The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released barely two weeks ago, yet it has received 10/10 scores from numerous gaming news outlet. The game deserves these perfect scores because it manages to set a new bar for open-world games. Furthermore, since Breath of the Wild improves on numerous game mechanics, it will no doubt be the standard by which future open-world games are measured.

Go anywhere anytime, but only if you can get there

Breath of the Wild is massive, comparable only to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in terms of size, and gamers can explore Breath of the Wild to their heart’s content. Many open-world games let players travel anywhere at any time, even at the beginning of the game, which can leave gamers overwhelmed and remove feelings of accomplishment upon discovering a new location. However, Breath of the Wild solves this problem by locking off many locations until gamers have the proper tools and/or stamina upgrades, while still offering an open and explorable world.

The game starts on a plateau that players cannot climb down. Gamers can explore the plateau, but to leave they need a paraglider. Once they have the paraglider, much of the game opens up, and players can explore new locations. Furthermore, the main character Link can climb almost any surface and glide from any cliff, but climbing, gliding, and swimming all require stamina. In fact, certain locations are effectively out of reach until Link upgrades his stamina. These limitations are not unlike those found in previous Legend of Zelda games or metroidvania games, and they make discovering secrets and new locations feel like something accomplished through perseverance rather than dumb luck.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Very few open-world games have the same exploration mechanics as Breath of the Wild, but the game still manages to organically include various strategies and exploration tips. For example, players find a small cliff jutting over a lake early in the game. Now, most peoples’ first instinct would be to jump off the cliff into the water. As soon as Link hits the water, the game has a cutscene that introduces Koroks and their seeds. At this point, many gamers will likely be confused why they just met a flying log wearing a leaf mask, but they will put two and two together after they see that Link just dove into a ring of floating lotuses. This moment organically teaches players to keep an eye out for floating lotus rings.

Likewise, the starting area has various sheer rock faces littered with outcroppings. These outcroppings are subtle-yet-pointed clues that players need to climb up to each outcropping, rest to regain stamina, and repeat if they want to reach the top of the wall. Usually games include tutorials that hold the players’ hands and tells them what they can do and when, but Breath of the Wild teaches players through exploring the world with very few tutorials (standard Legend of Zelda tutorials on how to use items such as bombs notwithstanding).

Intelligent enemies are realistic enemies

Enemies in most open-world games do not behave realistically. More often than not, they charge blindly into combat, use one or two combat tactics, and can’t see the player if you so much as crouch. Monsters in Breath of the Wild are far more realistic than enemies in other open-world games, including any Legend of Zelda game, because of their ability to delegate different roles to their members.

Bokoblins are the first enemies players encounter, and close examination reveals that Bokoblins adopt various jobs within a group. Most Bokoblins fall asleep at night, but those atop crude platforms keep watch 24/7. Furthermore, the majority of Bokoblins investigate an area if they suspect Link is nearby, but those on the platforms retain their vigil. If this were any other game, Bokoblins would never fall asleep and could easily be drawn away from their posts. But in Breath of the Wild, the Bokoblins on the platforms keep their watch no matter what and sound the alarm when they see Link, a level of intelligence and social organization that enemies in many open-world games, like Assassin’s Creed, usually lack.

And Breath of the Wild’s creatures retain that feeling of realism even while in combat. Like Link, most monsters in the game can pick up nearby weapons and shields. If a club is knocked out of a Bokoblin’s hand, it will run away, pick up another weapon, and wield it instead (a feature missing since The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker). Many Bokoblins also throw rocks at Link, which make them dangerous at any distance, even when disarmed. Moreover, enemies can search for healing items to actually heal themselves. In most games, healing is limited to either a select few enemies who have innate healing abilities or to the game resetting an enemy’s position and health.

Zelda Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild also provides novel means of combating it’s more intelligent enemies. Alongside the genre standards of charging headfirst into battle, sneaking around enemies, or stealthily picking off enemies one by one, players can take the time to explore their surroundings. You might come across a conspicuous boulder that can be rolled down a hill to kill a group of monsters. While games such as Just Cause 3 allow for such tactics, players usually find them less effective than using guns and grenades, but Breath of the Wild is balanced to make the boulder as viable an option as a sword, an axe, or even a Cucco. The ability to use the environment against your enemies is a breath of fresh air that deserves to be in more open-world games.

It’s dangerous to go alone, but also rewarding.

