it’s a blast in Breath of the Wild. Helping you make sense of the world are a handful of towers strewn throughout the map. Sort of like Assassin’s Creed, you unlock that region in your map once you reach the top. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, there are only a handful of them. Having only a few to scale stops them from feeling redundant, though each one is cool to scale.
It’s also just fun to run around the world. You can even climb pretty much every surface, including mountains. Nintendo took great care in making sure that every area of the map had something worthwhile. From side quests, to secrets, to just random cool things that you make happen in the world, you’ll always experience something cool as you venture through Hyrule.
While the world is open, it does some interesting things to slow down your progress. For one, you start with very little stamina, making it tough to swim through large lakes or climb high mountains. The environment also gates you in interesting ways, such as desert areas being really hot during the day and really cold at night, causing damage to Link if he’s not dressed appropriately. While you can take the time to build up your stamina or buy the right gear, you can also give yourself temporary boosts through cooked food or elixirs that you brew up yourself. Simply grab the appropriate ingredients, throw them in a pot and cook away! Regardless of where you’re at in the game, everything is accessible one way or another.
It’s going to take some time for me to fully articulate the Breath of the Wild experience. There’s so much more to talk about, from the addition of weapon durability, to the clever writing, to how fun the combat is now thanks to new additions to the mechanics. However, that kind of writing is better served for a full review, which hopefully will happen someday. For now, I will gleefully romp around Hyrule, enjoying everything that comes my way.