You stand on the Great Plateau, fields and forests before you. There is a large pond, some ruins, and, of course, packs of monsters. This is the newest Legend of Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, but you don’t just run forward to hack and slash. In this latest epic, you still embody the hero Link, but you face a constant challenge unlike any before–surviving the world.
To take on the goblins in the distance, I have to find a tree branch to use as a weapon. When that gets destroyed mid-battle, I seek another so that I can defend myself. When the monsters are finally defeated, my health is low. Killing enemies or cutting grass no longer yields little cartoon hearts that heal me. Now, I must forage for food to restore myself, so I climb a small cliff to get to the mushrooms on top.
I continue exploring. I can only run through the plain so long, swim in a lake so far, scale a craggy cliff so high before Link has to stop to catch his breath. Link now has a stamina meter, and when it empties, he may drown or fall or halt a dash, leaving himself at the mercy of his enemies. I can sneak though, watching a little sound meter to see if I am quiet enough to creep past a stone giant that suddenly appears ahead.
A trip to snowy mountains means I have to find warmer clothes, or else take damage from the cold. A search for the right outfit fails, so I resort to cooking a variety of ingredients until I find a recipe for a meal that warms me up enough to survive the chill–for now. And I know I will likewise need the appropriate garb or morsel for a desert trek, lest I overheat. Yes, there are forests and deserts and icy lands, as well as other terrains in this version of Hyrule–a world that is 12 times larger than the one found in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
I face fight after fight as I travel the vast open world. My weapons continuously break. After each encounter with a group of monsters, I have to prioritize the weapons I collect. Should I use up this spear first? This flaming stick? Do I save the rusty sword for a tougher enemy? Or just use it now so that I don’t have to rely on the more fragile wooden weapons for a while? Inevitably, my last tree branch snaps and I use my bow and my small handful of arrows to ensure that I see another day.
Some traversing later and I stop for the night, but the rain snuffs out my campfire. Lightning hits my metal sword, shocking me. I grab a burning branch to use as a weapon for now. The grasses around me burn, and as the rain stops, the wind continues to howl, spreading the wildfire across the plain. I depart and manage to reach the next Shrine.
There are over 100 Shrines of Trials throughout Hyrule, and with my accomplishment of each Trial–whether it is one of courageous battle or ingenious puzzle–I will be rewarded. Perhaps I will gain an ingredient I can use one day to craft a better piece of equipment, or maybe I will find a new rune, granting magical powers to assist me. One such Trial later, and the power of magnetism is at my fingertips. Moving some large objects allows me to cross a pond, go down a path, reach new places in my travels.
There is a tall cliff to my left, a pocket of trees on top. I can’t climb there yet, since I don’t have enough stamina. Any place I can see, I can travel too–if I find a way. A huge volcano looms in the distance. Maybe my explorations will lead to the right set of armor, the right Trial to gain some ice magic, the right weapon to take on whatever behemoth lives there. And I know there are still the ubiquitious dungeons and bosses ahead that I must overcome.
Conquering that volcano on the horizon will be an ordeal for sure, but if I can somehow live to reach the summit, what great discovery will I make? What tool will I find to make my quest endurable? It is with such hope, and tension for the next life-threatening obstacle, that I take the next step forward on my journey.
What do you think about Nintendo’s new direction for the Legend of Zelda series? Leave your comments below.
All images are from Nintendo’s E3 Conference. You can watch the conference and gameplay videos here.