No doubt about it: Zelda: Breath of the Wild, available for the Wii U and the newly released Nintendo Switch, has been the hottest video game around. Everyone’s talking about it, or has already talked about it, and mostly everyone is playing it. Discussion is drenched in story: stories wildly varied from person to person. The game rewards inventiveness and experimentation. The player constantly finds new possibilities in the way they approach puzzles and enemy encounters, but also interaction with the environment and exploration. As a Zelda game, Breath of the Wild is new and refreshing. As an open world adventure, it’s a shining example of design and craft. I haven’t been this excited, or engrossed, with an open world video game since Red Dead Redemption.
Continuing the narritive of stories, and what a redundant phrase I just wrote, I will be sharing some stories of my experiences with the game. Usually I break down mechanics during impression pieces, but this is a goddamn Zelda game, so it’s most likely you already know what the game is about due to how much coverage is out there. Or you’ve already played the game. I find player experiences with the game much more compelling.
For the purposes of this impressions piece, know that I’m supplementing true enemy names with phrases like “fucker,” “small fucker,” “tall fucker,” and of course, “skinny fucker.” Great!
There are moments that make you feel cool. Like when I approached a camp of the tall skinny fuckers who were accompanied by a giant skinny fucker and they were dancing around their fire like fuckers do. I rode in on a horse, hopped off, aimed my bow (which activates a cool slow motion ability that drains stamina), and hit some head shots. Pissed, three came after me, and I took turns dealing with them however I could in the moment. One got an ice arrow, freezing him out of the fight momentarily. I noticed we were on a mountain, so I began to run down the mountain so I ran down the mountain, jumped in the air, turned around while in the air, and hit one of my pursuers in the head three times killing him dead. I killed another with a bomb, and threw a spear to kill the third one. The giant skinny fucker, who I presume was their father, came after me mad as hell. I staggered him with a headshot, switched to a lightening greatsword, and then combo staggered him to death. I took a selfie with his corpse as it drifted down the hill. Then I ran down the hill and collected his guts and bones to add to my massive collection of monster pieces. I felt like a cold blooded murderer in this cartoon game about a little teenage boy defeating the magical embodiment of evil.
There are also moments that make you feel like a sad, pathetic little bitch. Like when I attempt to crush an opponent to death.
See, you have this magnet ability where you can grab a metal object in the world and reposition them effectively giving the player the ability to raise objects high up into the air and release them. And some encampments, where these little fuckers hang out, are littered with metal cases. When I see that I’ll approach the encampment, I’ll pull out my magnet, and I’ll raise a box into the air. I then attempt to drop it on one of their heads.
It never works. They always see me, and then attack, issuing a cluster fuck battle. At best, the box will land and do little to no damage. Yet, I keep trying.
In one particular moment I was stuck in a thunderstorm and I was trying to approach an encampment. The smartest thing to do is sneak in and stealthily kill enemies. Not only does this make combat a breeze, but it doesn’t damage Link’s equipment relative to a full out fight. With a booming thunderstorm drowning the sound of Link’s footsteps, stealth killing an entire encampment becomes trivial. Although effective, I often find this approach boring, and I yearn to find something more creative and mentally stimulating.
So I approach with a box high in the air. I drop it. Box falls, hitting nothing. Fuckers look back at the box and see me in the process, then begin their attack. I pull out my bow and arrow, miss a few shots. I run away, slipping down a mountain while I pull out bombs. I throw my bomb, and a fucker picks it up and throws it back at me. They shoot me with an arrow, and then I switch to the biggest sword I can find because I’m pissed and I want to make an example of the fucker that shot me. Then I’m shocked with a lightening bolt because the sword is made out of metal and I die.
I reload my save and warp to a location where it is not storming.