The joy of searching for collectibles hidden throughout the game is part of what helps make open-world titles as much fun as they are. These items can be out in the open or hidden in unexplored dungeons. Breath of the Wild is littered with treasure chests and items begging to be obtained. While players are free to search, the game makes sure to remind you that doing so can be dangerous. Occasionally, players will encounter blue enemies. These special opponents are more powerful than regular ones and are more than capable of killing you in one hit, especially during the first several hours.

In most games, such enemies are only slightly stronger than regular ones or reserved for later in the game, but Breath of the Wild manages to keep players on their toes, starting early on. Due to their placement and rarity, fighting blue enemies is never mandatory, and they do not make the game too difficult. Of course, gamers are more than capable of defeating blue enemies, either through skill or grinding, which gives the game a tangible feeling of risk vs. reward not seen in many open-world games, especially ones with level scaling or no levels at all.

While death may come easily, the game treats death as a learning experience. Many players can and will run out of stamina while climbing and/or paragliding and will quickly be reunited with the ground, usually with fatal consequences. Players can also drown due to running out of stamina while swimming, freeze because they forgot to eat a spicy meal or wear insulated clothing, fall to their death while climbing during a rain storm, or be struck by lightning while using a metal weapon, shield, or armor. Death can also come at the hands of enemies, especially blue ones. However, thanks to a very lenient save system, death while exploring is a learning experience rather than a punishment. Many games that have similar exploration mechanics have less lenient save systems that can easily wear on your patience, but Breath of the Wild lets gamers quickly pick up from where they left off, so they don’t make the same mistake twice.

Zelda Breath of the Wild

If Link can’t be a hero, he can always be a chef

Breath of the Wild is also the first Legend of Zelda game that does away with hearts. Health is still represented by the classic red hearts, but players can no longer find hearts in tall grass or pots. Instead, Link can only regain health by eating food. While this is par for the course in open-world games, Breath of the Wild improves on the formula by letting players also cook. Link can collect all sorts of items he can combine in a cooking pot to make various foods. Apples and mushrooms combine to create a healing apple and mushroom skewer, while hot peppers and meat can make a plate of spicy meat that heals and renders him temporarily immune to cold temperatures. Players have to discover which combinations work and which ones don’t. The game hints at several recipes, but nothing is spelled out. Normally, open-world games force players to rely on what they find or buy, and item recipes usually tell gamers exactly what items they need. But in Nintendo’s latest, players are free to experiment and create their own items. Half of the fun of the game is discovering all of the recipes.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

A Breath of the Wild and of fresh air

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes systems from other games, refines them, and carefully integrates them to create a game that goes above and beyond other open-world titles. It shows that carefully mixing and improving disparate mechanics can create something truly memorable. In that respect, Breath of the Wild is similar to Borderlands (which mixed open-world exploration, FPS action, RPG leveling and skills, and a Diablo-esque loot mechanic) to great effect. To this day, many praise the Borderlands franchise for almost reinventing the FPS genre, and in time people will likely do the same with Breath of the Wild, its various mechanics breathing new life into the open-world genre.

  • Bilal Prince-Ali

    this is the drivel lool… like sets WHAT standard!!? aahahha this is hilarious

    Zelda is a masterpiece.. but thats NOT to say its the new standard… by far no.. in some ways certainly yes it is a great piece of design but DEFFO not all! lool im sorry but it’s just true

    • Justin Ryan

      How does it not set the standard? A lot of the things that it does have not been done before at all. I mean, do you a list?

      • Bilal Prince-Ali

        A lot of stuff!!!!? like what!!!!? what’s “A lot of stuff” ¬___¬

        • Justin Ryan

          Okay, theres too much to go over, but I’ll go over what I have never seen in a open world game before. (Also, I read your profile and you say that you are a Playstation fanboy. I’m a lover of all game no matter what system they are on, so before you claim I’m a Nintendo fanboy, just know that it doesn’t matter what system a “great game is on, as long as it’s good. So this is coming us very unbiased.)

          -Don’t have to finish or do any of the story to beat the game. The game doesn’t tell you what to do or how to do it. You go where you want to go after you get the tools you need from the starting part of the game. In other open world games, it’s always go here to do this to advance the story. In this game, you find the story and you are always rewarded when you do.

          -There are multiple ways to fight an enemy. That’s why weapons break: to get you to think outside the box and get you to use other tools to fight enemies in new ways. Items have more then just one use. One item can have 5 uses if you experiment with it.

