The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is a landmark achievement in game design

“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (BotW), released by Nintendo in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U, represents a bold reinvention of one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. By breaking away from many of the series’ traditional conventions, BotW offers an experience that is as fresh as it is ambitious. This review will delve into the game’s story and gameplay mechanics, highlighting how these elements contribute to its status as a modern classic.

Story and Setting

At the heart of BotW’s narrative is a tale of heroism, resilience, and the timeless battle between good and evil. The game begins with Link awakening from a century-long slumber in the Shrine of Resurrection. He emerges to find the kingdom of Hyrule in ruins, ravaged by the catastrophic events of Calamity Ganon’s resurgence. Guided by the disembodied voice of Princess Zelda, Link must embark on a quest to defeat Ganon and restore peace to Hyrule.

The game’s story is compelling, albeit less direct than in previous entries. Rather than unfolding through linear cutscenes and dialogues, BotW adopts a more fragmented approach. The main plot points are conveyed through a combination of environmental storytelling, character interactions, and “memories” that Link can recover by visiting specific locations across Hyrule. These memories offer glimpses into the past, revealing the events leading up to Ganon’s return and the efforts of Zelda and the four Champions to prevent the calamity.

This non-linear storytelling method encourages players to piece together the narrative at their own pace. It grants a sense of agency, making the discovery of each memory feel rewarding. The story’s emotional depth is subtly woven into the gameplay, as players witness Zelda’s struggles and growth through these fragmented recollections.

Gameplay Mechanics

BotW’s gameplay is where it truly shines, setting a new benchmark for open-world game design. The game’s mechanics are built around three core principles: exploration, experimentation, and survival.


Hyrule in BotW is a vast, beautifully crafted world that invites players to explore every nook and cranny. From the moment Link steps out of the Shrine of Resurrection, the game offers unprecedented freedom. The world is not only expansive but also richly detailed, with each region presenting its unique flora, fauna, and environmental challenges.

The map is dotted with landmarks, shrines, and secrets waiting to be discovered. Unlike many open-world games that rely on a plethora of markers and waypoints, BotW encourages natural exploration. Players use their senses and the environment to navigate, with the Sheikah Slate’s map serving more as a reference than a directive. This design choice enhances the sense of adventure, making each discovery feel organic.

The climbing mechanic is a game-changer, allowing Link to scale almost any surface. Combined with the paraglider, this feature opens up vertical exploration, giving players a bird’s-eye view of the world and the ability to traverse great distances effortlessly. The stamina system, which governs climbing and sprinting, adds a layer of strategy to exploration, requiring players to manage their resources carefully.


One of BotW’s most lauded features is its physics engine and chemistry system, which together create a playground for experimentation. The game world reacts logically to the player’s actions, encouraging creative problem-solving.

For example, metal objects conduct electricity, which can be used to solve puzzles or defeat enemies. Fire spreads, wind affects arrows and paragliding, and bombs can be used to manipulate the environment. These interactions are not just superficial; they are integral to both exploration and combat.

Shrines are scattered across Hyrule, serving as the game’s primary puzzle and challenge arenas. Each shrine presents a unique set of problems, often requiring lateral thinking and experimentation. These mini-dungeons are ingeniously designed, providing a consistent stream of rewarding and engaging content. The Spirit Orbs earned from shrines can be traded for heart containers or stamina vessels, allowing players to tailor Link’s abilities to their playstyle.

Combat in BotW is dynamic and varied, largely due to the degradation system. Weapons, shields, and bows all have limited durability, forcing players to continually adapt and make strategic decisions about their arsenal. While some players find the constant weapon breaking frustrating, it adds a layer of realism and resource management that enhances the survival aspect of the game.


Survival elements in BotW are subtle yet impactful. The game requires players to manage Link’s health, stamina, and inventory in a way that feels natural and immersive. Cooking is a crucial mechanic, allowing players to combine ingredients to create meals and elixirs that restore health, grant temporary buffs, and provide resistances to environmental hazards.

The environmental hazards themselves are varied and significant. Harsh weather conditions such as extreme cold or heat require specific clothing or consumables to mitigate their effects. Rain can make surfaces slippery, affecting climbing, while thunderstorms pose dangers to those carrying metal equipment. These elements force players to prepare adequately and adapt their strategies based on the current conditions.

The world of Hyrule is populated with a diverse array of wildlife and enemies. Animals can be hunted for food, while enemies drop materials that can be used in crafting and upgrades. The game’s enemy AI is sophisticated, with different species exhibiting distinct behaviors and attack patterns. This variety keeps combat encounters fresh and challenging.

Graphics and Sound

While this review focuses primarily on gameplay mechanics and story, it’s worth noting that BotW’s graphics and sound design significantly contribute to the overall experience. The art style is a blend of cel-shading and realistic textures, creating a vibrant and inviting world. The dynamic weather system and day-night cycle enhance immersion, affecting gameplay and the visual atmosphere.

The sound design is equally remarkable. The soundtrack, composed by Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai, is a departure from the series’ traditional orchestral scores. It features minimalist piano melodies that perfectly complement the game’s serene and exploratory nature. The ambient sounds of wildlife, rustling leaves, and distant storms further immerse players in the world of Hyrule.

Impact and Legacy

BotW has left an indelible mark on the gaming industry. Its innovative approach to open-world design has influenced numerous titles across various genres. The emphasis on player freedom, environmental interaction, and non-linear storytelling sets a new standard for what open-world games can achieve.

The game’s success is reflected in its commercial performance and critical acclaim. With over 29 million copies sold by 2023, it stands as one of the best-selling games for the Nintendo Switch. It has received numerous awards, including several Game of the Year accolades, cementing its status as a modern classic.


Despite its many strengths, BotW is not without its criticisms. The weapon durability system, while adding a layer of realism and strategy, can be frustrating for some players who find the constant need to replace weapons tedious. Additionally, the lack of traditional, large-scale dungeons, a hallmark of previous Zelda games, has been a point of contention for some longtime fans.

The story, though emotionally resonant, is more fragmented compared to previous entries in the series. Some players may find the non-linear narrative less engaging or coherent, as significant plot points can be easily missed if specific memories are not found.


“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is a landmark achievement in game design. Its blend of open-world exploration, innovative mechanics, and rich, atmospheric storytelling creates an experience that is both vast and deeply personal. The game invites players to lose themselves in the world of Hyrule, offering a sense of adventure and discovery that few games can match.

For both veterans of the Zelda series and newcomers, BotW provides an unforgettable journey. It redefines what an open-world game can be, encouraging creativity, experimentation, and exploration. Despite some minor flaws, its impact on the gaming landscape is undeniable, and it stands as a high point in the Zelda series and gaming history as a whole.

In summary, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is more than just a game; it is an experience that challenges, delights, and inspires. It sets a new standard for open-world adventures and leaves a lasting legacy that will influence game design for years to come. Whether you’re navigating the towering peaks of Hebra, delving into ancient shrines, or simply wandering the lush fields of Hyrule, BotW offers a world that is as enchanting as it is expansive, making it a must-play for any gaming enthusiast.