What would have otherwise had been a regular Thursday evening, I was given the opportunity to spend 40 minutes with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at a closed door media session. Prior to the session almost every thought about the direction and future of the Zelda franchise came to my mind, as I envisaged how the franchise may change, or perhaps not change? Will I fall in love with Breath of the Wild as I have with other Zelda games and ultimately can it live up to the standard that has been set with previous Zelda titles? So many thoughts flew in and out of my mind and butterflies were present in my stomach as I stepped up to the door and awaited my hands on session with the Breath of the Wild.
As I entered the room which Nintendo had set up for our hands on session, I was greeted with a shiny and bright Nintendo Wii U display unit with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild up on the screen, awaiting my press of the ‘A’ button. Before I commenced, I must note that beside every Wii U station was a Nintendo employee who greeted you and talked you through the demonstration also. They were extremely supportive and truly embraced their role in showcasing what is in my opinion one of the biggest and most respected title for the system. The hand’s on preview was broken into two parts, the first took part in the open fields of Hyrule where you were free to explore the lands. The second part was story based and took you to the beginning of the game, where you could see how it all begins. My entire experience was said to represent just 1% of the total game experience which I certainly do believe given the sheer size of previous titles.
Time to explore
One of the first points that I must mention which really sets the scene with Breath of the Wild is the traversable open world design which is a first for a Zelda title. Gone are the days where you cannot access areas of the world until you have defeated certain bosses in certain dungeons in a particular set order. Now, the world is yours to explore any way you choose. As I began to walk around the fields I was able to interact with various items in the world such as trees, rocks, walls and more. In fact, the dynamic has changed significantly to what I was used to in the past. Link can now jump with the press of a button and can also climb walls, not just conveniently placed vines either. Instantly the dynamic had changed and it had my attention.
As I began to explore and encounter various enemies such as the Bokoblin, I would use my equipped sword and shield to deal with the enemies I encountered. However, weapons tend to break and their useful life appears to be finite which is a new feature for the series. At one point I had absolutely nothing to defend myself with and backtracked to pick up an enemies club which I used to defend myself against the next enemy that chose to cross my path. By this point I started to realise that I needed to pick things up in order to survive. Everything ranging from wood to mushrooms, clubs and more, you will start to become a hoarder so to speak as you grab everything in sight. In fact, it’s essential to your survival. Gone are the days of slashing some grass to reveal heart containers that instantly replenish your health. Now, you must collect apples and fruits to meat from wild boars in order to replenish your health. I searched for a cooking pot which I had seen in previous demonstrations from E3 in a bid to cook up some wild mushrooms, however I didn’t come across one during my time.
Aside from collecting food and resources, Link has earnt a number of new abilities which I admired. The first was the ability to jump when you wanted, and climb walls as well, albeit till your stamina bar decreases. These changes are huge and put the entire world at your fingertips in terms of exploration. The next big change was discovering the ability to change Link’s clothes. At first I was running around in my shorts and bare chested, right up until the point it became somewhat cold. I was prompted to equip some clothes that were right for the occasion and Link was happy to progress once more. This is not an entirely new idea as items such as the Zora suit were worn to swim under water in previous titles, however the changes with Breath of the Wild feel far more in depth than ever before. I spent the rest of my time with the open world area defeating enemies with arrows, clubs and anything else I could get my hands on, eating apples and steak to keep my health levels up before the time ran out.
The story line demo begins like most of the Zelda titles of the past, usually with Link asleep and of course his awakening. This instant familiarity brought with it more puzzling questions as Link wasn’t in his home, rather you were housed in the Shrine of Resurrection. As you wake, you are prompted to find some items of clothing from a nearby chest and are told all of this thanks to that all too familiar voice. You are told that you must save the world and you have been asleep for a very long time, some 100 years so lots would have changed for Link no doubt. Link also acquired a tablet like object called a Sheikah Slate which was used to open doors and activate switches across the land.
As you exit the Shrine of Resurrection, you are once again out in the open world, although this time I was pointed towards an objective. Along the way I was greeted by an old man who gave me some tips and of course sent me on my way. I made my way towards the waypoint where I inserted the Sheikah Slate which caused a number of towers to raise up from the ground across the land. As I turned and looked around, I begin to see a black cloud engulf the castle which I can see from the tower. I’m told by the old man, whose name I can’t remember for the life of me, that the beast is called Calamity Ganon, and it was my job to save the world. That part was predictable, but I am ok with a Hero, a Princess and Ganon when playing a Zelda title.
It was here that my hands on experience ended with the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, yet I was longing for more, much more indeed. Questions began to enter my mind such as where the nearest town was, where is my horse, can I fly and of course can I warp throughout the lands should I choose. However, the experience was more intended to provide an introduction to the new world of Zelda, as well as demonstrate the new direction of the series and the new abilities and changes which its director Eiji Anonuma has introduced. I can honestly say I was extremely impressed with the games easy to use control system and just how easy it was to control Link. Visually the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was stunning, from the lighting effects to the way the grass moved with the wind. Everything was as you would expect from a Zelda title, polished to perfection.
40 minutes seems like a lot of time but for me it was over in a flash. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild captured me from the moment I pressed start, and continued to hold my interest right through till the end of the session. In fact I was disappointed the experience was over as there was so much more I wanted to do, see and of course explore. However, it was enough to give me a taste of the new design and vision that Eiji Anonuma has created which is an open world that’s truly beautiful, with complete freedom and new gameplay mechanics. I can truly say that The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild will be one of the biggest and best titles of 2017, now the only question left is which Nintendo system to play it on?
Edit: I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Nintendo for giving us the opportunity to experience The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild at the EB Expo 2016 media event. You have absolutely made my day and it was a privilege to play.