Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

Is Link's latest adventure a rousing success or a troubling misstep for the franchise?

Review by Mike Williams, .

In the opening hours of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you'll step into the boots of Link as he begins to understand the new Hyrule he finds himself waking up in. The area you start in is called the Grand Plateau, intended as the training wheels of the game, giving you a chance to get used to Link and his new abilities. You can easily burn away 3 to 4 hours exploring the region.

The Grand Plateau is only around 1 percent of Breath of the Wild's total map. Basically, the size of this paragraph in relation to this review.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that pulls heavily from the series' past, taking on aspects of the original Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, and A Link Between Worlds. At the same time, Breath of the Wild is a truly open-world game and Nintendo looked to other games to understand how to do open worlds right. Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma told GameInformer that he played the Far Cry series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as research for Breath of the Wild. That research shows here, though Breath of the Wild doesn't rely too much on any one game for influences.

Standing on the edge of the Great Plateau's tower. [Given the quality of the Switch native screen capture system, all screenshots are pulled from direct feed footage captured with an Elgato HD60S. This is closest to the visual quality of the game played in TV mode on the Switch.

Veteran Zelda players are used to the strong gameplay loop of previous games: enter a dungeon, gain a new item, use that item to complete the dungeon, and then use it to gain access to the next dungeon. Breath of the Wild throws most of that out. The Grand Plateau is the staging ground where you'll gain most of the abilities that will carry you through the rest of the game.

You'll learn all of your Sheikah Slate runes before you leave the plateau: Remote Bomb, the metal-controlling Magnesis, the time-stopping Stasis, and the freezing might of Cryonis. You'll also get used to climbing and learn to soar with your paraglider. Everything that follows after the Grand Plateau uses those abilities in various combinations.

Breath of the Wild is a free form Zelda, not forcing you to do anything in any particular order. Once you're off the Grand Plateau, you're free to go anywhere you want. There are some vague waypoints that mark out where you should go to progress the game's primary story, but you can ignore that. Breath of the Wild offers new landmarks and vistas, asking you "Where do you want to go today?" The only things that hold you back are limitations in skill, equipment, life, and stamina. (Technically, you can head straight to the final boss if you're skilled enough. I would not recommend it.)

Mapping Hyrule

From other open-world titles, Breath of the Wild draws on what has colloquially become known as 'Ubisoft Towers'. In many games, you scale an object which then clears the fog of war, showing a map full of icons to engage with or collect. Breath of the Wild dispenses with that. You climb the towers in each region - many of which require thought and effort to scale - and once at the top, the tower reveals only the topographical map of that region.

No icons. No waypoints. No widgets to collect. Instead, you have to use the high ground and your Sheikah Slate scope to see what's around you. You can mark certain interesting spots with colored pins, or you can leave a series of various stamps on the map. You're building your knowledge of the landscape, instead of letting it be handed to you. Do those ruins over there look interesting? Drop a pin and get to walking. Even the topographical map provides clues to cool spots in game. Perhaps there's a shape in that mountain range that intrigues you? Stamp it and revisit it later.

I eventually worked out my own system of stamps, marking diamonds for towers and shrines, skulls for tough enemies and world bosses, treasure chests for stuff I wanted to collect, and stars for interesting areas that I wanted to figure out. You'll work out your own system and Breath of the Wild's map will become your map.

Some stuff is easy to see, like other towers and certain shrines, while others are hidden. It's here the Breath of the Wild recalls the original Zelda again. Some shrines are behind walls and in caves, while some require you to solve riddles to unlock them. Remember the cryptic phrases and riddles that would lead you new areas in the Legend of Zelda? Those return here as shrine quests, where an NPC will give you a hint or song and leave it to you to figure out the rest. It's an excellent way to bring back a classic idea.

What's key to the world Nintendo has built is there's always something to find. The game rarely has a peak or valley where there's nothing cool to see. Everything has a strong sense of place and flows from one region to the next. You'll wander from the burning peaks of Eldin, the frozen Hebra Mountains or Gerudo Highlands, the jungles and forests of Faron, or the autumny red and oranges of Akkala. Familiar places from Zelda lore return in new forms, like the Lost Woods, Zora's Domain, Death Mountain, or an island featuring the name Koholit.

There's never a point in Breath of the Wild where I walked somewhere and didn't find something. My adventures led me to a forest shrouded in darkness, a towering ziggurat maze, and a lake shaped like a skull. Sometimes I was rewarded with an amazing view. Others offer a swift death. Once a crested a frozen mountain to see a huge burning dragon floating lazily overhead. Going somewhere in an open-world and finding nothing is a cardinal sin, one that Nintendo is careful not to commit.

You'll get around on foot, on horseback, or via the power of fast travel. Towers and shrines double as fast travel points once found. It encourages players to venture deep into unknown territory in the hopes that you'll find a new shrine. You can teleport at any time, but you don't want to waste the time you took to get to any point.

You'll also climb a great deal. Climbing is one of the bigger things that separates Breath of the Wild from other open-world games. Link can adhere to almost any surface. You'll climb the walls of ruins, homes in the game's villages, and so many mountains and cliffs. Climbing (and paragliding to get down again) allows Breath of the Wild to be more vertical than some other open-world games, in the same way Just Cause 3 had its parachute and wingsuit.

