So I got a Switch just to play this thing. Overall, I really liked the game, but really, we waited 6+ years for this? I finished it about a week ago after having played it a few hours a day for almost a month. I did all the major side quests (the 4 divine beasts, which I later learned were not even required to defeat Ganon, plus the Master Sword). The puzzles were great, and the game was generally great, but most of the things I hated seemed like intentional design choices that were just plain stupid.
First off, weapon durability. Each weapon has a finite durability, and once it’s exhausted, the weapon breaks — permanently. This applies to melee weapons, bows, and shields. The rationale I’ve seen from the designers has been that they wanted players to try different types of weapons and not just find one they like and use it forever. I guess this is an interesting idea but in practice it’s just fucking annoying. You need to have several weapons in your bag at all times because you never know when you’ll land in a fight in which one or more of them break. And you can’t use a metal weapon against an electrified enemy, or a wooden weapon against an enemy made of fire, etc.
I’d made it pretty far in the game without any sign of the Master Sword, which I knew had to exist because it’s a Zelda game. This was one of only three times I googled something related to the game. There was no hint or clue of how to get the sword, just NPCs talking about “the sword that seals the darkness.” Once I saw where I had to go to get on track it wasn’t too hard to find it. Actually getting the sword had a pretty stupid prerequisite: 13 hearts; I only found this out via google, there’s no indication in the game. You’d have to just keep trying and dying until you got up to 13 hearts unless you looked it up. I was looking forward to the Master Sword because I expected it wouldn’t suffer from the durability shit. I was partially right — the Master Sword doesn’t break, but it does “get tired.” Once it gets tired, it has to rest for 10 minutes, during which you can’t use it.
Anyway, the Master Sword wasn’t even a very good sword in 90% of the game. Every weapon gets a damage rating from like 0–70, with a 45+ being really good. Master Sword was a 30. But if you’re in one of the Divine Beasts, or Hyrule Castle — areas infested by Ganon — it goes to 60. I think in those areas it’s immune to durability shit also, but not sure. Anyway, the durability also affects bows and shields. Whatever the devs intended, in practice this led to me sticking with my shittiest weapons in most encounters and saving the good ones “just in case.” Definitely detracted from the fun.
Also you have extremely limited inventory. You can hold like 6 weapons, 6 bows, 6 shields to start. Torches and sticks and rakes count as weapons, and sometimes you need a torch to light a fire, so you have to drop an awesome sword to pick up a stick and light a fire somewhere. It’s stupid as fuck. I discovered later on that you can buy more inventory slots with the Korok seeds you collect. I did this and had like 12 slots for weapons but found it still wasn’t enough sometimes. You’ll have a full arsenal of shit and then some uber thing drops from a chest and you have to chuck something to make room. I get the concept of forced choice but it was annoying as shit.
The game also has a very weird cooking system. When you start out, you have shitty armor. You’ll need to go into a cold area, so your only option is to create some cold-resist food. To do this you need to grab a coldshroom and an apple, throw them in a cooking pot, and wait. Then do this again, then do it again. You can only do one combine at a time, and each time requires going to the inventory screen and clicking around 9 times and then throwing the shit in the pot and waiting for the animation to complete. You can vary the amount of cold resist, duration, and hearts recovered from the food. You can make potions as well, which do almost the same thing as the stat-food stuff, but have different ingredients (monster parts + bugs for potions, versus fruit/meat/mushrooms for stat food). And you can get fairies also, which will save you from death and restore 5 hearts. As you progress in the game, you get armor which supersedes whatever powers you get from stat food, so the entire stat food system becomes relatively worthless. A couple of items, when cooked, restore 100% of your health and give you a couple of extra temporary hearts — Durians, radishes, and truffles. I found that simply cooking each one of these individually with no stats at all was the best value in the end game and nothing else mattered at all. So the whole cooking system was fucking dumb.
The world is enormous, and you can see almost the entire thing from anywhere, which is awesome. They have a transport system which is sort of reminiscent of WoW bird paths — if you get to certain waypoints they unlock and then you can teleport back to them whenever you want. The size of the world and the different biomes was really amazing and they did a great job overall. However, in some areas I found the framerate dropping noticeably. In scenes with lots of mist (Korok forest e.g.) I felt like I was getting under 10 fps. The Switch is not an impressive platform at all, but even so it’s pretty embarrassing for Nintendo not to be able to deliver a full 30fps on their flagship title on a brand new console, especially one that’s only doing 900p. Fuck them.
Trash mobs throughout the game were able to one-shot me, even toward the end when I had like 19 hearts. This seemed bizarre, but there’s really not much penalty for dying so I guess who cares?
When I finally beat Ganon — which was hard, but somehow I did it, and then looked up the best way and the guides were all like “yeah just keep hitting him” — the ending was pretty pathetic. It was essentially Zelda saying “Hey… thanks.” Then the credits rolled. Once it was over, I was given the option to continue — which took me to the savegame right before I beat Ganon — or start over. What the fuck? There’s no way to explore the world or tie up other quests after killing Ganon? I have to go back to just before I killed him, warp out of the castle, do all that shit, then just kill him again? Fuck Nintendo.
Gameplay in general was very good, maybe excellent, except for the camera control. At times maneuvering the camera was cumbersome and took so long a mob had time to strike and knock me on my ass. I was relieved though not to have the Skyward Sword “swing your sword” bullshit this time around. I liked Skyward Sword generally but that sword swinging shit was horrendous. Overall I wish Nintendo would stop with the gimmicky controller shit and just focus on the game itself. Honestly I would have loved to have seen this game on PS4 hardware, where it would’ve probably been smooth as silk and a non-annoying controller (Joy-Con is stupid as fuck imo, if only for the $80 price tag to replace it).
The storyline was kind of convoluted, due to being told mostly via chatting with NPCs and occasional memories you unlock if you “find” them all. I found like 12/16 before winning the game and once you make out enough to make sense you realize it’s pretty cliche. There were 5 champions; 4 of them died and Link is the last. Link has been asleep for 100 years and now has to defeat Ganon to save Zelda. There are like 100–200 NPCs in all of Hyrule so I don’t know why Ganon even wants to take it over. Seems like being King of Nothing. Anyway.
The voiceovers in general were terrible. Maybe I’m spoiled from MGSV, Uncharted, Last of Us, etc. But the voice acting itself was lame and the script sucked. AND there wasn’t really much of it. Maybe 5–10 minutes total. Everything else was just clicking through scrolling text. If this was WoW, sure, but they had 6 years to do this and it just wasn’t very good. I mean, here’s the Deku Tree. It just sounds stupid. Talking trees in WoW sound more like talking trees.
At this point you probably think I hated the game but I’d give it an 8.5 or maybe a 9.0. It was very good once you get past the stupid ass fucking bullshit. I don’t feel like this was the culmination of 6 years work for the flagship game, based on the second biggest IP Nintendo owns, on a new console. The graphics were great (framerate issues aside). The world is enormous. The fights are fun (aside from durability shit). The shrines (mini dungeons) were all great puzzles that I had lots of fun solving. And as lame as the story was, it was still very much Zelda, which I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for. I need to go back and solve a couple of the side quests, but since I already killed Ganon I’m having a hard time talking myself into doing them.