When it was announced that Legend of Zelda would be going open-world, some were sceptical. How would the tight and perfectly paced formula translate to large, meandering spaces? The series has always had open zones, but they always felt precisely calculated in size and scope.
So, how is the game shaping up?
I’m glad to say that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s open world is beautiful, and from my limited time with it, appears to be packed full of content. In fact, the game may be my favourite showing of E3. I ran through two demos in my time with the it. The first let me explore a small chunk of the open world, while the other directed me through the starting sequence.
Firstly, the open world is amazing to look at. You’re surrounded by green sweeping vistas in multiple directions, with a haziness and fluidity to the edges that makes everything look hand-painted. In the distance is the iconic Hyrule Castle, and the ominous silhouette of Death Mountain, with dark clouds swirling around it.
My first demo started me off at a small base camp, surrounded by basic amenities and supplies: a fireplace, cooking ingredients like vegetables and mushrooms, and lumber. I initially started messing with the game’s cooking system, which is a first for the series. By combining certain ingredients, and cooking them at a fire, you’ll make meals. These meals heal you up (meaning you won’t be picking up hearts to restore your health), and certain exotic combos give you passive bonuses – like some extra health, or damage.
It wasn’t long before I came across my first enemy encampment – full of Bokoblins, of course. While you can charge in and deal with them head on, their strategic placement of towers and patrols will make it difficult. I snuck in, and then let loose an arrow at a sleeping enemy – which hit, and did critical damage.
After scuffling with a few of them, I was in a one-on-one duel with the chief. I had him poised next to an open fire-pit, and decided to force him into it. While he came out a little worse off, an unexpected twist arose: he came out with his weapon on fire, which dealt additional damage to me when it struck. It was a nice little moment of emergent gameplay – where interlocking systems interacted in unexpected ways, but produced a memorable, cool experience.
In fact, every enemy’s weapon can be stolen and used against them – meaning you can sneak into enemy camps and steal or destroy their gear. This makes the ensuing fight a lot easier. Naturally, their weapons aren’t as sturdy as yours, and have limited durability.
The next demo was a brief story section from the start of the game. It featured Link waking up from his slumber, as he is called upon to save the land from an encroaching threat. The visual stylings of the dungeons that you’ll interact with are very unique, bathed in a neon blue – a strange amalgam of traditional fantasy trappings, with futuristic flourishes.
Next, I had to cajole an old man out of his hang-glider. The interactions with him were particularly humorous, leaning on traditional Legend of Zelda tropes in a way that wasn’t grating or forced. To get it, I had to clear a nearby dungeon, which had me use a magnet tool to manipulate blocks and sheets of metal in simple physics puzzles.
I will admit, I was initially sceptical with Nintendo’s E3 plans – but if there’s one franchise that deserves an entire booth to itself, it’s The Legend of Zelda. It didn’t hurt that the game is shaping up to be something special either, taking traditional Zelda gameplay tropes, and integrating them into a completely different genre space.