Nintendo’s E3 presence was limited to its Treehouse livestream, where it showed off two games: Pokémon Sun & Moon and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Most of the stream was dedicated to Zelda, and we’ve summarised the day-long stream in a nice little package! When they said that this game would break from Zelda traditions, they weren’t joking. Breath of the Wild completely deviates from the formula in a way I’ve seen very few franchises do. Kudos to Nintendo for taking such a risk, but is it worth it? From the looks of things, Hell Yes.
The land of Hyrule has changed. Link has awoken from a hundred year slumber to find the kingdom in turmoil once again, but it’s not what you remember. The game’s map is now an open-world affair (Nintendo calls it an “open-air adventure”), and it’s massive. Like, holy shit is it massive. The entire day’s stream barely managed to fully explore one area of one region…the smallest of 11. According to Christopher Kalanderopoulos from Eggplante, the map roughly clocks in at about 360 square kilometers. To put that into perspective, Grand Theft Auto V‘s map is 81 square kilometres and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim comes in at 39 square kilometres. Highly impressive, to say the least. This map will be filled with all kinds of hidden stuff, and littered with villages and the like in the final product. It harkens back to the original NES title, with its emphasis on exploration. The game’s visuals are a love child of the cel-shaded Wind Waker and the bloom-loving Skyward Sword, creating a vibrant and colourful game that looks good on the Wii U…and apparently even more sublime on the NX. Breath of the Wild sounds just as good. Voice acting for some dialogue, environmental sounds are crisp, music is perfectly timed and relaxingly minimal, and combat sounds are satisfying. No expense has been spared in this game’s development from the looks of things, and I couldn’t be happier.
As to how Link explores and interacts with this world is another middle finger to the Zelda formula from Breath of the Wild. For the first time, there’s a manual jump button. Link can also ride his shield down elevations, turning the game into Tony Link’s Pro Skater. Your trusty steed Epona makes a return, creating a visual not unlike Shadow of the Colossus. You get a portable paraglider to smoothly descend across entire fields. You see that mountain? You can climb it. Being an open-world fantasy game, there’s got to be some kind of survival element. Well, Minecraft enthusiast, today’s your lucky day! Link no longer collects hearts to regenerate health, a change that shall disappoint aspiring gardeners everywhere, with the Hero of Time now relying on actual food you find or gather throughout the world. Hunting animals, stealing food from bandit groups, picking fruits and berries, the choices are about three shitloads. Cooking mechanics are here too, further increasing food options. Weapons can cut down any tree in the world for firewood to cook with or to solve a puzzle. Link’s a lumberjack, and he’s okay. There’s no hunger meter in sight, thankfully, but the Stamina meter does return from the controversial Skyward Sword. This time, however, the meter seems justified with all the stuff you can do. Weather will play a massive part in the game as well, with the most obvious effect being that Link will take cold or heat damage if he’s not wearing clothing appropriate for the area. Apart from some sharp threads, Link also picks up weapons and other items which is another departure from the series formula. These weapons degrade over time and eventually break. This isn’t Dark Souls weaponry that lasts nearly forever before breaking, mind you. These ones break pretty quickly, so keeping yourself stocked is a good idea. I recommend skeleton arms. They wriggle all the time, even when holstered. They continue to live. They cannot escape. I need help. Weapon variety looks to be vast; swords, clubs, pikes, bows and even pitchforks are all weapons that can be equipped (each with their own stats) and used, with many more to come. Combat itself is still standard Zelda fare, with Z-targeting and an emphasis on reading enemy AI making triumphant returns. The bow has become more badass, though, with more arrow varieties and the ability to fire an arrow in the air. In slow-motion. If that’s not the tightest shit you’ve ever heard, get out of my face.
Link certainly has more tools up his sleeve this time around, but one in particular is a doozy. The Sheikah Slate is a smartphone-looking stone device that can create various bombs, acts as a giant magnet, displays the map, and more to come. The best part is that the Slate allows Wii U players to use the Pro Controller if they want, which is always a good thing. The staple inventory screen makes a return, but not as you remember it. The layout, and the UI in general, are incredibly minimalist in nature. Drinking in the gorgeous scenery, which will look much better on the yet to be revealed Nintendo NX, should be easy as microwaved pie (wrapped in a paper towel of course, we’re not savages). Dungeons are still a thing, but scattered in between them are new areas called Shrines (more than a hundred of them, in fact) that offer a variety of challenges and an equally colourful amount of rewards. The game is non-linear so players can do whatever they want. whenever they want. Even heading straight for the final boss at the start of the game. No, seriously. Truly an ‘open’ world. amiibo support is confirmed as well, and a few new figures are on the way. The ‘Archer’ figure will supply a bow to in-game Link, ‘Rider’ lets Epona out of her stable and into Link’s arms (not literally, can you imagine the mess?), and ‘Guardian’ is the first amiibo with moveable parts. What exactly it does besides potential ‘Loss.jpg’ memes is a mystery. Existing Zelda amiibo have support as well, with the ‘Wolf Link’ amiibo summoning an in-game Wolf Link that’ll hunt animals for you. I’m a massive sucker for dog companions. And dogs in general. I like dogs. b0rf.
These are going straight in the pool room.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild should see release in 2017 and is coming to both Wii U and the upcoming NX, much like Twilight Princess came to both the Wii and Gamecube. The NX version, much like the console itself, is shrouded in mystery. What we know so far is that it’ll look better than its Wii U counterpart, but will be the same game nonetheless. Am I excited? You bet your ocarina playing ass I am. I never quite got into Zelda, but that’s all changed now. I want this game like Slenderman wants souls. I need it more than I need oxygen. Take my lungs, I no longer need them.
Map image provided by Eggplante.com. Non-stream screenshot provided by Nintendo. Youtube playlist of gameplay here.