We're just one week away from the release of Nintendo's #Switch console and what could arguably be the even bigger selling point: Breath of the Wild. As a result, pre-release previews have begun to surface and oh. my. god. I am hyped for this game. But don't just take my word for it — take the words of literally everyone who's had a chance to play the game.
Below, we've gathered up the meat and potatoes of those words to show just how impressive the game is shaping up to be. Keep in mind, official reviews and spoilers are still under embargo until March 2nd, but even the following preview impressions are enough to have me salivating. March 3rd cannot come soon enough.
The Game Is Very Hard — But Not In A Bad Way
A recurring theme in several of the previews seems to be the fact that you will likely die. A lot. It's telling that more than one outlet mentioned Dark Souls as a kind-of comparison — though, they always made a point that it wasn't on the same level of unforgiving.
"It’s not quite at Dark Souls levels, but Breath Of The Wild is a game that will test even the most experienced gamer."
"Comparisons to games like Dark Souls are probably inevitable, but they’re not exactly fair. You don’t lose anything when you die, other than the time lost getting back to where you were."
"However, you don’t even lose any equipment or other collected items when you die—you just return to the exact state you were in at the point where the autosave was created… so the punishment, while inconvenient, is rarely infuriating (although Breath of the Wild is hard, Dark Souls this is not)."
Of course, the game is much more forgiving when it comes to deaths. As mentioned above, you don't lose items and you return to the game's most recent autosave — which, in most cases, isn't very far back. Mostly, the unforgiving nature of the game and its enemies is more to teach players how to take on this version of Hyrule.
"A sword shattering mid-combat is a terrifying moment, leaving you to swap to a possibly inferior one you're already carrying or battle on with whatever you can find. It forces you to be more tactical, stealthily approaching Bokoblin camps to take out foes slowly, rather than wage in with a swing of your sword."
Learn by doing becomes learn by dying, but this actually makes the game feel like you're constantly learning new things and rarely repeating the same beats. If one approach to a pack of enemies doesn't work, try another. But that second one might not work on a different pack! Or it might, but it may not be the most efficient. The harshness seems to enhance the experience, not hinder it.
It Doesn't Waste Time With Tutorials
Another point several have praised is the fact that the game doesn't hold your hand like previous Zelda titles have (cough Skyward Sword cough). Essentially, Link wakes up, he talks to an old man who suggests he go to a tower, and the rest is up to you — you don't have to even go to the tower if you don't want to.
There's nothing about the beginning of the game that feels you're waiting to get past formalities before things really start. It's very much in line with Nintendo's goal of taking the game back to feeling like the original Legend of Zelda.
"Rather than wade through prolonged tutorials like you did at the start of Wii's Skyward Sword, you pick up new tricks and take to heart new lessons by way of action and exploration."
"The first hours of Breath Of The Wild feel like a direct rebuke of one of the biggest issues plaguing many of the latest Zelda games: their interminable, brain-dead openings."
I could keep quoting, but I think you get the point. Nintendo has made a smart change here, and that only adds to the games mystery, complexity, and challenge.
An Open World Crafted With Care
If you happen to jump into the game and feel like all the open-world randomness doesn't feel quite "Zelda" enough, don't worry. While your first instinct might tell you this is a standard open-world RPG with a Legend of Zelda skin, that's anything but the case. Like previous Zelda games (and, in fact, most Nintendo IPs), the game is crafted carefully and precisely.
"My doubt faded. My sense that this world was as random as it initially appeared melted. There was a designer’s hand all over this place, just more subtly."
"...it’s the little details that really stick in our minds. For example, when it starts raining it becomes much more difficult to climb because it’s slippery, while campfires go out because of the rainfall. You can judge which way the wind is blowing from the grass, and if you have an Octo Balloon (from killing an Octorock) you can tie a bomb to it and have it float towards higher up enemies – and use a Korok Leaf to waft it on its way."
In other words, it still has all the polish and intention of any other Zelda title. And considering the move to an open-world approach, I find that incredible. Sure, it's not 100% open-world, as climbing certain towers or accessing certain areas requires Stamina or resistant armor you don't have yet, but that just adds to the hand-crafted feel of the world.
So Much To Explore And Discover, With Different Experiences For Everyone
In cases where multiple staff members received a copy of the game, it seemed pretty common that each of them had unique experiences in their time with the game.
"Breath of the Wild is, five hours in, an enthralling and surprising experience, and the stories being shared among those playing it at GameSpot are all vastly different. Even though we are all playing the same game, we are envious of each other's unique experiences."
In the Kotaku review, it was mentioned that, "To get to the fourth [Shrine], I needed Link to trek through a snowy area that made him shiver and shed heart-metered health." The writer here first tried climbing a cliff and wound up freezing to death at the top. His colleague, however, decided to go from fire to fire in order to stay warm. Yet another colleague found the right food to cook to protect you from the harsh environment.
After learning of these other approaches, the reviewer took a step back and realized approaching from another angle revealed a better, clearly (yet subtly) designed way to get to where he needed to go. Not all outlets had multiple people playing, but suffice it to say, this will be a game no one will have the exact same experience playing.
Overall, Possibly The Best Zelda Games Ever (Yes, Ever)
I'm just going to let these ones speak for themselves. Across the board, Breath of the Wild is being heralded as one of, if not the, best Zelda games ever.
"From the opening moments, it took my breath away, and brought a lump in my throat that I wasn’t expecting. It’s beautiful, like some sort of painting come to life, full of personality and wonder, and it just left me breathless, ready to start my adventure.
This is a magical game, and gives me a feeling I don’t get too often these days. In many ways, it’s familiar, but Breath of the Wild also feels exciting, enticing, and rewarding."
"It may be a very different Zelda, but it's shaping up to be one of the best ever."
"Breath of the Wild embodies the freedom and danger that made the first Zelda game so enthralling, and captures the feeling of awe that came when Ocarina of Time hit the scene, in this case by layering unspoken variables into seemingly every facet of the game. Based on our early impressions, it's safe to say that Breath of the Wild will forever change what people expect from the series."
"...it’s just Link and Hyrule, a land that hasn’t felt this alive and dangerous in more than 30 years."
"This is a game we could write and talk about almost endlessly, as in its early stages it has truly drawn us in - Breath of the Wild blends true open-world mechanics with the touches and fairy dust that makes Legend of Zelda games so special. It's an intoxicating combination, and the exciting thing is that this has just been an early taste; we can't wait to experience all of what it has to offer.
The adventure is only just beginning."
Truly, this is just the beginning. There are more reviews out there that have seemingly endless praise for the game, even after having only played for a few hours. If Nintendo somehow drops the ball in those remaining hours, we'll know next week, but right now? This could be the new Ocarina of Time for Zelda games.
So Is Anyone Saying Anything Bad About It?
It's hard to say if this first one is on the game or the system (and it may well be patched), but more than one previewer noted that the framerate actually drops more when the Switch is docked. Handheld, it maintains a solid 30 FPS, but if you want to play on your big-screen TV, you'll likely see more instances of dropped frames.
The other two negatives that have appeared in more than one place aren't actually on the game, but rather the Switch itself. Several previewers have reportedly had the Left Joy-Con drop out of sync, which has resulted in death and frustration. Meanwhile, the Switch's screenshot system is reportedly not that great either, saving files in JPG form and underscoring how beautiful the game actually looks.
Again, all of the above may be fixed with a patch (day 1 or otherwise), and they're less on the game than they are on the Switch.
Hell, even John Cena is excited about it.
Do you think Breath of the Wild will be worth buying a Switch over?