It’s been a big week for Nintendo. Not only did they launch a brand new console, they also released the first proper Zelda game since 2013. But you probably don’t need me to tell how how good Breath of the Wild is by now.
Zelda does a lot of things right considering it tells you relatively little about the game mechanics, story, or world. So read on for a spoiler-free advanced introduction to the enormous open world that lies ahead of you.
It’s a Proper Open World
This is the first truly open-world 3D Zelda game, and that means that the map isn’t gated off from the outset. You can pretty much go wherever you want once you’ve left the safety of the first area.
The game will keep you in check with enemies that are much stronger than you, so expect to die — a lot. If you’re getting hammered, it’s likely that particular area is better tackled once you’ve got a little more experience under your belt. Consider going somewhere else and coming back later instead.
Learning to Fight
The first enemies you come across on The Great Plateau aren’t very tough, and offer a great chance to get a feel for the fighting mechanic. Use these early encounters to think tactically about fighting, watch how your enemies move and react to your presence.
Enemies don’t just charge at you — they’ll often seek cover, come in waves, climb objects to get better vantage points, and dodge your incoming attacks. Use the ZL button to lock on to enemies and hit X plus a direction on the control stick to dodge.
You can use stealth to creep up on enemies and execute them with a strong melee attack — just watch your noise meter in the bottom-right corner. The environment is a tool that provides creative ways for defeating enemies as well. Look out for objects like boulders that can do the work for you!
If you’re throwing your weapon (R) or using the bow (ZR), hold down the respective button and aim using motion controls. You want to hit enemies in the head for maximum damage, but you can also hit certain enemies in the legs to immobilize them.
Remember: If things really aren’t going your way, you can always run away! With the number of one-hit-kill enemies in the game, it’s wise to pick your battles rather than engaging everything you find.
A Word About Weapons
Weapons break a lot. You can avoid using them by picking up rocks and other objects, then hurling them at enemies with R instead. Avoid hitting trees, rocks, and other inanimate objects with your weapons as they degrade just as if you were using them to fight enemies.
If you find powerful weapons that deal lots of damage, don’t waste them on weak enemies. Save them until you really need them — you’ll be grateful when you face a fiercer opponent.
Experiment with different weapon types, too. Heavy weapons like axes and hammers are slow and powerful, and can knock down enemy shields. Faster weapons like swords cannot.
Dodge, Parry, Charge
You can execute a perfect dodge by hitting X right before an enemy attacks, which you can then follow up with a flurry attack by pressing Y. Similarly, a perfect parry involves holding your shield up with ZL and tapping A right as your enemy attacks, making your enemy vulnerable to counter-attack.
Each weapon also has a charge attack, which is powered up by holding Y. Experiment and find out what each does, and when it’s most useful.
Boost Your Stats
Spirit Orbs are used to increase your health and stamina, but you’ll need to earn them first by completing shrines. There are allegedly 120 shrines in the game, which function like mini-dungeons.
Crafting is another great way to improve Link’s abilities, at least temporarily. Cook by combining elements at a campfire to increase the food’s healing effects. An open fire can roast or lightly cook, while a cooking pot and fire are necessary for advanced combinations that provide added status boosts.
To cook items: Press + and cycle to your Inventory, select the Materials category, then use A to select food items. You can carry up to five at once. Hit B to return to the game and approach a fire, then press A to cook. Cooked food and elixirs will appear in the “food” category.
Apples are a good example of the cooking system in action. A raw apple awards half a heart, while a baked apple awards a whole heart. If you combine two or more Apples you’ll get simmered fruit, which is good for two whole hearts. Food items like this only occupy one inventory slot, so experiment with cooking to increase your healing efficiency.
Elixirs are also crafted at camp fires, but they’re a little different from food items. Mix monster parts (like Bokoblin horns) and critters (like frogs) to create temporary buffs, like stealth boosts and cold resistance.
Remember: You can’t cook anything when it’s raining, because you can’t light a fire!
Weather the Weather
Breath of the Wild makes use of a dynamic weather system that’s designed to keep you on your toes. In addition to preventing fires being lit, there are a few other meteorological side effects. Perhaps most importantly of all: don’t use metal equipment (swords, shields, armor, and bows) in lightning storms. I’ll let you guess why.
Your enemies won’t hang around in the open when it’s raining, instead choosing to seek cover. It’s hard to climb in high wind, and as you do climb higher the colder weather needs to be accounted for with fire, warmer clothes, and food items.
Take Your Time
Perhaps most important of all: this isn’t a race to the end. I’d encourage you not to rush to leave the safety of The Great Plateau too soon. There’s lots to explore, so even when you are able to leave, make sure you’re ready for everything the Wild will throw at you.
The game doesn’t tell you what to do, but it will throw hints at you from time to time: why not explore here, or what happens if you collect more of these? This is Breath of the Wild at its most explicit. There’s no hand-holding this time — you really are on your own.
Talk to everyone you meet to find out more about the world around you, its history, and what makes Hyrule’s denizens tick. This is Nintendo’s Skyrim, so pick up side quests, collect rewards, and explore at your own pace. Player agency is a huge part of the experience, and what a thoroughly rewarding experience it is.
If you really want to get immersed, consider turning off the mini-map. You can do this by pressing +, then scrolling over to the System tab on the far right and choosing Options. Change HUD Mode from Normal to Pro and the only on-screen element that remains is your heart meter, seen in the screenshot above.
Save Your Game Lots!
OK, I lied. Most important of all is a reminder to save your game often. Hyrule is crammed with terrifying enemies who can demolish you in a single hit. The learning curve is steep but rewarding, and the game requires tact rather than button mashing.
Hit the + button, head to System and hit Save whenever you can. The game auto-saves fairly regularly, but you should supplement these with hard saves.
Have you got any tips for Breath of the Wild? Leave them in the comments below!