          -Weather effects gameplay at all times. I’m not talking about “night makes it harder for enemies to see you.” I’m talking about thunder, rain, wind, sunlight, and darkness play a part. The elements of the earth make you think about how you want to fight or travel. Rain makes it harder to climb places. Fire creates an updraft that blows you in the air and you can use that to your advantage. Wind is important due to the direction and you can use it to fight enemies or when riding a boat. Natural thunder can kill you when you wear metal, and can still hit you even if you are not. This is the first game ever where the world is very much a character. While it’s true that other games have weather that plays a part in their games, it has never been done to this extent. Other developers have came out and even said this.

          -Weapons are very creative. And most of them have perks or something that sets them apart from others other than just attack power. I’ll leave it to you to find that out.

          -There is always something to find. The map is not just empty space. I’m ALWAYS finding something in this game that is well thought out or well placed. I’m not lead to those places by the game, but I have to find them.

  • DevilDogA99

    Maybe for Nintendo but its not even close to be setting a standard. Those were set by games like Skyrim, The Witcher 3 and Horizen Zero Dawn. So no Justin, its not. They’ve been done and done better.

    • strider184

      Nice analysis there. You offered absolutely 0 points in your argument other than naming some games with no explanation as to what they do better or why.

      • DevilDogA99

        The games listed are very well known and discussed often. It’s kinda redundant to right an article on it in the comment section, when its not necessary.

        • strider184

          You don’t need to write an article in order to explain yourself better you know. Generalizing and expecting other people to know exactly what you’re referring to makes your comment seem shortsighted. Makes you seem like one of those people who are just upset only because Zelda is receiving praise from critics, gamers and even other game developers. If you want to say others games do what Zelda does better then just say it and keep it short, no need for 400 words or more.

          • Aaron Greenbaum

            Still, better than the flamewar that’s happening on the N4G page I made for this article. That’s just a nightmare.

    • Sean Timm

      I’m a huge fan of Skyrim, Witcher, and Horizon. And I don’t think the argument is that Breath of the wild does something that those games failed to do. I think its more that Nintendo brought all those disparate elements together with a level of polish that sets it apart.

    • Aaron Greenbaum

      The point is not that Breath of the Wild did something no other game did, but that it did stuff better than other games.

      • DevilDogA99

        That’s what I’m disagreeing with. The games I listed, did them better. The Zelda name (for good reason) is holding said mechanics to a higher degree, then deserved.

        • Aaron Greenbaum

          Not really no. The Witcher 3 is definitely a landmark when it comes to, say, storytelling, but Geralt can’t do much freeform exploring; he can’t so much as drop off a ledge three feet off the ground without killing himself, and we all know how Roach loves to park herself on top of roofs.

          And Skyrim doesn’t have the same systems as Breath of the Wild. Sure, both have day/night cycles and weather, but traversing in Skyrim during bad weather is no different than during good weather, and the guards are programmed to always patrol instead of, say, patrol during the day and then wake up the night guards before falling asleep.

          Also I don’t think you can knock the weapons out of anyone’s hands in Skyrim or The Witcher 3. Plus item crafting in both use recipes rather than letting you discover stuff on your own. You can increase stamina in those games, but do they let you reach new areas? No, they’re just used for stuff like combat, stuff you can already do without the upgrades. The upgrades just make it easier to do more of the stuff you could previously do and not upgrading it won’t prevent you from visiting certain areas, while in Breath of the Wild you need the upgrades to explore everywhere.

          Do you see where I’m going with this?

          • DevilDogA99

            Ah ok, I see your point.

    • Justin Ryan

      Ummmmm…there are developers that have come out and said that the game has done things that have not been done. I’ll post the same list that I posted a little while ago here. Just in case you don’t read it. This is all that I have found that other open world games do not do or what I have not seen in them.

      -Don’t have to finish or do any of the story to beat the game. The game doesn’t tell you what to do or how to do it. You go where you want to go after you get the tools you need from the starting part of the game. In other open world games, it’s always go here to do this to advance the story. In this game, you find the story and you are always rewarded when you do.

      -There are multiple ways to fight an enemy. That’s why weapons break: to get you to think outside the box and get you to use other tools to fight enemies in new ways. Items have more then just one use. One item can have 5 uses if you experiment with it.

