The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Franchise's freedom sets open world game apart
Minor story location spoilers ahead
I could have taken the main road to "Zora's Domain" – only to be ambushed by 12 Lizalfos (recurring lizard-like enemies) equipped with lightning arrows. I could have set up my own ambush on an unexpecting camp of monsters halfway up the trail. I could have fought that lone mini-boss on the bridge heading into town. Instead, I ate some "cooked endura carrots," popped a "stamina elixir," and climbed the nearest mountain, bypassing the main road and heading straight to "Zora's Domain." It's moments like these that set Breath of the Wild (BOTW) apart from just about every open world game that preceded it.
BOTW opens with your character, "Link," awakening in a tomb after a 100-year sleep. Not knowing how or why you got there, you emerge in the center of Hyrule, one of the most expansive open world games I have ever seen. Continuing down the trail, you meet a lone traveler who gives you a couple of simple tasks in order to get a paraglider, allowing access to the whole map.
In the first area you learn combat mechanics. You learn that all weapons – swords, bows, and shields – are durable and break (often). You learn that making food and elixirs is a necessity. Also, you learn new abilities such as "magnesis" and "stasis" that are crucial on your journey. But most importantly, you learn BOTW is a game overflowing with emergent gameplay.
Nintendo markets BOTW as an "open air" game – and the gameplay speaks volumes toward this concept. Wood burns. Metal swords and shields conduct electricity. Rain makes climbing almost impossible. You can freeze to death in cold climates; burn to death in hot climates. If you think it's a possibility, it almost always is. Try to block a fire arrow with a wooden shield? It won't work. Adventuring during a lightning storm? Better holster your metal weapon and shield or get zapped. Have a mountain to climb in the rain? Time to find another way around. Monitor how hot or cold you are or suffer the consequences.
I've spent 120 hours combing the land of Hyrule, unlocking 90 of the game's 120 shrines (bite-sized dungeons). I beat the main dungeons and killed the final boss. Killing end game bosses, tying up unfinished quests, and seeking out more shrines is still pulling me through. The first quest given was to kill the main boss, Ganon. And you totally can! Speedrunners are conquering this game in under an hour – without cheats or glitches. It's this freedom to explore, to play this game how you want to, that sets it apart from every other open world game before. Open world? I'll take open air.
Paul Schillinger can be contacted at pSchillinger@ErieReader.com.