Link has a number of interesting ways to make his way around the massive overworld of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We’ve already seen at least four unique methods that he’ll be using to traverse this gorgeous new landscape, and I have a feeling that we’ve barely scratched the surface. Let’s take a closer look at the modes of locomotion that have been revealed so far.
Climbing seems very important in Breath of the Wild; I mean, there must be a reason that Nintendo chose to feature it so heavily in the game’s gorgeous new artwork. But beyond that, we’ve already been shown a pretty wide variety of ways that this new mechanic will be incorporated into gameplay.
Link can now climb virtually any surface in Hyrule. The only exception I can recall from the live E3 demos was the sheer walls inside the shrines of trials. Cliffs, stone ruins, trees; nothing seemed to be off limits, even the skeletal remains of the Temple of Time were completely scaleable from foundation to steeple. The only limit here is Link’s stamina, which forces him to gauge his abilities and take plenty of breaks if he wants to reach some of Hyrule’s highest peaks.
Another great showcase of the climbing mechanic was the Shadow of the Colossus style boss fight with the Steppe Talus. This huge golem, assembled from the massive boulders of the Great Plateau, could be battled in a variety of ways. The most apparent (and probably fun) way to dispatch him is to scale his body and wail away at a vein of fractured rock jutting from his shoulder. As fun as it may look to loose slow motion bomb arrows from afar while leaping through the air; I think (for this particular challenge) that feeling the rock tremble beneath your hands and feet as you hack away at it is the way to go.
I’ll admit, I was a little put off by this mechanic at first. Sliding down slopes on an overturned shield not only turns Link into a parody of another beloved elf – Legolas – but it also just looks a little out of place in this fantasy world. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Link carve the slopes, but the iceboarding sequence in Twilight Princess didn’t mesh particularly well with its aesthetic, either.
The more times I saw the mechanic used in Breath of the Wild, though, the more fascinated I was. In a huge, open environment that’s covered with hills, crags, mountains and chasms; Link needs as many options for traversal as possible. After a long, arduous ascent to the top of some remote peak to explore a hidden shrine or retrieve an obscure treasure chest, what better reward than a fast-paced SSX-style trip back to the bottom?
That’s one way that Link can use this new ability, but there are many other less obvious examples that stand to be just as fun…
On a snowy perch near a small Bokoblin camp, Link pulls out his Sheikah Slate and observes his objective from above. After surmising the odds and marking his targets, he leaps from the ledge. In one quick motion, he removes the shield from his back and braces it beneath his feet just as he makes contact with the steep cliffside and careens toward the encampment. As he skids closer, he draws his bow and lets a few well-placed fire arrows fly toward the explosive barrels between the tents. Dismounting with a leap as he makes his final approach, a massive explosion sends his foes flying; now only the sturdy Bokoblin leader is left standing. Link draws his sword.
I feel like every player will come away from Breath of the Wild with a ton of unique and personalized encounters involving shieldboarding.
The Paraglider mechanic has existed – in some form – for most of Zelda’s history. As far back as Ocarina of Time, Link could hold a Cuckoo overhead and leap from a ledge, allowing him to gracefully glide back down. Later on, that mechanic would take the form of the Deku leaf in Wind Waker and the Sailcloth in Skyward Sword.
In the past, these tools existed to help Link navigate smaller areas and solve puzzles, but they have never offered him the freedom that they do in Breath of the Wild. What better vantage point could there be for the gorgeous, endless vistas of Hyrule than the open sky?
While Link doesn’t start with the Paraglider, it does sound like he can earn it pretty early in the game. Everywhere you look in this new portrayal of Hyrule, there’s something to climb; and since Link has the ability to do so, he’ll invariably always need a way back down. I have a feeling that the Paraglider will be one of the items he uses most throughout this new adventure.
Of all the ways to get around in Breath of the Wild, riding mounts is oddly still the most mysterious. Even though Link’s trusty steed, Epona, has been a staple of the series for some time now, some clues in the new footage of the game lead me to believe that mounts will play a much more significant role this time around.
The most telling moment came in the debut E3 trailer, when we saw Link creeping through some tall grass toward a wild stallion. After leaping onto its back, the horse bucks madly as Link attempts to hold on and tame the bewildered creature. In the very next scene, we see Link riding a different horse that bears a striking resemblance to his old friend Epona. We can extrapolate a few points from this: First, Link will be taming wild animals to ride across the Hyrulian countryside; and second, he won’t be limited to a single mount, like he has been in most previous adventures – though I’m sure there’s a special role reserved in Breath of the Wild for Epona.
During the final gameplay demonstration of E3, we were treated to some fast-paced equestrian combat with an awakened guardian – the derelict tentacled sentinels that surround the ruins in the Great Plateau. After circling the monster and firing a barrage of bomb arrows, Link closes in, leaps from his mount, and fires a glowing arrow directly into the beast’s eye, bringing it crashing to the ground.
So we know that horses are a tool for both for traversal and combat in Breath of the Wild, but could there be other creatures that Link can tame and ride across the landscape? We’ve seen Link soar on the back of a massive bird through the skies above Hyrule in Skyward Sword. After that, I wouldn’t call any animal companion off limits.
The world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is clearly just begging to be explored, and it looks like Nintendo plans to give players tons of freedom in how they choose to do so. The tiny cross section of this map that we’ve seen so far, and the many ways Link traversed it, was enough to fuel my imagination with tons of ideas for what surprises the rest of the world might hold. I can’t wait to see how else we’ll be exploring the newest incarnation of Hyrule as we get closer to Breath of the Wild’s release next March.
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