Preview: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A somewhat exclusive look at the next instalment of the Legend of Zelda series came about over the weekend of EB Expo in Sydney. Each new game in the much-loved series has always been highly anticipated, often system movers in their own right, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no exception. The newest game comes at the tail end of the Wii U’s run, and is expected to be available on the NX either at its launch, or some time soon after.

The expo session consisted of a fixed video presentation, and then a hands-on with two playable demonstrations. The video put the focus straight to Link, and the different interactions available in the game.

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It could be seen almost as a tutorial video, with examples of foraging, tree-felling, starting fires and cooking making a show. Combat with sword, shield and bow is a given, though the ability to climb trees and sheer cliffsides was both new and easily conveyed by the video.

The first of the playable sessions put Link in a forested region of Hyrule, and was very much an open world area. Starting by a campfire with wild beasts roaming nearby, the onus was on freedom. I could explore, fight enemy Bokoblins, forage for food to cook, and chop or climb trees – but first of all, by using the campfire, I skipped ahead to night.

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That in itself changed the atmosphere, but it also opened up new events as well as additional behaviours from enemies. Bokoblins that had been defeated would rise as very animated and very persistent skeletons, that could only be dispatched with finality once the animated skull of the fallen had been defeated.

An adventure on a dark Hyrulian eve also gave the short demo a chance to show off a gorgeous sunrise. This freed play segment ended after a period of time, close to the lake and runed stones that were shown off earlier this year.

The second playable session took the action to the beginning of the game’s story, which means there are some minor story spoilers ahead.

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Breath of the Wild opens with a familiar voice beckoning Link to wake. He finds himself alone, semi-clothed and confused. He’s confused about where he is, and seems to have lost memories of whatever events brought him to that place. He’s semi-clothed because it’s a family game.

As he journeys through the area, he finds a runed object not dissimilar from a Wii U gamepad – except this other runed glowy device that allows him to control parts of the world is called a Sheika Slate. Initially it works with special pedestals that prompt closed doors to yield, but in even the demo, there were many other repercussions from using the slate. One such outcome was the unlocking of a resurrection tower – this event caused a series of other resurrection towers to rise from the ground, spread across the land in zones of varying climates.

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Eventually he finds his way to the world outside where he encounters an old man who tells about the trouble that has befallen the world. It has been 100 years since Link was here, alive, and in his absence the powerful monster Calamity Ganon has brought the kingdom to ruin. A point of no return looms, and despite his missing memories, Link follows his nature to play the part we knew he would.

To get on his way, Link needs a paraglider to safely leave the forest he is in – something that the old man has and is willing to give, in exchange for a treasure. Investigating the expected treasure site leads to the first of many rune powers, this one giving the ability to manipulate metal objects. The demo session ended shortly after this.

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There are still many mysteries around the game, and as happens, fans have already begun speculating over the circumstances of the story, the identity of certain characters, and where it fits in the greater Legend of Zelda timelines. Breath of the Wild already seems like a return to form for a premier Zelda game, after the troubled Skyward Sword.

Those that might have chosen to play it safe with remastered editions of old favourites like Majora’s Mask or Twilight Princess can rest easy – even in the brief (but extremely welcome) session, there were many moments of discovery, wonder and joy. There is still a decent wait for the game’s release, but a modest shiver of excitement would not be unfounded.

While we can’t share any footage or screens from what we experienced directly, the official game trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will have to do for now.

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