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Feature Article

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Hands-on Impressions

A breath of fresh air.

I went into this year's E3 with one game on my mind: the new Legend of Zelda. Though I enjoyed both Skyward Sword and A Link Between Worlds, I've since wished for a Zelda game that went back to the series' roots. Growing up as a young NES owner, the original left an indelible mark on me. With little fanfare or direction, you were ushered into a world with a grand goal in mind, but you had the freedom to plot your own course. It was daunting, but the more I explored Hyrule, the more I became enchanted with that world.

When I got the opportunity to play the beginning of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild earlier this week, those familiar feelings rushed back. Link's latest journey begins as he awakens in a tomb after 100 years of hibernation. After a brief tutorial-like obstacle course, I was left on my own to explore Hyrule. I had a lot of room to explore, but it was a mere fraction of the game--one percent of a map that's 12 times the size of Twilight Princess' world.

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As I surveyed the vast landscape in front of me, my imagination ran wild and wanderlust set in, but I had one question: who is the lone figure I see in the distance? I approached, and discovered that it was a strange old man, shrouded in a hood and overgrown facial hair. He offered some guidance, and even had a few questions for me. However, this interaction grew more interesting than I initially expected; I could choose whether or not I trusted him; I could choose to keep my mouth shut.

He was the only human connection in sight--wilderness had taken over everything I could see--so it was tempting to gain an ally, but I couldn't help but wonder: how had this old man survived by himself in a veritable wasteland? Was his benign demeanor a red herring? My suspicions got the better of me and I kept quiet in the end, setting out into the wilderness in search of a purpose. Had I missed an opportunity for direction? Maybe, but a Nintendo rep also told me that I could have just ignored the wandering stranger altogether.

As I explored Hyrule, the plight of the once great kingdom lay before me. Ganon--known in this game as Calamity Ganon--overtook Hyrule Castle a century ago, leaving the surrounding area to the whims of nature and time. Buildings that once stood tall and strong have crumbled to the ground, where they now lie covered in overgrown grass and moss. Thanks to Link's newfound abilities to jump and climb cliff faces and buildings, it was easy to get sidetracked as I trotted across plains, forests, and mountainous plateaus. Producer Eiji Aonuma wasn't exaggerating when he said that if you see something, you can get to it. That likely rings true for curious landmasses in the distance, but being able to clamber up steep terrain felt freeing and encouraging in its own right.

It didn't take long until I encountered a camp of Bokoblins--the familiar dopey monsters introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. My first taste of combat was immediately challenging due to my weak equipment. But, when I knocked a club out of an opponent's hand and picked it up, I was able to win the battle in no time. Then it struck me: I just stole an enemy's weapon in a Zelda game.

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I was similarly surprised when I began to use bombs. Traditionally, bombs were items that needed to be replenished, but for this new incarnation of Link, they are like a spell that refreshes with a cooldown timer. Link can also control when bombs explode; with the push of a button, you can remote detonate bombs as soon or as late as you want.

Breath of the Wild is vast, with lots of open spaces, but it's filled with things to do beyond combat and exploration, and it all plays into the need to survive. Rather than collecting hearts to replenish your health--as was the case in all previous Zelda games--you now need to scavenge your environment for items like fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, you can hunt animals for meat. While you can eat ingredients raw, cooking them allows you to combine items for greater potency, or, to unlock temporary stat boosts. The act of killing innocent animals for food feels notably dark for a Nintendo game, but it undoubtedly made me feel in tune with Link's need to survive.

I never made it into any of the game's dungeons--known as shrines--before my timed demo came to an end, but I was told that you can tackle them in any order you wish. As a massive fan of the original Legend of Zelda, this fact, and the impressively open Hyrule, spoke to me. Despite playing the game for less than an hour, I'm already convinced that Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be the best Zelda game in years. Time will tell if that comes true, but for all of the classic elements in the game and the new survival-based mechanics, there's every indication that Nintendo has something special on its hands.

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.

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156 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for vexxouds

Zelda Zelda Zelda Zelda!!

