The New Zelda is a Breath of Fresh Air But it is Firmly Rooted in the Original NES Classic

By Julian Benson on at

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be a game to steep yourself in. It plays like no Zelda I've played before, feeling in some ways more like Bethesda game than a Nintendo game. In previous Zelda's obstacles in the world were overcome with specific skills. The temples have one means of approach and completion. Breath of the Wild feels different, just as crafted but like the developers are leading you with a looser rein.

The game begin with you awaking from some kind of suspended animation in a chamber which looks like a temple, despite the advanced technology that sustained you. To leave the chamber you pick up a PDA-like device from a panel. The doors open to another chamber and opening those doors with the PDA releases you into the world. That was the last time in the demo I 'had' to do anything.

As I left the chamber the Nintendo staffer pointed out a tower in the plain below that I could climb for a reward. Ignoring that I turned around and climbed up the cliff that the chamber was dug into. I expected Link to grow tired and fall back, forcing me to take the path down towards the tower. Instead, I was able to climb over the lip of the cliff, into a snowy plateau above. This isn't how Zelda games normally go, letting you off the path so soon, that's more like an Elder Scrolls game.

I was still only wearing the shorts I'd woken in so as I walked into the snow and the temperature dropped a gauge in the lower left of the screen warned that it was too cold for my current getup.

I skirted the snowy area and came across bushes loaded with chilli. I'd seen in a video that I could cook these into a food that would stave off the cold:

I didn't know how to cook yet so rather than move deeper into the snowy plains I went lower into the valley, avoiding the tower the staffer pointed out to me again, and came across a gaggle of Bokoblin sat in a hollow dotted with explosive-looking barrels. Above them, serendipitously, was a boulder. Okay, this was clearly there by design but I'm going to say that it was the height of ingenuity to give that boulder a shove so that it fell on the barrels blowing the Bokoblins sky hight, and not the guiding hand of a developer.

When the Bokoblin shuddered off their mortal coils and left this Hyrulean plain they left behind loot: food, clubs, and some arrows. I grabbed them all, swinging my club and admiring the heft.

Spying another Bokoblin on a hill I charged him with the club, mashing 'Y' to swing it. One hit, two, and with a third he fell down dead. Though, not before the other three Bokoblin who had been hidden over the crest of the hill saw me. I took down the first two with no trouble but when I hit the third my club shattered in my hands. This is the first time I can think of that I've had a weapon break on me in a Zelda game. Happily the breaking swing knocked over the creature and he dropped his club. I picked it up and when he got to his feet, weaponless, he threw stones at me instead. Tapping the R bumper I threw his club back at him, killing him.

I had such a short time with Zelda, only 20 minutes, but hints of the shift in design style are there shimmering under the surface. Any weapon in your hand can be thrown, any surface can be climbed, swing your club into a fire and it catches alight, the same with sticks and any wooden object, hostile areas can be overcome with warmer clothes but also with hot food. If I had longer I'd see if carrying a burning club would keep me warm in cold areas. I'd bet there's a good chance it would.

Breath of the Wild is a game of systems in a sandbox in a way that the previous games aren't. Though, when I liken the opening to an Elder Scrolls game over the other games in the series, I am ignoring one other Zelda: The Legend of Zelda on the NES. That was a game without a long drawn out opening, without a tutorial, and with no set path. That game saw you dropped into Hyrule and left to fend for yourself. From the off you can go north, south, east, or west with nothing barring your way except enemies which you can avoid or overcome if you're skilled enough. Breath of the Wild is something new but it's as much something old, too.

I'm very much looking forward to March 3rd when I can just sink into it.