Tasked with reviewing the hotly anticipated new Zelda game, Liam Maguren proves himself to be inadequate; both as a critic and as a functioning human being.
It’s been a month since the new Zelda came out and I still can’t review this fucking game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out a month ago. With a puffed-up chest that was ripe for thumping, I pitched a review to The Spinoff gaming section that would cover EVERYTHING. They accepted. I was stoked. All I needed to do was to play the game and write a review. I made it, mum.
But this isn’t a review. This is the story of my utter failure as a videogame reviewer.
You might think a writer writing about his failure to write would make a rubbish article, but if Charlie Kaufman could make an Oscar-winning movie out of the same premise (starring TWO Nicolas Cages!!!), then I’m sure as hell going to try salvage something out of this shipwreck.
Both an introduction to the Nintendo Switch and an undeserved eulogy on the WiiU’s deathbed, Breath of the Wild had been showered with praise from certified videogame critics worthy of getting advanced copies of the game (i.e. not me). “A masterclass in open-world design,” IGN praised. “Has forever changed the franchise,” NZGamer awed. “An evolution of the formula for both eastern and western philosophies,” Destructoid meditatively pondered.
The irony is, if I had actually read a review of the game before I chose to review the game, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. By going in blind, however, I jumped in to review an open-world adventure game that is TOO GODDAMN FUCKING HUGE for my feeble freelancing skills to handle.
I have pumped more than 40 hours into it as of writing and have only reached the halfway mark (I think).
The tutorial area alone feels as huge as Ocarina of Time, complete with its own wild forest, snowy mountain, riverbed crossing, and elusive old timer who mocks your amnesia and teaches you how to not die. Once you obediently do what he says, the rest of Hyrule opens up with the enormity of a whole country dropping on your front doorstep.
I’ve never reviewed a whole country before. This was the first warning sign.
There’s so much stuff to detail in the gameplay alone. The fighting system, the stealth mechanic, the food gathering, the cooking capabilities, the elixir mixing, the horse taming, the climbing function, the weather dynamics, the day/night cycles, the micromanagement, the weapon swapping, the bullet timing, the orienteering, the armour upgrading, and the rune abilities all deserve a separate paragraph to explain how they click in making the combat and adventuring mesh so seamlessly. These turning cogs never overwhelm since they gradually reveal themselves as you play, and it’s a never-ending joy learning how versatile this game is and figuring out what else you can do (or be done to you). Conversely, there’s still heaps of stuff I probably haven’t discovered, which means doing an extensive review that covers everything is a bloody nightmare.
To put it kindly, you might be thinking, “I really don’t need ALL that detail in a review.” To put it unkindly, you might be grunting “I don’t give a hot fuck about all that shit.”
Touché, I say. I could just ignore everything else and punch through the storyline with expert tunnel vision. I don’t suck at videogames, so a speed-run is well within my 100%ing Super Meat Boy skill set. It’s easy enough to find shrines, which are essentially tiny temples that have been lolly scrambled across the land. The actual temple temples take the form of giant mechanical moving colossi – it’s as awe-inspiring as it sounds. They’re not exactly hard to miss either, making it pretty easy to plot our where I’d need to go in order to clock the game at maximum efficiency.
But is that really the Zelda experience? I don’t think it is.
The heart of an adventure is discovery, and you can’t do that without staying curious. There’s nothing curios about checking off a to-do list, so to truly feel this game’s gargantuan grasp, you need to allow yourself to answer the question “What’s over there?” The biggest triumph of Breath of the Wild lies in its ability to reward your curiosity at every turn, whether it’s from raiding an enemy fortress for sweet sweet loot or checking out a strange little section on your map to discover a gigantic labyrinth that would make Bowie shit himself (may he rest in peace).
Discovery also comes in the things you do and create. I’m confident that a whole hour of my time has been dedicated to playing Master Chef with wolf meat, fire retardant mushrooms, blue and yellow crabs, ninja flowers, Red Bull carrots, and whatever else Hyrule let me throw into a pot.
In addition, while I’m digging this story (set 100 years after Gannon actually WON for once), I’m feeling just as invested in the lives of the villagers and inhabitants who are pretty chill about this post-apocalypse they live in. Will this humble Gerudo cloth seller ever find her one true love? Can this flamboyant carpenter succeed in the real-estate business? How can this man-bird thing play the accordion and when is his debut EP gonna drop?
It would be irresponsible for me as an aspiring videogame critic to ignore this authentic Zelda experience in my extensive review that covers everything. But because I submit to every gleeful distraction, I get further away from completing the experience and, thus, completing this review.
This entire month, I have been playing Tetris with my social calendar just to ‘complete’ this fucking game. I moved house, and my WiiU was the last thing I shifted. I went to a wedding, sneaking in half an hour in my suit before the bride and groom walked the aisle. I went on holiday and climbed Mt Taranaki when all I really wanted to do was climb Death Mountain.
This entire project has gone from a blessing to a burden.
A month has gone by since its release, so chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’ve played the game and made your mind up about it. I don’t even know who I’m writing this for anymore.
What do you even want in a review? To tell you that it’s fun like the other 500 reviews have? Is this what my 40 hours is going to amount to? Me telling you “it’s fun”?
Fine. OK. Here it is. Get ready now. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fun game.
I’ll even give it a nice numerable rating for you. I give this game 98 videogame review points out of 100. Happy now!?
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just… I’m hurt. It’s not easy walking on the shards of broken dreams.
It’s my fault, really. I was too ambitious. I really thought I could be a unique voice swimming in a vast ocean of videogame reviewers. Instead, I am but a lonely trout, swimming up a torrential river of lies.
I have failed to give you a complete review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that covers everything. This is my cross to bear, and my confession is the only hope I have to seeing salvation.
Now leave me be. I want to see if I can cook a stamina-boosting pad Thai using flour, a bat wing, and a nutty garnish.
Garnished with love, this decent into a man’s internal hell is brought to you by Bigpipe Broadband.