Extreme birdwatching.

How Far I Got: Completed the main quest with all four Divine Beasts defeated, and all Link’s memories recovered. Explored nearly every corner of the map and did a bunch (but nowhere near all) of the side quests. As of this writing, I’ve completed 104 of the 120 shrines and found something like 150 Korok seeds. I plan to complete the shrines but I’m definitely not going for all 900 seeds.

What I Liked: Almost everything.

What I Disliked: Minor, nitpicky details.

I took a lot of screenshots, so I might as well post some here.

Can I Be More Specific? If Nintendo wanted to make a video game specifically as a trap for me—ensuring I would be completely and fully absorbed in the experience for months on end—this would basically be it. There’s nothing I like more as a game player than to feel immersed in a richly imagined world. Whether I’m pulling levers in a Myst age or leaping out of exploding planes above Panau, I don’t really care what the game asks me to do—just as long as the gameplay draws me further into that world. Breath of the Wild seems to be designed with that exact goal in mind. It combines almost everything I’ve loved from the virtual worlds I’ve explored in the past, while nimbly avoiding nearly all the typical open-world missteps:

  • The world is impressively vast, but not overwhelmingly so (Wind Waker, Skyrim)
  • The mechanics of traversing the world are fun in and of themselves (Just Cause 2, Saint’s Row)
  • The environments are beautiful and full of small, loving details (Horizon Zero Dawn, Beyond Good And Evil, Dreamfall)
  • The player is quickly set free to explore and is not restricted, even if they may blunder into serious danger (Dragon’s Dogma, The Legend of Zelda)
  • Quest goals are not always marked on the map and require the player to read the environment to find them (Morrowind, Majora’s Mask)
  • The game embraces a sense of mystery and leaves a lot of the backstory to the player’s imagination (Myst, Dark Souls)
  • It has interlocking, semi-unpredictable mechanics and doesn’t worry too much about the player exploiting them (Minecraft, Oblivion)
  • It’s not afraid to have empty space, and resists the urge to throw content at the player every few feet (Shadow of the Colossus)

The fact that Nintendo managed to nail each of these points, and please their incredibly particular and change-averse fanbase, and support their existing and brand-new hardware, all under the pressure of years of hype and very nervous shareholders, is nothing short of amazing.

So Was There Anything I Didn’t Like? Like I said, I have some petty complaints. The game does have one typical open-world problem, which is that eventually you start noticing the copy-pasted content (the combat trial shrines are probably the most prominent example). I would have been fine with fewer shrines and Korok seeds if it meant there was more variety in their presentation and associated puzzles. I wouldn’t have minded if the Divine Beasts were longer and more involved, as well. But once I’ve played a game for 150 hours and I start complaining that the experience is getting samey, let’s face it—I’m being a bit entitled.

So…is this my new favorite Zelda game? Yyyyyyyymaybe. Kinda. It’s a three-way tie between this, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker.

Didn’t I Say This Was Everything I Wanted in an Open-World Game? I did, yes. But it doesn’t have as much of the weird surrealism I loved from Majora’s Mask, or that world’s incredible lived-in feeling. And Wind Waker is still unparalleled in its sheer charm, character and gleeful sense of adventure. Also, I’m just indecisive in general. A three-way tie works fine for me. That way, these games form my own personal Triforce.