Breath of the Wild works because Nintendo has crafted a host of systems that are interconnected. There's an underlying core of physics and chemistry to the world, and on top of that Nintendo has laid combat, cooking, crafting, and more. Where something comes into play may not be readily apparent to the player, but there is a clear plan at work.

For example, your Sheikah Slate eventually gains a Camera rune with an added selfie feature. In other games - like Wind Waker HD - that would be the extent of it, a cool camera. In Breath of the Wild, taking pictures of items adds them to your Hyrule Compendium. You can select completed entries in the Compendium and your Slate's radar will track them. This is super-useful for acquiring the various ingredients you need to craft food, elixirs, and upgrades to your armor.

Many of the systems are only there if you choose the seek them out. I went through much of the game without activating the Great Fairy, who can upgrade armor, or the Dye shop, which allows you to recolor clothing. On the other hand, I spent a ton of time cooking and making elixirs. This means I not only had to spend time experimenting with recipes, I also had to hunt down and capture a ton of animals and insects. There are other systems like collecting armor sets that I barely touched. As you learn more, it begins to build this lengthy chain of mechanics that ties everything together.

Hyrule Warriors

Combat in and of itself is fine. We're still using the Z-targeting system started back in Ocarina of Time, though it doesn't feel as snappy here. You always have access to melee weapons, shields, bows, and runes abilities. There are some higher-level hooks like Just Dodging and Parrying. Honestly, I feel the combat system isn't entirely up the the task of handling group combat, which happens frequently in the game.

When you include the environment and enemy AI though, interesting things can happen. If you're feeling the heat from too many enemies, light some grass on fire. This creates an updraft which you can use to soar away on your paraglider. One version of the Remote Bomb ability rolls down hills, so you can drop it on the ground and watch it lazily make its way to an enemy before detonating it. You can surf on your shield as a great opener to any combat.

Any weapon can be thrown; so you can take a wooden club, light it on fire, and throw it at an enemy to burn them. Thrown weapons can be parried back on their targets. Objects frozen in time with Stasis can be hit multiple times to build up kinetic energy; once the effect ends, the object will go flying, which is great for certain combos. Hell, an upgraded Stasis allows you to freeze enemies for a brief period of time for the same effect.

These environmental considerations matter for other things as well. In thunderstorms - Breath of the Wild has a dynamic weather system - having metal objects equipped makes you susceptible to lightning strikes. In the heat of Death Mountain, wooden weapons and shields burn in contact with the air. In fact, if you need a quick pick-me-up, you can drop food and watch it cook on the ground. You can climb anything, except when it's raining, because Link's hands slip on rainslick surfaces. That's a boon and a bane; there were a few times I wanted to climb a mountain only to have rainstorm sweep in.

Zelda fans may balk at one big change in Breath of the Wild: weapon durability. Link can pick up a host of weapons from around the world, in treasure chests, and from the enemies themselves. Some of them make sense, like swords, staves, two-handed swords and hammers, and bows, while others are more "whatever's at hand", like mops, shovels, and skeletal Bokoblin arms. But everything will shatter upon successive use. Everything, even the cooler weapons you can find in certain areas.

This means, you'll carry a certain amount of throwaway weapons in addition to your heavy hitters. I found myself saving those for the weak points in boss fights, softening them up with weaker weapons. There's a bit of a tradeoff and strategy, as the breaking hit of a weapon deals critical damage and throwing a weapon shatters it automatically for crit damage. You're always cycling your inventory to take into account damage, durability, and whatever you're fighting against.

Of course, this means that certain encounters may leave you without any weapons. Here and there I found myself deep in an area that didn't offer up any weapons; running into a tough enemy there was a death sentence. Some of the combat shrines definitely depleted my weapon stores. You'll eventually have a solid memory of where to pick up certain weapons for resupply, usually the major towns of Hyrule.

This flows into the second area that I think will be divisive in the community. Breath of the Wild hovers around the same difficulty as most Zelda titles, but there are some real wicked difficulty spikes. Two shrine puzzles require motion controls that will have folks throwing their controller, but that's optional. Occasional organic group combinations of enemies will definitely test you, especially when bigger enemies can simply one-shot you.

Some of the required boss fights will test folks who haven't played Dark Souls and 'got gud'. One boss in particular will probably be a vicious mountaintop for many players. The first time I ran into that boss, the second phase undid me in short order, requiring precise play most Zelda games never touch.

Link Is Literally Tomb Raiding

Another controversial topic will be how Breath of the Wild handles its dungeons. In traditional Zelda games, players expect 6-8 themed dungeons spread throughout the game. Breath of the Wild has four major ones, that take place inside the giant Divine Beasts that you seek to free from Ganon's control. These are pretty amazing in execution, as you have an exciting scene to approach each Shadow of the Colossus-style Beast, before heading inside.

Once inside, it's a traditional dungeon, centered around a few themed mechanics. There's even a cool twist: each Beast can be moved via the map interface and you'll have to do so to get around the dungeon. Both the approach and the ability to move the Beast's layout really sells the scope and scale: you feel like you're riding in a giant stone robot that's also a dungeon. Being able to tilt an entire level is damned cool trick, Nintendo.

The problem is two-fold. One, the Beasts share largely the same art style and the same two types of enemies: Ganon's Malice and robotic Guardians. They're mostly puzzle-centric, not a real mix of puzzle and combat. If you're looking for wildly divergent looks, Nintendo saved all that effort for the world itself, not the dungeons. Two, they're not very long: you can clear most in around 30 minutes tops.

