The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Pre-Review Impressions

We've spent the week with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch. Find out our impressions in this hands-on preview.

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Writing a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild preview is excruciating. Not because the game is bad, but because my impressions of it are so good that I want to talk about it in detail. However, I can't, this is a preview, and there are embargoes to uphold. What I can tell you is that Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the title with which everyone hoped the Nintendo Switch would launch. It's the most expansive Zelda title to date and may be the most ambitious game Nintendo has ever produced.

Link to the Future

Zelda: Breath of the Wild turns away from previous series conventions in a refreshing and modern way. Instead of a linear path through pre-set dungeons, the game quickly has you chasing after Shrines. Shrines are scattered around the map, and can be completed in any order. They serve as tests of courage for Link to complete, and once you've cleared the challenge within the shrines, they become a fast travel point. Each Shrine is like a locked room in a previous Zelda title. You have to either challenge an enemy or enemies in combat or solve a puzzle to complete the Shrine challenge. While there are still conventional dungeons, and they're some of the most interesting in the series to date, the addition of the Shrine aspect of the game lends itself well to the new, more open, plot progression.

Breath of the Wild ditches linearity for an "open-air" feel. When you're given a quest, you'll get a marker on the map of your destination, and that's all the help you get. How you get from your current location to the quest destination is up to you. Very often, you'll find that you'll have to enter entirely new territory for a quest. If you were hoping for the game to hold your hand through this new territory, you're going to be disappointed. Instead, Breath of the Wild rewards exploration and perseverance. When you come to a new land, it's up to you to figure out where everything is. In fact, you're given the ability to put custom markers on your map because it's your responsibility to chart where enemy lairs or beneficial areas are.

Nintendo Hard

With this added element of exploration has come a massive increase in difficulty. Hyrule is a dangerous land, and you're no longer given a steady stream of powerful and unbreakable weapons and shields. Instead, you must procure your tools from throughout the land, from enemies, shops, and treasure chests. Your weapons now take damage and eventually break, and your enemies have access to a much more powerful arsenal than they did in previous Zelda titles.

However, Link does now have the benefit of having a much wider selection of healing and stat boosting items in the form of cooking and elixir brewing. Throughout Hyrule, you'll find herbs, fruits, vegetables, and meats in varying quality, all of which you can combine to make a succulent meal. Alone these items may heal a heart or two of health, but when you mix them together in the cooking pot, you unlock their powerful potentials which can increase your defense, completely heal you and more. Even more powerful are the elixirs you can make by combining monster parts and creepy crawlies. A Moblin horn here and a cricket there can combine to make a very potent formula that can mean the difference between life and death.

A Vibrant World

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Hyrule is a vibrant place, full of life. The world has active weather, each form of which affects Link in a different way. Rain will make rocks slicker and harder to climb, thunderstorms will electrocute you if you're wearing metal armor or weapons, and temperature plays a part in Link's life as well. The cold will make some areas impassable until you find the clothing or items necessary to maintain Link's temperature, too much heat can have the same effect, making Link's wooden items burst into flames if you don't reach cooler climes.

Flora and fauna of Hyrule can be your predator or your savior as well. As mentioned above, you can cook a whole host of items, and you can procure these items around Hyrule in natural locations. Apples grow on trees, meat can be harvested from deer and other critters you see roaming about, and if you so choose you can truly live off the land without the need for Rupees.

More to Come

I regret having to be so vague, but there'll be much more detail in my review of Breath of the Wild. I haven't had the chance to finish the game yet. It's incredibly long, and I continue to get distracted by the huge amount of nooks, crannies, and side-quests that Breath of the Wild has to offer. I can't wait to have to opportunity to open up and share the rest of my thoughts with you on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but this is the sort of game that a thousand words can't begin to explain. It looks to be a game for the ages, and you'll get a chance to play it when it releases on Wii U and Nintendo Switch on March 3.

Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 24, 2017 6:33 AM

    Jason Faulkner posted a new article, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Pre-Review Impressions

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      February 24, 2017 7:03 AM

      So weird how they're splitting this out.

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        February 24, 2017 7:06 AM

        not that weird, doubles its presence in the news cycle and makes the full reviews less rushed

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      February 24, 2017 7:20 AM

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      February 24, 2017 11:35 AM

      I am getting excited.

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      February 24, 2017 11:39 AM

      First 15 minutes of gameplay - where we stand in the same place for 3 of those minutes... wtf is up with that.

      Also, does the game actually look that washed out and flat on the actual screen or is it just a byproduct of whatever you're using to do the video/still captures? It looks pretty bad.

