Spoiler Level — Mild to Medium, only for the first parts of the game.
A few nice comments before I rant
First, the few things I liked about the game in the time I played it
- Climbing is mostly fun. Sounds odd, but it’s true
- Gliding is also fun
- Blowing stuff up with the bomb tool is fun
- Moving metal stuff with the magnet tool is mostly fun, if a bit temperamental
- Although not as pretty as a PS4 game, the graphics are mostly pleasing
But the crippling flaw of the game is that, to be different or hard-core or something, the game is stupidly stingy, in a profoundly un-fun, infuriating way. The various bad decisions made around gameplay mechanics all work together to drown out any pleasure in exploring or playing you might have.
I’ll start with the single dumbest decision in the game, the absurdly short weapon durability.
Crumbly Weapons are Crumbly
- Weapons break after something like 20 hits, even the metal ones, even things like bows that make no sense. A wood pickax in Minecraft banging on stone has like 4 times the durability of a steel sword in Zelda. Yes, the crumbly weapons are going to be a theme. I swear some kid has made a sand castle with higher durability than a Zelda tree branch
- When a weapon does break, you are not auto-switched to the next one, you have to stop in the middle of a fight and pick one. Or fight with your bare hands, that doesn’t work so well.
- The inventory system starts you out with a set number of sticks, swords, so when your gear breaks constantly, you will run out of good swords that you had to pass up and end up trying to beat a strong enemies with a stick. Or you may end up hoarding good weapons and making fights take longer than they should. Or you will have to backtrack to where you thought there was a good weapon you could not pick up and you will get lost. Speaking of getting lost….
Other Game Play Stinginess
- Exploring does not fill in the map, you have to climb towers, guarded by powerful enemies called guardians. The starting tower is handed to you, but you have to get the others. So you’re lost all the time.
- The only quick travel is to shrines, villages don’t have quick travel. Sometime the shrines are close to a village sometimes not
- What you can buy in villages is expensive, and the drops don’t make up for it, I ended up selling food and rare ingredients to have cash to sleep in an inn (which does restore your health)
- Resting at a fire is free, but resting at a fire does not restore your health. Also fires (campfires) are not that common
- You might want to rest anyway, because at night random skeletons pop up and make you break your weapons.
- You have to solve 4 shrines (mini puzzle dungeons that reward an orb or a skill, or both) for one extra heart (health)
- Speaking of hearts, you start out with a stingy 3
- The skeletons and other random baddies are super easy, and the guardians nearly one shot you, there are no medium-easy bad guys, at least in the start of the game. If it weren’t for the stupid “tower” to show the map decision, the guardians being so overpowered relative to your tiny 3 or 4 hearts might not be such a problem
Cold is way overpowered! It would kill Bear Grylls!
- In cold areas, you freeze very quickly, after about 30 seconds (not a typo!)
- In the beginning or tutorial area, you must beat 2 shrines in a cold area to leave the tutorial area.
- You can light torches, but they go out when you do anything, like climb or need to fight. You can only light or re-light at a fire. There aren’t many fires, you will almost certainly freeze to death unless you’re standing directly in front of a fire
- There’s no flint, don’t be ridiculous. It’s not like there’s wood everywhere, oh wait, yes there is
- Special food is the only kind of reasonable fix for cold in the tutorial (Plateau) area. Food fixes it, but in a stingy way (see below)
Quest Giver Bait and Switch
- The glider you need to leave the Plateau is promised to you by a mysterious stranger for 1 orb rewarded from a shrine, you show up with said quest item and he says, nah, I need 4, not 1. Yeah, bait and switch, that’s what I play video games for.
Stamina Mechanics are Exhausting
- When swimming, you drown after about 40 or so seconds. If you dare swim quickly, you die even faster. Quicksand and water in cold areas kills you instantly. After only 4-6 hours of playing, I started avoiding swimming altogether if possible. This is due to the stingy amount of stamina you have.
- Stamina is so not cool. Stamina’s a boring, fiddly mechanic, you end up micro-managing and working around it so much you end up with little time to actually enjoy a game. Zelda has the dubious distinction of most annoying use of stamina in a video game
- You can climb almost anywhere, trees, straight up a cliff, it manages to be fun at times, but you will die a lot, as it’s unclear if you will have enough stamina to make it to the top before plummeting to your death There is a tower in the beginning area that is exactly 5 feet too high to make it up with your starting stamina. Ask me how I know!
Food is Weaksauce
- You can only cook at fires with pots, most fires do not have pots. Fires are already not super common. Flint has not been invented yet apparently.
- Raw food is common, but the game snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by the limited cooking fires
- The food buffs are ok, but again, stingy, if you dump 5 hot peppers (the max number of ingredients allowed) into a dish, you will get a whopping 12.5 minutes anti-cold duration.
- Other foods get you 2.5 minutes for their buffs. With the limited quick travel, wandering around lost because you can’t find the tower, or can’t beat the guardians, and the need to forage, these buffs will soon be gone, probably just about the time you really need them. Or you can hoard them and then not remember them when you get attacked
Other Random Stinginess
- Apparently you can upgrade inventory slots, but this super slow, you have to get lots of seeds and chase some sprite all over the world. Wouldn’t be as big of an issue without the crumbly weapon problem.
- You cannot save to another save game slot without a barely usable workaround like creating a new account on your Switch and starting over from scratch. You are at the mercy of the auto-saves, always a bad idea
- Last and certainly not least, even after being out for 3 years, this annoyance fest of a game costs $59.99. The standard Switch package does not include any games
In which I Nope Out on Zelda
It seems that some of these problems may be a bit better later (I saw a screenshot with a whole 7 hearts in it, and stamina also can be raised), but I’m so bored and annoyed at Zelda: Breath of the Wild so far I won’t be verifying that as I have just plain noped out.