I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at E3 for over an hour and I feel a unique kind of postpartum depression knowing that I won’t be able to play it again for another 9 months. It would have been better if I never tried it at all.
Breath of the Wild is without a doubt the most ambitious Zelda title ever developed and is already shaping up to be the biggest release of 2017. This game looks and feels unmistakably like a Zelda game, but most of the familiar mechanics have been revamped with countless new systems added. For instance, the classic roll has been replaced with a dedicated jump button and health is no longer gleaned from collecting hearts, but by eating food.
It seems that Nintendo has taken the best parts of modern role-playing games and injected it straight into Breath of the Wild’s DNA with a syringe right out of Doctor Mario’s medical cabinet. Breath of the Wild is part Skyrim, part Far Cry, part Minecraft, part Monster Hunter, part Wind Waker, part Dark Souls, part Skyward Sword (and only the best parts from each, mind you).
From the outset you’re given no context as to where you are, why you’re there, and why you’re half naked. You find your first set of clothes and your first weapon shortly after, but they’re not designed to protect you in any helpful capacity. All of your weapons break after a certain number of uses and you’ll need more durable armor to brave stronger enemy attacks and harsh weather. Strong inventory management is the key to survival in this vast world of Hyrule.
Just how big is the overworld in the new Zelda? Well I played the demo twice, taking different paths in each go and I didn’t even come close to exploring that section of the world which is estimated to be about 2% of the full game. The first truly HD Hyrule is alive and it invites you to push the boundaries of what it is programmed to do. You can cut down every tree in the game and chop it into firewood, then build a campfire, then use that fire to cook food. Alternatively, dip your bow in the fire to set your arrow ablaze, or use a tree branch to make a torch. Destroy giant rock monsters and use the ore inside of them for crafting new weapons or sell it for some cold hard rupees. Shoot a beehive off of a tree next to some Bokoblins, then blow them up with a bomb you lured them into in their attempt to run away from the bees you aggravated. You can even use your shield as a surfboard and quickly slide down hills. Clammy hands mean the world is your oyster.
Specific items called Runes can be summoned at any time. For instance, bombs no longer need to be purchased, you can whip one out whenever the situation calls for it as soon as you earn the bomb Rune. Other Runes like the magnet fundamentally change that way you can interact with the world as it allows you to lift and move metallic materials with ease. I saw one person use the magnet to pull a metal plank out of a deep bed of water and use it to bridge a small chasm leading to treasure.
What truly boggles me about the demo I played is how much I explored it and still how little I know about the game. There were enough new ideas introduced in the demo that if the developers just stopped with those mechanics and fleshed that out, the game would still feel very complete. Yet I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface. In fact, I haven’t even hit land. Indeed, I am still in outer space looking down at the cloud shrouded world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But I’m falling towards it at breakneck speeds with one fist stretched out in front of me eagerly awaiting the day I can dive back into its mysteries.