LOS ANGELES — Before I got my hands on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I got to tour Nintendo’s E3 booth, a dazzling, to-scale recreation of some of the characters and environments featured in the new action-adventure game. But as amazing as it was to see a life-size Link and walk through the castle halls of Hyrule, the whole setup was simply there to prepare me for the even more awe-inspiring game I was about to play.

Breath of the Wild (launching for Wii U and NX sometime next year) drops Link into a massive living and breathing open world, which was mine to roam freely for about 15 minutes. I was overwhelmed with options — I saw shrines, mountains and lakes in the distance, and there was nothing stopping me from exploring any of them. The game’s new map system lets you mark multiple areas in the game world, so I set a few waypoints and began my adventure.

A Zelda for Modern Gamers

I started by getting used to the game’s basic new mechanics, which add a refreshingly modern twist to the familiar gameplay of a 3D Zelda game. The game’s lock-on sword combat is back, though it feels tighter and encourages well-timed dodges in a way that brings the Dark Souls series to mind. Link’s trusty bow-and-arrow also makes a return, and you can aim it using either the right analog stick or the Wii U gamepad’s built-in gyroscope. Even better, you can pick up any arrows you’ve shot to conserve ammo.

All weapons in the game now have an attack rating, and the game’s inventory system clearly indicates when you’ve picked up something more powerful than what you’re currently using. I’m used to these types of systems in action-RPGs like Destiny and The Division, but I never knew they could be useful in a Zelda game. Speaking of inventory, you can now restore health by scrounging for ingredients and cooking — no more picking up hearts.

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