See, what Nintendo did was take some of the puzzles that would be inside a single dungeon and spread them out amongst the Shrines. There are around 100+ out there in the world according to Nintendo's count. Each shrine is usually themed around a single mechanic, with maybe one or two puzzles. You can finish them in around 10 minutes, though there are some that are more robust. Like the dungeons, the Shrines all share the same basic look, probably so it was easier for Nintendo to build a ton of them.

Which is to say, I think you get more dungeon-style gaming in Breath of the Wild than other Zelda games, but it's spread out in an odd manner. This means you won't have dungeons that are as memorable as say Ocarina of Time's Water Temple, Twilight Princess' Snowpeak Ruins, or Majora's Mask Stone Tower Temple. I can't say whether that's better or worse, it's mostly just different. It annoyed me in the beginning after my first dungeon, but I ultimately got used to it and started enjoying it by the later shrines.

Let it be said that there are alternate dungeon-style locations to find. I found three labyrinths, a shadow forest, and a deserted island for folks that spend some time exploring the world with a bit more depth and rigor.

If you're big on the technical aspects of the visual game presentation, I think Breath of the Wild might disappoint. The game has a lot of jaggies and the frame rate can chug here and there: The foot of the Great Deku Tree is 100 percent guaranteed to make the frame rate drop. The game leans heavily on art style over image quality to make everything work. It didn't bother me much - in fact, I'm impressed with what Nintendo was able to pull off here - but if you're looking for something as visually clean as the latest PC, PS4, or Xbox One title, this isn't it.

"Link, did you let Ganon in the castle?"

Before I wrap up the review, I also want to spend some time talking about Breath of the Wild's overall narrative. The basic gist is 100 years ago, Link, Princess Zelda, and cadre of Champions from each race came together to fight Ganon and utterly failed. Link was put into hibernation, which stripped him of his memories.

What you get out of Breath of the Wild's story is what you put into it. The major dungeons each feature one of the Champions who were intended to pilot the Divine Beast. Their bond with Link and Zelda is illustrated in flashback over the quests leading to the dungeon itself and a final cutscene after the dungeon is complete. Beyond that, Link's relationship with Zelda is given a short shift if you don't seek out Link's memories by looking for specific spots in the world.

Your Sheikah Slate is full of pictures from Link's time with Zelda and it's up to you to find the location where the picture was taken to retrieve the memory. If you take the time to do so, you're given glimpses into a Princess Zelda that wants to be a scientist and not a holy figure. She's straining against her desires, feeling that she can do more for Hyrule by studying the Guardians and Divine Beasts rather than praying to the gods. It's an interesting take on the character that I figure most players will miss. That's a shame and I wish more could be done in that respect. (Also, the voice acting that backs up these cutscenes ranges from okay to dire.)

There's a bright and beautiful world of interesting characters to find. The side quests aren't completely up to snuff with the writing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but Aonuma took his notes well. They're mostly fun and memorable diversions in a game that's all diversions.

I could go on and on. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a big game. With over 2,500 words I wasn't able to cover the subtle, but amazing music, the extensive cooking system, or what you can do with all the bits and baubles you pick up off the corpses of enemies. There's just so much to write about and trying to do it all in one place is hard.

I was worried about The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. The previous console Zelda, Skyward Sword, did not resonate with me. I picked up the Special Edition of the game, ready to dive in, but I found a game that mostly bored me. I eventually left the game and never looked back.

I was afraid that Breath of the Wild would be the same. Nintendo has done open-world style games before, but this was the first one of this scale. I wondered if Nintendo could pull off that scale, while still retaining what makes Zelda tick. They did.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing game. As someone who loves open-world games, this is one of the best out there. As someone who enjoys the Zelda series, I honestly think I can say the same thing again. Nintendo has brought together a number of different ideas and mechanics, but integrated them into something that stands on its own. It's the kind of game where I don't want Nintendo to do something completely different for the next Zelda. I want more of this.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Lasting appeal: There's a huge world to explore. You may not want to revisit the game once you're done, but that's going to take quite a while.
  • Sound: The music is soft and subtle, mostly light piano. When it needs to kick things up a notch, the music can get rather epic. Great soundtrack.
  • Visuals: The art direction is on point, even if the technical aspects are lackluster.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild draws from many sources of inspiration, including older Zelda games and titles like Skyrim and The Witcher 3, to create something wholly unique. Nintendo has crafted a wide, beautiful world to explore, underpinned with some interesting emergent mechanics. Breath of the Wild stands as one of the best in the series and a great opener for Nintendo's newest console.

5 /5

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review Mike Williams Is Link's latest adventure a rousing success or a troubling misstep for the franchise? 2017-03-02T11:00:00-05:00 5 5

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Comments 59

  • Avatar for DrCorndog #1 DrCorndog A year ago
    I have yet to see a review that DOESN'T give this game a perfect score. Wow.
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  • Avatar for chilon #2 chilon A year ago
    Too many spoilers in this review, had to stop reading early on. In this respect Eurogamer's review was much better.
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  • Avatar for toppform #3 toppform A year ago
    I'm pretty excited to play it for myself. I was a big fan of Skyward Sword (although it has its fair share of issues) and open world aspects of games tend to bore me after the initial excitement so I'm not sure if this is a Zelda game for me. That's of course fine, gaming doesn't center around me.