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        February 24, 2017 11:53 AM

        [deleted]

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          February 24, 2017 11:57 AM

          turok'd

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          February 24, 2017 11:58 AM

          Looks bad on IGN's gameplay video too https://youtu.be/r2JtSXXY_WY that sucks.

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            February 24, 2017 12:09 PM

            nothing about that looks bad O.o ok maybe some of the shadows.

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            February 24, 2017 12:19 PM

            GRAPHICS

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              February 24, 2017 12:28 PM

              Yes that's what we're talking about.

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            February 24, 2017 12:22 PM

            This is the first gameplay video I've seen and regardless of the fog (which is unfortunate), it just looks...boring? That boss fight looks tedious as fuck. Find it. Throw bomb at it. Climb it. Smash weak point until you fall off. Throw bomb at it...

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              February 24, 2017 12:23 PM

              The music and sound effects are great though

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                February 24, 2017 12:35 PM

                What's up with the walking sound effects? It sounds like an empty bottle clanging around constantly.

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                  February 24, 2017 12:36 PM

                  Haha I actually like that sound. I think it's his shield clanking.

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              February 24, 2017 12:30 PM

              I'm fairly certain that's not actually a boss boss, but a mini-boss.

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                February 24, 2017 12:34 PM

                Okay. There's another mini-boss encounter at 11:15ish that also looks tedious as hell. Shoot it in the eye for miniscule damage. Fuck up and it one-shots you? That's awful.

                Plus the player routinely runs for 30-60 seconds at a time without finding things to do. This is the emptiest open world I've seen in a long time.

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                  February 24, 2017 12:38 PM

                  Probably because they're not supposed to be fighting those things yet. Much like in the original, there are places you're not supposed to go from the get go.

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                    February 24, 2017 12:55 PM

                    Man, I dunno. I've seen Link get attacked like maybe 6 times. Three of those resulted in one-hit kills. That seems...excessive.

                    At least loading times are very short?

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              February 24, 2017 12:47 PM

              Haha it turns into Metroid/Dark Souls at ~27:00 and I find myself excited to watch this for the first time.

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            February 24, 2017 3:41 PM

            That's from July 2016 too.

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          February 24, 2017 12:00 PM

          yah my sister who saw it a few days ago said the color and everything looked very washed out

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        February 24, 2017 12:04 PM

        First people complaining about the same thing re: Arrival the other day and now this. The soft colors are great, I guess Shackers like saturation and high contrast?

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          February 24, 2017 12:07 PM

          Yup, I prefer things to not look like I've got vaseline over my eyes

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          February 24, 2017 12:11 PM

          I would prefer a bit more color saturation, actually.

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            February 24, 2017 12:35 PM

            This looks great: https://youtu.be/S-jmGy3LcZo

            I disagree

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              February 24, 2017 12:41 PM

              Some of them do look a lot better and he tends to be higher. Maybe it's an overutilization of the fog effect.

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              February 24, 2017 12:42 PM

              It looks pretty good when things are in the immediate vicinity of the player but once something gets just a little bit away it all falls apart.

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              February 24, 2017 1:47 PM

              Never heard of Easy Allies, but that's where the GameTrailers guy ended up? Kind of surprising.

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          February 24, 2017 1:17 PM

          I'm mildly color blind (deuteranopia), so better contrast definitely helps me see more details. However, with the stylized visuals of Zelda I'm usually cool with their art choices.

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          February 24, 2017 1:19 PM

          Shackers? I know you know that's SOP for millions of TVs sitting in thousands of stores right this second waiting to be sold as people walk by them.

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            February 24, 2017 1:31 PM

            Yeah, I mentioned Best Buy torch mode and motion interpolation above.

            Shackers are a small subset of millions of people I guess?

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          February 24, 2017 1:26 PM

          [deleted]

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            February 24, 2017 1:40 PM

            Low contrast and muted color palettes are like dynamic range compression in audio to some people. It's a loss of fidelity in some people's eyes/ears. In others, it's an artistic choice. *shrug* I think it looks like crap but if you like it, then more power to you.

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              February 24, 2017 1:47 PM

              Technically speaking dynamic range compression in audio is equivalent to boosting the color balance and the contrast. Doing that results in a loss of information in the shadows and highlights.

              This is why RAW image files or high end digital formats like ARRIRAW or Log-C look flatter than anything you've ever seen. It preserves all of the information, everything after results in a loss in information.

              You're trying to make a point via technical terminology but it is absolutely and completely incorrect.

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                February 24, 2017 1:54 PM

                We could argue semantics all day about why your example is also wrong and my example isn't as incorrect as you suggest but it's not worth it. We'll agree that it is a stylistic choice and that I don't like that choice.

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                  February 24, 2017 1:59 PM

                  Its not a semantic argument, I'm technically and empirically correct.

