Three hours. The time it took from me entering the line for a chance to play the latest Legend of Zelda title, to entering Nintendo's booth to actually play it. After having players watch a small video that briefly showcased some of the game's new features, we were all lead into the inner reaches of Nintendo's E3 booth, to one of over 100 Wii U systems set up for individuals to play 2 separate 15-minute demos. Besides the initial video and the spectacle on display as we were lead to the Wii U that we were allowed to spend our 30 or so minutes on, everything was hands off. Nintendo made a big promise that they wanted players to be immersed in the game when they had a chance to try it this E3, and the gamble definitely played off.
The first demo that players were guided to try was especially open-ended. You're plopped in a forest in the upper portion of the Grand Plateau and left to decide your own agenda. The game's minimap (accessed by using an item called the Shiekah Slate) had a bunch of markers plastered all over it, pointing players to where they can find enemies, waypoints, shrines, and the like. During my time with this demo, I experimented with the game's new combat and gathering systems. Instead of picking up hearts to replenish your health, you must gather and eat food. Instead of relying on the Master Sword to attack enemies, players gather a variety of weapons that they either find in the overworld or take from a downed enemies hands. Weapons, additionally, have a set durability - after you use a weapon for a certain amount of time, it will break.
Besides just standard swords, Link can use a variety of other weapons this time around. If an enemy drops a club, you can pick it up and use it against him or his friends. Early on in the second demo you'll most likely find an axe in a stump on the side of the road. Of course, Link also has the ability to wield a bow - and players can draw it at any time by using the ZR button. For weapons besides the bow, Link now has access to charge attacks; by holding down the attack button, players can use a lot of stamina to deal a special attack unique to each weapon. For swords, you use the standard Legend of Zelda circular swipe, and with the axe the special attack is highly reminiscent of the swinging hammer attack present in the Monster Hunter series.
Although hearts are no longer used to recover health, the world is full of stuff like apples and mushrooms that can be devoured to recover health in their stead. There is a slight crafting meta at work here, as although you can eat many of these edibles without doing anything special to them, not only does cooking them increase their effect, but some gathered materials mention in their description that cooking them would grant an edible that might improve Link's speed, or defense, among other things.
Even though my time with the demo was relatively brief, it's safe to say that the world isn't devoid of content - besides gathering items, there were plenty of enemy outposts that I could intercept, Shiekah Towers that I could climb, animals I could hunt, and more. While exploring the overworld, I happened across one of the Shrine trials - the one that I tested out was more or less a tutorial for a Magnet type item that Link can use to move metallic items in the overworld, though the Nintendo rep behind me explained that there will be over 100 different trials in the final game, each with a different length and difficulty. He also confirmed that regular dungeons are still present in the game, although I didn't get the chance to explore any myself.
The second demo started shortly after the first demo I played timed out; this one took place in the same area as the first demo, and appears to be the opening segments of the game. Although those 15 minutes were able to set the groundwork for most of the story, based on my initial impressions it seems that the story is even less omnipresent in Breath of the Wild than in other Legend of Zelda titles. Players take control of Link after he has awoken from a century long slumber, as the seal on Calamity Ganon begins to waver and get out to explore the world and fix things.
Players will be able to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it releases on both Wii U and NX next year.