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Posted June 17, 2016 by Zachary Clarke in Feature
 
 

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

zelda feature image
zelda feature image

Going in to E3, the new Legend of Zelda game, now revealed to be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, was by far, the game I was most excited and curious to see. Hell, it was my most anticipated game of 2016, before it was delayed until next year. Now finally, here at E3, I’ve been able to play the game for about thirty minutes. While it’s not nearly enough time to form a solid opinion of a game of this scale, but I definitely have some strong first impressions.

There were two individual demos for Zelda. The first one saw me thrown straight into the massive open world and given free rein to explore at whim for fifteen minutes. If you have been following this title on other sites, you may have seen how everyone is having seems to be vastly different experiences with this particular demo based on the direction they explore. In my case, within the first couple of minutes of playing I found a lizard that one of the PR reps on the floor had never actually seen before. The sheer amount of options present even just in this demo is daunting, but you can’t help but feel intrigued for what the world of the full game has to offer.

This demo begins with Link at a campfire in the middle of a forest, with a bunch of gear including a sword and shield leaning on a nearby log. The first thing I did was check out the fire, which allows the player to change the time of day to dawn, afternoon, evening or night. In my case, I chose to stick with the default morning, as I grabbed all my gear and began my brief adventure.

zelda image 3 E3 2016: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

I ran straight in to the forest and immediately discovered some boars. As I approached, getting ready to fire an arrow, the boars heard me and immediately bolted. This is how Breath of the Wild introduces the player to stealth. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen is a sound level meter that shows off how much noise you are making. By pressing in the right stick you can make Link crouch, muting the sound of your steps and allowing you to obscure yourself in the grass. While Zelda games have dabbled with stealth mechanics in the past, they have been tied to specific portions of a game, or been required for specific types of enemies. This is the first time stealth has become a viable option for taking on a broad range of enemies, which is an exciting prospect.

Soon after, I came across a camp of Bokoblins, a few of which were hanging around a giant piece of meat cooking on a fire, while another played lookout on top of a viewing platform. I noticed one of the boars who escaped earlier run past the camp and grab the attention of the lookout Bokoblin, which allowed me to creep through the grass and fire an arrow directly in to the Bokoblin’s head causing a “critical hit”, a one-hit knockout move. Through interactions between enemies and animals like this, you do get the impression that Hyrule really is a living, breathing world.

This left three more Bokoblins at the campfire. I snuck up a bit closer and hid behind a tree, where I took out one more Bokoblin using my bow and arrow. However, this alerted the remaining two to my whereabouts. I drew out my sword and shield and prepared for melee combat. Combat feels more like your typical 3D Zelda fare, as I pulled up my shield to block the Bokoblin attacks, putting them off guard and allowing me to get a few slashes in.

zelda image 2 E3 2016: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

After defeating enemies, Link can pick up and equip the weapons they drop. All the weapons in the game have a finite durability, so you will want to have a number of weapons on hand at all times in order to ensure you are never caught empty handed. At the moment, I am of two minds about this. On one hand I like the variety in weapons and being pressured to mix and match what I have has the potential to be cool. On the other hand, I hate the idea of being able to be caught without anything to defend myself with.

Fortunately, I found that weapons dropped fairly frequently, so I always had plenty available. It is also possible (although unconfirmed) that there may be unbreakable weapons, perhaps the Master Sword, that will appear and help alleviate many of the concerns I currently have the durability system. Speaking of running out of items, you also have a finite amount of arrows. However, you can always go and pick up arrows you fired, whether they have missed or hit their target, which adds a degree of real-world logic to the game, and gives players the option to re-stock their ammo soon after a fight if they’re willing to spend a little time.

Once all the enemies were defeated I heard a familiar chime, as suddenly a chest that was sitting on a platform in the camp lit up. The chest revealed a new set of pants for Link, giving me a small glimpse at the new equipment system. No longer is Link restricted to a variety of multi-coloured tunics, or even a choice of set costumes like Tri-Force Heroes, instead the player can customise each piece of Link’s outfit, with each item of clothing having different aesthetics and properties.

zelda image 1 E3 2016: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

Remembering to take the cooked meat along with me was important as well. You see, no longer can players cut grass or break pots in order to regain health – instead you will be eating food that you find and cook during the game to replenish your life. Food also has other properties; some animals I picked up along my adventure were stated to provide various buffs to things like stamina and speed if used in a recipe. Unfortunately, I did not have the necessary items to cook anything, but the concept seems like another great way of providing the player more options in how they choose to take on various challenges.

