The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nin­tendo proves, once again, you can’t rush great­ness, writes An­drew White­head

Hyper - - EDITORIAL -

You have to re­spect Nin­tendo’s com­mit­ment to The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. No­body could ac­cuse Nin­tendo of rush­ing it to mar­ket in an at­tempt to keep its flail­ing Wii U con­sole alive. Let’s face facts: that ship has al­ready sunk. But af­ter get­ting some solid hands on time with Breath of the Wild, it’s clear why it’s tak­ing so long.

For starters, the world of Breath of the Wild is around 360 square kilo­me­tres in size, or 17 times the size of Twi­light Princess. I got to play around in just a small frac­tion of that to­tal area in a place called the Great Plateau, but even that sec­tion felt huge and filled with things to dis­cover.

There are new game­play el­e­ments here, too, such as re­source gath­er­ing for craft­ing, hunt­ing and gath­er­ing to cook meals, and weapon degra­da­tion. All of this feeds into the Breath of the Wild liv­ing up to its name: Link is truly alone in the wilder­ness and has to be self-suf­fi­cient or he will end up suf­fer­ing the con­se­quences.

Long-time Zelda se­ries pro­ducer Eiji Aon­uma has been open about the bril­liant A Link Be­tween Worlds for the Nin­tendo 3DS be­ing a test­ing ground for a num­ber of ideas they wanted to in­cor­po­rate into the next main­line Zelda game. And it seems he and his team reached the same con­clu­sion their fans did: give play­ers the tools to

en­joy your game early on and let them choose their own path.

I can’t say how weapons will be doled out when the fi­nal game re­leases, but in my demo I was able to ob­tain a bow and some ar­rows straight away. And when that bow broke I dis­cov­ered a Bokoblin camp with an archer on a watch­tower, so I quickly took him out and stole his. It was that easy.

These once key items feel more dis­pos­able now that they’re eas­ier to come by. And in some ways they do feel less spe­cial, but it also makes sense in Breath of the Wild. There were times when I felt like I was play­ing a Zelda-themed sur­vival game so, of course, Link is go­ing to be re­source­ful enough to steal the equip­ment he needs. Se­ri­ously, why hasn’t he been do­ing this all along?


My demo for Breath of the Wild was split into two seg­ments. The first and long­est part of my time with the game was a spent free-roam­ing, while the sec­ond part was fo­cused on the story.

I went into the first part of my demo want­ing to run ev­ery­where and see ev­ery­thing, but I kept spot­ting things off in the dis­tance or en­coun­ter­ing en­e­mies to fight and steal from. At one point I lit a tree branch on fire, lured Bokoblins into the long grass and then set the whole area ablaze. I couldn’t help my­self.

I did man­age to make it to ice-cold Hylia River and had to pull out my trusty jumper to stay warm and to stop poor Link from freez­ing to death. From here I headed up Mt Hylia to get a bet­ter view of my sur­round­ings. Climb­ing feels nat­u­ral in Breath of the Wild and doesn’t rely on vine-cov­ered walls. All you need is a sur­face with a bit of grip and to keep an eye on your de­plet­ing stamina me­ter, and let it recharge now and then, much like the one used in Sky­ward Sword.


A no­table change in Breath of the Wild that took a while to hit me was the si­lence. Though the game isn’t de­void of sound ef­fects, there was a dis­tinct lack of mu­sic play­ing while ex­plor­ing the over­world. The­mat­i­cally, it makes sense as Breath of the Wild feels more down to earth than other Zelda games, but it’s one of those things I couldn’t un-no­tice when it prop­erly dawned on me.

At one point I found the Tem­ple of Time, spot­ting it in the dis­tance and recog­nis­ing its steeple in­stantly. But when I got there is was just a shell of its for­mer self. It felt for­got­ten about, aban­doned and vir­tu­ally empty other than a bro­ken-down guardian oc­to­pus mon­ster sit­ting for­lornly inside the ruins.

And yet, I was drawn to it. It’s a strange feel­ing for a fan of the se­ries like my­self be­cause that tem­ple was such a defin­ing place in Oca­rina of Time. See­ing it like this felt sym­bolic of how hard Nin­tendo is try­ing to move on from that sem­i­nal game. In fact, it was a place like this that added to a sense of dark­ness hang­ing over Breath of the Wild. It’s a game filled with mys­ter­ies and, as of yet, not a lot of an­swers.

