It’s just about the end of 2017 and my game of the year is undoubtedly a no brainer for me; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I would love nothing more than to chat about why it deserves the crown so here goes.
It has been a really great year for gaming, there’s been some massive titles released to amazing reception such as Resident Evil 7, Assassins Creed: Origins and who could forget just a couple of months ago Super Mario Odyssey. That’s just to name a few, I would be here all day if I was naming every awesome title this year and that in itself has made this choice a little more difficult. In all my time gaming, I can’t remember the last time we had such an amazing year with such standout games.
The Legend of Zelda series has been going for 30 years, approaching that milestone myself I’ve had the pleasure of playing pretty much every Zelda game in existence (the less said about those CD-I games the better). Breath of the Wild has done and is doing so much for the open world formula as well as the Zelda series, it garnered a lot of hype in the lead up to it’s release on the Wii U and Switch and I was very worried it wouldn’t live up to it.
Come March 3rd this year, those fears were crushed. As soon as I stepped into Hyrule and walked out of the Shrine of Resurrection I had goosebumps, that moment the piano kicks in and you see the great expanse of the world is truly breathtaking. I then began my adventure, the amount of content that they’ve crammed into the game is insane. From collecting all 900 koroks, to beating all 120 shrines (that number has since increased if you brought the DLC packs), to finding those divine beasts and all of Links memories it will keep you playing for many, many, many…many hours.
They’ve managed to create a game that still has that old nostalgia that long time Zelda fans have come to love, whilst also bringing in so many new elements to the series that bring new fans on board. It’s true, Breath of the Wild has appealed to the masses, it was a big system seller for the Switch and with very good reason. A lot of people fault Nintendo for sticking to their old franchises and relying too heavily on them, but they’re never afraid to take risks and they couldn’t have taken bigger ones here.
For the first time in the series, Zelda has a voice and the game features full voice acting throughout. You can even select to have a different language with subtitles on, I actually love playing with Japanese voice acting! This has brought a new layer of connectivity to the player for me, it’s these little additions that add up to the big change.
There’s no longer hours of chopping down grass to find rupees, they’re a lot harder to come by and usually found in treasure chests. You have a stamina wheel, you can climb pretty much anything you see, you can cook and gather materials crafting delicious meals to give yourself temporary stat boosts, you can change your main weapon and customise links clothing giving him unique armour and you can literally go anywhere on the map with no loading screens, you can defeat enemies in fun and unique ways. So many firsts for this game that I haven’t mentioned and whilst many could say this is standard for the open world formula, it’s the fact they’ve turned this beloved franchise into just that and created it so marvellously.
Hyrule; the vast expanse of the map is incredible, initially you start off in the Great Plateau and in order to gain new areas on the map you have to activate each tower which are giant mechanical behemoths scattered throughout the world. There are many areas which pay tribute to past Zelda games, there’s no hand holding when it comes to where to go next as well. I spent so many hours just climbing, walking and gliding around one area trying to find koroks and shrines. I underestimated massively the size of the map before unlocking every section, it’s incredible. You have to really immerse yourself in the universe to find the beauty in it all.
Then you’ve got all the different races they’ve included in the game, my personal favourites have always been the Zora and the Gerudo so to see they were both included is wonderful. There are four divine beasts and they centre around the Gerudo, Zora, Goron and Rito races, visiting each one is vastly unique and I would say Zora’s Domain has never looked so pretty.
The shrines act as mini dungeons to the four larger dungeons contained within each divine beast and once completed grant you orbs which you can use to increase your stamina wheel or heart containers. There’s also been DLC released earlier in the year; The Master Trials and The Champions Ballad. This included new gear, items, shrines and most recently additional story content which genuinely gave me such happy feels.
The portrayal of Princess Zelda is truly heartbreaking in Breath of the Wild, story is always a massive thing for me and you get to see a lot more of Zelda’s past than you ever have done before. Your tasked with finding 15 memories which take you back 100 years and the princess just gives off this intense vulnerability that makes you warm to her.
I’ve spent well over 200 hours on Breath of the Wild and I couldn’t recommend it more to people, they turned the formula on it’s head in a way that nobody was expecting and it truly is an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see where they take the series next as I can’t imagine they’ll go back to the old formula. It recently won Game of the Year at The Game Awards and to those naysayers that say it isn’t deserved I say shame on you for not giving credit where credit is most certainly due.