Nintendo did a big gamble when announcing that Zelda will be the primary focus of their E3 presentation. Now officially calling the newest entry, Breath of the Wild, they showed a lot of new details this year and brought their literally A-game. Having got a chance to play at Nintendo NYC, needless to say, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be big.
Instead of waiting 8+ hours to play this demo at E3, Nintendo NYC allowed 500 lucky fans to play without going through the hassle. I scheduled my play session appointment on Friday and when my group was up, they first showed off the E3 reveal trailer. My eyes were bleeding just seeing the trailer on the big screen that Nintendo NYC had. Wherever you pause on the trailer, it’s a perfect screenshot. The music, the vastness, sense of freedom, that is what the trailer emitted.
After the trailer, the representative explained that the demo will be 45 minutes long, divided into two parts. The first half would be basic free roam of the map. Basically,y do what you want and explore the Great Plateau with a stocked inventory and equipment. The second half would be story based and will start when Links wakes up, without any equipment, and to see what’s the current situation of Hyrule.
As I started the demo, I was completely overwhelmed with the scale of the map. Everywhere I look and seeing the map, there was so much to do and not enough time to do so. The controls took some time to get used to, such as a dedicated jump button in Zelda game, but manageable. It has been stressed that you cannot gain hearts by cutting grass anymore. You will have to forage and cook items that can heal and give you benefits, such as heat/cold resistance.
That brings in one of two new mechanics on the UI. First, is a new mechanic on stealth. There is a sound meter, showing how much noise you make in the current area. I started by hunting a boar in the vicinity, which failed because the boar notices the sounds I made. Crouching and using the tall grass is imperative when hunting and getting the edge on your enemies. Bokoblins will listen take notice of any sounds or unusual behavior and will investigate.
When faced with my first Bokoblin, the combat was very simple but had some depth to it. A new feature they had is the perfect dodge. If you dodge an enemy swing at the last moment, a la Bayonetta, time slows down and you can punish your enemies with fury strikes. When dealing with groups of enemies, this is very useful. Another aspect that was emphasized is that you must manage EVERYTHING! You have only so much weapons/shields and arrows you can use before it breaks over time. You have a stamina gauge which they brought back from Skyward Sword, which the Jump attack and dodges uses. This doubly so when you are dashing, climbing, swimming and everything in between. This reminds me of the Soul series and how you must keep an eye on all things in your arsenal and ability.
Briefly, there is also and emphasis on enemy levels and types. What this means is yes, there are enemies that can one hit kill you. The audience and I witness one moment when a green Bokoblin with a champions broadsword killed Link with one swing because of the lack of gear and upgrades. So it is very important to upgrade and plan you strategy accordingly. Should there be an opponent that you can’t beat currently, a tactical retreat is a wise course of action. One other aspect, in addition, is there are now critical hits. Should you land headshots with arrows or throw your weapon, it will always be critical damage to the enemy.
Then the second new mechanic, the weather system. You can see the temperature meter above the sound meter, which will tell what kind of climate you are in. This will play a role and Link will react accordingly. If you go to a cold snowy climate, Link will shake, teeth chattering and all, and lose health unless you dress him accordingly, which emphasize customization of your Link. You can even go shirtless and do a polar bear run if you wish. From armor and weapons, you can customize your Link to your liking. Weapons are shown with purpose, such as the woodcutters axe, which you can use to cut down trees and make makeshift bridges in chasms or gather firewood. Use torches to set fire to the lands to surround enemies or warm yourself in the cold. Or use flint with the firewood to set up a camp which you can speed time to day or night and regain back your hearts. Anything that you do will always have a purpose.
At the end of the first session, I was gathering any resources and clearing camps along the way before I met with the Guardian that was shown in the first trailer with its arms. Again, you can do whatever you want and go wherever you want.
At the second session, you start off with a bare Link and you gain your key item of the Sheikah Tablet. This will be the closest Link has to possessing a cellphone. This serves as your map, telescope, and powers you get from the shrines that are scattered through Hyrule. One power you already have is a bomb, which you can shape it round or square should you want it stationary or rolling. You meet the old man who tells you of what had transpired with Hyrule, basically that the people are gone and the Temple of Time was left to crumble. Naturally, Gannon is involved in the current state of Hyrule and that you have to save Hyrule once again. First, you have to travel and raise the Tower of Resurrection to update your map of the area, which then raises other towers in that district.
The towers also serve as your fast travel points, which is always a good touch. When the tower is raised, you can see the black beast Gannon surrounding the Castle which you must make your way. When trekking down the tower, you can feel the sense of vertigo and how great verticality is pronounced here. The last activity I’d done was conducting the first shrine, in which we gain the Magnesis, or the magnet power to manipulate metal objects. There was an enemy that resided in the shrine, which I could’ve taken it on with my weapons in a traditional way, but instead, I used the Magnesis to manipulate a metal block and squished him like the bug he is. It was quite satisfying, the freedom of how you can tackle enemies however you want. As I reached the final part of the shrine, my play time ended.
From this experience, Breath of the Wild emphasizes the idea of freedom of everything you do. Want to climb this mountain? You can do so. Want to scavenge and get ingredients to cook up a new recipe? Go right ahead. Want to face this daunting enemy that can kill you in one shot? By all means. You are free to do what you want when you want. Another strength is the vastness of the map and everything you see. I just wanted to sit there and just appreciate the beauty of it all while planning my next move. Plus there was shield surfing, which you use your shield to get down hills quickly! At first, it was definitely daunting, but I grew comfortable knowing that whatever I did, I chose to do and that it serves a purpose. Whatever you do, you can say that this was your experience, that this is your Link story. Nintendo, I cannot wait to see more of this great venture.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is scheduled to come out in 2017 for the Wii u and Nintendo NX.