0.0027 percent of the world map
Welcome back! If you missed the first two installments of my Breath of the Wild breakdown, you can check them out here: The Final Battle, The Combat.
I remember it was fairly early on in my adventuring through Breath of the Wild?s Hyrule. We (remember my girlfriend played vicariously through me) had opened up only a few portions of the map, and there was still so much in mystery.
We pushed northward, avoiding Guardians in Hyrule Field and taking the path up to wherever it led. A tower loomed closer once we got north of the castle. It was the Woodland Tower, for those of you familiar with the map. As usual, I wanted to climb it and reveal a new part of the landscape.
It was well guarded. Those little Bokoblin brats had made a makeshift camp out of some planks in the water around the tower. Or I thought it was water. A lot of it was Ganon goo mixed with God only knows what. I?m pretty sure something was swimming around in there. Overall 1/10, would not recommend.
The thing that concerned me most was the wiener of a wizard skipping around the base of the tower. I remembered all too well my last encounter with one near the Zora?s domain. Climbing the tower there meant suffering a friggin blizzard he created while prancing around, mocking every foothold. I?m shocked I made it up there at all.
Zelda: for kids!
I didn?t want to tango with another one, so I did what every brave hero does: dealt with it later. I realized at this moment, just what kind of knight of the roundtable I would be. There?s Lancelot, Galahad, and Chris the Procrastinator.
So, I kept moving northward. The sun was well on its way back down to the horizon when I came to a small valley. Suddenly, magic itself seemed to fill the air, and a pale dusk created an atmosphere that ignored the setting sun. A new music medley began, (at that time I hadn?t heard it yet in game), and there was something haunting, yet familiar about the place. Then the words ?The Lost Woods? splashed on the screen.
Any hardcore Zelda fan knows the Lost Woods plays an important role in many of the games in the series. Happening upon it so unexpectedly, while the game changed the very air you walked through, was something special.
I had to follow the fires lit in the mist through the branches. The trees themselves had personalities, and the forest upheld its namesake. I got lost as hell. I was sent back to the beginning more times than I could count and there was no Saria?s song to guide me.
It was attempt after attempt that finally allowed me to see the subtle clue of the embers flowing away from the torches, showing the right direction. I lit my own torch and wandered through the trees to finally reach the Korok forest.
The Master Sword sat in its ancient glory on a pedestal, being slowly incorporated into the nature around it.
OK found the Master Sword, now to find my keys
This is what sets this game apart from every other Zelda game that has come before. It should be expected, considering it?s right in the title ?Breath of the Wild.? The world has a life to it, and every new turn is a new adventure. There?s no handholding, no guides, just your own curiosity to set your path.
This isn?t the first open-world game, of course, but incorporating the Zelda series into such a large world can bring something truly memorable to anyone willing to check beyond every bend in the river, and search through every forest.
The Master Sword is kind of a big deal in the Zelda universe, and here it was just sitting in the open. No story plot point takes you there. It?s up to you to find it and figure out what is needed to pull it out of its resting place.
That?s what makes this open-world experience work so well. Other Zelda games have tried, and many have that open feel. Most of them are gated, only allowing you to go to certain sections at certain times. This world has you learn the basics, and then everything is open. You can even head right for Ganon, if you wish, without completing a single dungeon. Good luck.
The world is worth exploring. It feels lived in, and there is so much history waiting to be discovered out there. The Calamity feels like it actually happened. Think about it; it?s the first time that the events before the game started actually feel like they happened. The characters you meet remember a time when things were different. There?s evidence dotted all over the lands of towns that once flourished, now laying in ruin.
See what happens when you don?t donate at church!
Ocarina of Time talked about a Hyrule civil war just before the game started, but there?s not much talk about it, and everything seems fine at the beginning. No evidence of battle is anywhere. In Twilight Princess the whole world is consumed in darkness, and no one seems to acknowledge it. ?Oh, things are back to normal! That will be 50 rupees, sir, I don?t care if you are trying to save the world.?
That history brings weight to the story and the world around you. The travelers you meet make the world feel like people are living in it, instead of running along the same lines over and over, with the head carpenter just laughing at the front of the town. What?s so funny, guy?
I was going to try and have an individual post for the puzzle solving in the game, but it?s so incorporated into the world, it?s impossible to separate the two. The world is a giant puzzle with mini riddles scattered literally everywhere. There are 120 shrines, 900 friggin Koroks to find, chests under every rock with something you might actually use, and a never ending stream of side quests that allow you to help the common rabble in their daily lives. Because you are the people?s hero!
You can get your own house, start a town from scratch, be mesmerized by mysterious dragons floating in the night sky, find your lost memory locations, help a couple adventures who are obsessed with truffles (seriously give it a rest!), and be terrified by a horse-god you thought was going to be a Great Fairy. You get my point, there?s a lot to do, and each has some mystery to figure out.
The dungeons themselves feel more a part of the world than they ever had. The Divine Beasts make sense, first of all. Ganon corrupted them, and you have to get them in working order. The bosses play right into that lore, and never has going through the puzzles inside a difficult dungeon felt such a part of the greater story. It doesn?t feel forced like some past temples and puzzles were, almost thrown in just to give you a gameplay thing to do. Not here. Things all thread together. Plus, the dungeons themselves are part of the puzzle solving! How awesome is that!?
Even the shrines are delightful. Each one has it?s own unique feel to it and all present some kind of new challenge. Doing one doesn?t mean you know how all of them will work. Some are simple, and some left me relying on Sir Chris the Procrastinator?s best tactic: dealing with it later.
My solution for everything: shoot it with fire
All this to say, I can?t wait to wrap up this article so that I can get back to it. I may have beaten the final boss of the game, and opened every tower scattered across the landscape, but there is still a ton of things to do. It feels worth it to go back into it and explore over that next hill.
This world will suck away your time without you even noticing. I believe that?s the best compliment you can give an open-world game.
Hyrule is alive, maybe for the first time.
Thanks for joining me once again through the Breath of the Wild analysis. There is one more yet to come, so be on the lookout. Also, be sure to hang out with my brother and I on our podcast, The Brothers Geek. We do exactly what you would expect: be geeky. Just click below!