One week ago, I played Zelda: Breath of the Wild and thought it was Nintendo's most ambitious game in years. It was the first game I played at this year's E3, and it remained my personal game of the show for the rest of the week.

Which is why, come Thursday afternoon, as E3 wound down and even the hardiest attendees began to succumb to four days of fatigue, I went back to Zelda to see if it was still as special as I remembered. I played Breath of the Wild three more times, and still didn't see everything in its opening area.

It remains to be seen how closely this section, which includes the game's earliest moments, will match up with the final game. But with enough time to poke around nearly all of its corners, I was able to explore all three of the demo's mini-dungeon shrines, claim their rune powers and take on some of the game's more advanced moves.

You'll have seen footage of the runes already - a magnetic power which allows you to pick up metal objects, an ice power which allows you to create solid blocks from water, and a time-stopping power which allows you to freeze objects and apply kinetic force.

Each of these allows for some very sandboxy solutions to problems. Stacking and climbing metal plates to create bridges or ramps reminds me of Half-Life 2's physics-based puzzles. Ice platforms let you raise up the ground underneath you to reach higher areas. And the time-freezing power lets you press pause on spinning dungeon platforms, or Indiana Jones-style rolling balls of destruction.

Once frozen, you can then hit an object with your weapon - the bigger weapon you have, the better - and transfer kinetic energy to the object you are whacking. Try this out in the open world with a rock or boulder and you can send them flying over mountains.

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At one point I discovered the classic Fire Rod weapon in a chest, which shoots balls of flame. First seen in the original Zelda, the item has only reappeared sporadically throughout the series. Well, it's back here, but in Breath of the Wild its fire-spreading properties open up a lot of new possibilities. Like anything aflame - even just a simple tree branch dipped in an enemy's campfire - the effects will spread. Fire catches in long grass, and ignites any trees or enemies in its path.

Throw your flaming weapon using the trigger button and you can launch it at enemies, setting them on fire too, or aim it at an explosive barrel. Start a fire and you'll be able to use its updraft to soar upwards when you equip your hanglider.

And then there are the more advanced tactics, such as shield surfing. Run, jump and take out your shield at the same time and you'll be able to slide Legolas-like down hills. Climb to the top of a snowy mountain and you can shred all the way down, although doing so will cause wear to your shield, just as it would during battle.

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Spot a frog, snake or beetle in the grass? You can creep up to it by clicking in the left stick to crouch. Take it real slow and you'll be able to claim it as your own - and add it as an ingredient to your stew pot.

Stop and translate the game's Hylian text dotted around the landscape - as some Zelda fans even nerdier than I have - and you'll see humourous messages coded within its letters. Sheikah slate portals display "NOW LOADING DO NOT TURN OFF ALL YOUR BASE", referencing the aged internet meme.

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Venture into the demo's snowy area and you'll see Link shiver. He'll get rosy cheeks and a pained expression until you dress him in warmer gear. Open a chest from the side rather than the front and Link will kick it open. Do this without boots on and you'll take a small amount of damage. You'll find a sailboat on a lake, and if you hold a giant leaf you can propel yourself across.

There are so many small touches, so many little areas to draw you away from the beaten track which can be beaten by force or stealth or by climbing up a nearby cliff and rolling a big boulder down to squash everything below. I've already seen some incredible GIFs from just the handful of lucky folk who got to try it at E3 - and with queues reportedly up to eight hours long, that was nowhere near everybody who went. I can't wait to try it again, but also to see what other folk find come next spring.

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About the author

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

News Editor

Tom is Eurogamer's news editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and all the stealth Destiny articles.