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e3 2016

Hands-On With The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

by Ben Reeves on Jun 14, 2016 at 08:00 AM

During an early Nintendo E3 booth tour we got almost 45 minutes with Link’s newest adventure. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is something of a wild departure from the formula established in Ocarina of Time, but it still feels true to the spirit of the franchise, established with the original Legend of Zelda on the NES.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild opens with a disembodied voice (possibly Zelda) telling Link to wake up and open his eyes. It’s worth noting that this voice over is in English, a first for the series. Series producer Eiji Aonuma told us the game would feature more voice over, but wouldn’t say if the game would be fully voiced. Series fans will also be happy to know that Link is still a silent protagonist.

English voice-over is far from the only new addition to this Zelda. As previously seen in past trailers, Breath of the Wild is an open world game, and it reminded me of games like Skyrim or the The Witcher, in that Link can travel to any point in the world that he can see. All told, Breath of the Wild’s world is 12 times the size of Twilight Princess’ Hyrule.

Thankfully, navigating that world seems relatively interesting, with various enemies, animals, and other points of interest scattered about. The world is dense with activities, and Nintendo hopes players will experiment with the world in various ways. After cresting a hill, we noticed a few Moblins at the bottom of a valley. Instead of jumping down to battle them, we pushed one of the boulders off the edge and crushed them underfoot. Players will also be able to climb trees, hunt animals, and chop down trees to create makeshift bridges across rivers.

Another thing we quickly noticed while navigating the world is Link can now jump at will. That’s right, there is an actual jump button. This makes navigating the world a lot easier. By pressing and holding the jump button, players will also be able to scale cliff faces and other vertical walls. Link also has a stamina meter that slowly depletes while climbing, running, or doing any other physical activity.

One thing we didn’t notice while exploring Breath of the Wild’s massive world, we noticed another interesting details: cutting grass doesn’t reveal rupees or hearts. In order to replenish Link’s health in Breath of the Wild, players can cook food. We foraged a few mushrooms and a steak from killing a wild boar and then cooked them up at a bonfire to make a kebob that replenishes several more hearts than we would have gotten if we’d eaten the ingredients separately. Ingredients can also be added together to create elixirs that boost Link’s stats or give him temporary bonus health. 

At bonfires, Link can also rest which advances the clock. We waited until midnight to see how the world would change. Some enemies go to sleep at night, and we were able to sneak into an enemy camp and take out several enemies without alerting reinforcements. However, new enemies also sometimes arrive at night, and I encountered a few bands of skeleton warriors not long afterwards.

One of Zelda’s biggest tent poles are its dungeons filled with environmental puzzles and gigantic boss fights. Aonuma hints that there are still a few dungeons scattered across the world, but we didn’t get to see any of them this time around. However, in order to supplement dungeons, Nintendo has also added smaller dungeon-like environments called shrines, which are more compact puzzle-solving areas that will reward Link with various items and upgrades. After Link enters one of these Shrines, he’ll be able to use them as fast travel points.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild makes some bold changes to the Zelda formula, but in many ways it also feels like a logical progression of the gameplay set forth in the original Legend of Zelda. Nintendo said during our time on with the game that we barely scratched the surface and saw less than one percent of the game’s over world. The final game looks to be full of worthwhile distractions. Unfortunately, we still have to wait at least until next year for the game’s release.

For more on Breath of the Wild, head here, here, and here.