Don’t get me wrong, though, the Zelda sense of hu­mour is still here. Watch­ing my in­gre­di­ents of bugs and mushrooms dance around my fry­ing pan only to pro­duce a ‘Du­bi­ous Meal’ item did make me laugh. It’s just great to see Breath of the Wild play­ing with that bal­ance of dark­ness and the light.

An­other thing fans will have to get used to is no longer find­ing hearts and ru­pees when cut­ting down grass. It is still worth hack­ing into the fo­liage to find any hid­den in­gre­di­ents, but

restor­ing health is now done by stuff­ing Link’s face with food. Ru­pees can only be earned by sell­ing items, though where this can be done I can’t say as I didn’t find a sin­gle shop dur­ing my play through.

Dur­ing my play-time I stum­bled upon a Shrine of Tri­als, which is one of over a hun­dred scat­tered around the world. Act­ing like mini-dun­geons, these shrines are filled with traps and en­e­mies as well as hous­ing monks who be­stow Link with new pow­ers and abil­i­ties. I had one of these abil­i­ties at the be­gin­ning of my demo: the power of mag­netism. With it I could lift and move metal­lic ob­jects around, which led to a num­ber of small physics-based puzzles for me to solve.


Af­ter wast­ing time surfing on my shield and cut­ting down trees to craft more ar­rows, I was ready for the story to be­gin. Start­ing in an alien-like tem­ple called the Shrine of Res­ur­rec­tion, Link is urged to open his eyes by an un­seen woman be­fore emerg­ing from a shal­low pool of wa­ter. Here Link ob­tains the Sheikah Slate tablet, which re­sem­bles a stoneage smart­phone, as well as some much need clothes. Af­ter be­ing told he is the light that “must shine on Hyrule once again”, he heads out­side into the day­light.

Out­side and look­ing down at the val­ley of the Great Plateau, the mu­sic swells as Link takes it all in be­fore head­ing down­hill and greet­ing a mys­te­ri­ous char­ac­ter sim­ply known as Old Man. Af­ter a small ar­gu­ment over a baked ap­ple that I may or may not have stolen from him, he points me to­wards the run down Tem­ple of Time be­fore lament­ing the down­fall of Hyrule.

Leav­ing him for now, I fol­lowed my mini-map to a pedestal that I ac­ti­vated with my Sheikah Slate. Sud­denly, a mas­sive tower ap­peared, burst­ing out of the ground and as­cend­ing into the sky. Again, the disem­bod­ied woman’s voice spoke to me, telling me I’ve been asleep for 100 years while show­ing me a dis­tant king­dom en­gulfed by a shad­owy mon­ster.

Head­ing back down, I see the Old Man once more and we come up with a deal. He’ll let me bor­row his hang­g­lid­ing con­trap­tion if I go inside of a Shrine of Tri­als and bring back what I find. For ev­ery­thing that’s new and dif­fer­ent about Breath of the Wild, it’s hard to deny how very Zelda that last sen­tence sounds.

The demo ended soon af­ter this. I went to the shrine, made it through, and handed over my find­ings only to be told I need to do more work to earn my re­ward. Again, it’s Zelda. Peo­ple don’t just hand you things, even if you are try­ing to save the world.


What shines through the most with Breath of the Wild is how will­ing Nin­tendo has been to take more risks with the se­ries. Nin­tendo has pulled it apart and put it back to­gether, throw­ing out some things and adding in oth­ers.

It’s been an­nounced that Breath of the Wild is launch­ing on both Wii U and the Nin­tendo NX, or what­ever the next ma­chine ends up be­ing called. So, much like Twi­light Princess on the Wii, our blond hero is once again tasked with stack­ing the chairs and turn­ing off the lights on an­other con­sole be­fore head­ing over to the wel­com­ing party for the new one.

I don’t want to make ex­cuses for Nin­tendo, and its un­pre­pared­ness for the chal­lenges of this gen­er­a­tion has been painfully ob­vi­ous. But I can as­sure you that The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a big step for­ward for the se­ries, and from what I’ve played I’m con­fi­dent it’ll prove to be more than worth the wait. If only there was a proper re­lease date to match the hype.

There's so much to do in Breath of the Wild, you'll never feel boar-ed (soz)

Mount Doom tends to ruin ev­ery pic­turesque shot. Nice on, Sau­ron!

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