As I wandered further I came across another campfire surrounded by long grass, leading to a crevice in the mountain, with various red barrels sitting idly around the place. I decided to grab a torch I had on me, light it on fire and then set the grass on fire to see what happens.  Well what happened was fire… a lot of fire. The fire spread across all the grass and made its way up through the crevice, lighting the barrels which then exploded hitting enemies that I hadn’t noticed previously. As I followed in the fire’s wake I eventually came across a giant skull, which was now surrounded by a bunch of Moblins that were now burning in the inferno I had unleashed upon the world.

After the blaze was put out and all that was left was ash surrounding the giant skull, I entered it to find a chest with another new weapon, the fire rod. This is normally the kind of item reserved for a special discovery in a dungeon, rather than just lying around the overworld. That said, this is a great way of evolving the concept touched on in A Link Between Worlds, with dungeons and areas not just focusing on specific items that you locate within them. The fire rod was an interesting weapon, shooting unwieldy balls of fire around in various directions, setting ablaze any grass they come across.

zelda image 4 E3 2016: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

However before the demo ended I had to try game’s reworked climbing mechanics. While fundamentally the system is similar to Skyward Sword, with a stamina bar appearing when climbing that runs out as your grip weakens, this time you can climb on nearly any surface. I climbed up the giant skull where I found the fire rod, I climbed up brick walls, I climbed up rocky mountains. This isn’t your typical Zelda game, or even a typical adventure game, with clearly defined climbable areas – pretty much any surface can be scaled, bar something that is completely flat. I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record but this really does help to further push how this game’s focus is on adventure, allowing you to literally explore new heights.

I eventually got a few more minutes with the same open world demo, and while I didn’t get to see as much, I did get to try out two of the new items Link has at his disposal. One is a magnet that allows Link to pick up metallic objects, like platforms or metallic spheres, which can then be used to crush enemies or create pathways or bridges. It’s a cool new item that has great versatility in terms of both being used to solve puzzles, cross the terrain and take out enemies. The other new item on show was a remote control mine, that Link can plant and then trigger by pressing the L button. This again provides another interesting way to take on a group of enemies, where you can set up a bomb and lure an enemy in to it.

The second demo showcased the beginning of the game and was a more narrative driven experience. It starts with Link waking up in some sort of cryogenic tube, as a young girl’s voice guides him to the Sheikah slate, which from what I have seen so far, seems to act like a key-pass to various things such as shrines. After collecting a shirt and some pants you exit the chamber and are greeted by one of the stunning vistas that have become emblematic for this game. With this introduction, Breath of the Wild addresses one of the key complaints of modern Zelda titles – that they start too slow. This time, literally within minutes you are let out into the vast land of Hyrule.

I was then greeted by a mysterious old man who proceeds to wander down to a campfire at the bottom of the hill. As I made my way towards him I found my first weapon… the mighty… branch! After taking out a few Moblins with my trusty piece of wood, I eventually came across an axe. Once again a very versatile weapon, allowing you to either use it to take down enemies, or chop down trees, either to use their wood to make other items or the logs as ways to cross ravines or crush enemies. I found it interesting that the first sword and shield I obtained were drops from Moblins rather than earned through some cutscene or following a tutorial.

zelda image 5 E3 2016: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Preview

As I continued exploring, I eventually stumbled across some old ruins and using the Sheikah tablet I managed to reawaken a large tower. At the top of the tower you can see what can only be assumed to be Hyrule Castle, surrounded by a dark force that the mysterious female voice explains is “Spirit Ganon”. After this the demo ended.

So needless to say, the plot right now brings up a ton of questions. Who is the girl? Who is the old man? Why has Link been sleeping? How did Spirit Ganon come to power? WHERE IN THE TIMELINE IS THIS GAME? All I can say is I am dying to find out more about this world and what is going on.

I can’t write about this game and not talk about the visuals. The cel-shaded artstyle is stunning, as it honestly feels like you are playing through a Studio Ghibli film. All the animals and the Moblins are well animated and feel like organic beings in this world, rather than just NPC’s with a single specific purpose in a video game world. The music of course is magical, the main theme really captures the feeling the whimsical feeling of nature and the mystique of this version of Hyrule.

Overall I am impressed by the sheer amount of options you have in this game. From where you can go, to what you can do, how you find enemies and what weapons you use, it is shaping up to be a fantastic evolution of the original Zelda formula, with a real focus on the sense of adventure on discovery. I do have some concerns the stamina meter and how the open world nature of the title will affect the narrative, but these are minor in comparison to the many positives. This has the potential to be the largest, grandest and maybe even the best Zelda game ever.


