The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the next and arguably most ambitious entry in the franchise yet. Coming to Nintendo Wii U and Switch in 2017, Breath of the Wild will feature a fully-fledged open world set inside a post-apocalyptic rendition of the land of Hyrule. Iconic locations and mechanics make a welcome return alongside a truly striking visual style that combines the best of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess into one beautiful package.
For decades, The Legend of Zelda franchise has adhered to a familiar formula of dungeons, exploration and discovery. You'll always be finding new items and dungeons in the same predictable order. Breath of the Wild changes all that, pushing Link in a brave new direction more akin to something like The Elders Scrolls or Far Cry than your usual Zelda experience.
We've compiled everything you need to know about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild below, followed by our in-depth preview.
Check out the latest Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild trailer below:
Breath of the Wild hopes to remain lovingly familar to hardcore fans while expanding the franchise in ambitious new ways. Exploration is now dynamic and unpredictable, with items you'd usually obtain as part of the story now peppered through random locations. You could stumble across the bow or hookshot in the first ten minutes, making each playthrough unique and exciting. This plethora of items can be used in traditional dungeons and shrines, small trials scattered throughout the open world.
According to Nintendo, there will be over 100 shrines scattered across the land of Hyrule. These can be unlocked by using Link's Sheikah Slate, which is essentially a Hyrulean tablet that displays your map, inventory and objectives. By completing shrines you may be rewarded with new skills and abilities, many of which will make exploration far more fun than before.
In a nutshell, Shrines are kind of like of mini-dungeons to keep you entertained as you discover more of your expansive surroundings. Breath of the Wild is taking the franchise in a markedly different direction, and its gameplay mechanics and visual style clearly reflect this. Breath of the Wild is a gorgeous mixture of the cute cel-shaded style of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess' serious, almost dark fantasy aesthetic. It's the best of both worlds while also being simultaneously groundbreaking.
The environment of Hyrule will play a much larger part this time around, instead of just acting as a pretty backdrop to your adventures. Link can now traverse almost any obstacle. Cliffs, trees and rocks can be traversed to reach new areas and alluring treasure. Breath of the Wild will also feature a dynamic weather system, forcing the player to change clothes, equipment and items depending on whether they're in the scorching sunlight or a freezing blizzard. These are mechanics we've never seen in a Zelda game before, making it all the more exciting.
Set to launch in March 2017 for both Wii U and Switch, this could be Nintendo's most important game in years. Recent rumours originating from Laura Kate Dale of Let's Play Video Games suggest that Breath of the WIld may not make the Switch launch, with Nintendo aiming to release the game in June 2016.
Due March 2017 for Nintendo Switch and Wii U
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Nintendo showcased two playable demos of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The first was designed to give an insight into the basic premise of the game’s storyline, and the second to showcase the gameplay, which has some notable changes compared to previous Zelda games, while still feeling thoroughly Zelda-ish. Having played both, here are my thoughts on Link’s latest outing.
It makes sense to begin with the storyline demo, which illustrated the game’s opening. It started slowly, with Link – a teenager this time around – waking up in unfamiliar surroundings (which turned out to be the Shrine of Resurrection), wearing just shorts. Moving through the shrine, I found a couple of chests containing clothes and, on a pedestal, a tablet-like object called the Sheikah Slate. That would turn out to be a multi-purpose object providing things like objectives and a map, and even doubling up as binoculars.
A disembodied, mysterious female voice started to describe Breath of the Wild’s premise. Link had been asleep, it said, for 100 years, during which time a “beast” had brought near-ruin to Hyrule. So, in time-honoured fashion, it was up to Link to restore the land to its former glory.
Stepping out of the shrine, a glorious new imagining of Hyrule unfolds. In Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has gone for an impressionistic, cel-shaded and utterly lush visual style which is reminiscent of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
We soon encountered an old man, who demonstrated one of the game’s new mechanics with the help of a baked apple. The health-restoring hearts from Zeldas of yore have been abandoned in favour of a more realistic system involving collecting food and raw materials, lighting fires and cooking. The old man told Link about a nearby shrine he should visit, which appeared as an objective on the Sheikah Slate.
