Link has always been this mythic hero. He’s a warrior spoken of in legends. His arrival is prophesized. He wields a legendary Master Sword and the tunic of champions. He’s been someone above us, better than us. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wilds makes the legend a man.
I was able to spend a whopping 45 minutes with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wilds at E3 2016. It was a shocking experience, to be sure. I’m accustomed to game demos that last 10 minutes, 15 at most, and here I had an opportunity for real and substantial time with an in-development title. This afforded the opportunity to not only explore 1% of the map, which was actually a more than substantial area, for 15-20 minutes, then spend the rest of the time going through the actual beginning of the game.
The first portion of my The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wilds experience was with a slightly more accomplished version of Link. He had a magnetism ability, as well as some bombs. He was armed with an adequate bow and sword. But, for this part, I was eager to see what I could do in my free time, when not faced with any pressing adventures. I caught some butterflies. Sizzlewings, to be exact. They could be cooked to make an elixir. I came across some nightshade too, which could be combined with some mushrooms for a stealth-increasing potion. I learned about fast traveling back to camps to prepare such things, and even inadvertently discovered off-screen play while taking notes.
It was during this free period that I came across two goblin camps. The first cluster had two guys by their lonesome. I snuck up with my bow and arrow, aimed for a headshot that would do twice as much damage, then took one out. The other I dispatched with my sword, but at a cost. The sword’s effectiveness deteriorated. Link is human, remember. Weapons aren’t eternal. Defeating the two of them caused a nearby chest to open, giving me an opal I could use for accessory crafting or that I could sell for rupees.
As I shield surfed down a hill toward additional goblins, I saw an intriguing sight. There was a boar, and the two goblins were attacking it. They rejoiced when they felled the beast. It was amazing to see them acting like actual individuals, instead of constantly on-guard opponents. Of course, this distraction allowed me to stealthily sneak up and take out both with additional headshots, all while making sure Link remained crouching and the noise gauge showed he wasn’t being too loud, of course.
Archery is the best as it’s ever been in a The Legend of Zelda game. At least, it was in the E3 demo. The aiming was clear, the arc of the arrow could easily be anticipated, and it was absolute perfection.
The second part of this Breath of the Wilds demo was more focused. I actually went through the beginning of the game. Link woke up in a pool in the Shrine of Resurrection after a 100 year nap. His face showed interesting shading, or maybe even scratches. A woman’s voice, which I suspect belonged to Zelda, awoke him. She guided him to a Sheikah Slate tablet. These important items offer information on the world, maps, and act as keystones to unlock shrines.
Exiting my former home, I found myself on the Isolated Plateau. It’s basically a landmass above the world. After grabbing a branch to defend myself and speaking with an NPC, I sent off to head toward a suspicious landmark. I fought more goblins along the way, taking their swords and shield as my own.
Reaching the shrine made something amazing happen. A Tower of Resurrection spawned out of nowhere. I could suddenly see the whole kingdom. Heading back down, the earlier NPC came up. He said more shrines had popped up, due to my activities, and he asked if something weird had happened. I chose to tell him about the voice. He told me that years ago, Calamity Ganon had corrupted the land and Hyrule. Hyrule Castle, circled by a menacing mist creature, could be seen in the distance. It’s holding back the evil, but for how long?
He asked if I was going to go to Hyrule Castle. I chose to tell him I was. He said I’d need a paraglider to get off of the Isolated Plateau, but he’d give me one if I went to one of the Shrine of Trials nearby and retrieved a treasure for him. I agreed and set off. Except, I didn’t get to actually get the treasure. The demo ended once I unlocked and entered the shrine.
I felt so vulnerable and real when playing as Link in the The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WIlds demo. It made previous entries in the series feel like I’d been playing through stories. Here’s the hero! He ran into this mob of soldiers waiting for him! Towns and dungeons were all super close together, relatively speaking! Here, everything feels more plausible and real. You need to perform real-world actions to get by and survive. Link behaves more like an ordinary human. He doesn’t start out with any prophesies or ideas. Just an open world waiting for him. I had to earn my way through the demo, and I look forward toward earning my rewards in the full game.