Avatar image for bdiddytampa

I don't care what anyone says.. the game looks amazing, can't wait

Avatar image for hamartia208

The necessary response to the majority of the cynicism in this thread boil down to two statements:

1. Go play the Witcher 3 then.

2. Go replay OoT then.

I am pumped to indulge in what appears to be a masterpiece by the legendary artists at Nintendo - no matter their particular interpretation.

Avatar image for simmons5533

@darthrevenx: my dude if u saw anything resembling an attack in my comment, then u wont survive a day as link in the wild. Please point out the sentence where i attacked you. I merely attempted to give u an alternate view.

Avatar image for simmons5533

@darthrevenx: i think people who say this game is nothing new miss the point. Think of it like this, u have a favorite jean designer and u like how comfortable and how well they fit you. U love everything about them but they dont come in your favorite color. U have these other jeans that are dont really appeal to u but they have your favorite color. Finally your designer gets your favorite color. Ota a big deal. Its not a new color but its finally available in your fAvorite jeans. Thats what this game is to alot of people. I myself am not a huge fan of rpgs mainly because im an adult who just doesnt have time to lead a double life which is basically what rpgs have become these days. Zelda has always been more action adventure than rpg with a good bit of rpg elements involved. Thats said, there r elements of rpgs that do interest me but the titles that have them do not interest me at all. The exciting thing about this game is that ot allows us to experience some of those elements we like in other games in this franchise which we love. We love the charm of this game and the story and the characters and gameplay. Now that we can get all that charm with the elements of other rpgs that dont hold the same place in our hearts as this franchise does, is nothing short of exciting. To me this is the best of both worlds. Not everything is about being "new" but its more about the impression it leaves on u. In that reapect, zeldas charm is unmatched. I will admit that nintendo has sandbagged alot of their titles probably because of their weak hardware and that is very frustratuing. This game is probably what skyward sword shouldve been. But if nintendo knows how to do anything, ita give us just enough to have us crawling back for more

Avatar image for darthrevenx

@simmons5533: yes, i'm a out of touch moron angry at the world, bravo, you saw through me.......[sarcasm]

i am no fanboy just cus I see things a certain way......that's how I see things [,y comment below] in this particular regard but if you can't see all sides and be in accord with your ideas so much that you have to attack then perhaps you don't believe as strongly as you say you do.....

Avatar image for goose39

I fell asleep during this demo. Looks like I didn't miss anything.

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you're right there was a breakable weapon in Oot but it wasn't your main weapon, and you could get it improved almost immediately and even if it broke you still had an unbreakable weapon

Avatar image for eatonuk

@incrediblmullet:you're assuming I actually ran out of bombs/arrows/etc I never had that problem I always kept a good supply, and I wouldn't say its the same anyway because even when you don't have the bombs/arrows etc you ALWAYS have a sword, but what if you don't have a weapon? if all your weapons broke and don't have anything left to fight boss with, no weapon to use to cut grass with, or anything so you cant find a new one or find health items?

if everything has an expiry then it gives a possibility of losing everything

as for life, I never had to worry about life in a boss fight as I always kept a fairy with me,

oh and really resulting to insults? im not even going to dignify that with a response

Avatar image for McGuirex3

Is this Zelda game (FINALLY)-going to have full talking Voice-Overs? Please!

Avatar image for gjozefi

Looks like they're harking back to Zelda 1 where you can explore freely and do the dungeons in any order which was pretty cool. Can't wait.

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@gjozefi: As soon as he stepped out into the world, i knew right there and then this is the Zelda game i've been waiting for, the one i played on my NES, the one that said you go into the world and do what you want. It spoke to me,

Avatar image for jerseymatt88

I can't wait to spend countless hours just loving this game!!!!


Avatar image for Super_C

"...when I knocked a club out of an opponent's hand and picked it up, I was able to win the battle in no time. Then it struck me: I just stole an enemy's weapon in a Zelda game."

Good article, but FYI: that mechanic was introduced in Wind Waker.

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@Super_C: true although he didn't follow it by talking about how you get to keep that weapon in your inventory, which you couldn't really do in wind waker.

Avatar image for baszzer

Uh-oh. I sense another 10 incoming. We may be having another historic game in the making folks.

