Before Pokemon Go made the world go absolutely insane, Nintendo was driving fans bonkers with the E3 demo for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s a new excursion into the Zelda franchise with many trademark features getting completely reworked.
Link is now exploring a gigantic open world where he can climb, hunt, cook, and even jump! None of these features are new to gaming, but they are new to Zelda. Let’s explore how the Zelda team can utilize these new features to the best of their ability.
An Open World 12 Times the Size of Twilight Princess
Sandbox games have become a trademark for blockbuster titles. If you name a handful of big releases, a majority of them will be open world. Watch Dogs 2, No Man’s Sky, and Horizon: Zero Dawn are giving gamers free reign over miles of their virtual worlds. It’s a feature that has been cycled through so many times, that we are getting to the point where more games get it wrong than right.
The problem with sandbox environments isn’t the world itself, but what’s in it. The key to Breath of the Wild having an engaging world isn’t gorgeous views or how long it takes to get from one end of the map to the other. It’s the side quests, enemy strongholds, and quests you can tackle while exploring.
Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption is a great example of a game with an engaging open world. Walking through stretches of the American West and Mexico was an absolute charm as an adventurous soundtrack joined you in every step toward clearing enemy hideouts, robbing stagecoaches, and causing general mayhem. The map wasn’t just full of things to do, it was full of unique things to do. From establishing one of the first movie theaters in the West to discovering an ancient Aztec treasure, each side mission in Redemption is something you’ll remember.
Breath of the Wild needs side missions that will push you to explore the world Nintendo created without resorting to mundane fetch quests, escort missions, and collect-a-thons.
Hopefully we don’t have much to worry about for Breath of the Wild. The developer of Xenoblade Chronicles X, Monolith Soft, has ‘over one hundred’ experienced open world developers supporting the production of Breath of the Wild.
Your Weapons Will Break Often
Nintendo is no stranger to degradable weapons. Take the Fire Emblem series battle system – weapons slowly lose durability with each attack until they finally break and vanish. In Breath of the Wild, Link can collect multiple weapons and items by stealing them from an enemy or finding them in a chest.
The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds moved away from Zelda’s traditional weapon system back when it was released in 2013. Instead of receiving a new weapon after conquering part of a dungeon, you purchased them from Ravio who let you rent or purchase any weapon as long as you had the ruppees to pay for it. But when you died, every weapon that you rented got taken away from you and you’re forced to rent it again.
Like it or not, degradable weapons are a good thing. It forces you to prioritize your weapon usage or you could end up in the middle of a boss fight virtually defenseless. It rewards experimentation and the willingness to abandon your favorite weapon for one that could open up more gameplay possibilities.
Utilize Fresh Meat & Other Ingredients to Heal
Hunting seems relatively simple from what we’ve seen of the game. You kill various wild animals and they will magically turn into a skinned, cured, and cooked piece of meat. But it’s not how you get that meat that’s interesting, it’s the items and potions you can create through Breath of the Wild’s new alchemy-like cooking system.
From the gameplay, Zelda’s cooking mechanic looks similar to cooking in many MMORPGs and titles like Morrowind and Monster Hunter. You can experiment by combining different animal meats and other scavenged items to create potions that offer health and special abilities.
Similar to Ocarina of Time, some areas in Hyrule are too hot or too cold for Link to travel in before losing health. By creating certain potions, you can prepare Link to explore those areas as well as grant him extra stamina while travelling. It’s a simple feature on the surface, but with all the items included in the game, there could be dozens of possible item combinations.
This element is taken one step further by replacing Link’s traditional way of healing. Finding hearts in grass, pots, and enemies are replaced with cooking. Cooking will not only be required to explore special regions of the world, it’ll be required to stay alive.
Conquer Every Mountain in Hyrule
A great example of climbing in video games is Uncharted. But one way Zelda improves on Naughty Dog’s mechanic is by adding a chance for failure. In Uncharted, every segment of gameplay has a chance for failure–you can die in a gunfight, crash when driving or make a mistake in a puzzle. But climbing is literally just an animation that can sometimes end in a missed hand hold or jump.
That’s the worst part of climbing in gaming. When it’s too easy, there’s no challenge and therefore no reward. When you reach the top of a building in Assassin’s Creed or the top of a cliffside in Uncharted, you’re almost glad it’s over rather than feeling proud that you made it to the top.
In Breath of the Wild, Link has a stamina meter that constantly depletes while you climb, making the threat of falling very real. But from what we’ve seen, Link can climb nearly anything except for special walls within temples. This design choice could lead to a disappointing climbing mechanic, making the traversal of Hyrule’s terrain feel like a chore.
What we’ve seen from Breath of the Wild has shown us that Nintendo has completely changed the composition of one of its biggest and most widely adored franchises. We’ve moved away from systematic dungeons and a rather small overworld, away from linear acquisition of a fixed set of weapons, and away from limited exploration of Hyrule’s beautiful landmarks.
Although there is plenty to be concerned about with Link’s future adventure, Breath of the Wild is changing everything about Zelda and that’s something to be excited about.