      -Weather effects gameplay at all times. I’m not talking about “night makes it harder for enemies to see you.” I’m talking about thunder, rain, wind, sunlight, and darkness play a part. The elements of the earth make you think about how you want to fight or travel. Rain makes it harder to climb places. Fire creates an updraft that blows you in the air and you can use that to your advantage. Wind is important due to the direction and you can use it to fight enemies or when riding a boat. Natural thunder can kill you when you wear metal, and can still hit you even if you are not. This is the first game ever where the world is very much a character. While it’s true that other games have weather that plays a part in their games, it has never been done to this extent. Other developers have came out and even said this.

      -Weapons are very creative. And most of them have perks or something that sets them apart from others other than just attack power. I’ll leave it to you to find that out.

      -There is always something to find. The map is not just empty space. I’m ALWAYS finding something in this game that is well thought out or well placed. I’m not lead to those places by the game, but I have to find them.

      • DevilDogA99

        Very true, it does do all these things and puts them all together. However, Id say the separate elements have been done better in their receptive games. ( just my opinion) So I don’t know if I can agree with the statement ” setting a standard”, that’s the part I’m disagreeing with.

        • Justin Ryan

          Can you explain what elements that you are speaking about? You keep saying that but I’m waiting for the facts. None of what I just mentioned have I seen. I looked up some of the best known open world games, and compared them. None of them do what I just mentioned. Not The Witcher, Not GTA, Not Horizon, none of them. You do not interact with the world like you do in Zelda. You just don’t. That’s why people are giving it the praise that it’s getting. No skill tree, No go here and do this to advance the story. It is a gamers game. Discovery, Huge world that rewards you for exploring it every single time, a hard game but only if you are small minded, and a game that let’s you control how much you want to put in. NONE and I mean NONE of the games I just mentioned allow many of the points I just mentioned. That’s why Zelda is in my opinion better than them. It’s a game first, then everything else second.

          • DevilDogA99

            The thing is, those things you mentioned don’t make it better in any way. Really just options that make a difference. Can you go straight to the boss? Sure, but you’ll lose, so what’s the point & nocking things out of people’s hands? Ya that’s a game changer. Weather effects are in allot of games and several games allow you to climb on everything & who cares about the weapons when they brake after each incounter.

            • Justin Ryan

              And once again…you don’t answer my question. How is disarming not a good thing? And the way you disarm them are clever. For example, I shot a fire arrow at at enemy and lit his shield on fire. He took his wooden spear and put it on the burning shield and lit his spear on fire for more damage. You didn’t mention how weather effects effect gameplay like Zelda, you didn’t answer any of my questions. At this point, you are coming off as a someone who:

              A) Is what they call a “Fanboy” of a certain system.
              B) Mad because Zelda isn’t on your favorite system.
              C)Just don’t like Nintendo.
              D)All of the above

              You have provided no facts what so ever to support your claims. Also, weapons don’t break after every encounter, there are weapons in the game that have high durability and Nintendo has put ways in the game to get around weapon breaks, they just didn’t tell the player. Like I said before the made it so you have to find these things aka discovery. LOL $1,000,000 question: Do you own the game?

              • DevilDogA99

                Because disarming is just a random mechanic that adds nothing to the gameplay. I’m not sure why your calling me a fan boy or having so much trouble with this concept. It’s obvious your having a hard time, excepting faults with a game you like. Look I played the game, didn’t have fun (mainly because of the weapons breaking every 5 min) and everything about it, I had seen before & had fun with in other games. The whole point I was making, was that Zelda can’t be a standard. It’s just not anything special. Those perfect scores are just fan boys. I’d give it a 6 out 10.

                • Justin Ryan

                  Once again, you still didn’t answer none of my questions. Nor did you address anything I said about weapons breaking and the way around it. And yes they do add to the gameplay quite a bit. I don’t understand why you can’t answer the questions that I asking. As a matter of fact I don’t think you have played the game. The Overwatch developer called it a masterpiece, many developers and fans plus non fans of Zelda are loving the game. At this point I’m done, because to me it sounds like you don’t know what you are talking about. You don’t have any valid points, you are making claims about stuff you have not even seen in the game. Pretty sure you haven’t even tried half the game. Then, in another post you made, you called Zelda and Horizon great games, but now all the sudden Zelda is a 6 out of 10. LOL You have no case or nothing to add to this discussion except you don’t like Zelda or Nintendo. Doubt that you have a Wii U or a Switch.

