I just don’t get Breath of the Wild. After two failed attempts to immerse myself in what’s considered one of the greatest games of all time, I’m clearly missing something. With Breath of the Wild 2 hype mounting ahead of its release in 2022, I feel like I’m at school again, listening to my peers relaying catchphrases from a TV show that I haven’t watched yet - “I’ll watch it next week,” I say, before being immensely disappointed upon viewing that it's not all it was cracked up to be (to me anyway).
I’ve felt that way as my peers praise Breath of the Wild. “It’s not like a Zelda game,” they say, “people love it because it’s not just for Zelda fans”. I just can’t help but disagree. On the two occasions I’ve played the opening hours of Breath of the Wild, I’ve had the same recurring thoughts: “who is this wee beardy man”, “where the hell am I meant to go” and “how do I cook?” After a few hours of confused wandering, I’ve lost interest and put it down - never returning to the wonders that Hyrule supposedly holds.
The frustrating thing is that I do want to be on the Breath of the Wild 2 hype train, I want to get it, but there’s a myriad of reasons why I haven’t yet.
Stumbling around Hyrule
Let’s get something out of the way first and foremost: I’ve never played a Zelda game in its entirety. I know, I know, I should be taken to the gallows immediately. The most Zelda experience I have was playing half of Twilight Princess on the Wii because, at 13 years old, the idea of drawing a bow and arrow with the Wii Nunchuk controller was extremely appealing. But there’s a good reason for that, as a kid, I never had any Nintendo gaming systems and by the time I was old enough to buy my own, I felt like that boat had well and truly sailed. I don’t have the same nostalgic feeling about Nintendo as many of my peers and colleagues do, I never experienced it in the golden years.
But, with Breath of the Wild, I hoped my time had finally come. Everyone mused about how it was unlike any of the previous entries in the series, that if I never clicked with them that I would probably click with this one (especially given my love of open-world RPGs).
Unfortunately, they were wrong. Hyrule begs to be explored, with its cel-shaded art style adding an almost dream-like effect to the world that only makes it more fantastical. On paper, it’s exactly the kind of RPG I would find myself drawn to.
Instead, after having a meeting with the old bearded king man (who talks about a lot of stuff I don’t understand - for non-Zelda fans my butt), you’re kind of just left to your own devices. There are missions, sure, but there’s no waypoint system. I spent, I joke you not, three hours trying to find how to get to the mission, freezing to death several times on a mountain route I apparently shouldn’t have been taking yet, and stumbling into puzzles that I hadn’t the abilities for. I knew I could cook, people had spoken about it, but I had no idea how to do it. It’s almost like Breath of the Wild has all the right ingredients, but there’s no recipe. Unless you have the skill to work it out yourself, you’re going to end up with a culinary disaster instead of a masterpiece. I’m the disaster.
For some people, that’s the perfect scenario. Exploring and navigating, finding your way through trial and error, but for me, it’s a nightmare. I’m not asking for a big red sign saying “go here”, but a little bit of extra hand-holding at the start would make a huge difference to new Zelda players like me. It also would perhaps make a difference if I had side quests to undertake at the beginning, some small missions to get me used to the world and its mechanics, but the world feels so sparse when you’re off the beaten track. It’s a waste given how large the Hyrule is and I can’t help but think that Nintendo could have created a smaller, but deeper, world filled with hidden caves and areas.
Then there’s the issue of combat, weapon degeneration is a pain and the little goblin things are just annoying and uninspired. I don’t want to keep picking up and dropping weapons constantly. Instead, do away with the weapon durability feature and give me a smaller selection of weapons with the ability to upgrade them. If you’re going to make an RPG, lean fully into that.
I’m sure you get used to these mechanics, and are presented with a wider range of enemies, as you go along, but by the time I had visited repetitive Shrine puzzles, roamed around aimlessly for hours and fought off gremlin creatures for chests with rubbish stuff inside for a second time, I was out. And I’ve stayed out since.
I don’t think Breath of the Wild is a bad game by any means, it’s just not for me. I personally need a game to give me a degree of clear guidance, especially at the beginning. It’s why I’ve struggled with other critically acclaimed titles like Outer Wilds and Subnautica, which just drop you in a world and leave you to explore it at your leisure.
But sometimes that happens with games, what you love someone else might hate. If we were all the same, things would be boring, right? But, I am willing to try once more - if only to stop everyone I tell from being horrified at my opinion. Maybe it’ll be third-time lucky? Maybe it won’t.
Even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that Breath of the Wild 2 won’t be more my cup of tea. Sure, I’ll need to catch up on the lore, but if Nintendo can offer a more guided experience and iron out the issues that have curbed my interest, then maybe a non-believer like me can finally become a Zelda fan. Just don’t hold your breath.
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Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.