The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's combat is some of the most raw and unforgiving in the series - harking back to the original Legend of Zelda days when a bad encounter with a high-end enemy could spell your doom in a matter of seconds.
One thing that is thankfully different to those days is that the combat actually has quite a bit of finesse to it - there are a number of systems at play, and so it only seemed right to write a little about some of those systems for those who might be struggling with how brutal the wilderness of Hyrule can be, especially early on.
Understanding Perfect Dodge & Perfect Guard
Perfect Dodge and Perfect Guard are skills that you should absolutely make the most of in Breath of the Wild, but the game is actually pretty relaxed about how it teaches you these mechanics. Some shrines will deliberately try to force you to brush up on these mechanics, but all shrines are, of course, optional.
Everything about perfect dodges and perfect guards is about timing: if any of you have played an action-based game or a souls with parrying systems, this is essentially a simpler version of that.
To execute a Perfect Dodge, hit the X Button and the correct direction on the analog stick when an enemy attacks. You should generally be aware of how an enemy attacks for this - most attacks are either horizontal or vertical, and you of course need to dodge in the opposite manner depending on the type of attack. Time it just right and time will slow down, followed by the opportunity to do a 'Flurry Rush', a devastating counter-attack.
If you're using a shield you can do a Perfect Guard instead. A Perfect Guard involves having your Shield out with ZL and then waiting for the enemy to attack - and right before the attack lands, hit A. Link will lash out with his shield. If timed right you'll get a classic video game parry moment followed by the same time-dilation and counter-attack stuff as a Perfect Dodge. Both of these moves can help you to defeat even the hardest bosses easily, but you have to be damn good.
Getting Critical Hits & Sneakstrike
One way to deal a lot of additional damage is through those old RPG stalwarts, critical hits and backstabs. Both are essentially present in Breath of the Wild.
To nail a critical hit, you simply need to get behind an enemy during combat and strike from behind - it's that simple. If a weapon is low on durability (glowing red in the menus), throwing it at an enemy with R will destroy the weapon but is also a guaranteed critical hit.
With a bow, aim for the head (or other major enemy weak points) to score a critical hit. There's a telltale noise when this happens.
Sneak attacks are known as sneakstrike in Breath of the Wild - simply sneak up behind an enemy and the game will give you the opportunity to launch the attack. The enemy has to not be aware of you, so you might want to cook stealth-enhancing food and wear stealth armor to have the chance to execute one of these.
All about Weapon Durability
Weapon Durability was a bit of a worry for us going into Breath of the Wild, but as we detailed in our review it actually turns out to be a surprisingly smart system. The key is this: you really need to learn to love it.
The key thing to understand about weapon durability is it is not universal. The early game can be frustrating because you're picking up wooden clubs that break in no time and rusted swords that do great damage but crumble quickly. This will quickly change. Keep an eye on weapon descriptions, as they often hint at how durable a weapon is.
Experiment with a lot of different types of weapons and don't be afraid to throw away weapons before they're due to break (remember the critical hit bonus mentioned above for thrown weapons) if you have to. When you're feeling a little brave and have some extra heart containers under your belt, what we recommend is heading to Hyrule Castle or other high-end locations.
As detailed in our guide to getting the Hylian Shield, Hyrule Castle has a Lockup section that is home to a fair number of enemies, but prison cells make it so you only have to fight one at a time. Use this as a place to stock up on more powerful weapons early on, but then be smart - save these weapons for the encounters that matter. If you're feeling braver still, head a little deeper into the castle where even better weapons await.
Don't forget that if you want to preserve weapons there are lots of ways to save on durability - if an enemy camp has metal boxes (as many do), you can hide and use magenesis from a distance to crush your foes, or use other environmental hazards such as fire to deal with them.
Durability is meant to make you play the game in different ways, so do just that - forage, experiment with different types of weapon and different ways of doing damage.
Can I Repair Weapons?
Nope. This isn't a mechanic. But every enemy you break a weapon on is going to drop something, and there's many more weapons around the world besides. Get used to exploring and scavenging.
Oh, and are there any Infinute Durability Weapons?
No. Well - not really. The Master Sword cannot be destroyed, thrown or otherwise disposed of for obvious reasons, so it is technically 'infinite', but the Master Sword will also run out of energy if it's used too much and require time (around 8 minutes) to recharge.
On the shield front, the Hylian Shield is about as close to infinite as you can get, since it has something like 26 times the durability of its nearest rival. Also pretty good is the Hero's Shield (Wind Waker Link's shield), but while the Hylian Shield can be found in one location in-game the Hero's Shield is amiibo exclusive.
There are also special weapons for each of the game's champions. These have regular durability but these one-of-a-kind weapons can be reforged for you in their town of origin with the right materials.
Upgrade your Inventory Space with Korok Seeds
One thing you absolutely should do in order to take the pressure off weapons breaking is upgrade your inventory space as much as you can.
You do this by solving Korok Puzzles out in the wild and finding Koroks. Each seed they give you can be handed to giant Korok Hestu, and in return Hestu will upgrade one of your three inventory sections: weapons, bows or shields. We recommend you focus on weapon upgrades first.
Hestu is first found on the road that winds to Kakariko village from the duelling peaks, but later on in the game he goes to The Lost Woods and remains there.
Make good use of the elemental bonuses
You'll gather a lot of weapons with elemental bonuses, and these are worth saving to a point, for they're useful in specific circumstances.
Up on Death Mountain you'll find a lot of fire-loving Lizalfos who shoot fire arrows and are a massive pain, for instance. What the game doesn't outright tell you about these guys, however, is that if you hit them with an ice weapon or an ice arrow they'll immediately die. One hit kill.
The same is true of many enemies with an elemental affinity, so experiment.
Wooden Weapons can be turned into fire-elemental weapons
It's a small tip, but remember that wooden weapons can be easily turned into fire elemental weapons if there's an open flame nearby in a campfire or a lantern of some description.
This also goes for arrows - walk up to a fire with your bow out with an arrow ready and you can set the end of the arrow on fire. This is a great way to save Fire Arrow ammo, and is actually vital for solving some puzzles.
Enemy Colors hold clues to their difficulty
Many enemies come in a variety of colors, but one key little fact that a lot of people don't know is that their colors give away just how touch they are.
If we take Bokoblins, for instance, this basic enemy is weakest in its bright red variety, but the blue guys are a little tougher. The black Bokoblins are actually pretty deadly and harder than some species of moblin. The same goes for most enemies, so look carefully and be careful!
Guardian Attack? Ancient Arrows are your friend
The game points out that ancient arrows are especially effective against guardians, but what it doesn't really do is tell you just how effective.
So, let us put it out there: it's an instant kill. Immediate. Just whip out your bow when a guardian is chasing you and hit them anywhere - it doesn't even have to be in their eye.
Ancient Arrows are pretty rare, but they can be purchased for rupees and some materials you'll gather from fighting guardian type enemies from the Akkala Ancient Tech Lab. You might want to save your arrows for the guardians that are still walking - the ones that are trapped in place you might want to pick off with other weapons, such as bomb arrows, since they're less of an immediate threat.