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

/ Jun 22nd, 2016 No Comments

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Change is good. But change can be messy when you are dealing with a horde of video game fans unwilling to accept a new vision.

For a series as long running as The Legend of Zelda, change has not always been fast coming. The series tried something new with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but fans bemoaned the game’s cartoon style. Despite this, Wind Waker is the best modern Zelda game.

For all the strides the series took with The Wind Waker, it stepped back with The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This might explain why it’s been so long since a Zelda console game has released. The recent 3DS games A Link Between Worlds and Triforce Heroes showed a willingness to shake things up in major ways.

This commitment to change set the stage for what Nintendo is doing with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is a profound sea change for the series. It breaks every convention we’ve come to expect from a Legend of Zelda game, and is better for it. This is the evolutionary leap The Legend of Zelda needed to make.

A Wilderness of Possibilities

A major convention The Legend of Zelda series adhered to for a long time has been linearity. There was a specific order to what Link had to do in each game. There wasn’t anything wrong with this approach since it allowed the story to unfold as needed. However, video games have moved on from this strict structure in exchange for a more fluid, dynamic approach.

One of the big reveals for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was that it will be an open-world game allowing Link a level of freedom never experienced before in the series. This breaks one of the franchise’s major conventions and goes into uncharted territory for series producer Eiji Anouma and Nintendo. Some skepticism should be expected.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Shrines are scattered all across Hyrule, and Link needs to master them.

Since Breath of the Wild is a significant shift for the franchise, Nintendo decided to focus only on it at E3 2016. It was the sole fixture of its booth, so Nintendo transformed part of the Los Angeles Convention Center into Hyrule for three days. Any doubts or cautions about the new direction were immediately thrown out when I picked up the GamePad for the first time and began wandering the Great Plateau of Hyrule.

Everything is all at once familiar, yet profoundly different. The changes made to accommodate the open-world setting breathe new life into Hyrule. Link is no longer forced to walk at a slow, methodical pace. He can sprint. More importantly, he can jump for the first time ever. Both of these moves give him a significant amount of manual stability.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Climbing is a true game changer.

Link can also climb, and he can climb pretty much anything (except for dungeon walls or slick surfaces). In the demo, we found the Temple of Time, a sad, decrepit monument with stone golems littered around dead and lifeless. After praying to the Goddess statue inside, we proceeded to scale the Temple using the outer walls (there is a ladder nearby that you could use if you want to go the easy route).

The ability to climb almost everything opens up new possibilities of exploration for Link. More than that, it gives Hyrule a new level of verticality not previously seen in the series. It’ll be exciting to see what secrets are hidden in the heights of Hyrule.

Fresh and New

Freedom is what this new direction is all about. Besides sprinting, jumping and climbing, Link has many different ways to accomplish things. Perhaps most exciting is Link’s ability to sneak around and utilize stealth tactics. Link can now skulk around and either avoid a fight or use stealth to get the drop on an enemy. It takes the stealth sequences from The Wind Waker and amps them up to 10.

In the game, there are Bokoblin camps and strongholds throughout the world that house treasure that will be helpful in Link’s journey. Players can go in shooting off arrows and letting loose swords strikes, but there are other approaches that might be more tactful.

Another way the player can approach the game differently is through Link’s ability to utilize the environment. For instance, he can shoot down a beehive to stir up some bees, causing them to attack and distract the Bokoblins or set grass on fire with a torch to create a diversion. This opens up new ways to tackle familiar challenges.

Players are free to approach the world and its challenges how they want. Whether it is stealthily, wily, or running in weapons brandished in nothing but a pair of long pants.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Combat feels better than ever.

The combat, which has always been the highlight of previous games, is revamped to feel more fluid in Breath of the Wild. Instead of being stuck to melee combat with a sword and shield, you can employ a range of weapons to attack your foes.

In previous games, Link could occasionally pick up an enemy’s dropped weapon and use it until he unsheathed his sword or threw it. Whenever an enemy is defeated in Breath of the Wild, they will drop their weapon for Link to pick up. Instead of being able to use it for a brief moment, the weapon goes into Link’s inventory and he has the ability to use it whenever he chooses. Players can switch between weapons in their inventory by pressing left or right on the D-Pad. They can change shields or melee weapons on the fly, with each weapon having its own unique stats and weapon types having a special attack associated with them.

The pitchfork we found in an abandoned house in the demo acted like a spear, and the charge attack allowed Link to let off a series of powerful thrusts at a Bokoblin.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

You can truly play how you want now.

The open-world exploration extends to conventions we come to expect from open-world games, like bizarre weapons (a Bokoblin’s skeleton arm as a melee weapon) or the ability to explore the world nude. If a player chooses to un-equip Link’s clothing, he will wander around Hyrule in nothing but his blue skivvies.

A Long Wait

The demo’s expansive map is only a small portion of the final game — around one percent of the total map. In the final game, there will be 100 Shrines of Trials littered across the world with challenges for Link to undertake, and that doesn’t include the dungeons.

Best of E3 2016

Best of E3 2016 Award Winner

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be absolutely massive, with plenty to explore and discover outside of the main storyline. More importantly, it is a fresh, new take on The Legend of Zelda series.

Breath of the Wild was the best game of E3 2016. If you’re not already excited for it, then something is deeply wrong with you.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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