    That said I'm curious to see how the Zelda team brings a game of this scale together. My skepticism is offset since I have some faith in that they if any team can pull it off.
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  • Avatar for Pacario #4 Pacario A year ago
    Thanks for the well-reasoned, fair-minded piece. I've already plowed through several other reviews this morning, and most praise the game without focusing much on the elements that might still disappoint or even deter certain types of fans and gamers.

    Like myself. I've had the Wii U version of this preordered for some time, and I can't wait to dive into that world. But, in truth, I've always liked Zelda games because they did streamline things like resource/item management, crafting, repairing, and so on. I can't say I'm real anxious to dive into all that minutiae. But obviously, I will.

    And the narrative, despite the odd way it's told, sounds intriguing. Thanks for the heads up; I will definitely seek those scenes out as I play. If I can find them...
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #5 TheWildCard A year ago
    Nice review Mike. A very good explanation of what the game excels at without completely gushing and glossing over the weaker elements.

    As a guy who hasn't liked many Zelda titles in the last 15 years and doesn't particularly like open world games (there are exceptions I love) I'm not sure this is a game that will resonate with me, but I can appreciate what Nintendo has pulled off here.Edited March 2017 by TheWildCard
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #6 chaoticBeat A year ago
    Whoa, this game pretty much justifies a Switch purchase. I'm happy Nintendo is coming out of the gates swinging.
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  • Avatar for dard410 #7 dard410 A year ago
    @Pacario, That's pretty much my concern too. I have played open-world games like Witcher 3, but more for the story, despite the fact that they're open-world. The other thing that worries me is that I'm more a fan of discrete, memorable experiences in games. For me, a lot of open-world games are too sprawling and just too big to have really memorable moments (Witcher 3 is a bit of an exception because of its writing). As Mike said in the review, dungeons can be really memorable experiences because they're such streamlined and focused experiences. For me, I'll always remember the Sky dungeon in Twilight Princess, especially the epic dragon boss, but I've already forgotten most of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #8 Kuni-Nino A year ago
    It's disappointing to hear that the great level design of the dungeons has been put aside. It's my favorite part of the series.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #9 Thusian A year ago
    I really hope that the HZD defense force does not show up here to harass you guys over this getting a higher score.
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  • Avatar for Lonecow #10 Lonecow A year ago
    Unlocking areas with items you acquire, and clever dungeon designs are the two things I love about Zelda and what defines the series for me. If they are gone and this game still gets a perfect score, I don't know. I just fear this is appealing to a lot of people who don't play Zelda as much as they play Dark Souls. I'm still excited but weary.

    The only thing, in my opinion, the series needed to change was all the hand holding. At least that is gone.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #11 cldmstrsn A year ago
    I didnt read the review cause I dont want anything spoiled but I saw the score and all the other scores on other websites and just god damn I cant wait to get lost in this tomorrow.
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  • Avatar for Whinybabyclub #12 Whinybabyclub A year ago
    @Thusian Well, anyone reading this review, and then going back to read the Horizon review can see a clear difference in that this one is well written, the other not so much. In fact, the Horizon review to me is the only one on this site that I've seen in the past few years that has been terrible both in terms of detail and quality.

    I've played Horizon for 10+ hours and can very easily pick apart half a dozen of Caty's poorly justified negatives. As I've said before, Zelda should've been given to her to review if people, including staff members, truly want to defend her, and her credibility as a reviewer.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #13 yuberus A year ago
    I appreciate how much this sounds like a new take off of the original game. I'm wary of the weapon breaking, but everything else sounds like what I've wanted out of a Zelda game since the 80s.
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  • Avatar for MarioIV #14 MarioIV A year ago
    Simply amazing
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #15 The-Challenger A year ago
    Reads like a standard Zelda review...I jest.

    Every time I look at this game I think of Wind Waker, and wonder what that game would have been like had the over world been ninety percent land instead of water. Now I know.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #16 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    *sniff* BUT IT'S STILL THURSDAY!! Friday, where are you!? I need to be made whole!
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  • Avatar for Whinybabyclub #17 Whinybabyclub A year ago
    @RATTLEDTHEOX Wow look at all the guys really can't handle criticism of any type here can you? Typical close minded, small community thinking. This is one of the few sites I actually enjoyed visiting, but i'm done. There are better sites with better standards. Don't waste your time writing snide comments, i won't be reading or replying. Terrible, just terrible.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #18 SargeSmash A year ago
    I had concerns going in. I have a lot less now. I still don't like the weapon-breaking, but everything else sounds like it's gonna be splendid.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #19 SargeSmash A year ago
    @Whinybabyclub : You may have valid points, but I suspect the downvotes are because you're coming across as petty and rude. I'd wager some more constructive criticism would be received much more positively. (And yes, I have problems with this at times, too. Text isn't always conducive to communicating tone very well.)
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #20 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @Whinybabyclub your name says it all.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #21 Kuni-Nino A year ago
    Lol, the guy got triggered because he was called out for being rude, then leaves, and we're the "sensitive" ones who can't take criticism.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #22 brionfoulke91 A year ago
    @Whinybabyclub It's because you're wrong, the HZD review was well written and the negatives pointed out are justified. It's always refreshing to see a website that doesn't march lockstep with the hype machine, but gives real opinions.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #23 Kat.Bailey A year ago
    If you want to talk about the Horizon Zero Dawn review, there's another comment thread for that. This is the thread for Zelda, which is also a very different game. Thanks!
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #24 mattcom26 A year ago
    @Whinybabyclub I will not be joining your club.
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  • Avatar for BlueSkyClouds #25 BlueSkyClouds A year ago
    WoW!!! Ubisoft towers aren't an issue anymore!? Neither shallow written side-quests that creates a diversion from the main quest!? How about reviewers who "openly" despises open worlds against "As someone who loves open-world games"!? Congrats for being sooo coherent USGamer!!!Edited March 2017 by BlueSkyClouds
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  • Avatar for BigPrimeNumbers #26 BigPrimeNumbers A year ago
    Is there a way to auto-hide the HUD? In a game like this, I definitely appreciate being able to declutter the screen of information I don't immediately need.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #27 touchofkiel A year ago
    Between this, MGSV, and FFXV, I am really glad to see Japanese devs finally putting their own spin on Western-style open-world games, especially in some of the biggest franchises in gaming. Aside from Yakuza, has there really been any Japanese franchise that embraced the open-world?

