Given the various features we underlined in our review, and of course the scale of the game world and the amount of things you can experiment with, here at Gamereactor we're approaching our Zelda game guides from a slightly different perspective. On the one hand, this essential, all-purpose, spoiler-free tips guide is for every type of player (beginner, pro, fan, and even those of you who've played for a few hours already). On the other hand there's our more specific Secrets Guide, for those of you looking for that hidden item that has eluded you on your journey thus far.
This guide could very well have been an epic; every time we play (and we're now 85+ hours in) we come up with new tips and pointers that you could use to enhance your experience, be it to perform better, reach further, survive longer or just try out new stuff and have fun. With that in mind we tried to limit this guide to the 15 bullet points we thought were most essential to your overall enjoyment of the game, although we could expand it based on your comments and requests at the end.
1. Be Yourself: Breath of the Wild is a breath of fresh air, inviting you to express yourself in its natural, open world. This means that our very first tip will always be to let yourself go, follow your instincts, and try out new ideas as you go. Do that and you'll not only find fun as you explore, but also interesting solutions to the problems you encounter. Don't try to play just like you did in the earlier Zelda games, nor like you would in another open-world adventure. You're better off going in thinking that there's no strict rules to adhere to, just a playground and a bunch of toys to play with as explore.
2. Outside the Box: Ok, this might sound just like the first point, but in this case we specifically talking about you're stuck, whether that be a brain melting puzzle, or a tricky boss fight. As the rules aren't as clear and the physics change the game so much, most of the time it's best to attempt a new approach instead of trying the same tactics again and again. Look for a fresh angle, walk around and explore your surroundings, examine the environment and the features that have been placed there, consider all the elements and how you might utilise them. There's combat, puzzles and exploration-driven challenges that have multiple solutions, and if you open your mind and try different things, you'll keep expanding your repertoire of tricks and find solutions that may well prove elsewhere.
3. Stamp the Map: It sounds obvious, doesn't it? But it's a very good habit to get into, and it's always surprising how many people don't bother using these tools. Perhaps don't mark every single thing you find, but if you get into the habit of marking stuff on the map you'll move much faster and you'll work much more efficiently when you revisit certain areas. Place a skull on the spawn points for the bigger enemies such as Hinox, Lynel, Igneo Talus or Moldora; stamp a star at important landmarks such as the Shrines you're not ready to solve just yet, or those intriguing areas where you know something's going to happen; drop a leaf on the Kolog points that you want to deal with later; a crystal at the mining hotspots that hold significant deposits of valuable gem stones; take note of where wild horses tend to gather; stamp that out-of-reach chest that you're planning to try and reach later. And if you like cooking (see the next point), place a pan on those locations that let you explore your culinary side. This is all part of the game, and if you're careful with your marker placement it won't be long before you navigate Hyrule better than your home town.
4. Master Chef: Any time you have the chance and you see a pot nearby, you should invest a little time into cooking, even if you don't enjoy doing it very much at first. With all the ingredients and materials you're carrying around in your inventory bag, you can create a couple of meals and elixirs that you'll definitely need later. Prepare a recipe to recover health, but don't just focus on refilling your hearts, you should also think about the beneficial effects that you could make use of, in your current region and elsewhere in the game. Is the weather too hot or too cold? Is it a volcanic or an electric area? Too hard to defend/attack enemies? Need more stamina to climb or soar? If you ask yourself these questions, in a couple of minutes you'll come up with 4-5 recipes that, believe us, you'll be glad you cooked up later on. And because you can be inventive and it's easy to see how the system works and how to get the best effects, you'll make a Michelin-starred chef out of Link in no time at all.
5. Snap Some Shots: Like the map-stamping tip, this is just good practice. If you use your Sheikah Slate's Camera Rune and take pictures of creatures, weapons or materials, you not only create yourself a visual reference point, but you also get the chance to look them up in the Hylian Encyclopedia and find out about their respective features, effects and even whereabouts (with the option of detecting those nearby). Think of this as a way to learn the weak points of enemies, or perhaps discover how to make the most out of an ingredient or weapon. You should also get used to taking screenshots by pressing the dedicated Capture button with your left thumb. This is great way to remember places, or to take note of clues that drop during dialogue with NPCs. And yeah, we don't mind admitting that we've already reached the Switch's 1,000 screenshots limit.
6. Plan for the Journey: Heh, what a thing to ask for with all the stuff that's going to happen along the way! Ok, ok, you'll get distracted, entertained, and take more than a few detours due to random and dynamic events, or you'll wander off simply because you fancy it, but if you want to cover one area properly, following a plan is advisable: check out the map, deciding more or less how you want to go from A to B, and consider what you might need along the way based on what you know about the terrain. The idea is of course to have fun along the way, but at the same time you don't want to miss any cool stuff, or leave some of those less pressing quests incomplete, if you don't have to. If, for instance, you go from Lanayru's Stable to Gerudo Desert (without teleporting), decide if you want to go by horse, think about what you might need to prepare in terms of supplies, and consider how you might use the map to get the most out of your journey.
7. Complete Shrines: It's not just a matter of completing the game and enjoying the puzzles. Mostly during the first 20-30 hours of your adventure, if you factor in a Shrine into your journey, say every hour or two, you'll be much better prepared for the second part of your journey. Remember that, other than the valuable treasures you'll find inside these puzzling areas, every completed Shrine grants you a Spirit Orb, and every time you get four they can be exchanged at the local Goddess statue for a Heart Container or a Stamina upgrade. It's clear then that this way you'll grow stronger and at the same time be better able to climb or run, and if at any time you need more health or increased resistance, you can always swap your containers at a cursed statue for a reasonable price.