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He also warned Link that the “beast” – who, it later emerged, was called Calamity Ganon – had so far been trapped in the sacred Hyrule Castle, but his power was growing, soon to break out and rampage through the land, bringing disaster to it. Thus, Breath of the Wild’s basic premise is defined, and it was obvious that in order to prevail, Link would have to embark on an epic quest.
Heading towards the first objective, I had to deal with some Bokoblins – pretty low-level enemies. By then I had acquired an axe, and the Bokoblins, having been dispatched, yielded some useful items like a bow, arrows, a shield and basic sword. Swapping between weapons is easy enough – hold right on the Wii U Gamepad’s D-pad and move the right stick. The bow is mapped to the right trigger, and the shield to the left. The latter useful for staggering incoming enemies before launching a flurry of swipes with your sword or melee weapon.
Link’s first objective was a ruined shrine, in which he found a pedestal to slot the Sheikah Slate. This caused a nearby tower, along with several others across Hyrule, to rise from the ground, marking the true beginning of Link’s quest.
Climbing to the top of the tower, the disembodied female voice returned, showing us Calamity Ganon, a malevolent, threatening-looking presence in Hyrule Castle. Using the Sheikah Slate as binoculars, it was possible to detect varied landscapes within Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule, including volcanoes and heavily forested areas.
The gameplay demo took place within the same area but gave Link a fairly full inventory from the start. So I experimented with sword, arrows and shield, but also bombs. It wasn’t possible to use the crafting engine, as I hadn’t collected enough raw materials, but it is sure to be a key game mechanic.
Another change to past Zelda games is the ability to climb anything rather than just vine-covered areas. So I shinned up a few trees, and even took on a rock face. At which point, I found Link is also equipped with a stamina meter; if that ran out, he would fall back down the cliff. It’s also a safe bet that, by the end of the game, Link’s amount of stamina will have been upgraded considerably.
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One cute new move employed Link’s shield as a sort of surfboard: if you equip the shield, run then jump, he will stand on it and slide down inclines. Link will also acquire new moves during the course of the game – an extended version of the trailer showed one called Flurry Rush, which saw him jumping away from an enemy and triggering a period of slow-motion when timed correctly.
Breath of the Wild also supports Nintendo’s Amiibo – I was able to generate a Wolf Link companion which follows Link anywhere other than up cliff faces. And Link can chop down trees, either to generate firewood or even, as long as he gets his angles right, to act as bridges.
Breath of the Wild’s open-world nature really stood out: I spent most of the demo wandering aimlessly but happily, taking out enemies, hunting wild boar and collecting things like flint (by chopping up rocks), which can be struck with Link’s sword to light fires.
Every Nintendo fan will question the long wait for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Nintendo is still only saying that it'll arrive at an unspecified time in 2017 – but my experience of even a small part of the game was blissful and impressive. It has a calming, Zen-like quality, but it was easy to detect a more malevolent undercurrent, in true Zelda style.
The removal of hearts and insistence that you have to care for and nurture Link more than in the past felt utterly appropriate – there’s a more grown-up, sim-style vibe that is in keeping with the game’s seamless, open-world nature. This time around, for example, all of Link’s clothing items have specific attributes, so if you’re in a snowy area, Link will need his warmest clothes, which may not offer so much protection from incoming attacks.
I had a look at the map, which was pretty huge: Nintendo said that it is 12 times the size of Twilight Princess, and the area in which the two demos were set, of which I merely scratched the surface in 35 minutes of play, represented 1% of the total area. There was one glaring omission from the demos: any sort of puzzle action, but it is very much a Zelda game, so you can still expect plenty of those.
Breath of the Wild felt as though, at the very least, it will be another epic addition to the Zelda canon. It was a joy to behold and play, albeit fleetingly, and while it may not arrive in time to make the Wii U a success, it will give Nintendo’s NX console the perfect head-start in life.