We live in a time of constant news coverage with access to information 24 hours a day and when it comes to gaming we have tonnes of information available at the tap of a few buttons.
When Zelda: Breath of the Wild was announced a while back I thought I knew what to expect, 8 dungeons getting progressively more difficult, each containing an item which would open up another area of the map. There is nothing wrong with this format however I feel that it was perfected in 1998 with Ocarina of Time and since then all the mainline Zelda games had been iterations of this format, with the possible exception of Wind Waker and Majora's Mask. The offshoots and quirkier games of the franchise emerged and some of these felt fresh and inventive but the mainline series had reached a creative plateau for me.
However after watching a couple of trailers and reading a little in gaming magazines I grew more intrigued and excited but a bit wary, the amount of times I'd heard, "You see that mountain over there, you can go there," made me pessimistic... After years of game creators over-promising (I'm looking at you Peter Molyneux) I had grown a little jaded. However when I heard the heard the term 'open world' I was ecstatic and decided to open my heart to the possibility that an open world Zelda would be everything I had dreamed off with Nintendo game designing philosophy, which I'm sure would respect my time and avoid the usual open world problems of 'Go there and touch some random doodad' or overwhelming me with pointless fetch quests.
Upon starting Zelda you awake in a cave and as you exit the panorama that greets you is truly awe inspiring. The cursed Hyrule Castle is there in the horizon and you can go to face Calamity Ganon straight away but it's not recommended as you are under-powered. You are left to your own devices to explore but only after you visit the 4 initial temples to hone your skills and gain the glider which opens up the huge game world. Having the whole of Hyrule available within the first few minutes of play and not being told to 'listen' by a NPC or given guidance of where to go gave the world a sense of authenticity and scale that I hadn't known before. The fact that the world is full of treasures, side quests and secrets not marked on the map makes the whole game a wonderful experience as it allows each person to experience the game in their own individual way. This game has given me a sense of childlike wonder and curiosity that I haven't felt for a long time. There are moments that will stick with me for a long time; discovering Kakariko Village after a long time in the wilderness, finally making it into Zora's Domain after being confused for a couple of hours, witnessing immeasurable moments of beauty as the sun sets and rises over the land of Hyrule. The scale of the game is mind blowing and rather than following the critical path through the game I'm loving just pootling around and exploring this wonderful world.
So after 12 or so hours of gameplay I'm still just a short way in but declare that this is a masterpiece, a true gem. I love this game and when I'm not playing it I'm thinking about it. So here's to about another 100 hours or so of gaming!