One of my good friends described this game as “the modern Zelda 1″ and I think that is just about perfect.
Zelda games have been criticized lately for being too beholden to their formula. While in a lot of ways I’ve thought that criticism was mostly unfair (really, only Twilight Princess felt formulaic to me), this game really does boil Zelda down to its most essential elements. There is no 4-6 Dungeon act divided into two parts, where each dungeon contains a map and a compass and a tool that you need to beat the dungeon and the boss. You get all your tools within the first hour of the game, and it’s up to use them to solve the various puzzles of the 100+ Shrines in the game, which mostly serve as the replacement for the dungeons in the game, and in general are dispatched with as quickly as you’re able to solve the particular dungeon’s puzzle (there are still boss dungeons that are closer to what you’d expect from Zelda, but even these tend to be different).
Recent Zelda games also have been criticized for being too easy, or maybe more accurately, more nannyish. In some iterations of Zelda, literally every time you pick an item up a tutorial window pops up to tell you how to use it. This game is quite different: it has very little in the way of tutorialization. Other than a few scattered recipes (found in diaries, or as throw away lines in conversations, or, hilariously, on wall posters) the game leaves it up to you to make the things you find useful. It’s also a game that has some stakes to it. Even twenty hours in, there are still encounters that can cause instant death if you’re not careful. While it’s never going to compete with Dark Souls in demand for precision, you’re not going to have to have a base level of respect for the enemies in this game.
I was actually kind of worried when I heard these things in the pre-release coverage of the game. Because gamers often say they want something, and then get mad when they get it. I figured this was likely to happen with Breath of the Wild, simply because I’ve observed so many current gamers attempt to play the original Zelda and bounce off of them because they’re too hard. Firstly, that’s ludicrous to me, because I played and beat the original Zelda when I was nine years old. If I can handle a game at nine years old, there’s no reason a modern adult can’t handle it now (by the way, this is in no way an attempt to shit on millennials or whatever we’re calling the following generation now. People two or three years older than me have whined about how difficult Zelda is).
I’m happy that I was wrong about people. I’m happy to see people actually embrace the world of this game, and I’m happy that Nintendo trusted them to do it. I’m sure some stupider adults and children will find it too hard at first, but I think if they really want to play this game that they can practice and get good at it, and if they are too lazy to do that, then fuck ’em, I say. Not everything has to be for the lowest common denominator (and it’s not like there isn’t a ton of stuff out there for people looking for that sort of thing).
Just like the original Legend of Zelda game. It dropped you in a world with three hearts and a wooden (or rusty, my friends long debated this) sword, maybe five screens away from enemies who could kill you in one shot if you wandered the wrong way. And it was great. You were left to figure out what to do with this world on your own. The game and its designers respected your intelligence. Breath of the Wild respects its players in the same manner, and feels equally great to play.