8. Start with Stamina: You might only start with a small number of hearts, but you shouldn't focus too much on increasing this at the very start. In BotW you won't find heart containers in chests scattered around the world as was the old way, but that doesn't mean that you should go crazy when increasing your number of hearts. In the beginning, any powerful enemy can hit you with five-six heart's worth of damage in just one blow, meaning the difference between going from four to six hearts won't make as significant an impact to your first few hours of play as getting increased stamina. If you focus on the green meter first and foremost, you'll soon be able to climb higher walls, something that will take you to more treasures, more possibilities... and more Shrines to keep the loop rolling.
9. Divine Destination: If you went too far with the tip above and feel like a couple of extra hearts will improve your fortunes, we advise you to start your conquest of the four Divine Beasts with Rutela in Zora's Domain, as you'll get Mipha's Prayer, a neat ability that resurrects you every once in a while (there's a lengthy cool down and it won't save you inside the Shrines). On top of that, grab a few fairies near the Great Fairy Fountains (as if they were insects), as carrying them in your inventory means they'll wake you up when you run out of health, (as they used to do in the series, but no bottle needed). The last trick to help you avoid dying too often is increasing your armour stats with costumes and recipes, and as a last resort, swapping a stamina boost for an extra heart.
10. Stay your Blade: If you want to hunt a boar, get rid of a flock of bats, or extract minerals from a rock, don't use your best weapons, because as you probably know already, they have a limited number of uses. Use your wear-around-the-house blades and arrows for these menial tasks, saving that huge broadsword with an extra attack buff for a boss, that extra resistant bow for a raid, and those electric arrows for a rainy day. After all, if you shoot a fire arrow at a deer, you'll get roasted venison, and we're sure you'd prefer it raw so you can cook it your way, right? And this also goes for the Master Sword: use it when it looks like Frodo's Sting (when danger is nearby), and take care of it the rest of the time. That said, don't fall in love with any one weapon, as you can't keep them forever. Once again, it's a matter of being dynamic and getting used to swapping and upgrading your arsenal. The constant flow of weapons is part of the game, so embrace it.
11. Watch the Clock: It's easier and more useful than it looks. If it's pouring rain and you're unable to do any climbing or torch-based activities, if the Red Moon has spoiled your night shift, if you're looking for an animal or an event only happening at some specific hour at night, here you can't play the Sun's Song or the Song of Storms, but almost. Just look for a fireplace or make your own (you're probably carrying some firewood with you) and you'll be able to rest and change the time whenever you need to. Ok, if it's raining it can be tricky to light a fire, and you need some fire-based gear (arrows, weapons) or perhaps a metallic blade and a gem (flint or not) to light it up, but being an intrepid explorer, you should be a master of the elements.
12. Horsing Around: Take care of your horse. Not just because you love it so much and you've developed a bond after taming it, and not because of how stubborn it is, how great its name is, and how you customised it. No. It's just... it can die. And it's sad when it happens. And unless you know a certain character, it's gone for good. Even though enemies don't attack your four-legged friend when it's roaming freely or "parked", it might happen that an unfortunate rebound, a side-effect of the physics, or some other strange happening ends up killing it instantly. This happened to us with a purebred, after the explosion of a nearby Igneo Chuchu. Getting back to the closest Stable won't magically get it back, either. So unless you reload a save point, you'll lose your horse and all the time you put into it. Feed it an apple every now and then, pet it only when needed, but above all protect it from your enemies. Use ZL to use 4x4 all-road mode when the going gets rough. Oh, and one last thing: if you've tried and feel it's impossible to mount wild horses, try boosting your stealth stats with meals and clothes, see if there's a way you can fly in on the hand-glider, increase your stamina in case it bolts and, last but not least, if you don't manage it, try with horses that were mounted by bokoblins: they've suffered so much with those monsters that they'll be much more docile and friendly with you.
13. Get Rich Quick: If you've followed our advice so far, you're probably marking points on the map where you can extract decent amounts of minerals (for example, near the Goron Mines and the Death Mountain). And we don't just mean a couple of flints and some rock salt, we mean precious stones such as rubies, sapphires, topaz, and diamonds. By visiting just a couple of these locations you'll be able to easily and quickly amass gems to the value of between 2,000 and 3,000 rupees, and the best part is you can sell them at high prices to any merchant. Now you can buy that rock-solid armour or those luxury (and therefore suitably expensive) ancestral accessories.
14. Triforce: You can keep fighting like you've been doing in Zelda since Ocarina of Time implemented Z-targeting, but we advise you to master what we call the "Triforce of Combat Moves". 1) Parrying: if you time it well, you can open up even the most fearful enemy for a counter attack. 2) Side-stepping and dodging backwards: if you become a side-step expert, you'll enter bullet time slow-mo and deliver quick fire attacks. 3) The running blow: don't let your enemies catch their breath or even stand up: if they have no spear, you can approach most of them by running with B and then pressing Y for a devastating "first attack". Also, any time you get a new fancy weapon, it's always a good idea to try its combo as well as its charged attack, in case it has some special effects. Just make sure to test them on an enemy worth hitting (set point 10).
15. Mix It Up: Don't limit yourself to weapons and armour of the same type. Always carry a good shield, bow and sword/club/spear that are non-metallic (for example a Kolog-wood shield, a vigilant bow, and a bone-based dragon stick), because when there's an electric storm you're going to get hit by deadly bolts of lightning. You'll have to unequip your best armour, and if you've got no alternatives, you won't have any tools to defend yourself with. You can always run around and hope that the lightning kills your enemies, but if you're prepared beforehand you'll avoid making hard work of it. And the same can be said of weapon types: keep different elementary blades (fire, ice, lightning, ancestral) because you never know what kind of puzzles and enemies lie ahead, and if you have enough slots also save a spear for your horseback combat setup.