Avatar image for deactivated-5bcecc83a0715

This is one fine article. Entertaining and informative. Good job Peter

Avatar image for MJV1989

I hope Nintendo reveals their new (gimmick-free) console soon and that a new Metroid game is in development. This new Zelda is very interesting, but I'm not sure if I'd buy a console for just one game...

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@MJV1989: The new Nintendo NX Power Gloves. Interact and play with your favourite games like you've never been able to before. Now you'll be able to play in gestures! :)

Avatar image for so_hai

"He was the only human connection in sight..."

There are no humans in Legend of Zelda. Is the author sure that he knows of the series' roots?

Avatar image for darthrevenx

So basically this is Nintendo's Fable now???

fable did everything this seems to be doing and morons slammed the crap out of fable....eww little babies game, eww sh***y RPG.....yet here we are a decade+ later and Nintendo copies fable basically and everyone is cheering em on......eww you can jump, that makes it different than the others, no not really cus jump or no it's still an open world game......every Zelda game can be played to a point where you're just running around killing monsters exploring......

I spent a year on and off with A Link To The Past back when and even when I got beating the game down to a week I was still finding stuff....Zelda was always that open ended, people are idiots for buying the company line, it's still an open world game you can just jump now is all....really they should have added that in OOT......

all I see is a much more vibrant Fable game......with an added gimmick in the typical addition of the tablet BS......

Avatar image for grayyfoxx

Amazing, this game initially was in the back of my mind heading into E3 and is now probably my most anticipated game. I can't wait to get lost in the world for hours, and the opening song was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli movie. No doubt the game is borrowing from some other AAA titles but it's not necessarily a bad thing, the implementation is key and this game seems bring these mechanics together seamlessly while retaining enough of it's own identity, it's still undeniably Zelda. People always say Nintendo needs to get with the times, well I think they have with this game in a big way. Also if the open world is any indication to how well thought out the game is, I can't wait to see what the towns and dungeons have in store.

Avatar image for sirdante77

@grayyfoxx: You think this game is "getting with the times"??? It looks like an N64 could run this piece of crap. Nintendo is on a completely different level from every other company that presented this week, and not in a good way. I've seen Indie titles that looked better.

Avatar image for hamartia208

@sirdante77: so much lulz in this comment.

Avatar image for grayyfoxx

@sirdante77: So your problem with game is the art style? Personally I love the cel shading and think the art fits the game pretty well. A lot of people freaked out over Wind Waker when it was first revealed, but it's aged really well in large part to it's art style. I suspect it will be the same with this game. Games that tend go for photo realism age more than their stylized counterparts.

As for indies, sure some of them look might look better. Chances are they're missing something else then. Freedom, world size, traversal, level design, gameplay, music, story/characters and polish in general. Most indie games may have one or some of those things, but they're still lacking in terms of the entire package. Maybe games like Star Citizen or No Man's Sky will challenge AAA games on all fronts, but they are the exception not the rule.

Nintendo as a whole has some work to do, but I feel this game is a step in the right direction. We'll see what becomes of the NX (it's control scheme, online integration) and getting some third party support. As far as presentation, I feel that will pick up when they have more to offer, this year was primarily about Zelda.

Avatar image for t_smith

@sirdante77: It aint all about the graphics man. Game-play is more important in my opinion. I don't play GTA V for the amazing graphics (though they are good), I play for the insane, open-world, varied experience. Zelda is lookin like an interesting open world experience that fans have hungered for a while. Sure, Nintendo has also been a step or two behind in the graphics and power department but that's not what they are all about. Im not saying that I don't value good graphics but you also have to weigh game-play vs graphics. Considering that we still dont know the specs of the NX, we cant really say what this new game will look like graphically (bc this Zelda was running on an WiiU and we know the graphics situation of that failing console). I hear what your saying but its also good to keep an open-mind about new games :)

Avatar image for dajupe

Can't wait! Looks awesome.

Avatar image for asclepiusx

I don't think these guys every played windwaker. enemies would drop their weapons and you could pick them up. It's not a new mechanic.

