When people think about the Zelda series some key ideas typically come to mind: traversing through dungeons collecting weapons, equipment and of course a key object as a reward for defeating that particular dungeon. Nintendo’s latest title throws out the more linear story experience in favor of an open-air experience, with freedom to go wherever the player wants right from the beginning. Although it will still give players a nudge in the right direction when they need it, the hand-holding of recent Zelda games is replaced with a grand adventure where anything can happen.
Breath of the Wild puts players in control of Link as he wakes up from a hundred year-long nap. After making his way through a short introduction to the new clothing mechanic and receiving his new guide device, known as the Sheikah Slate, Link is thrust out into the open world without even a weapon on his waist. The nearest thing he can find will likely be a tree branch, which introduces players to one of the new key elements. Link will no longer have a simple sword to whip out at any time, but instead is dependent on the weapons he finds throughout the world. What’s more is that each weapon will break after a certain amount of uses, meaning every weapon Link can find will count. Link can steal weapons from enemies and will find a good assortment of hidden ones throughout the world, but the best way to face enemies or dungeons will be with a wide assortment of weapons just in case Link ends up going through all of them.
One of the big draws for Breath of the Wild is the vast amount of exploration offered in the new open world presented to them. Players will discover large dungeons and Shrines filled with enemies, puzzles and hidden treasure awaiting Link. With that exploration comes Link’s new athletic abilities, jumping and climbing, in addition his new glider to help Link soar quickly over the land. Using these new abilities, Link can now climb up the side of any surface he sees from ruined buildings to steep mountains. Link might have to make stops along the way if he hopes to make it to the top of a particularly tall mountain, as his stamina bar limits the amount he can run and climb. No worries though, as Link can increase his stamina bar temporarily through eating certain foods.
Unlike past Zelda titles, cutting down grass in hopes of finding hearts to heal Link isn’t going to yield any results. Instead, the only way Link is able to get back health is through eating various food items. Whether Link decides to hunt wild animals or just wants to pick up some mushrooms and apples, he’ll need them in order to stay at full health. Link can even craft a campfire in order to cook food to boost their healing properties, or if he’s lucky he might stumble across a cooking pot which will let him combine ingredients for even greater results. Many of these food items can even do more than just restore hearts with some combinations giving him increased stamina, temporarily increasing his max health or even make him immune to extreme temperatures for a set amount of time.
The world in Breath of the Wild has been revealed as the largest of any Zelda title to date, which means traversing will take quite a while on foot. Luckily Link can get access to a glider towards the beginning of his adventure and even find wild horses for faster transportation. If players are stealthy enough they’ll be able to sneak up on wild horses and hop on their back to allow Link a chance at taming them. Once they’ve been successfully tamed Link can take them back to one of the many stables and register them with a name, enabling Link to call upon that horse whenever he needs for convenient traveling.
Wild horses aren’t the only wildlife Link will come across either. Link can stumble across all manner of natural wildlife from boars to seals all with great AI reactions. If Link makes his way towards many of these wild animals, they’ll start running for it in the other direction. Even the enemies have received this intelligence upgrade, as the many monsters Link faces will now actively avoid bombs and traps they see in their attempt to try and take him down. Enemies will alert others nearby to attack Link, and he could get quickly overwhelmed by them if he’s not too careful about how he goes attacking groups of even the most basic enemy.
The difficulty in Zelda titles has differed between each title, but Breath of the Wild is challenging players by making them think ahead through the entire journey. Much like Link himself, enemies will be given a wide assortment of strong and weak weapons to fight with. The average enemy wielding a wooden spear might just knock down a heart or two if they got a hit on Link, but many are equipped with weapons able to dish out enormous amount of damage if Link isn’t prepared. Fortunately, players can find all manner of clothing and armor for Link to wear, some which raises his resistance to the harsh cold elements and others which give him a better defense. Link can also use his new stealth mechanic to sneak up behind his enemies to get the advantage, or sneak past them all together if he’s low on health and weapons. There are many treasure chests in the world that will be unlocked through defeating certain groups of enemies, but they will always be there to get later if it seems better to wait and come back for it later.
There’s one particular feature that many fans have debated as to whether or not it would be good for the series that has finally made its way into an official Zelda title, and that’s voice acting. The cut scenes in the Breath of the Wild are fully voiced, which all the characters receiving speaking roles except for the traditionally silent protagonist himself. While this could be a positive or negative depending on if the player enjoys voice acting and how well it’s done, this is a nice step forward in the series as a while that previously just relied on grunts and gasps from characters. Being able to hear the text seen on screen instead of just having to read it adds that extra layer of immersion many players truly enjoy in RPGs, and it’s likely to be a positive experience for many when emotions are portrayed on a much deeper level than ever before.
Whether a long-time fan or new to the series, Breath of the World is opening itself to anyone who loves grand adventure with challenging enemies, puzzle solving and quick thinking. Link has the freedom to go wherever he likes while discovering a brand new world and story. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be available worldwide on March 3 for both the Wii U and Nintendo Switch. Nintendo has worked hard to craft an outstanding experience that stays true to the long history of Zelda titles fans know and love while still managing to branch out, bringing new life to the series it’s never had before.