Breath of the Wild seems like Nintendo's effort to turn The Legend of Zelda into a Western RPG. During day one of its E3 2016 livestream we saw crafting, cooking, hunting, exploration and a huge, beautiful open world.
During the hours of live gameplay footage so much was revealed – from major new features to little quirks – that it was tough to digest it all, but what's clear is Nintendo has a very interesting new RPG on the horizon. Here's what stood out to us...
A voice, a real coherent voice
Zelda is known for being a largely mute series. The trailer for Breath of the Wild opens with some lady telling 'Link' to open his eyes and wake up. She explicitly says 'Link' – which is the common name for the series' protagonist, but it could imply that players will no longer be able to name him themselves. Link is Link, not "Ted" (which is what I have always called him – don't ask me why).
The gameplay quickly made it apparent that Breath of the Wild is not a fully voiced world, but this is the first time (other than the Hyrule Warriors spin-off and the amazingly terrible CDI games) that Link's name has actually been spoken.
Stealth, thermometers and jumping
Look closely at the HUD and you'll see two little circles by the mini map. The first is a noise gauge. When Link is running the purple waves increase, allowing you to control the noise Link makes and sneak up on enemies. The second metre is a little thermometer. Go up a mountain and it'll inform you that it's a bit chilly so Link should probably be wearing more than his bathing shorts. Go to a desert and if the red sand and blistering sun didn't make it clear enough already, the teeny circle will let you know it's getting a bit toasty.
Another circular metre relates to stamina, which informs the flow of combat, what objects Link is able to push and for how long he can climb. The climbing really impressed. Link can now climb walls without the need for vines to show him the way. This freer approach to movement looks like it may compliment the more open world in a really interesting way.
Another factor offering Link freer movement in this open world is jumping. Link has always been a fan of jumping, however in previous games it was automated, or he needed some kind of magical feather. This time the player just needs to press a button to make Link hop about.
Green has always been Link's colour. But in this game Link is breaking away from tradition. Players now have the opportunity to mix and match outfits, making them appropriate for whatever terrain Link might be exploring. And that's great, because you know what, sometimes I don't fancy wearing a green tunic with long cap, and I'm sure Link has got tired of it too after 30 years.
The new items, which seemed to be mostly picked up through the open world, have the potential to really shake up the temple-miniboss-item-boss formula that's become too much of a crux for the 3D Zelda games for a while now.
Where my NPCs at?
This version of Hyrule is meant to be a more sparsely populated place. Examine the scenic panning shots and you'll notice it's all looking a bit wild, more dominated by nature. Although Nintendo have limited what we've seen of the world as to not reveal too much, it's been hinted that there will be no traditional towns or villages; instead, NPCs will be dotted around the map – like the old man seen near the beginning of the demo.
Personally I found a lot of the charm of earlier Zelda titles was in the bizarre NPCs and communities you met throughout each adventure. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was a prime example. However, it's clear Nintendo are aiming for a very different kind of experience and atmosphere than previous titles.
Breath of the Wild is obviously Nintendo's step away from classic Zelda tropes. However, there's still a few things that fans of the series will recognise. Miyamoto has confirmed that the game is meant to be reminiscent of the original Zelda game on NES, and like that game, Hyrule is an abandoned world and sparsely populated.
There are also some other references that are pretty interesting. My favourite, and the one that made me do a little squeal of excitement was the Koroks: adorable little plant people from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.
The Shiekah are also back in a big way. Link's new snazzy iPad type device the Shiekah Slate features the classic eye with tear drop motif that's featured in numerous titles. The Shiekah are a mysterious tribe sworn to serve the goddess and protect the royalty of Hyrule. Through the series Impa (Princess Zelda's bodyguard) has been our only real access to this lost culture.
The shrines dotted about world, and which seem to act as little mini dungeons, feature ancient mummified Shiekah and perhaps our first glimpse at the male members of the tribe. The spiritual, ancient beings have the tell-tale white hair and symbols of the Shiekah. The combination of Breath of the Wild's major new item/tool and this recurring motif is perhaps a hint at what the main story may focus on.