Breath of the Wild was my choice for Game of the Year and I am still demanding a recount! This latest iteration of the Legend of Zelda series was not just an outstanding launch title for the Nintendo Switch; it was also a revolution in a genre which had long been stale.
In truth, the Legend of Zelda series had rested on its laurels since the release of A Link To The Past in 1991. Of course, graphics and gimmicks had been updated with each release. However, the core gameplay had remained the same: open-world, dungeon, open-world, dungeon, repeat ad nauseam.
For me, the release of a new Legend of Zelda series had become an exercise in hype and disappointment. In truth, I approached Breath of the Wild with this attitude.
I was so wrong. Breath of the Wild renovates the series but, more importantly, demonstrates what can be achieved with careful and dedicated design. It changed the expectations of gaming.
In a year where games came under more scrutiny than ever (for good and bad reasons), Breath of the Wild passed all inspections with flying colours. It is fun, gorgeous, challenging, avoids micro-transactions, and has been gifted with fantastic DLC. It’s a full package.
Combat in Breath of the Wild is an edge-of-your-seat affair. Any altercation could result in your downfall if you lose patience, are under-prepared, or approach with arrogance. You are never the invincible super-soldier many games seek to make you in the modern era.
Exploration could be a game in itself. I have spent days (actual days) just riding and hiking, desperate to see what is behind that hill or over the horizon. There are so many breathtaking environmental moments it almost becomes an embarrassment of riches.
The Shrines ensure that you are not just wailing on moblins for 100 hours. You are rewarded with incredibly crafted mental exercises as you figure out the solution to the puzzle in front of you. Furthermore, you are rewarded with rare goodies if you take the time to hunt down the treasure chests in each Shrine.
You are rewarded for almost everything you do in Breath of the Wild. Defeating enemies rewards you with weapons and monster parts. Finding shrines rewards you with upgrade points to improve health and stamina. Exploring the map rewards you with story content and smaller side-stories to quest through.
While the story is not the strongest narrative seen this year, it is an intriguing tale with likable characters. Indeed, there are some side-characters who I hope get further versions in future releases (I’m looking at you Kass, my feathery man!).
After all is analysed, Breath of the Wild is a game which will stand in the annals of gaming history. It is a masterpiece of gaming design which proved that the series not only had a future, but could once again be at the forefront of the video games market (and should have won Quillstreak GOTY I tell you!).