This morning, I happened to stumble upon a Facebook comment section where some sort of Horizon Zero Dawn versus The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild debate was going on. While there was more bashing than comparisons from the OP, the topic itself felt a little interesting to me, considering that both are highly-anticipated open world games and are both considered by us to be the biggest game releases of February and March respectively.
I won't ignite another similar debate here, but it does seem like Breath of the Wild has got Horizon Zero Dawn beat in at least one aspect. Horizon Zero Dawn received wide praise upon release, but while some reviews really, really loved it, others thought that it fell a little short of greatness. In contrast, the acclaim that the latest Zelda game is getting sounds pretty damn high across the board, and the Metacritic score at time of writing is 98.
Let's see what some critics have to say about it in our first review round-up of March 2017.
Ars Technica - After spending a week utterly immersed in Nintendo's open-world reimagining of the tried-and-true Zelda formula, it's hard to return to the more formulaic entries of the franchise's past. Breath of the Wild is an instant classic and a brave new direction for a series that has been stuck in some of its ways for far too long.
Eurogamer - It's hard to overstate the courage and conviction with which producer Eiji Aonuma, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and their team have rewritten their own work, and the size of the risk Nintendo has taken with a beloved property. Breath of the Wild isn't just the most radical departure from the Zelda tradition in its 30-year history, it's the first Nintendo game that feels like it was made in a world where Half-Life 2, Halo, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Skyrim happened. It's inspired by those greats and others, but it doesn't ape them any more than it rests on its own laurels. And if we're talking inspirations, we have to recognise one game above all others, an uncompromising adventure from 1986 that dared to take gaming off the rails, that put a whole world beyond the TV screen and invited the player to explore it: the original Legend of Zelda.
Game Informer - Breath of the Wild is an achievement in the design of a living world. Hyrule is massive, with multiple environmental systems layered on top of a grand adventure. The only technical issue I encountered was one related to the framerate when fighting multiple enemies in busy forests. Despite the massive scope of the game, Breath of the Wild retains Nintendo’s knack for polish without any major technical hiccups to disrupt the experience. I was entranced by this version of Hyrule, and it surprised me at nearly every turn, from its wealth of discoveries to the way it shuns the established tropes of previous Zelda games. It represents a profound new direction for one of gaming’s best franchises and a new high point for open-world interactive experiences.
GamesRadar - The series has always had something of a fairytale quality to it - its grand landscapes and worlds suggestive of so much more. The sight of dawn over a shimmering lake. The rolling plains of Hyrule Field stretched out beneath you. It speaks to our imaginations, calling us on to adventure. What a familiar feeling to look across Hyrule Field at Death Mountain, wondering what it would be like to climb it. What a profound thrill to make that journey in its entirety. It has taken 18 years, but Nintendo has done it again: this is the adventure game to beat.
GameSpot - No matter how gorgeous its environments are, how clever its enemies are, and how tricky its puzzles get, the fact that Breath of the Wild continues to surprise you with newfound rules and possibilities after dozens of hours is by far its most valuable quality. It's a game that allows you to feel gradually more and more empowered yet simultaneously manages to retain a sense of challenge and mystery--which, together, creates a steady, consistent feeling of gratification throughout the entire experience. Breath of the Wild is a defining moment for The Legend of Zelda series, and the most impressive game Nintendo has ever created.
Giant Bomb - This sense of wonder is something that I haven’t felt so strongly since I played A Link to the Past when I was seven years old. Ocarina of Time was able to capture some of that same magic in my teenage years. Now that I’m in my thirties, I don’t think that I expected it to be possible for a game to make me feel like that again. I’ve been reviewing video games for twelve years now, and I’m used to describing games in a certain way. “This game controls well. This mechanic is innovative. The graphics are stunning. The skill tree feels limited.” That type of language doesn’t adequately convey how Breath of the Wild made me feel. Nintendo may have changed so many long-standing traditions of the Zelda franchise, but the spirit of discovery is as strong as it’s ever been no matter your age. I didn’t think I’d feel the Zelda magic this strongly ever again, but I couldn't be happier to be proven wrong.