    I don't have much interest in Zelda games (or, more specifically, the hardware that runs them), but I'm glad to see Nintendo's first open-world style game is a big success.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #28 MHWilliams A year ago
    @BigPrimeNumbers Yes. There is an option to hide the HUD.
    @BlueSkyClouds I'm not the person who reviewed Horizon. Coming under one banner doesn't mean we become an Inside flesh blob with the same thoughts.

    If you want my thoughts on various open-world games, they're out there:

    Folks have different opinions on different games. I understand it's hard, but you'll survive.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2017 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for BlueSkyClouds #29 BlueSkyClouds A year ago
    @MHWilliams Again this "just an opinion" line...

    Well, I have this notion that a review should be MORE than "just an opinion"! Especially a "professional" one, which MUST consider a larger number of factors than a simple "I didn't like it"! Well, I don't like the Uncharted franchise, but I understand the elements that appeal to others than me! Why can't a reviewer do the same!?

    You surely understand what I mean! Your reviews, for instance, achieve just that: they are broader than merely your "opinion". You make a genuine analysis of the games you review! Is it so wrong to require the same "professionalism", the same "impartiality", from the others reviewers!?

    Then again, if it's just an opinion and not a professional analysis, why people should even care to enter game sites and read your reviews!?
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #30 Lord-Bob-Bree A year ago
    Well, this review does make it sound like there's some good stuff in the game, but it hasn't assuaged my worries that the open-world design has overall hurt it.

    EDIT: Although I still want it, so I suppose it didn't come across that badly.Edited March 2017 by Lord-Bob-Bree
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #31 mattcom26 A year ago
    Just wanted to say... As I've seen some of the vitriol from the Horizon review bleed over to this review and to Mike, it ironically reminds me of the reason I've been reading USgamer almost every day for the last 4 years: thoughtful, independent and well-written content that is backed up by possibly the most friendly and positive community I've ever seen on the internet. This is not easy to come by, and will still be here for a mature readership long after the folks stopping by to bomb the site about a single review score have moved on to their next outrage.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #32 chaoticBeat A year ago
    @BlueSkyClouds It sounds frustrating to be the spokesperson for Horizon Zero Dawn. Personally, it sounds like a great game to me and USG's review did not dissuade me from being interested in it. Is that what you are worried about?
    @MHWilliams don't lie about USG being an Inside flesh blob. The fact that you were able to produce it as an example so quickly indicates guilt...Edited March 2017 by chaoticBeat
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  • Avatar for yuberus #33 yuberus A year ago
    @BlueSkyClouds Impartiality and reviewing/critiquing are inherently at odds with each other outside of basics like "this is a game on the Switch" or "this game is in a 3D world." Everything past that is pure subjectivity. If I were for example tasked with reviewing Gran Turismo I'd have to honestly say I hate how it controls, despite the fact it gets high praise from other people. I think what I think.
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  • Avatar for BlueSkyClouds #34 BlueSkyClouds A year ago
    @chaoticBeat@chaoticBeat Yes, I'm VERY worried about YOUR interest in Horizon Zero Dawn (Did I ever mention the name of this game!?)! Only not...
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #35 chaoticBeat A year ago
    @BlueSkyClouds It's touching to me that you care so much but rest assured I remain neutral until I play it myself. ;)
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  • Avatar for BlueSkyClouds #36 BlueSkyClouds A year ago
    @yuberus "Everything past that is pure subjectivity". Of course not! An analysis, which IS a review, is MUCH more than someone personal tastes! Alas, there are numerous ways and techniques to surpass "subjectivity".

    Besides, if you were right, reviewers who openly doesn't enjoy certain kind of games shouldn't be allowed to review them. It would be "tainted" by their "subjectivity". It would be pretty stupid put someone who doesn't like race games to review Forza.

    @chaoticBeat Good, do that!Edited 5 times. Last edited March 2017 by BlueSkyClouds
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #37 MHWilliams A year ago
    @BlueSkyClouds You're getting tripped up in semantics here. The Horizon review is Caty's professional analysis of the game. Given the same game, I would probably have a different review and different score. It happens.

