Breath of the Wild keeps playing on my mind…

Happy Birthday Nintendo Switch! The Nintendo Switch is 2 years old and who could think about that 2017 launch without thinking of the game that became synonymous the hybrid, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I was an early adopter of the Nintendo Switch. In fact, it is the first console I ever got in the launch week and it was the first time I had experienced launch title drought. However, everyone was raving about Breath of the Wild and it was the only big title in town. So, unable to find a physical copy to go with my Switch, I went digital and downloaded that bad boy and it’s whopping 13gb file size.

To be clear, from the get go, I loved the Switch. What a neat device, so innovative, so great, I just wished it had more games for it. Games, that is, that weren’t Breath of the Wild. Being totally honest, I struggled. I really struggled. Now I hadn’t played a Zelda game end to end since the SNES and GB days, bar some sessions on N64 at a mates house. I was, however, used to huge open world games. Open world games are pretty simple. Get out of the first few hours of training, get your list of clear objectives, have clear side objectives, check your map, follow the waypoints, do the tasks if you choose and follow the story to the end. As you play, your weapons get better, you’ll probably level up, you will no doubt clear areas of baddies or whatever or at least learn the safe routes. The percentage complete indicator goes up, you finish the story when you fancy it and boom – job done.

Not so Breath of the Wild. You have a tutorial level that gives you your basics and teaches you a little about mechanics but other than that… you just have to wander. You are given a vague objective of looking for a mountain. The story is minimal – in fact, you have to hunt and explore to get any story. There is no direction. Your weapons break, combat is fairly hard, Link dies at every available moment and enemies not only kick your backside but re-spawn constantly. You have to actually look for content.

I didn’t get it. Like, I really didn’t get it. I got a bit bored. I wandered and accepted any side mission or anything I could find to work out what I was doing. I went to the first village, found some shrines. The people annoyed me with their talk and nothing seemed like it had a point. I spent almost all my time finding enemies and then running away. I might have given up on it… but, it was a brand new console and the next big first party release was still another month or so away. So I persevered. If I hadn’t, my wife would have demanded I refund and spend the money on the kids or food or something…

I put 10 hours into it. Still didn’t get it. I put 20 hours into it. I got a bit more into the flow but still wasn’t sure. I was seeing on forums people saying it was the best game ever made and I was perplexed. I became one of those backlash people. Sure, it’s good, I’d say, but like, it isn’t the masterpiece everyone keeps making it out to be. Jim Sterling had it right.

Something happened though.I kept playing. 30 hours, 40 hours, 50 hours. Eventually after over 120 hours, I bit the bullet and went for the end boss. I had visited all the shrines and countless side missions. How had I managed this? This was the most I had ever played of one game and it took me several months but, there you go. What had I got to show for it? The Master Sword and the original green costume. Somewhere, somehow, it got its hooks into me. It might have been the elephant divine beast or the Goron City. I just got the mood for adventuring that little bit more, seeing what was over the hill, seeing how it would feel to jump off this mountain and glide or climb down that cliff to see what was at the bottom of a ravine. I took to avoiding conflict and being stealthy, spotting enemies from far away or lobbing bombs at them. I got Link looking just how I had liked, hooded with some minor armour. I favoured bows and long sticks. I had my play style and stuck to it.

So it is now a year and a half ago that I stopped playing. Wow I thought, that was a different experience, glad I tried it but won’t return. Except, I keep wanting to. In fact, with all the 2 year anniversary stuff, I have bought the DLC and am thinking of booting it up again. I have this odd nostalgia for Hyrule and the world that I haven’t had before. I loved the worlds of Horizon Zero Dawn and Skyrim but I actually feel I miss Hyrule. I don’t even want to start the game again – I just want to continue exploring. I have started listening to the minimal soundtrack to relax, and each piano note reminds me of an area or a vista in the game. I have a stack of new games to play but I just want to practice surfing on my shield. I never did get all the ancient armour or killed that many guardians. I am even trying to persuade my wife to allow a big in game vista painting on the office wall.

I can’t explain it – I certainly don’t think the game is without its flaws, yet I do feel that I have never played anything quite like it. I’m even tempted to buy a physical copy to have on the shelf. What does that tell you?

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