Hands-on with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This time last week we got to go hands-on with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at EB Expo.
Sure, it was the same demo as they had at E3, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Breath of the Wild, it’s that everyone’s experience is different – even in this cut down demo.
So grab a tea, sit down and read through three different Breath of the Wild experiences.
The thing that’s immediately apparent about Breath of the Wild is its scale. Towering cliff faces and structures can be seen in the distance, and sprawling plains fill the space in between.
It’s not just for show, either, there’s plenty of things to do and a number of ways you can interact with the environment. If you look down into a ravine and see enemies down there, you can push a boulder down to crush them and then climb down the cliff to pick up the spoils. Or if you’re exploring the woods, you can hit fruit down off a tree, hunt a boar, and then cook them together to make healing items. Just traversing the world is enjoyable enough – climbing across a ruined temple while looking out at the vistas is a magnificent feeling, and it’s a tense moment as well due to your ever-depleting stamina gauge.
The Nintendo reps introduced me to one of my favourite ever features in a game – shield surfing. If you have a shield you can leap onto it and surf down hills, which is as fun as it sounds. When I stumbled upon an enemy encampment I took them by surprise by charging down into their base on my shield, and wiped them all out with some quick slices of my sword. I imagine things get even more exciting when you have the para-sail and you can glide around from great heights.
My demo had three other main highlights. Early on I encountered some chests on a rocky precipice in the middle of a tar pit. I tried jumping across the gap, but couldn’t make it and ended up in the hot tar. Nearby, I discovered a pool of water with various bits and pieces hiding at the bottom. I could use my Magnesis power to magically pick these up while standing on the waterside and bring them to the surface.
There were some treasure chests, but more interestingly there was a metal plank. I carried it over to the tar pit and carefully bridged the gap with it. I walked across the narrow pathway to gain my reward… embarrassingly almost falling in again.
A little later I encountered some Bokoblins cooking a giant steak over a campfire. Stalking them from a distance, I put out their fire with an ice arrow and jumped on them in their surprise. I was hoping to use my Magnesis to pick up their supply crates and crush them by dropping the crates on their heads, but I couldn’t. The limits of these powers will probably be explained better in the full game. Instead, I used my arrows to take out their archers, and fought the others in melee combat. When fighting one of them with my sword, I managed to knock his club out of his hand, pick it up, and then beat him to death with it. It was another example of emergent gameplay that got me excited for all the possibilities the game will provide.
I encountered another encampment, which I decided to take down with my fire arrows. I tried burning the grass around the enemies, but the fires quickly went out. I tried hitting their wooden towers instead, but again nothing happened. You might need to hit things a certain way with the arrows to start a wildfire, because I pulled out a torch and not long after the grass was burning crazily fast and I could barely escape.
The demo was 45 minutes long and yet still felt so short because the game provides so much for you to discover. With exciting combat, fun traversal methods and all sorts of emergent scenarios, I can’t wait to see what the full game offers.
When Nintendo finally announced what we now know is Breath of the Wild, I will admit, I didn’t immediately start throwing my wallet at the screen like most fans. It’s not that I don’t like the concept of the game, in fact I love it. Nintendo is one of the only companies still around that can sell you the product they show off, so I had no doubt it on all their claims about how gigantic the map is, or how you can do anything and everything you want. Something wasn’t clicking for me. Until I played it, that was.
While I almost hopped on a plane to E3 this year, EB Expo gave me the chance to be one of 300~ people to play the game down under, in fact, I got to play it twice after winning the cosplay competition. My first experience of the demo, I wanted to see how limitless this map is. Can you really climb that cliff? Can you really go wherever you want? I wanted to explore. I wanted to run. I wanted to be… wild. So that’s exactly what I did. Apparently after being asleep for 100 years Link becomes incredibly buff and can now not only jump, but scale walls with his bare hands.
