The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released as a launch title with the Nintendo Switch back in March of 2017. The game was simultaneously released on the previous generation Wii U console — I remember this because I had one friend who actually played this gorgeous game on the Wii U (he may have later picked it up on the Switch too).
Breath of the Wild was the first physical game I owned for my Nintendo Switch which I picked up about a month after launch — this is still my current Switch console and it’s doing great. I did not start playing Breath of the Wild right away. My first Switch games came from the eShop in the form of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, Has-Been Heroes, and a few other indie titles.
I finally began my journey as Link in Breath of the Wild some time in May 2017. It took me about six years (or 125 hours) to complete this story — and there’s still so much left undone. Throughout the past six years, I did take many breaks. I started off playing almost every day for a month or so, before taking some weeks off to try some other games. That cycle continued for a couple of years. At one point I took a three year hiatus when I got stuck trying to conquer the third Divine Beast Vah Naboris.
A few months ago, I jumped back in and finally defeated that third beast. Last week, on May 11th (about twenty minutes before the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom), I finally defeated Ganon and rolled credits on Breath of the Wild.
I have yet to begin my next journey with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, but here are some things I learned during the past six years of exploring Hyrule in Breath of the Wild:
1 | Take Your Time
My original opening goal in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was to climb to the top of every tower and unlock the entire map — that was a huge mistake. After doing so and seeing all of this wide open terrain, I immediately became overwhelmed by the large map. There are so many regions to explore. I probably took my first break after making that huge mistake and not knowing where to begin.
Throughout the years, I had always wanted to start fresh and explore each part of the map thoroughly before moving on to more. I’m hoping to be better about this when I finally start Tear of the Kingdom very soon. I hope I am able to deeply explore each area before moving on to new areas.
2 | Have a Goal
I spent my first 70-90 hours of this game aimlessly traveling through the vast landscapes. There were many times where I stumbled upon some interesting locations, but most of the time I found myself in large unoccupied zones. Thanks to the handy shrine radar I did end up finding most of the shrines on my own.
Walking around aimlessly is a part of a big open world game like Breath of the Wild. However, it is also important to track some quests, side quests, items and have a goal from time to time. In my final hours of Breath of the Wild, I had a healthy mix of tracking quests while also veering off the path from time to time. This led to more discovery than just aimlessly exploring.
3 | Guides Are Great
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, using a guide is not cheating in a solo game. Using a guide is not cheating in most games, as long as it doesn’t give you an unfair advantage over an opponent in a competitive game. Still, these guides are available online, so your opponents should have access to that same information.
Zelda games can get complicated. When I played the Link’s Awakening remake in 2019, I used the guide for most of that game. I had no idea where to go next at any point in time. I have no idea how any kid beat the original Link’s Awakening on a Game Boy. I was able to solve some of the dungeons with no help, but I did use the help of guides for about 80-90% of the game.
In my final hours of Breath of the Wild over these past few weeks, I continuously kept a tab on my computer open to the IGN guide. I did not use it for everything, but it was a big help — having it open also provided some peace of mind. The guide helped me solve the last pieces of the third Divine Beast, while I was able to figure out the final Divine Beast Vah Rudania on my own. Sometimes guides can be used to simply check your previous work.
4 | Learning to be Link
Playing Breath of the Wild right before the sequel was a great idea. I’ve done so with many recent sequels released (God of War: Ragnarok, Star Wars Jedi Survivor, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope). Going back to the original game is helpful for a few reasons: (1) I’m better able to compare the changes between the two games, (2) the story is now fresh in my mind, and (3) I am able to reacquaint myself with the controls and have the latest upgrades stand out.
In my final hours with Breath of the Wild, I finally figured out how to play as Link in a Zelda game — or a new Zelda game. These games always involve a great deal of puzzles and problem solving. Many of which can be solved in multiple ways. These games give the player a chance to be creative and do things the right way, or sometimes find your own way. (*I’ve heard Tears of the Kingdom has even more of this due to its fusing mechanics and Link’s new abilities).
During my final hours with Breath of the Wild, I was starting to figure things out quicker than usual. I found myself looking around for hints and clues, and solving puzzles and boss fights much quicker. I look forward to the new game and using my newfound Link brain.
I’m excited to see how fusing will give more items a purpose in Tears of the Kingdom. My inventory in Breath of the Wild was full of useless items that I was holding on to in hopes of finding their true purpose — I never did. I sold many items I had an excess of, but I could have sold even more.
I’m also hoping that combat feels tighter in Tears of the Kingdom. The combat in Breath of the Wild holds up, but it can be improved and made a little smoother. I had many unnecessary deaths which I will blame on the controls. It’s not that the combat is bad, it’s actually still quite good, but I’ve played so many new games that do it better by now.
As I stated before, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released on both Nintendo Switch and the Wii U six years ago. I expect a great deal of quality improvements in Tears of the Kingdom due to the six years of technological discoveries on the Nintendo Switch. Also, not having to launch on an older console also adds room for even more improvements.
I’m very excited to begin The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in the coming weeks (possibly sooner), and to share my thoughts. I also hope it won’t take me six years to beat this next game. Hopefully, I learned enough from the first game to do better this time.
*The photos in this post were provided by Nintendo.