The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has some, forgive me, breathtaking moments. (Can we just pause to acknowledge that Nintendo absolutely nailed the nomenclature there?)
I never, ever would have guessed that the Zelda chain (on account of all those Links) would ever transpose well into an open world. However in hindsight, most of the Zelda games have been open world exploratory adventures, right from the first. I guess what blows my mind is the scope of the game, how very, very big it is, and how many small details and secrets are built into it. For as long as I could remember, I have loved the idea of secrets hidden in plain sight, and BotW is a dream come true for me. I would like to share some of my favourite moments of the game to date.
Early in the game I was exploring the headland of South-eastern Hyrule. As I ran towards the cliff’s edge, perhaps a hundred metres above the sea, I noticed a great hole in the landscape and I became immediately suspicious. I approached the hole cautiously and heard a peculiar rumbling. I decided to use my Sheikah Slate to see if I could get a better look down the hole when I lost my footing and found myself plummeting down it. I whipped out my paraglider to slow my fall and had a good look around as I descended. A shaft of light beamed from the hole cut into the high ceiling of the enormous cavern I was in, illuminating a sleeping giant whose snores seemed to cause the very ground to tremble. All around us glittered deposits of ore and precious gems, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to mine them I would need to first neutralise their guardian. I donned my Sheikah clothes for soundless movement and crept around him, wondering about the best way to defeat him. In the end, I tucked a bomb between his legs, crept around to his head, and detonated it as I began stabbing him vigorously. Suddenly a health bar appeared on the HUD, identifying my first overworld boss to be a Hinox. I broke several of my weapons upon its robust flank, peppering its eye with arrows until it exploded in a cloud of smoke. My heart raced as I gathered the rare ingredients it had left in its wake, and the whole experience left me feeling exhilarated. It would take me some time to realise that the thrill of battle and conquering a powerful foe was my favourite part of the game.
Rumour had it that a Spring of Power existed at the summit of Mount Lanayru. I decided to investigate and made my way into the mountain range that surrounded it. To my surprise, my warm jacket was not sufficient to keep out the cold, and I had to rely on food to keep up my body heat. In addition to the cold, I had underestimated the breadth of the mountain, and it took me several trips to reach the top (because I had to re-supply to survive the climb). As I crested the summit, I found a sickened dragon curled around the fountain, infected with Ganon’s blight. It fled, and without hesitation I launched myself off the mountain after it, shooting the blight off of it with precisely placed arrows. After chasing it from peak to peak and freeing it from the Malice, it landed before me and asked me to remove a scale from its own hide. I offered this to the Goddess of the Spring and was granted entrance into the heart of the mountain. It humbled me that, lowly as I was, I had been of service to the Goddess and its guardian spirit.
While visiting my brother, I played his copy of Breath of the Wild. I came across a lake and, as always, I used the magnesis rune to search for hidden treasure. As well as a number of treasure chests, I found metal boulders attached to chains which signified the hiding places of mischievous Korok’s. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed two wells that seemed to have been boarded up. After a little bit of experimentation, I used Cyronis and Bombs to blow apart the barriers. Underneath one of them was further treasure, but underneath the other… To my absolute amazement, a golden dragon flew out of the lake, crackling with lightning. It electrocuted me as it passed, and I paused the game to deal with my shock (forgive me). My brother resumed playing, and then promptly started running in the opposite direction, his natural inclination to avoid such a powerful creature. I was flabbergasted he did not want to pursue it. It was a powerful experience to come from out of the blue.
Still high off my victory over the Hinox, I found myself at a cliffside shrine. As I descended, I was informed it would be a “Major Test of Strength”. I was excited: I had seven weapons, six hearts and a large supply of food. I’d recently acquired Knight’s Armour, and had not yet found any of the fights to be a challenge yet. Enter the Guardian Scout, equipped with Ancient Battle Axe++, Ancient Spear++ and Ancient Shield+. Every time it swung its weapon, it would take me from full health to a quarter of a heart. Even with my armour and iron shroom skewers, it kicked my ass all around the room and killed me pretty effortlessly. I refused to leave, each battle improving my timing with dodges and shield bashes, opening room for counter attacks. My piddly weapons barely scratched its armour, and I broke sword and axe, spear and shield upon it without much effect. It took me many, many tries to survive the encounter, and eventually I succeeded by the skin of my teeth, breaking the automaton apart and harvesting its mechanisms. I promptly wasted those powerful weapons, not knowing how rare they were. I’ve participated in many Tests of Strength since, but with my Guardian Armour and Ancient Weapons, the thrill just isn’t the same. Like in the days of Morrowind, I was starting to crave an enemy who could best me.
