When attending the Nintendo Switch preview event last weekend, there was one game the whole Tanuki Bridge team knew we had to play first. That game is obviously The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game we have all been eager to go hands-on with for many years now. Having now spent some time with the game, I can happily report that it’s everything I hoped it would be and so much more.
The demo we were treated to was 15-20 minutes worth of play from the very start of the game. Link wakes up in a dark cave and after we obtain some trousers and a shirt for our almost naked hero (although he is wearing shorts), you wander out and up to a cliff-top for your first real look over Hyrule. The moment you reach the peak and the camera pans around has to be my very favourite moment of any video game in many years; possibly ever. This jaw-dropping moment wasn’t just because I was playing on a brand new console or because it was a chance for me to play a little of the game before its release on March 3rd – no, the huge smile that spread across my face was only down to the fact that we were taking a look over a huge Hyrule that we will be able to explore for hours and not get sick of, a Hyrule that is different to the ones we know and yet, still familiar ground. The world is full of life and so vibrant that I was left with the feeling that I was starting something wonderful, something timeless and undoubtedly an adventure of a lifetime.
The most interesting thing about playing the demo, for me, is that it showed how many different ways there are to play this game. For example, I obtained a weapon in the form of a tree branch and then went and fought some bokoblins, which proved unwise when my branch broke and I had to tactically retreat/run for my life. During my escape, I ran over to a small pond with a island in the middle and atop, I spotted the one thing I needed most – a sword. I dived into the pond and swam to the island, although on my first attempt I drowned by not making it in time. My second attempt was better, I pulled out the sword, then went back to finish off the bokoblins that I’d previously fled from. This was my adventure and my way of exploring the world, but from chatting to the rest of the team and our friends afterwards it was clear we all played very differently.
For example, William went off and hunted down an enemy that killed him a single blow, which brings back memories of EGX 2015, where he took on a super high level enemy in Xenoblade Chronicles X and then got stood on and died. Meanwhile Josh went and set things on fire (something I never even thought to try), but that unfortunately also included himself so he almost died (I think you can see a trend here?). He did also find an axe to smash into bokoblins though, which is perhaps cooler than me and the rusty sword.
It wasn’t just the Tanuki Bridge team who met a swift end, however, as Josh’s friend Bryony jumped off the cliff we started on and died almost straight away. In fact, I think the only one who didn’t almost die in our group was my partner, Peter, who spent his time sneaking around the world – which again, was a play-style I never thought of trying.
Having so many different ways to play the game means there is a lot of playtime in it already. Everyone will have a play-style that suits them, but then we’ll all be trying out different things too, because the world and the situations you’ll find yourself in lend themselves to trying out various ways to get around the world or take on enemies. When we play this game we’re in for a breathtaking adventure, but perhaps more importantly, it will be our adventure. No two players are going to have the same experience in how they choose to explore Hyrule and I think that’s where the real genius of this game is. It’s great to experience the same story and be able to talk about a game with your friends, but being able to compare how you played them is something that’s a little more rare. This is because most RPGs don’t lend themselves to you taking different paths and in fact beyond how your character is spec’d out, its unlikely you and someone else will have vastly different play-throughs. I don’t think that can be said for Breath of the Wild though, as even from a short 15 minutes you can already see how differently we all played the game and it gave us so much to discuss after the fact.
The one other thing I want to discuss quickly in this article is how well the game controls. Being the first game of the day, it was my first chance to try out the Joy-Con Grip controller and it proved a lot more comfortable than I’d been expecting. My thumbs naturally rested on the twin sticks and then I moved my right thumb up to the A/B/X/Y buttons to swing my sword/climb/run without even having to look. The only real problem I ever had was with the + button, which is seated at the top left of the right Joy-Con. You use it to access the item menu and when the game prompted me to use it I had no idea where this tiny button was. I do think I’ll get used to its placement very quickly, but it’s certainly something I wouldn’t mind seeing the hardware improve on in future. During my time with the demo, I also picked up a bow and arrow which allowed me to try out the motion controls and despite the controller being restrained for security purposes, it still controlled remarkably well and I don’t think I’ll have any problems aiming when I have my own console and copy at hand.
Overall I came away from the day super excited to get my hands on the finished game. It looks and plays wonderfully but even beyond that it’s shaping up to be the ultimate Legend of Zelda experience. I spend hundreds of hours riding Epona around Hyrule in Twilight Princess, but with Breath of the Wild there is so much more to explore and so I think I could potentially lose multiple hundreds of hours to this game. At the end this adventure will be one I can call my own, one I can share with friends, and if nothing else I will probably die many times and in many stupid ways for us all to have a good laugh about. It’s without a doubt my must have game of 2017.