Sure it’s a bit predictable, but come on it’s a New Year, and I figured that what better way for you to understand what makes me tick than for me to let you know what I’ve enjoyed playing this last year and why.
Also be good to know in the comments if you agree, or have any different points of view, but without further ado let’s jump right in!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Yes, it’s an obvious one, and may even cause an eye roll or two given how many top games lists this one populates across the web at the moment. But I want to take a few moments to explain why this game was such a special game for me.
First off this was a Zelda game which took risks; no necessarily genre-defining risks, but a risk with the franchise direction and what people can maybe expect from it moving forward. Up until a few years ago, the Zelda series was always about saving the princess from Ganon by progressing through dungeons, acquiring items to kill bosses culminating in a major boss fight with your now bursting arsenal of weapons and items. And the most important part was that these games were fairly linear. They were executed well, and the gameplay was normally exceptional, but progression was pre-destined, and things had to be done in a specific order to progress.
But Nintendo have been looking to shake things up with the series for a while. They first tried with A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS to mix up the formula by having items available upfront and dungeons being able to be tackled in any order you wish. It was a neat idea, but for me one that lacked that magic sparkle because not only did it feel like a bit of a rip off from A Link to the Past, with the map being shamelessly copy-pasted from on old game, but the mechanic whilst new, felt flat and in some ways forgettable. It wasn’t a bad game, not at all, it just wasn’t up to the normal standards of the franchise.
So, when Breath of the Wild dropped as an open world exploration game with only four dungeons which can be completed in any order, and in fact weren’t even necessary to get to the final boss, I’ll be honest I was sceptical despite its Skyrim-beating map size. But with over 100 hours of playtime, I can honestly say it’s a triumph of a game. Nintendo have managed to nail the concept of exploration more than any other game I can think of. And that isn’t just limited to exploration of the map and being rewarded with a hidden shrine or lonely Korok seed on a mountaintop, but it also champions the notion of exploring different ways of tackling the same situation. If I try doing this, will it actually work? Chances are the answer is yes, and without the game telling you, you’ve learned a new tactic against that nearby army camp. The multitude of ways you can manipulate the few key mechanics introduced early in the game throughout your journey in so many different ways is a nod to the success of the experiment and a doff of the cap to the end result.
Ultimately you want to explore this vast Hyrule, meet its people, understand their back-stories, climb that mountain, tame that horse, complete that side mission because you want to see what else this game can throw at you, and how you can use the few things at your disposal to overcome any obstacle.
I’m not going to lie and pretend I didn’t wish there were more proper dungeons, and that there were slightly fewer combat shrines replaced with more intriguing puzzle ones, but all in all Breath of the Wild has been an excellent adventure. Not necessarily the Zelda I know and love, but undoubtedly an experience I will not soon forget.