The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a completely different Zelda game. It’s clear that the game is ambitious, bringing the series to modern age. A huge sprawling, fantasy world awaits those who wish to explore. Beasts roam around green pastures, mystical lights flash and swirl on ancient buildings, grass sways with the breeze of the wind, and among all of this, an adventure awaits.
Let’s just get this out of the way. The environment in Breath of the Wild is enormous. In the first part of the demo, I was placed into a huge open section of the map and left to explore the world as I saw fit. As I traversed the world I found myself getting distracted from the objectives I had placed on my marker- a particularly handy feature to give you some point of reference in this vast, diverse world. Pressing the ‘-‘ button on the controller opened up the world map. The section available in the demo from this viewpoint looked pretty large, and then I hit the back on the right stick. I zoomed out on the map, revealing a ton of other sections unavailable in the demo. It was clear at this point that Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s most ambitious Zelda title to date in this respect.
However, a huge open world would be nothing if it wasn’t fun to traverse, and this was something that was arguably a hindrance with some of the later titles in the series. Fans had grown tired of Link’s inability to jump and dash. Both of these have now been introduced, as has the ability to climb, which makes world traversal significantly more interesting than its predecessors. Running for ages just to get around a slight incline to reach a treasure at the top of a hill is a thing of the past. With a press of the Y button, Link clambered up the side of the cliff with ease. Of course, swimming, dashing, and climbing all consume Link’s stamina bar and this is something you’ll need to keep an eye on to ensure you don’t suffer an untimely death.
Danger lurked around every corner and in every field of the section of Hyrule that I got to check out. Bokoblin’s chased me through lush green pastures, and a huge rock golem called Steepe Talus made light work of me when I stumbled upon his resting place. This adds a whole new layer to proceedings. You aren’t just tackling simple and monotonous enemies as you explore the world as you go from dungeon to dungeon. Instead, you’re taking on challenging mini-bosses which provide substantial distractions to the main quest of conquering dungeons and saving Hyrule. In order to take down these roaming enemies, you’re gonna need to be well-equipped. Combat remains largely the same in Breath of the Wild. You can still lock onto enemies with Z-targeting, dashing and evading attacks while doing so. Holding down RZ brought up Link’s bow and readied an arrow, and releasing it fired it at whatever you had in your sights. Combining this with swipes of your sword was silky smooth and made Link’s combat feel more realized than his previous outings.
Items have also received an additional layer of depth in Breath of the Wild. Any items that can be used in combat now have a number which corresponds to the amount of damage that they’ll deal out to your enemies. Defeating your enemies, opening chests, or simply looting your surroundings can wield a manner of different treasures that can be combined in the game’s new crafting system. Find some firewood, throw it under a stove, light it and you’ll be ready to start cookin’ up some flavorsome grub. This is incredibly worthwhile to do if you’ve got the resources available to you. A steak you can acquire from taking down a wild boar will only grant you one heart of health, but that steak cooked with some mushrooms can turn into a kebab that will heal six hearts. While I didn’t get to see how this crafting will play out with non-consumable items, it’s a new feature to the series that feels at home in the open-world of Breath of the Wild.
Moving onto the second section of the demo, I was taken to the start of the game. As Link awoke naked, grabbed clothes out of some chests, and headed out into the open world, I surveyed my surroundings with the remains of a temple standing in the distance. Before I could make my way over there, the camera panned to an old man standing in the distance staring at Link. Talking to the old man revealed details with regards to the game’s story, which I won’t divulge for the sake of keeping this spoiler-free. In order to get to where the old man had suggested I should focus my world-saving efforts, I required a paraglider of sorts which the old man was willing to trade with me for some treasure hidden inside a small dungeon in the distance. Agreeing to the trade deal, I made my way over to the entrance and just as I did, the demo ended, leaving me painfully close to getting my first taste of a dungeon in Breath of the Wild.
The Legend of Zelda series needed some change. It’s a critically-acclaimed series for sure, but one that suffered from a little déjá vu. Up until now, that is. Breath of the Wild looks set to be the fresh coat of paint that the series needed, introducing a number of new features and tweaks to bring the series to 2016. My only slight concern is whether or not the game will manage to retain the series’ excellent dungeon design with clearly so much effort having been put into the open outdoors of Hyrule. It’s a question that will only be answered as we see more and more of the game. For now though, if you’ve ever enjoyed a Legend of Zelda game, you really should be keeping an eye on Breath of the Wild.