                  As you said, if you don't like the way it looks then it clearly comes down to personal taste.

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                    February 24, 2017 2:07 PM

                    You make it sound like good contrast and color has to result in some loss of significant source color information.

                    Anyway I agree with the sentiment that the contrast leaves something to be desired. I don't want the picture to drown in blackness against overblown patches, but it could be a bit expanded.

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                      February 24, 2017 2:24 PM

                      Not exactly. He talked about how low contrast and washed out color is the equivalent of dynamic range compression. It is exactly the opposite. Now, you'd never use a RAW or Log-C image for final output, but the point is that increasing contrast is literally throwing away detail in the shadows and highlights. This is the same as dynamic range compression in audio where information is only kept in a very narrow range while most of what was originally there is thrown out.

                      Clearly there are adjustments that are made, but I also wouldn't compare BotW with a Log-C or RAW image either, that would be much much flatter.

                      Anyway, I'm looking at this video Polygon posted and I think it looks great: http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/24/14723308/pre-review-the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild-nintendo-switch-wii-u

                      They're clearly combining the pastel color palette of SS, the cel-shading of WW, and the proportions of TP.

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                        February 24, 2017 4:06 PM

                        Alright I guess we'll do this. Your argument about RAW only makes sense if the colors in the game are an accurate representation of the colors that would be seen otherwise. That is not the case. They are actively removing color detail to add an effect. As objects get closer to the player they gain color depth. Which is why it's similar to DRC. They are actively altering the volume of the audio so there aren't quiet spots and there is less depth to add an effect.

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                          February 24, 2017 4:24 PM

                          Well said.

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                          February 24, 2017 4:28 PM

                          "Which is why it's similar to DRC. They are actively altering the volume of the audio so there aren't quiet spots and there is less depth to add an effect."

                          DRC is compressing the source so that detail, generally in the highs and lows, is thrown away. A low contrast source image by definition has a much wider range of detail in the shadows and the highlights.

                          If you started out with a contrasty source there is no gaining back detail in the highlights and shadows. As shown by the contrast boosted image posted earlier, its very different going the other way since you're just throwing away detail in the highlights and shadows.

                          Have you seen a tree a mile away and then walked towards it? The same thing happens there, its green is much more washed out compared to when its right in front of you. Its the product of atmosphere and distance, not "actively altering the volume of the audio".

                          You're completely incorrect with the points you're making and its magnified when you try to bring technical details and terminology that you have no understanding of into the conversation. Its honestly better when you chalk up your dislike of the visuals to a matter of taste.

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                            February 24, 2017 4:37 PM

                            I guess I'll just lol you and move on

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                              February 24, 2017 4:43 PM

                              I mean, everything you said shows fundamental ignorance in the differences in dynamic range between low contrast and high contrast images while trying to improperly apply DRC to that.

                              You're using terminology and concepts that you lack even basic understanding of, so yeah, lol and move on I guess

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                                February 24, 2017 4:53 PM

                                Would it make you feel better if we talked about color saturation rather than contrast since that's really what we should be talking about?

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                                  February 24, 2017 5:08 PM

                                  I'd rather we didn't make any technical comparisons between BotW's visuals and DRC at all. Its a fundamentally incorrect comparison whether we are talking about color or saturation.

                                  If this was purely a taste discussion I'd be way more into it, but then again you also had similar beef with Arrival, a gorgeous film that has ASC and Oscar nominations for best cinematography, so I think we'd still be talking in circles.

                                  All that said, BotW already looks so vibrant in broad daylight so idk what your and JohnnyRey's complaints are about: https://youtu.be/So0QgL7AaAc?t=10s

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                        February 24, 2017 4:19 PM

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            February 24, 2017 10:15 PM

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          February 24, 2017 2:16 PM

          [deleted]

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      February 24, 2017 12:20 PM

      [deleted]

    • Zek legacy 10 years
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      February 24, 2017 3:34 PM

      Guys I want to get a Switch at launch. I signed up for a bunch of availability watch email lists and have gotten hardly any bites. I'm willing to show up somewhere at midnight and maybe wait a couple hours beforehand. What's my best course of action?

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        February 24, 2017 3:37 PM

        Gamestop is supposed to have a few units for the midnight launch. Target advertised that they will have some units when they open on launch day. Best Buy might also have some but who knows.

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          February 24, 2017 4:49 PM

          I kerp seeing Toys'r'us mentioned since they don't do pre-orders, and everybody forgets them.

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        February 24, 2017 5:20 PM

        [deleted]

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      February 24, 2017 6:38 PM

      Nice preview, Jason. Sounds like Shack has formed a consens... oh my god!

      This thread.

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