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In retrospect, giving the creepy demon horse a name was probably a mistake.
As I clambered to the frigid summit, an icy tundra stretched out before me. A paper-white vista illuminated by the cold glow of the moon. In the distance, I noticed a skeletal horse quietly grazing by a frozen pond. Where was its skin? I didn’t know. What was I even doing before I got sidetracked by this wondrous sight? I didn’t know. Saving the world or something, probably.
The zombie steed reared up on its hind legs, cutting a dramatic figure against the full moon. My mind raced with visions of thundering across Hyrule atop my bony new companion. Being careful not to frighten it off, I hoisted myself onto its back and made for the nearest stable so that I could register it and make our alliance official. We journeyed together through the darkness and snow, finally coming across the familiar warmth of the stable.
The owner looked at me like I’d lost my mind, and politely informed me that this was not, in fact, a horse. I had every intention of disagreeing, but that’s about the time the sun came up; my undead friend disappeared in a flash of light, leaving me heartbroken for the days that never were.
Half a decade later, and I still think about my all-too-brief adventure with Bony The Pony. But then, that’s not surprising when I’ve been completely unable to get anything to do with The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild out of my head after all this time.
It’s been five years since the launch of the Nintendo Switch, arguably one of the finest video game consoles ever made. Whether you’re after interesting indies, classic third-party ports, or a quality Nintendo game, the Switch is packing it all. Oh, and it has the added bonus of being portable - a novelty that refuses to wear off. I’m a simple dude.
But even after half a decade and hundreds of hours spent playing some of the best RPGs, action games, kart racers, and farming sims around, I keep coming back to the one game that elevated the Switch’s launch from “meh” to unmissable.
I can’t quite stress just how much time I’ve put into The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild over the years. I’m the sort of person that plays a game to the end and moves on. There are so many games out there, after all, and I want to spend as much time as possible with them all. But there’s something about Breath Of The Wild’s Hyrule that pulls me back time and time again.
Let me be clear: I don’t just replay the game once a year, I lose myself in it over and over. I’m rapidly approaching 500 hours across separate Switch profiles. The wilds and wastes of Nintendo’s genre-defining open world beckon me constantly, and I rarely refuse the call.
Breath Of The Wild’s portability is obviously a factor in my sickening playtime, but there are tons of quality open-world games on Switch at this point. So why do I always return to Hyrule instead of, for example, Erdrea or Velen?
For my money, it’s all about the way in which Breath Of The Wild allows you to choose your own adventures. There are plenty of story quests and side missions and shrine puzzles, of course, but the game’s vast open world and multitude of surprisingly deep systems are what makes the simple act of getting from A to B thrilling. If you and I were to set off from one end of the map to the other right now and report back, I’m willing to bet we’d have very different stories to share.
That’s because Breath Of The Wild is a game that’s designed to drag you off course. There’s always a shrine poking up on the horizon, or the sly glint of a Korok challenge in the corner of your eye. There’s always a thunderstorm forcing you to find a way around the mountain, or a river that winds through the jungle to some ancient ruins.
Every time I come back to the game, I’m likely to discover some new trick, or secret. Just scrolling Twitter I’m guaranteed at least once a week to see a player nonchalantly do something with an item that I had no idea was possible, and then I’m pulled straight back in. It really is “You Can Do WHAT?!” - The Video Game.
Meeting (and tragically losing) Bony The Pony is just one of dozens of experiences in Breath Of The Wild that feels uniquely mine. I’ve made a daring escape from Hyrule Castle after getting really lost and being pinned down by Guardians. I’ve spent 20 minutes scaling a cliff to get a better view of a rainbow and accidentally stumbled onto ancient treasure. I’ve ridden through the air on a metal crate attached to some balloons. These aren’t pre-designed quests, or scripted to happen. The game simply invited me to try to capture a skeletal horse because it knew I’d want to see if I could.
That’s Breath Of The Wild in a nutshell: try this weird shit and see if it works. Whatever happens, there’ll always be a story to tell. Because that’s what Breath Of The Wild is to me: an immaculately designed open world that somehow doubles up as a blank canvas on which to tell infinite stories. No wonder I’ll never be finished with it.
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