Breath of the Wild is full of details that present a lived in world and beg exploration. You constantly find dilapidated houses, shrines, and yes, dilapidated boats. Stables and towns present a nice, cultivated contrast to the harsh dangers of the wild, and those NPCs stranded around the wild breathe an organic feeling to the game similar to those in Red Dead Redemption that would run up in the deserts to talk and offer side missions. Environmental puzzles greet players, offering korok seeds or chests or rupees, and sometimes lead to shrines which reward spirit orbs which can be exchanged for health and stamina upgrades.
I was in an environment that wouldn’t stop raining. Rain in this game is ball busting, because Breath of the Wild lets players climb all over everything, and when it’s raining players slip when they try to climb things. It fucking sucks. I was swimming up a river, since I couldn’t climb anything, when I noticed large stone platforms leading to a waterfall. It took me far too long to climb some of these stones because I kept slipping down the fuckers, and I kept exhausting my resources refueling my stamina. I eventually climbed one and waited for the storm to pass–for my next short window of dry, mountain climbing weather–and continued once the sky was clear. Eventually I was in front of the waterfall. I donned my Zora armor, which allows players to climb waterfalls, and did so. Once at the top I began paragliding, and I did so through the waterfall and into a cave which contained a shrine. Neat!
After defeating the shrine and collecting a spirit orb I exited and jumped back into the river. I climbed the waterfall with the intention of exploring the area above. Once I did so, a giant flying snake made out of electricity came out of nowhere and electrocuted me, sending me down to the river. The snake immediately hadoukened me to low health. Before I could get to safety, my stamina ran out, and I drowned.
I reloaded my save and warped to a location without giant flying snakes made of electricity.
People love to throw out Dark Souls comparisons because this game possesses difficulty. It’s as though Dark Souls was the only video game that had challenge. Maybe Nintendo wanted one of their video games to offer entertainment to non-babies? I kid, I kid. No, I don’t kid–I’m a man, not a kid. Fucking kill me with your video games Nintendo–I want to feel like I climbed a goddamn mountain once I’ve beaten one of your games!
Jokes aside, stop treating difficulty like a Dark Souls exclusive.
The game likes to kill you, or at the very least give you the impression, perhaps illusion, that danger exists everywhere if you aren’t careful, paying attention, or at the very least conscious of what you’re doing. This isn’t “Dark Souls difficulty,” but I can see why comparisons stand. You have to be ready to deal with whatever comes around that corner, but your tools in dealing with that challenge are much more expansive and yet adaptive relative to a Dark Souls or “soulslike” if you wanna be EXACT AND FUCKING STUPID.
For example, there are these mechanical beings that became reanimated once the player activates the first tower in the game. They are called guardians, and they were meant to protect Hyrule Castle from Calamity Ganon but as captured by Ganon became weapons used against Hylians. They are giant tentacled fuckers with a giant cyclops eye that shoots devastating lasers. That laser is fast and mean, and it catches shit on fire. So you don’t ever want to be caught fucking around one of these tentacled fuckers. Especially because their health is immense, and their heads rotate quick enough that avoiding or preventing those lasers becomes impossible unless the player finds them in specific environments like, for example, mountainous regions where line-of-sight can be broken.
I avoided them until one night when I made the conscious decision to hunt one down armed with the Internet knowledge that those lasers can be parried, which reflects the laser and deals amazing damage once the beam hits.
I knew a guardian was located around one of the great fairy fountains. The area was loaded with mountains, so I knew if worse came to worst, I would have some nice opportunities to break line of sight. I found a guardian and played the practice dance–failing over and over to successfully parry enough times to kill the guardian. Every time I would reload my save so that my gear wasn’t wasted in this attempt to learn how to fight the tentacled fuck-menace.