I spent many, many hours in the mountains of the Gerudo Highlands, searching for the rumoured statue of the Eighth Heroine of lore. I became extremely proficient at riding my shield down the slopes ala Legolas, picking off Lizalfos with fire arrows as I went. I combed almost every inch of those peaks looking for that damned statue, and it was during those lonely nights in the frigid mountains that I saw him: Soaring through the air in a streak of plasma was the Lightning Dragon, Farosh. I was, forgive me, electrified. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that the dragons would take me to a Great Fairy Fountain, or a place of great power, so I immediately set out in pursuit of him to do what my brother would not. Farosh quickly outpaced me, and I realised that my chase would be a long one. I built campfires (no mean feat during the blizzards) and waited until dusk, marking on my map each point of his journey and running alongside him for as long as I could manage each night. As I sprinted along the peaks, I would sometimes get caught in his updraft and rise to fly alongside him. Once, I flew too close and actually collided with him in a shower of sparks and pain. After many nights of tracking his path, I eventually saw his departure: he flew into the distant skies and disappeared in a maelstrom of clouds. We flew together through those lonely peaks, and I never did find that fairy fountain.
Speaking of lightning, I was once again at my brother’s house watching him play. I was just telling him about how much better I was at fighting Lynel (mighty centaur creatures) now, and how ashamed I was that he saw me struggle so much with the one I helped him kill. Literally moments later, the camera panned and we saw another Lynel on a nearby plateau, this one with a blue mane, far stronger than the one I had initially killed. He handed me the controller and said, “Well there’s your chance,” and I vowed to beat it without needing to heal once. And, as it happened, my brother had almost no food, only one good sword (50 damage, compared to his other weapons of about 20 strength) and only a handful of arrows. As I approached, it began to rain, and soon after my weapons started crackling with the static of a thunderstorm. I engaged the Lynel as lightning flashed, setting fire to the trees all around us as we did battle upon the mountaintop. I admit, with his squishy clothing and limited supplies, I died many times. But eventually, right when it seemed all hope was lost, I got into the zone. I dodged every attack perfectly, creating opportunities for flurries. I switched between my wooden and electrified weapons with just enough time to do decent amounts of damage. I shot him in the face and rode him like a pony, stabbing him over and over again until I was victorious without having taken a single blow. It was a glorious moment when at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.
High above the hidden village of Kakariko, at the summit of the tallest peak, I found a half-buried metal chest. Using magnesis to wrest it from the earth (and then again to catch it as it promptly started sliding off the steep incline), I found an exquisite sword. It was an Eight-fold blade, a traditional Sheikah weapon that someone had gone to great lengths to store. To give you some context, I barely made it to the summit in my full climbing gear with the help of a stamina potion approaching the peak. I often wonder about the person who dragged that chest all the way to the top, and what secret they were burying there.
Searching still the peaks of the Gerudo Highlands, I came across a single Bokoblin holding something that was glowing red and tentatively looking at some blocks of ice. I crept closer, curious, and realised that he was surrounded by several Moblins and Bokoblins who had been frozen solid. I started to wonder about what had happened: a villainous Ice Wizzrobe had trapped all of his friends and family and he, the lone survivor, had made the perilous journey into the lowlands to find a way of freeing them. Conquering trial and tribulation, he had eventually discovered a source of heat and warmth that could not be extinguished: the fire rod of a Fire Wizzrobe! Through cunning strategy and courageous battle, he bested the Wizzrobe in combat and took from him the source of his power. Making the long, cold journey back to the mountains, he had just reunited with his comrades and I had apparently stumbled into him as he was in the process of discovering how to free them. I killed him immediately and took his fire rod. Then I thawed the ice and killed his companions too. Good times.