With my early hardware adopter days far behind me, I’ve picked up the WiiU version of Breath of the Wild. Thankfully, initial reports that the game’s performance is drastically lacking were somewhat exaggerated. Yes, it runs in 720p and 30 FPS and yes, it does occasionally dip below that when things get a bit hectic onscreen but not enough to cause any major problems. Considering how low powered the WiiU is by modern standards, it’s very impressive that it plays as well as it does.
I’ll try to be as spoiler free as possible with these early impressions, I’ve played about 4 hours so haven’t really gotten that far into the story yet for that to be a problem. I am however going to mention some gameplay mechanics that were a surprise to me – they may well have been mentioned in pre-release reporting, but I largely avoided that.
Right from the start it’s very far from a typical Zelda game. The traditional three save slots are gone, replaced with a single save and, in a first for the series, there are also auto saves. You don’t get to name your character or save file either, not that that’s a concern for me as my Zelda saves have forever just been Link.
Link wakes up in a mysterious chamber with no memory, and is told through an unknown voice that he’s been asleep for 100 years. On leaving the chamber and emerging onto the windswept Great Plain, he spots an old man who sets him off on his quest in a manner very (intentionally) reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda.
This Link is much more versatile than the Links of old. He can sprint, climb and jump(!) all of which deplete a stamina bar that quickly refills when you stand still. You can collect and equip weapons and clothing, with weapons having limited durability so that they break quite quickly though that’s not a real problem as there are always plenty more to pick up and Link can carry several spares.
There’s also a cooking and crafting system that I’ve seen faint glimpses on in the text of items, but haven’t yet learnt how to make anything. I have a suspicion that I may have missed something for cooking in the first area, but I’m holding fast in not looking it up to not risk spoiling anything for myself.
It’s also absolutely gorgeous. I’m only in the second area at the moment, so apart from a snowy area near the start most of the landscape that I’ve seen is green grass and trees but it all looks fantastic. Wind blows the grass and leaves on trees, and I’ve seen a couple of rainstorms too. The lighting effects, and particularly fire and the blue glowing Shiekah energy in particular stand out.
Music is used much more subtly than is typical in Zelda games too. Instead of the usual bold themes, it’s largely quiet most of the time, but when you approach some areas such as the Temple of Time near the start you get slight stirrings of familiar Zelda themes in a way that really works for me.
I’m absolutely loving it so far, and can’t wait until I get a good solid 6 hours or so on Sunday to really sink my teeth into it and I’ll most likely talk about it more once I’ve gotten a good way in and/or finished it.