    Find a reviewer whose overall tastes align with yours, and you'll have a stronger picture of the review as a buyer's guide.

    We have had reviews previously from reviewers who either are new to or leaning away from a genre. Part of this is logistics and the other part is being able to see a perspective outside of a veteran fan. We generally try to align reviewer with their tastes, but that tends to produce the 7-10 sales that people say they dislike in the industry.

    A few examples from my backlog:

    Killer is Dead: (I ended up liking my second Suda51 game, Let It Die.)
    Dark Souls: Scholar of the First Sin:
    Tales of Zestiria: 2 times. Last edited March 2017 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #38 MyNameIsMe A year ago
    @MHWilliams Your quote, "I found a game that mostly bored me. I eventually left the game and never looked back" perfectly captures my experience with Skyward Sword and I'm glad this game was a better experience for you. I'm excited to get this in the mail tomorrow for my Wii U. Did you by any chance play any of the final build of the Wii U version?
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #39 MyNameIsMe A year ago
    @MHWilliams I appreciate your well thought out responses to some of these criticisms Mike (even though they're really not your responsibility to answer). Your last comment made me think of something I don't often think about when reading a review on a small gaming site: logistics. This month saw the release of quite a few lengthy RPGs, and logistics can get in the way. I was absolutely certain Kat was going to review Torment, but it ended up being a reviewer that I didn't know.

    I want to ask you a question about reviews. It's something I've always wondered about and the whole "Horizon got 2.5 stars and Zelda got 5 stars" debate has got me thinking about it again. It's just a curiosity of mine that I've never gotten to ask a professional reviewer. I promise I'm not trolling and I won't make this about attacking the Horizon review. I'm wondering if you think a technically sound, well designed, and fundamentally solid game should get a poor review if the reviewer just didn't like it? Like, if you review a game, and I know it's well made and designed; it has good mechanics, but it just doesn't click with you. Do you kill it in your review, or do you have like a "base" score for a well made game that you don't really enjoy?
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  • Avatar for BlueSkyClouds #40 BlueSkyClouds A year ago
    @MHWilliams I still don't agree with you, but you know what, man!? I appreciated the brief debate! And it's a shame you didn't review Horizon, and not because of the score (which could be the same, as far as I know!), but I honest think you would do a more... completed work. Just like the ones you did before, and with Zelda now.

    It's uncomfortable to say but, Miss McCarthy piece regrettably lacks... Well, a lot of things! She barely says something about the gameplay... The gameplay, for God's sake! Nothing about the skills tree, for instance! Almost nothing about the sounds of the game, save a very brief remark about the music, and etc and etc. So you see... It's really not about opinions, but about "lacking"!

    But this is not the place, and this talk leaves a bitter taste in the mouth (although it's true!). So thanks again for the little chat! Like I said before, I may disagree but I totally respect your position!Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2017 by BlueSkyClouds
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #41 MHWilliams A year ago
    @NTWHA I'm always up for explaining some of the thought process and nitty gritty behind our decisions. As an example, I wasn't the one reviewing the Switch and Zelda, but GDC came up and the responsibility fell to me. That's the logistical stuff that can go on behind the scenes.

    As to your question, it's worth taking a look at our review scale:

    5 – Phenomenal. It might have a few flaws, but everything comes together to deliver an incredible, compelling and enjoyable gaming experience that shouldn’t be missed.
    4 – Great. While it might not be best of breed, it’s nevertheless still highly enjoyable and is very much worth playing.
    3 – Average. It might tick all the right boxes and deliver a decent gaming experience – but it’s not something that’ll make a lasting impression.
    2 – Below average. It might look good and be professionally produced, but it has flaws and issues that ruin the fun.
    1 – Poor. For whatever reasons, this game is riddled with problems that completely detract from any enjoyment that could be derived from playing it.

    Our 5, for example, isn't an indication of perfection, because most games will still have some niggling issues. (This is why some people have issues with MetaCritic, but that's a whole other discussion.) So Caty's 2.5 falls in-between "It might look good and be professionally produced, but it has flaws and issues that ruin the fun" and "It might tick all the right boxes and deliver a decent gaming experience – but it’s not something that’ll make a lasting impression". For her, Horizon relies to heavy on open-world tropes and mechanics that lack innovation and fun. You can see a similar struggle in Austin Walker's look at the game over at Waypoint. That feeling rings true for both of them.

    Our enjoyment and engagement with the narrative, aesthetics, and mechanics of game are going into the review and the final score. There's a give-and-take of what aspects end up being important in the final review and that changes from game to game. I wouldn't say Zelda's story is amazing compared to the Witcher 3, but the overall package in the end feels amazing to me. In the best case, we give you enough information that you can say "Oh, the reviewer hates that mechanic, but that wouldn't bother me, so my estimation of the game will be higher" or vice versa. Likewise, there are folks in the comments of this review who can say, "Oh, you liked that, but I probably wouldn't, so this game isn't for me."

    You can only really draw on your own experiences with a game. A well-made game that doesn't resonate with you can end up getting a lower score on our scale depending on the reviewer. If I had FFXV to review, I would not have given it the 4/5 Kat did. I don't think it was a well-designed game and I didn't find it enjoyable. Kat (and Jeremy) did. That's not because I'm not a veteran FF or RPG player, but I didn't enjoy what Square Enix did with what they had. To tackle your original question, that goes in both directions.

