Breath of the Wild is pretty tutorial light. Or, more accurately, the whole game is built like a tutorial, with little lessons all over the place. They're easy to miss, though, especially the tooltips that pop up the first time you gain an ability, and there are so many loading screen ones that it can be difficult to catch one you read halfway until hours later. So I figured it'd be nice to have a place for people to post helpful techniques. Bear in mind, though, you're kinda ruining the game for yourself if you don't at least try figuring this stuff out yourself, so it might be nice to hide especially specific info behind a spoiler tag.
To start, I've been working on compiling all of your basic options in combat:
- Press Y once to unsheathe your weapon. This is pretty self-explanatory, but: while unsheathed, your weapon will be held at an angle that can cause it to catch fire more easily than when it's on your back. It's also more easily knocked out of your hands by electrical attacks.
- Press B to sheathe your weapon, or cancel an attack. Useful for un-nocking arrows if you draw one and change your mind, as well as to break out of long attack animations with larger weapons.
- Press and hold the left (<) or right (>) buttons to change shields and melee weapons respectively with the right stick. Release the button to equip the highlighted item. It seems to be deliberately difficult to do while maintaining movement, as you have to take your thumb off the left stick to press the directional buttons, and keep your right thumb on the right stick to actually change weapons. As such, you can sometimes save a little momentum by using the (+) inventory menu instead, even though it takes longer.
- Press Y while your weapon is unsheathed for a simple forward strike. Generally, one-handed weapons offer a swift, short-range attack and allow you to hold a shield, spears offer a longer reach but a narrower angle of attack, and all other weapons are two-handed, slow, and can launch smaller enemies and their shields. In addition to the one-handed, spear, and heavy categories, you also have blunt and sharp weapons, as well as metal, wood, and some special weapons. All weapons have a power stat that determines per-strike damage, a hidden durability stat that determines how quickly they break, and have a chance that increases with your progress in the game to have a bonus enhancement of some kind. Others have elemental types, creating ice, fire, or electricity, that can have appropriate effects on enemies, Link, and environment alike.
- Hold Y for a moment while unsheathed to do a charge attack. Generally, one-handed weapons will perform the traditional spin attack, covering a wider area the longer you charge and the more stamina you burn. Spears will attack multiple times in a flurry, attacking more with longer charges, and other two-handers will do a slow whirlwind that you can use while moving, ending in a downward strike. These are primarily useful against bosses and large, slow enemies, as groups will interrupt your swing with hits.
- Jump (X) and attack (Y) in midair to do a jump attack. Depending on the exact timing, this will often cause you to jump further with a slight double-jump effect. Enemies can be caught in the downswing, as well as an area-of-effect burst that goes off when you land. This burst gets bigger the further you drop during the attack. Dropping too far, however, will result in you taking damage. You can also do a drop attack by simply pressing Y in midair without having jumped beforehand; for instance, if you are dropping from a glider.
- Sprint by holding B, just as you would outside of combat, and you'll dodge most attacks and projectiles, as long as you don't run in a straight line. Enemies that don't have perfect aim will have a lot of difficulty keeping up. Tapping the B button can extend this ability beyond the normal limits of your stamina, as there's a brief time after letting off the button where you keep moving faster than a normal run, while your stamina still recovers. There's another way to run even more consistently, but it's a pain to pull off and seems like a designer oversight, not an intended method.
- Sprint (B) and attack (Y) to do a (seemingly undocumented) thrust attack. Generally, you'll thrust whatever weapon you're using very quickly in the direction you were sprinting.
- Press and hold ZL to lock on to an enemy, or if there are no enemies around, enter a 'strafing' movement mode. Either way, it will also raise your shield if you don't have a two handed-weapon equipped AND wielded. Shields will absorb damage done by enemy attacks and eventually break, absorbing all damage from the last attack in the process. Locking on is useful without a shield, though, as it makes it much more likely for attacks to hit; even ranged ones. It isn't guaranteed, however, and basically just keeps you facing your opponent. All shields have a power stat that tells you how often they'll stagger an opponent with a successful block, and a hidden durability stat that determines how much damage they can take.
- Jump (X) or fall and hold out your shield (ZL) and press A to shield surf. It will damage your shield relatively slowly, and allow you to move downhill with substantial speed. You can smoothly transition from surfing, to gliding, and back again if you happen to jump off a cliff while surfing.
- Lock-on or strafe (ZL) and jump (X) to dodge. Dodging allows you to jump either up and down in place (as usual) or in one of the four cardinal directions relative to you enemy, which you can use to dodge attacks. Jumping to one side or the other allows you to dodge some attacks, and jumping backwards (which does a lovely backflip) will dodge others. Either way, if you perfectly time your dodge, you'll be prompted to do a "Flurry Rush," a devastating but delicious-sounding series of basic Y-button strikes on your defenseless opponent, provided you can reach them. Even if you don't manage a flurry rush, dodges can be used for effective attacks: combining with a thrust attack by sprinting at your foe (B), thrusting (Y), and then backflipping out of the way of their counterattack (ZL + left stick down + X) can make for an effective hit-and-run technique.
- Lock-on or strafe (ZL) and then press A to do a shield parry. Note the word shield; it won't work with two-handed weapons. A parry will briefly open your defense, dropping your guard for two moments, but if perfectly timed, it will deflect rather than absorb incoming attacks (meaning the shield takes no durability damage). In some cases, it will stun enemies; in others, it will reflect their attacks back. It's a dangerous technique, but incredibly powerful if performed successfully.
- Holding R will allow you to throw your equipped melee weapon. Some are boomerangs, that will return to you when thrown (but must be caught (A)!), but all others will simply strike an opponent and break. Side note: a weapon that breaks on an attack will deal double damage, meaning that most thrown weapons will deal double damage for your trouble.
- Pressing ZR draws your bow. Holding ZR draws your bow and nocks an arrow. Releasing it will loose the arrow, and pressing B instead will put it back in your quiver, allowing you to change bows and arrows without worrying about negligent discharges. Use the left and right buttons (<)(>) to change arrow types and bows respectively just as you would shields and melee weapons. Note that if you draw a bow in midair, time will slow to a crawl to allow you to aim; so much so that seeking out ways to jump at faraway or fast-moving enemies becomes vital. Also, striking an enemy in the head or eye will cause a critical hit, dealing double damage and, importantly, knocking them over. Also also, remember you can lock on with ZL to make it easier to keep track of enemies during a close-range bowfight. There are six types of arrows; standard ones can also be lit on fire temporarily (the fire burns out, but the arrow remains). The three elemental types create a burst of their element on impact (but don't produce it while drawn or equipped), and there are also bomb arrows that explode on impact and ancient guardian arrows that banish regular enemies, and deal massive damage to guardians.
There's kind of a lot in this game, so offer up whatever you can to help out!