When Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild first released I didn’t yet have a Nintendo Switch but fast-forward a year-and-a-bit later, thanks to a lovely tax return, I eagerly raced home with both console and game in hand. Being my first Zelda game, aside from a brief stint with Majora’s Mask, I had no idea what to expect.
Entering the idyllic landscape for the first time, I was floored by the gorgeous graphics and open world. It was almost too open. I was (and still am) used to games with a set goal or quest in mind and it never occurred to me that the overarching goal of defeating Ganon wasn’t immediately pressing and I shouldn’t just run straight towards Hyrule Castle.
It was a mistake, to be sure.
I had no idea what I was doing and was woefully unprepared. I didn’t know how to parry, dodge, or block, I didn’t appreciate the role cooking played over the course of gameplay. I had negligible hearts and could barely swing a sword.
I didn’t yet understand that Breath of the Wild is about exploration and discovering the quests, objectives, and hidden gems. I learned how to properly use a bow and am getting better with the gyro controls.
The Divine Beasts are a pesky challenge, and despite what I have been told regarding difficulty, when I found Vah Naboris, I headed straight for its lightning-camel silhouette. While I understand that puzzles are a big part of what makes Legend of Zelda so intriguing and loved, this was my first major encounter with a puzzle of this scale.
Aside from the Shrines of course.
Surrounded by a sea of first person shooters, Battle Royales (which I still refuse to play), and grindy games, Breath of the Wild has me thinking, studying, and analysing the landscape for secrets.
I know it’s nothing new to fans of the franchise but there is something profoundly mystical about the world.
That being said, it has been almost a year since I first bought Breath of the Wild and I’m still struggling with the game. It is objectively and subjectively beautiful, there is enough wonder and mystery hidden within the huge world to last many months, and so much to achieve.
I want to fall in love with the game, I really do, but sometimes it’s a battle to play it. The collector in me wants to go forth and find every mount, especially The Lord of the Mountain. I want to discover every ingredient, own every outfit, and hunt down the Master Sword.
That’s what my brain wants to do, my hands and body act differently. It’s a similar feeling with tackling new approaches in Halo Wars 2, or relishing the challenge of Darksiders 3 and Sekiro (side note: great game). I feel like I’ve lost some of the spark that drives me to game, like I am stuck on autopilot with games I love but where there is no real challenge.
Whether it has been determined by changes in my adult life and the building of a career, my mental state, or just small changes over time, my gaming usually consists of playing a small selection of familiar titles, completing quests, building components, and grinding for materials and experience. This has led to a semi-lethargy with my gaming life, even if it has been one of my main hobbies since before I can remember.
There have been a few games recently that have brought me out of my shell so-to-speak, such as God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn, recapturing my need to overcome every obstacle.
But it seems as if every jaunt into the wide world of Breath of the Wild is helping me build back my love of video game challenges. Over the last couple days, the Switch has been glued to my hands as I’ve traversed mountains, run from that one Rock Golem thing on a plateau that I was not prepared for, and encountered my first Great Fairy.
Stumbling upon Prince Sidon and encountering the Zora for the first time has been a major highlight and has me unable to put my Switch down. Just one more Shrine, one more quest, one more waterfall.
I’m starting to see what the appeal of Breath of the Wild is, the discovery and the ability to do almost anything you desire. The game has helped me rediscover my horizon and rather than focusing on a series of linear quests to an end goal, I am seeking out puzzles, and roaming Hyrule searching for more challenges.
The excitement that I experience when I find a new weapon I’ve never seen before is incredible. From Great Flameblades to Forest Swords, there isalways something new around every corner and it has rekindled a child-like joy.
While I doubt I will be a master at this game any time soon, or even get close to finishing it in the foreseeable future, Breath of the Wild has lit the passion for the unknown and the drive to uncover every single secret.
I never thought a game would affect me positively as well as confuse me so thoroughly. Time to dive back in, because Thunderblight Ganon is not going to eliminate himself.