I have a fiery passion for writing and video games. I particularly love writing about "The Legend of Zelda."
Take a Breath . . .
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) was released for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U on March 3rd, 2017. It completely changed how RPGs typically look and feel; with an expansive map and a less-stressed storyline. As someone who is comfortable with the layout of previous Zelda titles (side-quest, dungeon, boss . . . rinse and repeat), this game left me feeling confused and devoid of purpose. But in the end, it made me realize how monotonous my gaming habits had really been.
During a developer's conference, Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi explained that his goal with making such an innovative game was to allow players to “truly experience freedom in an expansive playfield”1 while offering them “a new sense of adventure.”Technical Director Takuhiro Dohta added, “I really want players to relish those moments where you do something and think 'Oh my god, I’m a genius.'"
By remembering these five things, you'll be able to have those genius moments, fight some bad guys, and rescue that princess, all at your own pace.
1. A Lack of Structure Doesn’t Need to Be Stress-Inducing
Right after completing the “tutorial” on the Great Plateau, you have nothing more than some vague objectives in your Sheikah Slate and the clothes on your back. Even so, you are expected to jump off a cliff and glide into the unknown. It is safe to say that my hands were sweating before I even got into my first fight.
Habitually, I went to the first waypoint, then the second, and then the third without taking the time to explore my surroundings or interact with the local monsters or CPUs. This made for some very boring gameplay early on. I found myself on the other side of the Forgotten Memories Quest only five hours in, and kind of wanted to quit right then and there. But I’m glad I didn’t, because there was a whole world out there that I was overlooking.
The map of BotW is huge. Unlike other titles in the series such as Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword, not every square inch of space needs to have a purpose. There were many instances where I found myself trying to activate a suspicious-looking bush. But in BOTW, a bush can just be a bush. I came to terms with this over time. I thought I’d be bored to death with a lack of constant stimulation, but instead, I found myself leisurely riding my horse through a milky field of grass, taking in that spectacular 720p sunset.
2. You Don’t Need to Rush Through Side Quests to Get Where You’re Going
Because there is so much free space, coming into contact with CPUs or lowly monsters is fairly rare. Sometimes, you’ll run into some travelers being ambushed by Bokoblins. If you choose to save them, they will give you some food or a potion. Other times, you’ll be approached by a shady salesman who transforms into a Yiga Bladesmaster and then tries to murder you. A lot of it is up to chance, so don’t kill yourself looking for someone to kill you.
More structured side quests are activated by talking to wandering travelers, townspeople, or in preparation for the Divine Beast quests. There is no need to rush from town to town, because the game structures it for you to get everywhere...eventually. One side quest will bring you to a region with another, and so on. When you finally reach your destination, you’ll probably have everything you need to conquer the next challenge.
That said, the Korok Seed Side Quest is a great example of why you should just take it easy and explore new areas as they come into view. There are a whopping 900 seeds to be found throughout the game, so trying to find them all before facing a Divine Beast will burn you out really fast.
3. Sometimes, It’s OK to Run Away
In BotW, Divine Beasts are the only things that require certain prerequisites, but even then, there is no heart minimum required to face-off with one. In general, fights are simply happened upon.
You can be minding your own business in the Goron Mines, when suddenly, the Battle Theme starts, and you find yourself atop an Igneo Talus. Due to the randomness of these battles, there is little point in wasting all of your health and magic items to try and make that kill. It may sting your pride a little, but when you are severely under-leveled, you could be instakilled. But that’s ok, because you'll never have to start all over at the beginning of a dungeon. The game auto-saves fairly often, so chances are you’ll be brought right back to the spot you were on before you stepped on that “rock.”
"So we ultimately decided that we should let them die."
— Hidemaro Fujibayashi; Director
Other times, you'll want to go into battle and test your skills. That’s ok, too! There are plenty of YouTube videos depicting hundreds of in-game deaths to demonstrate the frustratingly high level of difficulty in the game. But according to Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi, this was done intentionally to enhance the player’s experience, “There’s actually a kind of fun to be had from falling and dying. You learn to be careful and cautious. And we felt that gave a lot of players the emotional preparedness to take on the rest of the world. So we ultimately decided that we should let them die."
Although it’s frightening to run into a Lynel when you only have three heart containers and some shabby armor, and although you’ll be murdered by that Lynel fairly quickly, maybe you’ll learn a lesson for next time.
