Let me preface by saying: I know Breath of the Wild is simply not the game for me. I know that people love it, and I acknowledge that the things generally listed as positive are things that I do not look for in my gaming experiences. But I absolutely hated, hated Breath of the Wild.
Zelda has always been a mixed bag of a series with me. I’m in love with Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and I’m in like with Twilight Princess (it has a lot of great aspects, but it has some problems that make it imperfect). I wanted, so badly to love Skyward Sword, but the terrible motion controls and hub world design killed the experience for me. Wind Waker is... A game where I’ve never gotten past that pirate base part, so I’ve bought it now for the THIRD time in my life, this time on Wii U. So I don’t know if it’s good or not. And the top-down Zeldas, I just don’t really enjoy all that much.
That said, I was hoping this new, big-budget Zelda game to be the next great thing in the series. With review scores similar to Ocarina’s, I expected something truly phenomenal. I wanted a redemption from the forced waggle controls of Skyward Sword.
What I got instead was a big, boring Ubisoft sandbox.
Breath of the Wild takes nearly every gameplay concept I hate and puts it in one game - replacing the things I like. Instead of an arsenal of weapons that prioritize utility over combat, we get breakable weapons that are disposible and unoriginal. Instead of a tight narrative that leads you from cleverly designed setpiece to cleverly designed setpiece, you get almost no narrative and nothing that even comes close to matching a traditional Zelda dungeon. Instead of an interesting, vibrant world with great art design, you get a big, empty world with copy/pasted art assets and a checklist of collectibles that aren’t hidden in any particularly interesting way.
I played about 20 hours of this game, and I deeply regret it. After completing shrines with identical textures and identical monks, I started craving a real dungeon. I even completed the first Beast thingy, a giant elephant seemingly lifted from Xenoblade with an adjustible snoot. And it felt like a small part of what should have been a larger dungeon.
Xenoblade is actually a great point of comparision here, since Monolith apparently worked on this game with Nintendo. Where Xenoblade had an interesting world with incredible secrets to discover, BotW has a pretty boring world with no real backstory outside of “the humans activated the machines and then Ganon stole the machines and then the humans did a die. >:” Where Xenoblade had a fun cast of characters with individual motivations, Link is... Still a mute, who wants to save the princess because that’s the only goal he ever has. Xenoblade had an amazing soundtrack and BotW has... Almost no soundtrack, honestly. And what’s there is in no way compelling.
I don’t really know what else to say. This game was a massive disappointment for me, and that’s really all that needs to be said. If you like it, great. All the power to you. But this one’s my new Shadow of the Colossus. Everyone likes it, and I just don’t understand why. It’s so full of poor gameplay decisions and so bereft of creative, interesting ideas that I’m just doing a shrug.
I sold my copy for more than what I paid (I got 20% off my preorder, sold for retail price) and bought the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess HD remasters with the money. Resident Evil 7 continues to be my GOTY 2017 so far, and not much else has changed.
But I have started playing The Witcher 3, and you know what? I really dig it. It gets a lot of the things right that BotW gets wrong for me. Come watch me stream it sometimes. (twitch.tv/PyramidHeadcrab)