                  • DevilDogA99

                    God what question do you want answerd? No, the answer is no. It does not set a standard, no they don’t add to the gameplay, no breaking weapons take away from the gameplay quite a bit & no, I don’t own a Wii-U or a Switch. I just borrowed my friends Wii-U for a week. Yes lots of devilpers are calling it great, congrats, other people like it. 6/10 is still a good game, I liked playing both HZD & Breath of the Wild. It’s very very simple though. Breath of the Wild does nothing special. It’s a good game, it adds new things but those things are either trivial or take away from the game & everything else we’ve either seen in other Zelda games or other open world games/RPG. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a fine game. It’s just not setting any kind of standard. Its ok for people to not like a game as much.

                    • Justin Ryan

                      And this is why I don’t think you know what you are talking about. I’m in the gaming field and I attend Full Sail University. All we talk about is how this game forces you to think outside of the box, something that gamers and you don’t seem to understand. Mind you, I’m not trying to be disrespectful toward you, but judging from what I’m reading you don’t know much about game design. First off, the weapon breaking system is the best part of the game, because it forces the player to think of other ways to attack. There are sooooooooo many ways to deal with enemies outside of mindlessly swing your sword. That’s what Nintendo wanted you to think about, “how can I fight smartly and creatively with the tools that I have been given?” Bombs, arrows, fire, the wind, thunder, the natural elements of the earth, etc. If you are have issues with weapons breaking with all these tools at your disposal, then that not the games fault, its yours. Second, who does disarming enemies not add anything to gameplay when it makes the enemies do less damage and make the fight easier to deal with? Do you know how game mechanics even work? You say a lot stuff and have little facts to back it. If you don’t like the game fine, but you don’t seem to have anything to back those facts.

                    • DevilDogA99

                      It’s simple really. Nintendo is known for just making fun games, forgetting the rest. Weapon breaking takes away the fun. Yes it does force you to re-think how you attack but constantly loosing the weapon you just earned, makes that item lose its value & you never feel a since of accomplishment or growth in the game. Knocking items from enemies hands changes how you attack as well but it doesn’t change the battle enough to make a difference, your still going to attack them one way or another. From a creators point of view I see where your coming from & it makes allot of since. However it reminds me of how most critics review movies. They grade it on it’s art , what value it brings, the boundaries it pushes. While the public, is interested in those things, they usually care more about if it’s entertaining. (Example being the Iron Fist Tv show) Same can be said for video games, it’s great when new things are done, when graphics and art design are pushed but if it’s not fun or takes away from the fun, who cares. It’s all about the fun. Fun is subjective though & people are forgiving allot in Breath of the Wild. Only time will tell but I’d say, you’ll see this game fall from favor. Just like Skyward Sword.

                    • Justin Ryan

                      Ok, nothing you just said makes sense as there are many Nintendo games that have good story and good gameplay. What you just said proves to me that you really just don’t like Nintendo stuff and from your comments that I have seen on other things based off Nintendo shows you feelings toward the company.

                      Next, you said “Knocking items from enemies hands changes how you attack as well but it doesn’t change the battle enough to make a difference, your still going to attack them one way or another. ” This is hilarious. First, if you knock a weapon out of a enemies that does 7 hearts worth of damage, forcing them to attack with a rock that does 1/2 heart worth of damage is a big difference. Plus, you can easily pick up there weapon and kill them with it, saving your weapon that you have. This is what I mean. I’m can say for certain you haven’t spent a good time with the game and are looking for any fault in the game. This game is easily better than Skyward Sword by miles. I never finished that game because to me that was a bad Zelda. This one is not. If you like the The Witcher and Zero Dawn great but stop knocking Nintendo just because you have some bias toward them, which no matter what you say, you clearly have.

                    • DevilDogA99

                      You just can’t be reasoned with. You have an obvious biased stance for this game.

                    • Justin Ryan

                      From a game designer:
                      The Weapon Durability system is absolutely integral to the game and the way it is meant to be played. This system serves so many functions at once, so lets list a couple.

                      1. Drives the games loot system
                      2. Forces the player out of their comfort zone so they discover the benefits of different weapons (Axes vs. Shields)
                      3. Give players a reason to test and experiment with different creative solutions (Using korok leaves to send bombs flying off, Ferrous weapons used to conduct electricity etc.)
                      4. Drive the game’s economy.
                      5. Cycle more powerful weapons through the players hands as they progress in the game (Bo Bloodmoons, Bo Koblins)

                      Now lets see what the consequences of removing that system would be…

                      1. Game’s economy breaks
                      2. Players get one good weapon, and never try anything new
                      3. Loot loses all meaning (as what is left are crafting mats mostly)
                      4. Games combat breaks (certain abilities like throwing weapons become infinitely more viable)

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