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@asclepiusx: Nothing in the article reads like the writer is truly a Zelda player - just a typical gaming omnivore.

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@asclepiusx: Yeah, but it wasn't really emphasized or encouraged, I don't think I did it more than couple of times in the entire game

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@asclepiusx: I know what you mean, but this time you can keep the weapon in your poach. They have stats also, so it's kind of different.

Avatar image for incrediblmullet

Before this game was shown everyone was saying :

"Zelda needs to do something new, I don't just want another game that's basically the same with new items." OR "They should make Zelda more open world, like Skyrim"

For the first time ever (probably) Nintendo listens and everyone complains that:

"This isn't what Zelda is supposed to be" OR "I don't want to have to go looking for food (but you where happy cutting grass looking for hearts/fairys)" OR "Why have the item's break, what if my last weapon breaks in a boss battle (what has happened every time an item was required for a boss battle, you went and found some more arrows/bombs/life in the boss battle area) "

You get what you want, you complain.

They stick to the old formula, you complain.

This is Nintendo's most cherished IP (imo) and I am confident they know exactly what they are doing

Avatar image for Poodger

@incrediblmullet: you assume everyone complaining about both are the same people. I never asked for either of those things, i never wanted a "different" zelda, and i never asked for an open world. So yes, the mechanics in the new game bother me.

Avatar image for isimitaiwo

@incrediblmullet: Exactly my tired of all these guys complaining,and to be honest Oot,MM,WW are the new type of zelda..this is how zelda is suppose to be (open world gaming with no real objective,not forced to do it,move anywhere and get results) if you look at the first zelda on NES that what it was.,and other games took inspiration from the first zelda(from elderscrolls,to darksouls) so saying this zelda isnt original is stupid,and by the way..nothing is new under the sun,horizon is like witcher,days gone feels like state of decay but thats not the point,lets us enjoy change people complain,you dont change people complain,you come out now people will say they should take there time,you dont come out now people will comes to point of realization that you cant satisfy anyone.even jesus couldnt

Avatar image for so_hai

@incrediblmullet: Yes - Nintendo don't **** around with Zelda. Doesn't mean youll love all of them, but they all pull through in their design.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1

I need to get busy with my backlog. My body is not ready for this!

Avatar image for s_moreta

"best Zelda game in years"

Only Zelda game in years.

- yours sincerely,


Avatar image for ferna1234

the legend of zelda sauna simulator.

Avatar image for Crono21

So hyped for this. I was blown away by the trailer for it. Cant wait!

Avatar image for elliottfam10

I concur justinc882. I'm so done with the analyzing and speculations it's been 3 yrs since they've been teasing us and 2 years of saying, "oh it's coming out this year, sorry not this year but for sure next". Ive played Zelda for 30 yrs since the first one and every one after and I'm just tired of hearing all about it. At first it was exciting but now it just pisses me off to hear about it because of the constant delays.

Avatar image for Shadowmax889

@elliottfam10: Nintendo games are the most polished games in the industry because they are released when they are finished. What do yo want?? Nintendo starting to make games like EA, Ubisoft or Capcom? releasing games half baked with missing features and buggy as hell just to meet a deadline?

Avatar image for doozie78

It's been a long time since I've played a worthy zelda game on console. A few of the ideas sounded unique but many are treading on very worn territory.

Avatar image for drnatedogg

In the live plays with Aonuma, it was made clear that towns and other characters were absent for the purpose of the e3 version, as a means to not spoil and focus on game mechanics.

Avatar image for drumjod

Very exciting. I'm looking forward to the new equipment system.

Avatar image for xenomorphalien

Game of Show for me.

Avatar image for dribblesbarbax

Question. Why did it strike you that you stole an enemy's weapon? You could do it in Windwaker afterall.

Avatar image for ekolite

That music sounds amazing so far. Seems to be really great promise. Hoping for some good enemy ideas, namely new ones. Other than that it looks like they are putting is some great ideas in it's presentation. What I hope they do above all is make it a must play for both the U and NX. Making the experience different enough to make me play it for each system for different reasons. Lots of possibilities and I'm looking forward to it.

Avatar image for justinc882

Shut up and take my money!