In the trailers and footage we were shown before, Link had multiple stamina bars à la Skyward Sword, in the demo we only had the one, so that was my limiting factor on how far I could scale. I eventually found a cliff and started to climb right up it. On top was the snow area, where there was some moblins to kill and get rewards and a raft floating in the water on a broken dock. Having an axe in my inventory, I chopped down a few trees to see if i could form a bridge between the dock and the icy cold water that I froze to death in (twice…). Second attempt, I cooked some food up. Mushrooms, Peppers, Steaks (Link eats better than I do) and formed a Spicy Pepper Steak which for eight minutes increased my temperature resistance, one of the new features of the game. Chopping down some trees again, I tried to take a swim, and while I got close, I froze to death.
While it doesn’t sound like anything marvellous, that’s exactly what I liked about playing it. In any other Zelda game, you would come to an obstacle like that and be like “well I guess I need some item for that”, but in Breath of the Wild, I could actually make an attempt, and get creative. The rep next to me had never even seen this area of the demo, despite seeing about 30 people play the game that day alone.
The second attempt, I wanted to try combat. I went around shooting animals with my bow. Slicing up moblins, even exploding their bases like in the trailers. You can actually do that, it’s not all CG and scripting. I managed to get a +10 sword, which while twice as good as my other sword, it was two-handed, so much slower and a higher range of attack. I also tried out the Magnetism rune, and while I was a little upset I couldn’t wave giant metallic objects around the air like I just don’t care, it still was great fun smashing enemies around with crates.
After playing the game, I get the hype. I’m excited to play it come March next year, it’s going to be absolutely gigantic. The worst thing I could say about the game is the 15-20 second loading times between deaths, shrines, title screen. It’s almost Lego City Undercover bad. Let’s hope this is just because it’s a demo.
After its reveal at E3 this year, I never watched much more Breath of the Wild content. I really should because of this website, but I wanted to be selfish and keep some things a secret or a surprise until I experienced it myself.
Boy am I glad I did.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is – using a horrible pun – a breath of fresh air. You see, the main Zelda games have been just copying Ocarina of Time for some time now. It’s worked, but it’s gotten stale – none more so than Skyward Sword. But the seeds of Breath of the Wild haven’t come from nowhere, this game not only feels new but also familiar because it’s trying to do a lot of things Link Between Worlds did.
Now I’ve only played 90 minutes of it, the same 90 minutes pretty much everyone else has seen since E3, so there’s no point me going over the minutia of what’s in the game. We all know about the health system, the weapon system and the way to bulk up with armour. It’s open world, open air or whatever Nintendo wants to call it, but I want to talk about how it finally feels fresh to play a new Zelda game.
I played two demos, one with Link fully kitted out and with a ton of weapons and health. The other was the start of the demo we saw during the Nintendo Direct at E3 with none of the extra equipment. Each played completely different despite being in mostly the same demo area. The first demo with Link completely kitted out made you feel powerful. You have all the weapons, all the shields, and you could go around just taking things down. Or at least you think.
Link is remarkably more fragile than before, the game feels more difficult not just because the enemies are harder to kill, but because you have to be smarter and use the world to your advantage to take them out. You’ll run out of arrows and health if you take too much on – you’ll need to retreat and think again on how to take down squads of enemies. Perhaps I shouldn’t have jumped into one of the larger battles in the demo right away, but I thought – I’ve played Zelda before, how hard can it be?
And that’s the thing, in an old Zelda game it would be easier to dispatch with enemies than here in Breath of the Wild. Link can jump; he doesn’t auto-roll off cliffs anymore. The game makes you rethink about how you tackle anything in the game, and that’s what’s been missing for a while.
The other briefer demo was the same demo you saw them play at E3 with Link locked away and awoken by a mysterious voice and thrust upon the ruined Hyrule world. I can’t wait to play through more of the game, not just because it feels fresh and exciting, but because the story, the way it’s presented and the aesthetics of the game seem to be the best and most original thing Nintendo have done since Splatoon. I can’t wait to get lost in this game when it’s released. Playing just 90 minutes of it – not enough.