Zelda BotW: Waking up in a New Hyrule
This is going to be the first of a series of play through blogs for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This world it way too open with too many experiences for me to edit myself when writing about it. So, take a blanket spoiler warning instead.
If you want to remain 100% free of knowledge about this game and all its special moments, I completely understand. I’d like to share mine, but not spoil yours. So please heed above warning!
First Impressions (Non-Spoiler)
LoZ has been a series that I’ve loved since I first played it as a child. I haven’t kept up with all the newest games, and there are a number I have not played yet, despite the fact that I do own them in various ways. So, I’m not going to be someone who plays this with the point of view of a gamer trying to find where this fits into the rest of the Zelda timeline, or scrutinizing the lore changes, etc.
I wanted to play this Zelda the moment I heard it was going to be an open world experience. Some purists look at this change and scoff that it has strayed so far from the traditional Zelda game that it can’t be considered one. I looked forward to it eagerly. There was never a question in my mind whether I’d buy and play this. At first, I was going to get it for the Wii U, but then, when I became impressed by the Switch, I jumped on that ship instead. I’ve loved every minute of it so far!
Open World. That picture up there? You’ve seen it before, I’m sure. It’s not just promotional stuff. This is the real game engine. Everything you see there is something you can explore. Imagine a game with the whimsy, puzzles, and clever design of Zelda, meshed with an open world. Yeah, it works wonderfully. I’m always discovering something new and amazing.
It has it all. All the fun fluff elements that you’d hope for from an open world game are here in some form or another. Mounts. Pets. Housing. Cooking. Crafting(ish). Dyeing. Every time I stopped to think “wouldn’t it be nice if…” sure enough, BotW surprised me with exactly what I was hoping for.
Interactive world. Not only is it open world, it’s a super interactive world. You can destroy things. Light things on fire. Climb trees and pick apples. Chop down that tree for wood. Climb anything, actually, that you have the stamina to approach. Catch things. Gather things. Cook things. Beat on a monster, knock its weapon out of its hand, steal the weapon and proceed to slay it with its own weapon. Heck Yeah!
Story. The story isn’t super-super deep, and it follows a number of tropes to shape it the way that it does (hero wakes up, has no memory, etc.). But it’s kinda neat to see an post-apocalyptic fantasy world in the aftermath of a kingdom’s solid defeat where technology has turned on the ones who relied on its protection. The story is subtle enough not to hold your hand, and acts as more of a framework in which the world sits.
Ganon is out there, but he can wait! The NPCs even tell you to wait before approaching him, and to explore all the world has to offer first.
Major NPCs have strong character, and usually are parts of the main storyline. Minor NPCs also color the world and provide small quests for you to achieve. I have to say, though, some of the best moments I’ve had in game dealt with the people who just live in the world and their reactions to Link.
Link is a hazy, historical figure in this game. It’ll be interesting to see how that all works itself out.
Difficult. This game is tough. But it’s tough because it doesn’t place limits on the player. You can explore and exploit, and usually get away with anything you can think up. But expect there to be consequences… either with enemies, physics or other dangers.
The one nit-pick that I do have about the game is that weapons just don’t last long enough. I understand the idea behind weapons being a limited resource, and that you can always go and pick up another, but it’s still annoying to be in a battle and go through three different lesser-weapons while trying to clear one camp. I’m okay with weapon degregation and understand that it’s meant to be part of the game’s strategy, and I’m sure things will (hopefully) get better in the future. I’ll cry if the Master Sword breaks!
Now, on to the playthrough!
Wake Up, Link!
You can’t have a modern Zelda game if you don’t have the famous “Wake up, Link!” scene. This one doesn’t disappoint. You’ve got Link waking up from some kind of sci-fi sleep pod stasis. This instantly sets the scene for a world of fantasy that borders on one of technology, a theme that is strong in this game.
The first few moments of BotW seem like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Link wakes up. He’s given this tablet-like device called the Sheikah Slate, which becomes your one-stop shop for most of the tools and mechanics in the game. It’s also quite clever because this slate is much like the tablet the player is using, either with the Switch itself, or the Wii U’s tablet controller.
Once that’s sorted and you get the mysterious voice, you’re let loose in the world. The first thing I did, was experiment with everything. Tree? Climb! Apple? Pick! Wood stick? Get, equip! Mushroom? Pick! Cliff? Almost fall off only to catch the side and climb back up again.
I run across an old guy on my way down the hill. He gives me a few pointers and makes fun of me for picking up his cooked apple. I see a sturdy wood axe nearby, but choose not to steal from the old guy.
Instead, I’m off on my way, exploring and learning how the battle system worked. Fighting with just a branch led to losing my first weapon quickly. I remember having to retreat and look for a few more branches in the nearby woods.
Returning to the lone enemy, I took note that during our battle exchange, I knocked the club out of its hand. Sure enough, I could pick it up and finish him off with his own weapon. Now that’s ironic justice and savagely satisfying.
With the scent of battle in the air, I began clearing out enemies, discovering that rolling rocks on them and using your environment were also good options. Also, some camps give treasure chests when cleared.
Pretty quickly, I was stacking up on the loot and the stolen weapons. I had myself a bow, some arrows and lots of hand-me-down things. Life was good.
Then, I discovered story. Or maybe it discovered me.
Somewhere out in the plains, I ran across this slightly submerged structure, which was marked on my Slate from the beginning of the game (though I’d just been ignoring it). Within the structure, there was a panel that I recognized — something Link could interact with using his Slate.
So I did it, and it changed the happy-go-lucky world Link had been living in up until now.
It woke the Towers.
It gave Link a regional map.
And made Link aware of the evil that infests the land.
Alright. Time to start playing hero, I guess.