    We'll have internal discussions about games, but the assigned reviewer is the assigned reviewer. As a small site, we generally don't have the manpower to always offer dual reviews. Occasionally, this means a game will end up with a reviewer who doesn't like it for whatever reason. Give Assassin's Creed to someone else, and I expect you'd get a different score. You'll occasionally run into janky and rough games that provide an amazing and innovative experience. Some reviewers prize that over technical mastery. Some need 60 fps or a game isn't worth it. I can't say either is truly better or worse.

    I tend to avoid the higher and lower ends of the spectrum if I can; I waffled a long time over giving Zelda a 5/5 because there's something that goes along with that score, regardless of how we define it. Killer Is Dead (2/5) probably got slightly higher than I actually felt about it. When playing something you find you dislike, but forced to continue playing it may actually make you hate it more. Given that, I went back and forth in putting it above a 1/5.

    The base score for a well-made game that we didn't enjoy is in the 2-3 range for USgamer. There are rarely games that cross our desk that are outright broken, because when you're spending millions, you at least get that part right.

    Hopefully, this long ramble covered at least some of what you were asking.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #42 MHWilliams A year ago
    @BlueSkyClouds It's all good, man. Folks are passionate about games, which is why we're all here!
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #43 MyNameIsMe A year ago
    @MHWilliams Holy crap! Thanks! I didn't expect such a detailed response, but that exactly answered my question. I always tell my students to read before asking questions, so I feel a little embarrassed that my answer was right in the review scale in that part, "it might tick all the right boxes...", but thanks for taking the time anyways.

    You actually answered another question that I had about reviewing a game that you end up hating because you're on a schedule. I LOOOOOVE Dragon Quest. I bought a 3DS back in 2012 JUST for Dragon Quest VII. When it finally came out I was surprised at some of the middling scores it got. I then proceeded to play and I started losing interest about 25 hours in. I let it be for a while and tried to come back to it, but I just wasn't interested. In the end, I have a relatively ambivalent view towards the game. I don't love it and I don't hate it. But I found myself wondering that if I HAD to push through another 80 hours of the game in a one week period and rate it, would I have ended up hating the game and have given it a terrible score?

    Anyways, I know there are a lot of "passionate" people commenting in the comment section lately. I've been reading some of your responses to your readers that are staunch Horizon defenders... I just wanted to say thanks for trying to see the difference between passionate and irrational and making the effort to engage with your passionate readers. I really respect the USGamer staff, both as writers and as professionals, so I kind of expect a higher standard from you guys when it comes to your writing and the treatment of your readers. It's comforting to see that, no matter if you disagree with someone's opinion, think they're being silly, petty or just plain old confrontational, you still treat them with respect and validate their concerns. THANK YOU!Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2017 by MyNameIsMe
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  • Avatar for Jericho-GM #44 Jericho-GM A year ago
    @MHWilliams I've got to say, Mike, I really appreciate the way you handle yourself on these comment threads. Instead of dismissing a poster for bringing up a different game, you politely replied and had an interesting discussion and he ended up thanking you for it!

    You're a true class act, and this has really renewed my faith on the site. Keep rocking, man.

    PS Great review. Covered the most important aspects of a game extensively. No one buys Zelda for the cooking, right? jk
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  • Avatar for Megamoppy #45 Megamoppy A year ago
    I'm playing on wii u an was just wondering if anyone has right stick down go into scope? It's really frustrating as whenever I move camera to get a better view I go into scope
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  • Avatar for docexe #46 docexe A year ago
    After reading multiple reviews, including this one, I’m a bit surprised by the level of acclaim the game is receiving. Not because I expected it to be a bad game, but the level of praise seems exaggerated (“Best game of all time”? Really? Are we seriously going there again? ¬_¬).

    Now, on one hand, it seems that Nintendo has crafted something really special with the open world of Breath of the Wild and I can hardly wait to lose myself on this version of Hyrule. On the other hand, once the dust settles, I can’t help it but think this will be one of the most polarizing Zelda games ever released, specially among the most hardcore of the Zelda fanbase. For that matter, just going by some of the points made in this review: the lack of traditional dungeons, the destructible equipment and the fragmented way the game handles the story, all sound like lightning rods of controversy to me.

    In any case, I have my preorder for the Wii U version ready, and it’s only a matter of hours before I can savor it.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #47 jeffcorry A year ago
    I'd like to get a Switch eventually, but I wasn't going to wait to play Zelda. It's too awesome. I have noticed some frame rate drops, but honestly, they haven't ruined the game for me. I like a nice frame rate, but the experience overall is important.
    And so far my Zelda Breath of the Wild experience is phenomenal.
    Phenomenal. Such a beautifully realized game and world.
    To forgo this game because of some graphical hiccups, which are inconsequential at best, is denying yourself an amazing experience.
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #48 MyNameIsMe A year ago
    @MHWilliams Hey Mike, I've been scouring the internet for some information on the Wii U vs Switch comparison. In particular, the Wii U gamepad vs Switch in portable mode. I've currently put 3 or 4 hours into the Wii U version. I'm playing in bed on the gamepad. I'm finding I'm getting a bit of eye strain. The same thing happened to me playing Xenoblade and Monster Hunter on the 3DS. I'm pretty sure it's because of the somewhat fuzzy low-res textures. I was wondering if you have any input on the Wii U vs Switch graphics performance, but more specifically I'd like to know if you have been able to compare the Wii U gamepad to the Switch portable mode. There's a Target nearby that has a Switch, and I was thinking of picking it up this morning. Thanks.
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #49 MyNameIsMe A year ago
    @Megamoppy I don't have that problem. I know there was an update that downloaded when I installed, so make sure you've done that. It could be there's a problem with your gamepad registering right down as right click.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #50 MHWilliams A year ago
    @NTWHA The PPI (pixels per inch) on the Switch screen should straight up lead to a much clearer image. The only Wii U vs. Switch comparisons have involved direct system output.
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  • Avatar for descent303 #51 descent303 A year ago
    @MHWilliams Really enjoyed your review and your replies in the comments section, particularly this:

