I've been playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Switch for review for the past couple of days, and I am now permitted to share my impressions of my first five hours of gameplay with you. In fact, thanks to an extremely complex embargo forbidding everything from plot details to certain kinds of clothing, there's not much new I can reveal that hasn't already been sifted by journalists and the community from the E3 demo, interviews and such. I also want to keep my powder dry for the review, so I won't delve too deep into what I think about it yet. I am prepared to drop a couple of hints on you, though. Are you ready?
- It's good. Very, very good.
- It's the most radical shake-up the Zelda series has ever had.
The second point was already apparent, perhaps, but playing the game this week has brought it home to me with some force. So I teamed up with Aoife to create this video explaining just what a brave departure this game is. (The footage is all from my first few hours with the game.)
The well-worn groove that Zelda has settled into, with only a few moderate deviations in its history (Majora's Mask's ticking clock, A Link Between Worlds' item rental system) has become a venerated tradition for both Nintendo and its fans, and a very comfortable one at that. It's very brave of the developers of such a popular series, with a 30-year history, to take it in such a new direction - a direction which sometimes seems to have as much in common with Monster Hunter or Skyrim as it does Zelda.
It's pretty hard; it's a genuinely open game you can play in any direction or order you like, ignoring the main quest; there's no more (or much less) gear-gating; the focus is much less on dungeons and much more on the world map; it's almost a survival game; and it's absolutely a systems sandbox that players will be testing the limits of, and discovering new things about, long after release.
And it works - the game is lots of fun. The question is, has it retained enough of Zelda's style and soul in its drive to emulate modern open-world games and western RPGs? I'll be answering that, and much more, in Eurogamer's review next week.