E3 Hands On: Is Breath of the Wild Zelda-Worthy?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | oprainfall

After waiting in line for an hour-and-twenty minutes, I was finally able to play both of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild demos at Nintendo’s E3 booth. The game’s basic plotline is that Calamity Ganon, who had been sealed away for 100 years but now has risen again, has infected Hyrule Castle and his evil will spread across the world if Link does not stop him. Link is resurrected by a mysterious female voice, and it is Link’s job to stop Ganon once more.

“…the whole world looked beautiful, but there was an overwhelming undercurrent of melancholy from what had befallen the once-great kingdom of Hyrule.”

The first demo was 15 minutes long. I was dropped into the Great Plateau, armed with a sword and a shield, and instructed to go explore. Almost instantly, I found a hatchet that I would use to cut a tree down with, and I quickly collected some mushrooms that I found beneath more trees. The collecting aspect is definitely un-Zelda-like, but it still felt natural and not borderline overwhelming to collect everything you see (as in some games).

Being able to jump as Link was initially strange, but it quickly became second nature in Breath of the Wild. This is the second time in the franchise (the first was 1987’s Zelda II: The Adventure of Link) that Link has been able to jump, and it actually made the game better. I would jump, for example, onto a rock wall and start to climb at random points during the first and second demos. Quickly, though, I rediscovered my least favorite part of Skyward Sword: the stamina bar. You jump, you can run, and you can climb, but your stamina never seems to last quite long enough. This proved a real — though most likely necessary — hamper on the gameplay to prevent Link from being all-powerful at the start.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | oprainfall

Link approaches the Temple of Time.

After jumping off the end of the world once (quite by accident), I found my way to the ruined Temple of Time. It looked… cool. And abandoned. In fact, the whole world looked beautiful, but there was an overwhelming undercurrent of melancholy from what had befallen the once-great kingdom of Hyrule. The graphic style of the game is what I would best describe as an ‘adult’ version of the art in Wind Waker (but not as adult-looking as in Twilight Princess) and it fit in perfectly with the environment.

After I climbed on some of the Temple of Time wall remnants (yes, you can really climb almost anything), I headed off to a pre-marked skull icon (you can place markers on the world map) to fight a boss. By this point, I had picked up a bow-and-arrow set and I surprisingly did not have to use the Wii U GamePad to aim the bow. Instead, I only had to use the right control stick.  The reticle would actually quiver when Link drew his bow with his (right!) hand. The controls for it were surprisingly tight, and it was very easy to switch from the sword to the bow, and vice-versa.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | oprainfall

The Moblin fight I did in the first demo.

I took on a set of moblins, and they all rushed out at me after one moblin in a watchtower sounded the alarm. I used my sword and my bow to kill them one by one and I mixed both weapons up interchangeably into the combat flow. I couldn’t roll away from attacks, and I instead had to rely upon dodging. The fighting was fine, for the most part, but I disliked that I could not roll and so I took unnecessary damage. Additionally, even though all weapons now have a durability stat to them, there was no shortage of weapons for me to find and use in the world at-large.

“Everything felt natural, played well, and seemed like it was instantly reachable in this new open world.”

Shortly after I killed my last mob and opened my treasure chest, the first demo timed out and the second one began after a (short) intermission.

This one dropped me in at what I presume was the very beginning of Breath of the Wild. After the opening cutscene, I picked up a Sheikah Slate, (think of it as a GamePad that dangles from Link’s waist), put on some clothes that I got out of some treasure chests and headed outside.

Even though I could actually go anywhere I wanted to from the start, the game made it very clear in a cutscene that if I wanted to go forward with the storyline, I needed to go to a location nearby to talk to an old man. This format of showing me where to go next would continue for the remainder of the demo. While I did not have to go where the game wanted me to in order to advance the plotline, I was not left twisting in the wind to try to figure out what to do next or where to go next. For an open world game like Breath of the Wild, that is fantastic. I pressed onwards to complete as much of the storyline as I could within the 20-minute demo, and I barely started to do my first dungeon before I ran out of time.

The Legend ofZelda: Breath of the Wild | oprainfall

This first dungeon puzzle was the only one I had time to solve before the second demo ran out. Link is using a magnet to lift heavy metal objects up to expose a ladder down.

If you want to compare the style of Breath of the Wild to any other entry on the Zelda franchise, it would have to be 1986’s The Legend of Zelda. Much like the inaugural entry into the series, you can literally do whatever you want in whatever order you want and go anywhere you want from the start. The brand new crafting system was easy to figure out, and I was crafting food items from the start after a very brief tutorial. Everything felt natural, played well, and seemed like it was instantly reachable in this new open world.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | oprainfall

Climb anywhere. Do anything.

My only (real) complaint is that in the second demo, it seemed that whenever I went somewhere, I had to plug the Sheikah Slate into a pedestal to ‘download’ new information to it via a mini-cutscene. Even in this short second demo, that task got really repetitive and annoying really fast. Nintendo stated that there were over 100 dungeons in this game… And I really don’t care to watch that same scene over and over again.

In short, this game works. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild promises to be the biggest, most positive change to the Zelda formula in a very long time, and I am looking forward to how this game turns out on the Wii U and on the code-named Nintendo ‘NX’ in 2017.

All images are courtesy of Nintendo, and are used here with permission.

Are you looking forward to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? What did you think of Nintendo’s E3 trailer and Treehouse demos for the game? Let us know in the comments below!