After five kills I got frustrated. I stood up on a mountain and threw bombs at the guardian, who was too stupid to look up and see me, at first. After about ten bombs I had done about ten points of damage out of the creature’s 1500, so I decided to try and parry again. I shot some arrows and began running toward it. Laser charges once I’m in its face, and I reflect the laser back for the first time, learning how this method becomes easier the closer you are. By now, it was nighttime. I probably should have slept before this whole thing, but at the time I didn’t think about that. So undead fuckers and bat fuckers began flying toward me. By this point they didn’t scare me because their attacks did very little damage, however once they hit me they would stagger me which preventing me from parrying the laser. Also, if I unlocked from the guardian I would accidently lock onto one of those noctornal fuckfaced shitlords and then I’d get a laser to the face for my efforts. Thank you fuck you bye.
I navigated the fight by back-peddling, drawing enemies one by one while breaking the guardian’s line-of-sight. It worked: I hit a bat with an arrow. I killed a bobokin, picked up his arm and threw it at another bobokin, then smashed their heads granting them true, real death. The last three bats flew toward me and I killed them in one slash just in time for the tentaclfuck to emerge from the otherside of the hill I positioned behind. The laser charged. In its face I was able to hit the parry button as soon as the flash appeared, and the animation was just long enough to hit that parry perfectly, reflecting the laser and killing the guardian fucking dead.
One more bobokin emerged from the ground. I took out a hammer and smashed the fucker back into the ground. Satisfying.
Not two minutes later I find another guardian and think “easy, I’ll just do that again!” The guardian destroys every shield I have.
I reload my save and warp to a location without guardians.
The locations in the game are diverse. There are four main cultures that hold cities they call home, and these cultures all talk, act, and dress differently, making for a feeling that you’re playing this game in a world, instead of just one large level. I’ve always loved details like these in open world games–like how different areas in Red Dead Redemption were, from the vast deserts of Nuevo Paraiso to the snowy mountains of West Elizabeth. People spoke different languages and broadcasted different forms of wealth. The Assassin’s Creed games always got this right too, drenching their games in adequate culture and architecture to remain true to their historical source material.
Breath of the Wild features the volcanic mountains of the goron, the endless desert of the gerudo, the beautiful waters of the zora–each region successfully represents themselves in the game as though they were small countries. And in each region, the player gains access to a set of armor that is designed to reflect what region they are in. They also provide extremely important benefits that aid the player’s progress. The zora armor, for instance, allows players to swim up waterfalls as well as swim faster. The goron armor allows players to withstand dangerous levels in heat. They also provide differing levels in defense.
I found it necessary to put on appropriate armor when visiting these villages, or their surrounding locations. When I’m at the Rito Village, for instance, I put on their armor while I’m exploring the areas around the village even though the defense sucks. Truthfully, defense isn’t totally important since players can cook meals that give the player full health or temporary (yellow) hearts, and cooking these meals is fairly trivial, however I feel almost as though I’m living through Link in these locations. I genuinely feel nice and relaxed in these villages. I like hanging out and talking to everyone I can find. Doing so, it would feel wrong if I wasn’t showing appreciation for the culture around me by adopting the appropriate clothing.
This game is magical. I enjoy myself thoroughly while playing this game to the point that I wonder if I’ll ever complete it. Doing so is not only a daunting task due to its length and general funness of side-objectives and exploration, but I’m hesitant to want to see this experience end.
So, even given the WONDERFUL quality of the game, and the DELIGHTFUL time I’ve had playing the game, I don’t feel bad for putting the game down for now. I know that once I return I will have just as much fun as I was having before. The game’s just too good to rush.
I was in a slump after these initial sessions. I didn’t want to play Breath of the Wild because I didn’t want to hurry toward an ending. I didn’t want to play anything else because then I wouldn’t be playing something as good, or even as close to as good, as Breath of the Wild. So what did I do?
Next time: Robots; Skirts; Blindfolds; Bullets; Swords; Stuff.
Hopefully it doesn’t take as long this time huh? Did you like how I completely lied to you? I said I wouldn’t write about mechanics and proceeded to write about them in order to properly set up the stories. THAT’S GOOD WRITING YOU SMARK! I also used the word “funness.”
I am an excellent writer.