    In the best case, we give you enough information that you can say "Oh, the reviewer hates that mechanic, but that wouldn't bother me, so my estimation of the game will be higher"

    This is exactly how I've always viewed this, and it does my head in that people get so aggressive about it.

    The HZD review on this site addressed some issues that are a real concern for me, and most of the very positive reviews praised things I don't care about very much. On the other hand, the negative impression of wildlands I read over at Rock Paper Shotgun made me shrug my shoulders and say "meh, I don't care about that.".
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #52 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @NTWHA The gamepad renders at 540p so ya its really hard to see certain details for sure. I tried playing in bed the other night and I couldnt even do a puzzle shrine cause I couldnt see what I was aiming for. Still love it though!
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #53 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @docexe but it really is such a fantastic minimalist amazing experience! I am excited to hear what you think once you have put a good chunk into it.
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  • Avatar for docexe #54 docexe A year ago
    @cldmstrsn Oh! I’m definitely loving it so far! Due to unforeseen work related circumstances, my brother and me couldn’t continue our classic tradition of playing the first play-through in tandem, but we did manage to play the first four hours or so of the game together. Then I played another 8 or so hours by myself. It’s probably premature to judge given how early in the storyline I am, but it seems indeed that Nintendo crafted something really special.

    That being said, I think the kind of hyperbolic statements I have seen in other reviews (“Best game of all time!”, “Best Open World game!” …Heck! Even “Best Zelda game” for that matter) inevitably lead to overinflated expectations and subsequent backlash. It’s the classic “Zelda cycle” I mentioned in another article: Every non-handheld Zelda game since Majora’s Mask has been greatly anticipated and critically acclaimed at launch, only to receive backlash from different sectors of the Zelda fanbase due to not conforming to certain expectations. I’m not convinced yet that won’t happen to Breath of the Wild as well.
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  • Avatar for richei-tesdey #55 richei-tesdey A year ago
    I've already plowed through several other reviews, and most praise the game without focusing much on the elements that might still disappoint or even deter certain types of fans and gamers. Like myself. I've had the Nintendo Wii U version of this preordered for some time, and I can't wait to dive into that world. But, in truth, I've always liked Zelda games because they did streamline things like resource/item management, crafting, repairing, and so on. I can't say I'm real anxious to dive into all that minutiae. But obviously, I will buy.Edited July 2017 by richei-tesdey
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  • Avatar for JinjoHayabusa #56 JinjoHayabusa A year ago
    I'm around 40 hours in, I've done one Divine Beast and still have 3 or 4 towers to unlock. My attitude toward this game has fluctuated a bunch since starting. I've gone from this game is great, to this game is awesome, to this game is disappointing and frustrating in a few ways, to I can understand where Jim Sterling is coming from, to OK I get it this game is incredible, to Is this the best game I've ever played? That's where I am now, don't know where I'll be after I finish off Ganon.
    Far and away the best, most expertly designed open world I've ever experienced in a game. I love getting lost. If it looks like there should be something interesting over there, there usually is. Plus it has that Nintendo magic. I held that against it for a little bit, but now I just enjoy it. This game's positives are so positive that I can forgive the negatives in a heartbeat. The negatives being weapon durability (which is also a positive), the controls (which I've gotten used to), inventory management, boring 'tests of strength', etc. Framerate is a bummer at certain points, but it doesn't take me out of it.
    Loving this game.
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  • Avatar for dared #57 dared A year ago
    excellent review, describes perfectly the game in every aspect
    como conquistar uma amiga agora
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  • Avatar for astronela #58 astronela A year ago
    @dared I appreciate how much this sounds like a new take off of the original game. I'm wary of the weapon breaking, but everything else sounds like what I've wanted out of a Zelda game since the 80s. A very good explanation of what the game excels at without completely gushing and glossing over the weaker elements. Regards, James from astropedia
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  • Avatar for Trevor1 #59 Trevor1 5 months ago
    I am looking forward to playing this game, especially since I've been out of gaming for so many years now. Some of my greatest memories of gaming have come from Ocarina Of Time. To this day, I remember when you first place the treasures you get out of the first three temples and place them on the altar of the Temple of Time. The music. The imagery. The entire scene as the doors open so slowly with the sound of stone dragging was simply amazing at the time. I tell my son, who is now in his 20's, that when I'm on my deathbed reliving some of the best memories of my life, I really do believe playing that game will be one of them. Growing up and running my window cleaning business has left me with very little time. I have more time these days and have decided to get a Nintendo Switch to play this new game.
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