Whenever I think about the Hyrule presented in Breath of the Wild I feel melancholy. I don’t feel a sense of wonder or adventure. It feels like a world that has been in decay for a hundred years. You walk around and see towns in ruins. War machines covered with foliage. Shrines built by a previous civilization that mysterious disappeared. And people trying to make the best of a bad situation. I love it. Breath of the Wild is built for adventure but the backdrop for it feels so unique to me.
Which I know isn’t true. Plenty of games are built upon backdrops of civilizations in ruin. But the difference to me with BOTW is that there’s still hope in the ruins. You go to one of the 5 towns in that game and see people running around. Carving out a bit of happiness. One of my favorite moments in that game is helping a new town sprout up. Most locations on the map if you get to a high enough location you can see Hyrule castle being swelled in darkness. Some of the older people remember hearing stories of long dead heroes. But these people persevere though it all.
I haven’t played that many Zelda games I’ve completed less. One thing though Breath of the Wild does that the others have never done is make me care about its characters. Link wakes up 100 years with a unfamiliar British lady telling him to go defeat Ganon. The player knows what’s going on. Kill the monster save the princess have some fun along the way. Now BOTW doesn’t subverted this. It’s not a Braid where you’re actually a stalker or it’s a metaphor for the nuclear bomb. It’s not even Ocarina of Time that had Zelda help Link throughout the game. BOTW doesn’t change the mold but what it does is add some flavor that I enjoy.
The games flashbacks give you a Zelda who’s not weak but unsure of herself. Mostly because everyone puts so much pressure on her to stop Ganon. The flashbacks have her slowly becoming friends with Link while struggling with the pressure. Before she can gain her powers though everyone dies. Link dies the Champions die her dad dies everyone she cares for dies. Now you know what would have been cool. A Zelda game where Zelda takes the Master Sword and has to defeat Ganon while dealing with becoming her own hero. We don’t get that. But Zelda does step up and manage to keep Ganon at bay for 100 years. I understand why people call the BOTW story nothing. For me the story about an unsure Zelda with the weight of the worlds on her shoulders worked for me.
The best aspect about BOTW is the game part of it though. Which has been talked to death and back. That won’t stop me from telling you about one of my favorite moments while playing. I just got out of the starting area. The game recommended that I go one way so I went the opposite direction. This was south east towards the beach town. I had three hearts everything was killing me in one hit. I still persevered though. I found my way into a swamp. Sitting in the middle of it was a Hinox. I spent hours trying to defeat it. My plan of action was to glide on top of its belly take the weapons on its chest. Do as much damage as I could then run around the swamp. Stationed around the swamp were lightning wizards. I got the Hinxou in the water and let the wizards zap him. It wasn’t that much damage but it was damage. After who knows how long a wizard finished him off.
I felt so resourceful in that moment. I took my reward which was a ball that he tied around his neck. I walked around for a bit trying to find where it went. Then I found a hole to put it. The problem was there were 2 more holes to be filled. I looked around and down the hill from the landmark was another Hinox. I thought I killed the only Hinox in the world. But here was another one. I never went from feeling so big a powerful to as little and insignificant in that moment. Which may be a detractor for some. For me it made me excited to see what else this game had in store for me.
Just a couple of more thoughts I want to get off my chest. The fact the rain makes you stop dead in your tracks is great. I love the weapon durability. Gliding then shielding surfing down a hill is *chiefs kiss*. The first DLC is one of the greatest DLCs ever because it’s just 3 Eventide islands. My final thoughts on Breath of the Wild is that it’s my Ocarina of Time. It’s going to be the game that if I’m forced to write a top 100 games of all-time list in 20 years. BOTW will be in the top 5. Then all the neo-millennials will say that it doesn’t hold up as well as I remember it. There probably going to be right.