A huge world, beautiful music and art style, and an engaging story makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild an amazing game and a great reason to purchase the Nintendo Switch if you were on the fence. However, that’s not to say this title is perfect, even though it’s pretty close.

The team behind Breath of the Wild promised a significant change for the franchise, and the final product is unlike any Zelda game or any previous Nintendo game.

Let’s dive into what makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild an early Game of the Year candidate.

Note: Our time with Breath of the Wild was for the Nintendo Switch and the following review reflects that.

THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S HYRULE

There’s been a lot of talk about how big Breath of the Wild is, how many dungeons there are and whether you can actually reach those mountains in the background. Well, I’m glad to report that all of the hype is true. The world map in Breath of the Wild is gigantic, and seemingly continues to expand as you journey through the land of Hyrule. Gamers will climb volcanoes, traverse deserts, brave icy mountains and a whole lot more.

This is the largest Zelda game in terms of scope, and that is amplified by the story behind Breath of the Wild. I won’t go into specifics, but the story has a mix of everything; mystery, intrigue, action, comedy and a lot of heart. You’ll become invested in the story and the new characters you meet and you may even get to see a familiar face or two.

legend zelda breath of the wild botw hyrule The scope of 'Breath of the Wild' is larger than you ever imagined. Nintendo

You’ll explore every corner of Hyrule, meeting people along the way, taking up side quests whenever you can and putting together the mystery of the story, while making new discoveries in seemingly every corner.

The side quests in Breath of the Wild give players a breather from the intensity of the main mission while also giving access to different items. It’s also a great way to earn currency, which is not easy to come by.

The dungeon puzzles are back in Breath of the Wild . Shrines and actual dungeons are scattered throughout Hyrule and range from easy to very difficult. Shrines are rather easy and many are self-explanatory, especially in the early game. But some dungeons are so tough and time-consuming, they’ll give even the most experienced players a problem.

Breath of the Wild is easily over 30 hours long if you’re trying to speed through the game. But you’ll definitely get lost doing side quests, talking to NPCs and exploring this new land of Hyrule.

ENVIRONMENTS

When I played Breath of the Wild back at E3 2016, the environments and their impact on gameplay were a huge part of everything you did. From the wind’s effect on your arrow trajectory to the way heavy rain helps mask your movements so you can sneak behind enemies, it was apparent that enemies weren’t the only things you had to keep an eye on.

Now that I’ve had more time with the game, the environment is probably Link’s greatest obstacle during the adventure. Breath of the Wild is a survival game, and the environment really thrusts players into this world. Traveling between areas and experiencing the drastic shift in weather makes you feel like you’re on another planet.

Weather in these open-world, survival-type games isn’t anything new, but the way Breath of the Wild implements it is completely engrossing and makes playing it a richer experience. Just some examples of what you’ll experience: rain makes it harder to climb rocks, Link can be struck by lightning if he’s holding metal weapons and extreme cold/heat will deplete your health.

So don’t just watch out for enemies, the environment can be your deadliest foe.

legend of zelda link screenshot breath of the wild A screenshot of Link against the elements in Breath of the Wild. (c) Nintendo

CONTROLS

The controls in Breath of the Wild definitely take some getting used to. You have your attack, jump and run buttons as well as your lock-on/block button. There are a bunch commands you can have Link do, and at first you’ll be fumbling around looking for the right input.

It gets a bit tricky once you have enough weapons and shields to change your equipment on the fly. You can hold down one of the direction buttons to scroll through your inventory while you’re running, climbing or in a middle of a battle.

It’s a great way to change your weapon seamlessly without having to constantly pause the game, but you’ll be fumbling with the control pad at first to get to the weapon you need, but eventually you get the hang of it.

You’ll also need to rely on this skill when your weapons break. Yes, that’s right, weapons in Breath of the Wild will break after repeated use.

legend zelda breath of the wild guardian fight The Guardians are a fearsome foe in 'Breath of the Wild' Nintendo

CRAFTING/WEAPONS

Speaking of which, the weapons system in Breath of the Wild is a bit funky. You pick up weapons on your journey through Hyrule, but they don’t last forever like in most games. Instead, each weapon has a specific durability number that determines how often you can use it before it breaks. (When I mentioned the ability to scroll through your weapons on the fly in the last section, this is what I meant by getting used to it.)

Having your weapons break actually adds to the survival aspect of the game. However, what gets annoying after awhile is feeling forced to “waste” a good weapon you’ve been saving, or dropping something you may want later to make room in your inventory.

What I would have liked to see is the common items and weapons like Bokoblin clubs have a finite amount of strikes, while some of the rarer weapons would be indestructible or at least repairable. Some weapons can be repaired, but you’ll be taking up a spot in your inventory until you do, and these special weapons are an exception.

For those wondering, you can increase your inventory, but the game doesn’t make it as simple as it should be. A hard to find sidequest allows you to spend Koro seeds on weapon, shield, and bow inventory slots. There doesn’t seem to be a limit on crafting supplies or ingredients, which is good. There’s also no way to create arrows for your bow or even create your own weapon. You have to continuously look for weapons or take them from enemies. Nintendo is really trying to put players through the ringer with this game in terms of survival, but this is one example of where it’s more frustrating than fun.

There’s also a cooking system in Breath of the Wild that is pretty charming. You can grab materials (oddly enough, materials have a seemingly endless inventory space) and create food to restore your health, or concoct elixirs to restore stamina or give you special effects, like resistance to elements such as lightning.

Honestly, I don’t use this function as often as I should, but it really does help in a pinch when you’re battling bosses or are in need of something to help you survive harsh terrain. Things like electricity resistance or buffed defense can make an enormous difference when encountering enemies that can kill you with one hit. If you find yourself getting owned by a group of monsters over and over, eat something. It’ll help.

Also, mixing different materials together and not knowing what you’ll get is pretty fun.

VERDICT

Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a must-own game for fans and non-fans of the franchise, especially if you’re planning to get a Nintendo Switch. Its huge open world and engaging story gives the title an epic scale that hasn’t been seen in a Nintendo game for quite some time.

The controls and battling are very simple, but adapting to dramatically different environments makes for a challenging journey through Hyrule. The difficulty level scales up as you progress through the game and you’ll die more than a few times -- there’s no escaping it, so just learn from your mistakes and keep going.

Shrine and dungeon puzzles range from laughably easy to so painstakingly difficult that they will test any seasoned Zelda fan’s resolve.

While the weapons system could use some tweaking, it doesn’t detract from what is a terrific Zelda game as well as an outstanding survival game.

Can’t get enough Breath of the Wild? Check out more of our articles and guides about the game.