Slowly but surely, you’ll gain experience and develop the skills to take it head-on, but only if you're brave enough to fail. The game is always encouraging you to take that false step, to bite off more than you can chew, and to learn from your mistakes.
4. Be Strategic With Your Combat Tools
The strategy aspect of Zelda games has changed drastically since the last console game of the series (Skyward Sword). No more do you have your trusty Hero’s Sword by your side (at least not right away) to save the day.
All weapons and shields in BotW will break after a certain amount of use. This is why utilizing your Runes (Remote Bomb, Magnesis, Cryonis, and Stasis) in combat is a great practice, as these abilities will never quit on you. But knowing how to use a sword doesn’t hurt, either.
Each item has its own Attack and Durability level, and some have special bonus abilities. There are tons of melee weapons, ranging from tree branches to broad swords, with some elemental magic sprinkled in between. The same can be said for bows and arrows, though finding or buying elemental arrows is a taxing or expensive process. So, not only do you have to hone your combat skills, but you must also think strategically about your equipment on a per-battle basis.
Combat tools can be found all over the place: at the bottom of rivers, in hidden treasure chests, dropped by enemies, or even in the hands of statues. But, there is a limit to how much you can carry. The Korok seeds that you find are used to expand your inventory, but only one square at a time. You must think strategically about which category (melee weapons, bows, or shields) you want to focus on. Starting out, would you rather have an excess of swords or shields? Do you prefer bows for long-range attacks? Chances are, you won’t find all 900 seeds right away, so think reasonably about what you’ll use.
5. Gorge Yourself
While you’re SOL when it comes to crafting weapons or arrows, you can craft food and potions! This is a first for the series. Up until now, you could only replenish your health by hurling pots around, cutting grass, taking a soak in a hot spring, or making girls swoon. With over 100 possible combinations, you can make food or potions to restore your hearts and provide temporary status boosts.
To get cooking, you’ll need to have the following: 1. A lit cooking pot, which are spread throughout Hyrule. (If you need to light one, you'll need flint, wood, and a sword.) 2. Up to five applicable items from your inventory. Here are some of the things you can cook:
- Fruit (apples, bananas, durians)
- Vegetables (radishes, spicy peppers, carrots)
- Meat (foxes, deer, moose)
- "Critters" (snails, frogs, crabs)
- Monster parts (guts, horns, tails)
- Magic items (faeries, dragon parts, star fragments)
Using fruit, vegetables, and meat will produce food, while using monster parts, "critters," and magic items will produce potions. Both can have status effects, but potions usually are not meant to be used as health items. They are also concentrated, so their status effects are usually stronger.
The endless combinations of items challenges you, just as with weapons, to be both frugal and creative to survive. Certain areas of the map are unbearably hot or cold, and if you haven’t bought or quested your way to obtaining the proper clothes, a specific recipe assures your survival in any climate. It is important to note that the effects of food/potions only last for a pre-set period of time, so for you to truly experience all the Tabantha Tundra or Death Mountain has to offer, be sure you have the right equipment first.
"I think one thing I’ve always been proud of is the fact that Zelda games have always been about new surprises and thinking about different things to try, yet still maintain that Zeldaness, or whatever it is."
— Eiji Aonuma; Producer
BotW: A Game to Re-Visit, Again and Again
Since its release, players have spent hundreds of hours playing hide-and-go-seek with Koroks, scavenging for Energetic Rhino Beetles, soothing wild horses, and most importantly, saving Hyrule. There is almost too much to do, and with nothing being time-sensitive or linear, you can pave your own path through this game. There is always something new to discover, no matter where you are in the story. Despite any initial anxiety or frustration, I found myself reaching for my console again and again, and over time, I’ve come to truly love this chaotic title. I hope that after reading this article, you do, too.
Webster, A. (2017, March 11). A Chat with the Directors of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/11/14881076/the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild-nintendo-interview
Webster, A. (2017, March 7) Breath of the Wild's Director: "There's a Fun to Be Had From Falling and Dying." https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/7/14830152/nintendo-legend-of-zelda-director-interview-death-challenge-design
McFerran, M. (2018, Jan 29). Eiji Aonuma Says Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is "Maybe the Most Fun" He's Had Making Games. http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2018/01/eiji_aonuma_says_zelda_breath_of_the_wild_is_maybe_the_most_fun_hes_had_making_games
© 2019 Samantha Cubbison