The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Impressions – EB Games Expo 2016

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The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s longest running franchises of all time, and the latest of this franchise the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At this years EB Games Expo held in Sydney, we managed to get some hands-on time with the game thanks to Nintendo. If you haven’t heard much about Breath of the Wild, it’s essentially the Zelda game that is going back to the roots of the franchise, which is exploration and building that sense of wonder in a new world. But does it successfully do that? Our gameplay demo, where we actually got to play the game, really helped us understand how it is that Nintendo will successfully build a game of adventure and wonder.

In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the player controls the hero of the adventure, Link, as he quests through a now massively huge version of Hyrule in order to defeat a new (or old) kind of evil. Unfortunately, our playthrough wasn’t long enough to actually progress significantly through the game, but we were able to catch some glimpses of the story as a part of the second half of the demo. The first part of our demo though, was an exploration section, focusing on an area in Hyrule that looks like it was connected to the Temple of Time or something. If you watched the E3 playthrough, it was that same area.

What immediately stood out about Breath of the Wild was just how vast the world seemed, even though it was also littered with things to do, see and explore. In this demo, we were placed in a small section of Hyrule that was still incredibly large. Before us in our small starting area was a bunch of weapons, like a sword, a bow, and a few other goodies. Other than that, we were told that we could ask our nearby Nintendo representative for advice, but this section of the game wasn’t really on rails. It was a taste of the general exploration and depth of the game.

We did a bit of exploring and tested just how far the games systems go. What I really liked was that if you could envision doing it, you could probably work out a way of getting something done. For example, early on, I figured that maybe you could cut a tree down with a sword. And hey, I could! There was also another puzzle later involving some kind of mud and magnets, which I ended up grabbing a long metal bit out of some water in order to get across to some treasure chests.

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I really liked that Breath of the Wild is so open, but it still has a lot to do within its open world. I don’t really like comparing games to other games, but if you played The Witcher 3 and are familiar with how much there is scattered around to do in that game, you’ll have a slight understanding of what it is like in Breath of the Wild. Of course, this isn’t to say that it feels exactly like The Witcher 3, but for comparison of what to kind of maybe expect from the game, a similarity can be made there.

One of the things that threw me off for the entire play session was that the control scheme in Breath of the Wild is so remarkably different to any other Zelda game that has come before it that things that you’d reflexively as a Zelda player would suddenly cause you grief in this one. The exploration in Breath of the Wild begins with the controls, but I’m not sure if that is a smart move on Nintendo’s part at all. For example, imagine you are holding a bomb in Zelda. You want to throw it. You just press A and it throws, right? Well now, if you press A, it drops at your feet and it blows up and you die. Now you throw with L. I also heard that you liked rolling. That’s gone too. No more 1.5x movement for you. You jump now.

What’s even more different about this is the entire inventory system. Unlike past Zelda games where Link had maybe one or two different outfits for use in different occasions, in this, it appears that there will be a fair few different outfits for sure. In our short video presentation, I could have sworn I saw Link’s most well known Green Tunic, but I might be mistaken on that. Even more, there is a wide variety of weapons that can be used, taken from enemy corpses and more. Missing though, are hearts and rupees pulled out of grass. Now you need to turn in ores for rupees and eat food to recover hearts. It’s a bit strange, but it works for this kind of game.

There were two parts to this demo, the first being the exploration half of the demo, where you could explore one part of the game where I later heard was only 1% of the entire map (not sure how true that is, but it was a Nintendo rep that told us that), and the second being the storyline segments of the demo, where you would play through a small amount of the story. I have to say that the story has me intrigued, and also has me considering my Zelda lore.

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Without going into specifics, I will be honest and say that the story, as it is told in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is very reminiscent of the first two Zelda games, and maybe even with a very small amount of the third. Unlike from, say, Ocarina of Time onwards, you’re not really given much to go on in finding your way. You wake up in a mysterious Hyrule, an Old Man (legit, Old Man returns!) gives you a weapon and you peddle off along your way. I fully expect that this game will have gamers taking down plot points with a pen, as I could find no indication of a journal anywhere (but I could be mistaken on this too).

The storyline demo began with us in ancient, but somehow sci-fi, looking tomb where out hero awakens from a long sleep. Much like in A Link to the Past, a womans voice reaches the ears of Link and draws him out of his abode and into the surrounding world of Hyrule. However, from here, it’s like it switches Zelda moments and you’re suddenly in the first Zelda game, walking along to a cave with an Old Man. From there, you eventually find yourself climbing an ancient tower and mapping out a section of Hyrule. There was also a sequence showcasing what looked like a familiar foe, so there’s definitely a link to the established lore there.

Overall, I would say that I am incredibly pleased with the overall direction of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While the controls are really incredibly iffy to learn, the game finally returns to the franchises roots of exploration and problem solving, and it does it in a way that fits with both the classic conventions of the franchise, as well as a modern outlook on where the adventure RPG genre is headed. Breath of the Wild might not be a genre defining game, but it’s definitely a game that feels as though it will go above and beyond that definition. Even if this wasn’t a Zelda game, I would be excited to play this one.

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