Zachary Clarke

 
Zach is a unabashed Nintendo fanatic, however that doesn't mean he doesn't partake in the forbidden fruits of Playstation & Xbox consoles... he even plays on PC from time to time. Zach has dabbled in the video game industry in a number of ways over the past few years, from writting content for Gonintendo & Another Castle, to running the Society for Electronic Entertainment at the University of Melbourne. There is nothing more he loves than getting together, either online or offline with a bunch of fellow gamers, to yell at each other until we just want to punch one another in the throat while discussing video games.


 
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Posted June 17, 2016 by Zachary Clarke in
 
 

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


Going in to this E3, the new Legend of Zelda game, now revealed to be The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, was by far, the game I was most excited and curious to see. Hell, it was my most anticipated game for this year prior to its delay to next year. I have now played the game for about thirty minutes, which is not nearly enough to form a solid opinion of a game of this scale, but I definitely have some strong first impressions.

There were two individual demos for Zelda. The first one saw me thrown straight into the massive open world and given free rein to explore at whim for fifteen minutes. If you have been following this title on other sites, you will have heard how everyone is having vastly different experiences with this demo based on the direction they explore. Hell within my first couple of minutes of playing I found a lizard that one of the PR reps had never seen before. While the sheer amount of options is a tad daunting when you are on a timer, it is also fills me with an immense sense of wonder and intrigue for what this world has to offer.

The campfire starts out with Link at a campfire in the middle of a forest, with a bunch of gear like a Sword and shield leaning on a nearby log. The first thing I did was check out the fire, which allows the player to change the time of day to dawn, afternoon, evening or night, however I chose to stick with the default morning.  I then grabbed all my gear and began my brief adventure.

I ran straight in to the forest and immediately discovered some boar. As I approached getting ready to fire an arrow, the boar heard me and immediately bolted. This is how I was introduced to how BotW handles stealth. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen is a sound level metre that shows off how much noise you are making. By pressing in the right stick you can make Link crouch, mulling the sound of your steps and allowing you to obscure yourself in the grass.  While Zelda games have definitely dabbled with stealth mechanics in the past, they have generally tied to specific portions of a game, or they are required for specific types of enemies, this is the first time stealth has become a viable option of taking on a broad range of enemies, which is an exciting prospect.

Soon I came across a camp of moblins, a few of which were hanging around a giant road piece of meat on a fire, while another was lookout on top of a viewing platform. I noticed one of the boars I noticed earlier run past the camp and grab the attention of the lookout moblin, which allowed me to creep through the grass and fire an arrow directly in to the moblins head causing a “critical hit” which is a OHKO. The fact that the moblin reacted to the boar really went a long way to convincing me that Hyrule in this game is a living breathing world.

This left three more moblins at the campfire. I snuck up a bit closer and hid behind a tree, where I took out one more moblin using my bow and arrow, however this alerted the remaining two to my whereabouts. I drew out my sword and shield and prepared for melee combat.  The melee felt like your typical Zelda fare. I pulled up my shield to block the moblins attacks, which then put them off guard allowing me to get a few slashes in.

After taking them down they drop their weapons, which Link can pick up and equip. I was then made aware that all the weapons in the game have finite durability, so you will want to have a number of weapons on hand at all times in order to both offer you some variety in how you attack, but also to ensure you are never caught empty handed. I am of two minds about this, on one hand I like the variety in weapons and being pressured to mix & match what I have is kind of cool, on the other hand I hate the idea of being able to be caught without anything to defend myself with. Fortunately I found that weapons dropped fairly frequently, so I always had plenty available. I also imagine eventually there will be some unbreakable weapons, like perhaps the Master Sword, that will appear and help alleviate most of the concerns I currently have the durability system. Speaking of running out of items, you also have a finite amount of arrows, but you can always go and pick up arrows you fired, whether they have missed or hit their target, which adds this level of real world logic in to the game that I really appreciate and always allows players the option to almost always have arrows on hand, if they choose to recover them.

Once all the enemies were defeated I heard a familiar chime and suddenly a chest that was sitting on a platform in the camp lit up. I walked over to it and opened it to find a new set of pants. This gave me a small glimpse at the equipment system. No longer is Link restricted to a variety of multi-coloured tunics, or even a choice of set costumes like Tri-Force Heroes, instead the player can customise each piece of Link’s outfit, with each item of clothing having different aesthetics and properties.

The PR person guiding me through the demo then informed me of another way BoTW is breaking Zelda tradition when she told me to take the cooked piece of meat. You see, no longer can players cut grass or break pots in order to regain health, instead you will be eating food that you find and cook during the game to replenish your life. Food also has other properties, some animals I picked up along my adventure were stated to provide various buffs to things like stamina and speed if used in a recipe. Unfortunately I did not have the necessary item to cook anything, but the concept seems like another great way of providing the player more options in how they choose to take on various challenges.

