E3 2016: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild cover

When Nintendo announced that their E3 2016 presence would be entirely dedicated to the new Leged of Zelda, they weren’t kidding. Over the past day, they have been pumping out trailers, gameplay, commentated gameplay, and extensive looks into the new game. Fortunately, it seems like the game deserves all the attention, because The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is unlike any of its predecessors.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be an open-world action RPG, with a heavy emphasis on exploration, weapon and ability collection, and hunting. From what has been shown off, the game differs from the others in the vast series with its more open approach to combat and ability usage, and it also allows for challenges to be tackled in any order you please. The art style is different too, and the game looks like a watercolour come to life. But enough talking, here’s the first trailer:

Other new features you can notice in the trailer is spoken dialogue, which hasn’t been in a Zelda game since the Phillips CD-i games, and several different suits of armour and weapon loadouts. The equipment choices and options make it look like Breath of the Wild will have more traditional RPG elements than other Zelda games.

Beyond that, we also have weather effects, and several new approaches to combat. There’s a short scene of Link sneaking up on some foes, and other scenes where he pushes a boulder down a cliff to crush enemies. It also shows off Link taming a horse, which is a contrast to previous games where Epona was just your best bud from the get-go.

Next up, Nintendo Treehouse sat down with Eiji Aonuma, the The Legend of Zelda series manager and producer, to play through the opening of Breath of the Wild.

It starts with Link waking up in the ominious “Shrine of  Resurrection”. He then explores the chamber, and receives the Sheikah Slate, an item that helps manage his abilities and inventory. Aonuma states that technology is a large factor in Breath of the Wild, more than previous games.

Once outside, a panoramic camera shot shows off the Great Plateau, which I imagine is the starting zone. This is all running on a Wii U, and it looks amazing. The music is also a lot more subtle than previous games, relying more on the sounds of nature around you. The demo also shows-off changes to combat, such as Link’s weapons breaking, and Link disarming an enemy and using his spear.

The last noteworthy thing in the demo is what looks like Hyrule Castle from Ocarina of Time. My guess? Breath of the Wild takes place in a future where Link was defeated at the end of Ocarina, and resurrected centuries later.

The next video is another big look at the exploration and open-world gameplay. The Nintendo Treehouse presenters seem quite excited to emphasise how freely you can roam and explore the world. There’s also a look at the different biomes, as Link seamlessly wanders into some snowy terrain. Being in a cold place seems to de-buff Link, and he has to equip warmer clothes to keep exploring. We also get a look at stealth gameplay, which is one of the ways you can tackle your foes. Breath of the Wild looks so huge that players might easily get lost exploring it.

Moving on, we have some Shrine of Trials gameplay. The Shrines are dotted across the map, and can seemingly be tackled in any order. Each Shrine teaches Link a new ability, then runs him through an obstacle course to test his mastery of said ability. Link gains the power to move metal objects with the Sheikah Slate. The objects can be used to open doors, bridge gaps, crush foes, or block attacks, so it seems that these abilities will affect gameplay in big ways.

The above video doesn’t really show new gameplay, but it does feature a special guest: Shigeru Miyamoto himself. He and the cast of Nintendo Treehouse talk a little about the themes of Breath of the Wild, in particular how the freedom to explore is a throwback to the first Legend of Zelda for the NES. It’s always great to see Miyamoto talking about past and present Nintendo franchises; the man exudes so much creativity and passion for his projects.

Another cool feature for the game is the hunting and gathering components. Link must now gather meat or vegetables and consume them (raw or cooked) to restore health, which allows you to plan ahead for big encounters by keeping a stocked lunchbox. Monster parts and insects can also be crafted into potions and elixers, which grant temporary buffs and abilities. In a neat move from Nintendo, Breath of the Wild can be completed without hunting animals, allowing for gaming’s first ever “Veggie Run”.

The last major gameplay worth taking a look at is the “Combat and Weapons” demonstration, embedded above. Breath of the Wild has vastly different combat compared to the rest of the series, allowing players to make use of various weapons and tactics. Link can do battle with one-handed swords, two-handed claymores, axes, spears, and his bow. Your choice of weapon determines whether you can use a shield or not, and some weapons are better suited to certain enemies.

Weapons also break, so players will need to outfit themselves appropriately for the enemies they think they might encounter. The demonstration didn’t detail the different clothes or suits of armour, but it did show Link using his bombs. Hopefully, other iconic weapons from the series will make it in, like the boomerang or Hookshot.

Wrapping things up, we have some amiibo news. First up, if you activate your Wolf Link ambiibo at a certain point in Twilight Princess HD, and then again at any point in Breath of the Wild, you can summon Wolf Link as your companion. He can assist in combat, help hunt, or just lope alongside you and look awesome.

There will be three amiibo for Breath of the Wild. One is Link on horseback, another is Link drawing a bow (my personal favourite), and another is the Guardian monster, with flexible arms. How these actually impact gameplay is still up for speculation, but they sure look sweet.

There are more videos covering the game on Nintendo’s YouTube channel, but these mostly just show more exploration. And frankly, I’ve seen enough to get hyped-up for the game. It’s a new direction for the franchise, one that seemingly blends The Witcher 3 gameplay with the Zelda world and a beautiful art style.

Judging by the pre-order website, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be launching in 2017, for Wii U and the Nintendo NX.

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