The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Sniper)
Genre: Action
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Breath of the Wild's most enduring image involves vast fields of waving-in-the-wind grass, with each blade casting its own shadow. Marks of the past each cast their own shadows as well, with Nintendo's designers creating a world with a fully believable history etched across its various ruins and smashed wooden buildings. Unfortunately, the game has a sort of washed out, lacking-in-contrast look, which when combined with the rather poor resolution-- especially on a modern television, while the system is docked-- gives the proceedings a sort of muddy appearance. That said, the Switch's easy-to-use TV out makes it easy to forget that this is a handheld title! It's not entirely appropriate to measure the Big N's latest Zelda release against 2160p, HDR-enabled PC or PlayStation 4 Pro open world releases-- even as Nintendo invites such comparisons by marketing the Switch as a "home console, first".

From a music standpoint, Breath of the Wild is mostly silent. The game doesn't have particularly strong ambient qualities either to fill the void like, let's say, From Software's "Souls" titles, or Bethesda's classic "The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind". Positively though, the melodic cues that do exist are staccato, piano remixes of traditional series motifs-- which fit the world's airy setting perfectly, somewhat reminiscently of the musical work from the indie game "Beyond Eyes". It's just too bad there aren't more of these piano bits to continually complement the ebb and flow of the player's actions. Voice acted cut-scenes are a series first, and the voice acting is palatable enough. The game's sound effects are the typical, run-of-the-mill shouts and weapon clash noises.

Breath of the Wild is a standard fare, loop-based open world game, that borrows all of its concepts from pre-existing games. To name but a few: it has its hot air balloon-equivalent and sentry-centered camps from "Mad Max"; it has gliding, and little puzzles spread throughout, like the Riddler trophies from the "Arkham" titles; it has the juggle of constantly breaking weapons, like from the "Dead Island" releases. The trouble is, these elements have most of their sophistication stripped out, and the core game loop suffers from a consequent lack of texture, even prompting occasional bouts of emptiness, or player boredom. On the flip side, and in typical Nintendo fashion, the world's design does an excellent job of steering the player, without the player realizing that he's being steered.

In a world awash with open world games-- after all, "open world" has been the genre du-jour over much of the past decade-- it's easy to slot this new entry into the grand scheme of things. While it's not as sophisticated or involving as some of its contemporaries-- "Arkham City" and the aforementioned "Mad Max" come to mind-- it does a few things really well: its fully realized physics sandbox meaningfully adds to the gameplay; Link's various special and stealth abilities make the combat exceptionally robust, but without feeling staged or ham-fisted; and the game's world feels lovingly crafted and lore-filled. On the balance, and as a sort of bare bones open world title-- the very first from genre debutantes Nintendo-- Breath of the Wild has solidly designed fundamentals, and lays the foundation for what will hopefully be a sequence of increasingly comprehensive and variety-filled follow-ups.

Sniper's verdict: