Hands-on: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda needed a change. Yes the game series is amazing, with their clever puzzle designs but there was nothing new to challenge players. Nothing exciting and refreshing. That changes now in Breath of the Wild.
Take your Legend of Zelda experience, add in some Skyrim and a dash of survival mechanics and suddenly you have a completely new beast to deal with, even though the graphics and the like are so familiar. It is a refreshing change, yet it feels so much like a Zelda game still, that signature charm still oozing out of the game.
Now that weapon durability is a real issue to keep track of, suddenly the inventory of the foes you fell is so much more important. Wooden sticks make for terribly weak melee weapons, serving better as firewood but they will work in a pinch. A strong smack to an enemy can cause them to drop their sword, giving you a few seconds to pick it up and equip it before they find it again. This lets you turn a difficult fight into a walk in the park, or you could use stealth to get in close for a killing blow, saving yourself from risking health while looking after your gear’s durability. Getting health back after a fight is no longer a short trip to a large section of grass and perfecting your lawnmower technique. Instead you need to forage for food and you need to learn which items give an extra boost when cooked. Seeing health as a finite resource instead of something that is easy to collect changes things up a lot. A bad fight means you will have to use up those tasty mushrooms you cooked earlier, meaning you will need to forage later for other things to eat.
Stealth adds a whole new method to taking down large camps of enemies. Will you sneak in, kill a few guards and then set some explosives off to take out the remaining guards? Or you can get a height advantage and snipe your enemies. Headshots do extra damage so get ready to make use of all that time spent in Call of Duty as you take down foes with as few arrows as possible. Fighting from a height has an added advantage of slowing down time, allowing you to plan your shots for maximum efficacy. Or you can rush in and hope for the best in the ensuing melee. This tactical layer makes combat so much richer and fun to tackle larger groups. Add in a few elite monsters with more health than their peers and you can see just how much attention has been paid to the details in this game.
Speaking of details, being able to “mistakenly” set things on fire, or chopping down trees for materials, and even the way you open chests have all had so much attention paid to these details. You can kick a chest open if you like, but make sure you have good boots on or your foot is going to hurt! A kick to the back of a chest makes it snap open and brush fires will quickly turn an idyllic valley into a nightmare obstacle course. It is easy to lose track of what you set out to do and I can’t wait to go get lost looking for treasure or powerful enemies to dispatch. Or maybe I will just see if I can chop down every tree in the forest, and use the firewood I gather to cook up a hearty feast. Exploration seems to be a focus and after playing for 30 minutes in this massive area, the person next to the console told me that I was on a floating island that makes up 2% of the landmass of the game. It is a massive world and thankfully you can unlock fast travel points and resurrection stones.
I can’t wait to see the other areas, where temperature extremes will change what you wear and how you go about your exploration. For example stamina is used to run around, to climb mountains and to swim so be careful you don’t use up all your stamina before you jump into a lake, at which point you will drown. Some foods will boost stamina, allowing you to climb that nearby rockface and reach whatever is hiding on that distant ledge.
On top of all this add in magic from temples that you visit that give you all new ways to interact with the world around you and I get giddy at the thought of the various interactions that will be possible with the world. The only power I had was magnetism, which lets you move objects the way Magneto would. See a chest at the bottom of a lake? Lift it out of the lake and set it somewhere safe. A jump look too difficult? Find a metal strut and make your own platform to help with the jump. In the beginning of the first temple, just a tiny tease before the demo ended, some walls and floors were made of metal. Just imagine what kind of clever puzzle solving is going to happen. I wonder if I can stand on a piece of metal and then levitate it around? Hmm. I really cannot wait.