For Nintendo, this was what we were all waiting for, and the feature, which lasted many hours, and plumbed depths not usually seen at E3, certainly painted a fantastic picture of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Link wakes up in a semi-futuristic chamber, (reminiscent of Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire), and is drawn into consciousness by a female voice. True voice acting, it should be noted. He then emerges into the Hyrule overworld, and a very unusual thing happens.
Link jumps. A controlled jump. By the player. Astonishing as that may be, it is quickly revealed to be essential in traversing the landscape sprawling before him.
The art style of the new Zelda looks like a hybrid of Wind Waker, and the more modern Zelda games of the recent future. It this game However, what The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild harks back to is the very first Zelda title. Much like Zelda on the NES, you are thrust into a vast unknown world to explore with very little direction. Shigeru Miyamoto said that the original Zelda was born out of a love for hiking and exploring from a young age- and you can see that ethos echoed in this new release.
Koroks from Wind Waker make a return, as does the typical “old man”, and during gameplay there was a spectacular false flag in which the player notices a sword in a stone; Not the master sword sadly, but a rusty broadsword. Combined with a pot lid, acquired shortly after from a camp of Moblins, Link is outfitted. The past mechanic of using other enemies weapons as your own has been extended to being able to take them with you. This includes axes, clubs and spears as well as swords; they don’t last forever though.
The detestable stamina bar from Skyward Sword seems to have made a comeback (to my personal dismay), but the movement in combat appears fluid and involving within a familiar targeting style of fighting, but a little more cinematic. The myriad of weapons offer different combat styles; heavier two handed weapons make for more powerful swings, but disable the use of a shield and use more stamina. The bow has also had a major overhaul, having several different arrows, and the ability to fire midair, in slow motion.
There are a lot of new elements that buck the traditional Zelda tropes. No hearts in grass and rocks this time- to regain gradually decreasing health, you must eat food, actual food you can forage. Some food, when prepared can grant link temporary extra hearts, temperature resistances or other bonuses, but this is achieved through a cooking mechanic which seems to be very much trial and error. It also appears that items are exchanged for rupees rather than finding them by themselves. This is a Zelda game with a survival element. Weather, Heat and cold also play an element, and how well Link handles these conditions depends on the food link has eaten, and the kit he is wearing. Speaking of kit- Breath of the Wild also takes in elements from other RPG games by having a multitude of gear you can find and equip, with increasing stats- if you can find them! Link also seems to have embraced the modern age somewhat, by using a vaguely smartphone like object known as a Sheikah Slate, which seems to be used as a map, scanner, and its functions being expanded as the game progresses.
As for score, being an open world game, it has opted for more dynamic and contextual music, instead of music by area as in other games in the franchise.
The world is said to be enormous- with developers boasting not even the small portions of the map available to E3 players will be fully explored by players. A bold statement- but the scale of what we have seen makes it believable. Thankfully, map pins can be placed to help one navigate. Link can also snowboard on his shield, and paraglide on a small sail.
We also got a taste of shrines, miniature puzzle-filled dungeons of which there are reportedly more than 100, each offering a unique trial. Link can use runes acquired in these locations to manipulate the environment; materialising bombs or moving metal objects with magnetic power, for example. At the end of this mysterious chamber, Link gains a spirit orb, which are collected and exchanged for key items!
Shrines and dungeons are not one and the same, with dungeons being dramatically larger and more familiar to Zelda fans; being intrinsic to the progression of the as yet unknown central plot.
Three new Amiibo are released with the game, Functionality with the Wolf Link Amiibo released with HD Twilight Princess, has also been shown, and the wolf functions as command-able animal companion, although the model does look a little out of place.
Toward the end of the coverage, we did get a vague idea of just how massive the in-game world is, by walking to the very edge of what was currently available to play, and how small a fraction of it we have been shown. We were then shown short video sections of gameplay in the wider world, and of Link on horseback. The central plateau area borders onto several of these places, and which path Link takes is up to the player; it has also been hinted that this choice may have in-game repercussions.
Nintendo are shielding us from all plot spoilers, and assure us that the wider world will include towns and a multitude of NPCs. The story is being kept firmly under wraps for the player to explore and discover, with this extended demonstration focusing solely on gameplay. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief; as beautiful as Hyrule looked, it is a little barren in this demo version. One iconic thing that teased us visually was a brief view of Hyrule Castle, which already looked to be enveloped in some kind of darkness or force barrier; has it already fallen to the King of Evil?
The exploration and survival elements of Breath of the Wild, melded with the traditional Zelda elements has my mind and control thumbs clamouring for it. Despite telling us so much, we are still left with so many questions, so much we still don’t know and are desperate to find out- and that’s what events like E3 are all about.
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