As I wandered further I came across another campfire surrounded by long grass, leading in to a crevice in the mountain, with various red barrels sitting idly around the place. I decided to grab a torch I had on me, light it on fire and then set the grass on fire to see what happens.  Well what happened was fire… a lot of fire. The fire spread across all the grass and made its way up through the crevice, hitting the barrels which then exploded hitting enemies that I hadn’t noticed previously. As I followed in the fires wake I eventually came across a giant scull, which was no surrounded by a bunch of moblins that were now burning in the inferno I had unleashed upon the world, showing the variety of ways players can take on enemies.

After the blaze was put out and all was left was ash surrounding the giant scull, I entered it to find a chest where I found another new weapon, the fire rod, normally the kind of item reserved as a special piece of equipment you find in a dungeon, not just lying around the overworld. This is a great way of evolving the concept touched on in A Link Between Worlds, with dungeons and areas not just focusing on specific items that you locate within them.

The fire rod was an interesting weapon, shooting a unwieldy balls of fire around in various directions, setting ablaze any grass it comes across. It is great to see there will be a wider variety of weapons than just variants of standard melee or bow like weapons. Unfortunately I did not got get a lot of time to mess around with the Fire Rod before the demo ended but it was a great sign of things to come.

However before the demo ended I had to try games reworked climbing mechanics. While fundamentally it works fairly similar to Skyward Sword, with the player able to scale a wall, with the stamina bar being the way they limit how far you climb, however this time you can climb on nearly any surface. I climbed up the giant skull where I found the fire rod, I climbed up brick walls, I climbed up rocky mountains. This isn’t your typical Zelda game, hell or just typical adventure game, with clearly defined climbable areas, pretty much any surface can be scaled, bar something that is completely flat. I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record but this really does help to further push how this games focus is on adventure, allowing you to literally explore new heights.

I eventually got a few more minutes with the same open world demo, and while I didn’t get to see much, I did get to try out two of the new items Link has at his disposal. One is a magnet, that allows Link to pick up metallic objects, like platforms or metallic spheres, which can be used to crush enemies or create pathways or bridges. It’s a cool new item that has great versatility in terms of both being used to solve puzzles, cross the terrain and take out enemies. The other new item on show was a remote control mine, that Link can plant and then trigger by pressing the L button. This again provides another interesting way to take on a group of enemies, where you can set up a bomb and lure an enemy in to it.

The second demo was from the beginning of the game and was a more narrative driven experience. It starts with Link waking up in some sort of cryogenic tube, as a young girl’s voice guides him to, what is sure to be a key item in this game, the Sheikah tablet, which from what I have seen so far, seems to act like a key-pass in to various things such as shrines. After collecting a shirt and some pants you exit the chamber and are greeted by the stunning vista that has become emblematic for this game. This addresses one of the most common complaints of modern Zelda titles, being that the opening is to slow. Literally within minutes you are let out into the vast land of Hyrule.

I was then greeted by a mysterious old man who proceeds wander down to a campfire at the bottom of the hill. As you make your way towards him you will find your first weapon… the mighty… branch! After taking out a few moblins with my trusty piece of wood you eventually come across an axe. Once again a very versatile weapon, allowing you to either use it to take down enemies, or chop down trees, either to use their wood to make other items or the logs as ways to cross ravines or crush enemies. I found it interesting that the first sword and shield I obtained were drops from moblins rather than earned through some cutscene or following a tutorial.

As I continued exploring, I eventually stumbled across some old ruins and using the Sheikah tablet I managed to reawaken a large tower. At the top of the tower you can see, what can only be assumed to be Hyrule Castle, surrounded by a dark force that the mysterious female voice explains is “Spirit Ganon”. After this the demo ended. So needless to say the plot right now brings up a ton of questions. Who is the girl? Who is the old man? Why has Link been sleeping? How did Spirit Ganon come to power? WHERE IN THE TIMELINE IS THIS GAME? All I can say is I am dying to find out more about this world and what is going on.

I can’t write about this game and not talk about the visuals. The cel-shaded artstyle is stunning, it honestly feels like you are playing through a Studio Ghibli film. All the animals and the moblins are well animated and feel like organic beings in this world, rather than just NPC’s with a single specific purpose in a video game world. The music of course is magical, the main theme really captures the feeling the whimsical feeling of nature and the mystique of this version of Hyrule.

Overall I am impressed by the sheer amount of options you have in this game. From where you can go, what you do, how you find enemies, what weapons you use, it is shaping up to be a fantastic evolution of the original Zelda formula, with a real focus on the sense of adventure on discovery. I do have some concerns about things like the stamina metre and how the open world nature of the title will affect the narrative, but these are minor in comparison to the many positives. This has the potential to be the largest, grandest and maybe even best Zelda game ever.