Riding the Backlog - Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Part 2)
By Chris Pranger
Session 2: The Great Snowy Plateau
Greetings, fellow travelers! I’m on my exercise bike, ready to play some Breath of the Wild. Eager, in fact. The past few nights have been a struggle not to just turn the game on for some quick play sessions. I want to stay good and only play while on the exercise bike, so the fact I succeeded says a lot about my willpower.
When we last left off, a Stone Talus proved Link’s greatest threat, a very sad state of affairs. My goal is to find the other three shrines on the Great Plateau so that I can get four total Spirit Orbs and trade them with an old man for his paraglider. You know, as you do.
I’m faced with a tricky decision though. Breath of the Wild supports amiibo, those cool little plastic statues that Nintendo aggravated us with for a few solid years. In BotW, Zelda-related amiibo spawn treasure chests that contain some pretty cool items, including clothing that can only be obtained via certain amiibo. For instance, if I want the Twilight Princess outfit or the Wind Waker outfit, I’ll need to use a Link or Toon Link from the Smash Bros amiibo line. A Zelda amiibo could net me some good bows while the Ganondorf amiibo might drop a powerful sword. The Link amiibo also gives me Epona, the best horse I could possibly get in the game and the only horse I’d ever want, which feels cheap and super busted. Still, I have to decide if I want to make an attempt for the traditional outfits or if I skip amiibo entirely.
There’s no real contest here, I want some legacy outfits. I didn’t collect them for some time during my Wii U playthrough of BotW, so this time on the Switch we’re going all in, baby!
I start by scanning my standard Link Smash Bros. amiibo, netting me some acorns and bomb arrows. Definitely nice to have some explosive firepower. The bomb arrows may be one of my favorite weapons in the game since between the standard arrows, bomb arrows, fire arrows, ice arrows, electric arrows, and ancient arrows, the bomb arrows are the only ones that explode when they hit something and explosions are cool.
Next up is the Toon Link Smash Bros. amiibo, which rains down various fish and a chest containing the Tunic of Winds. I’d much prefer either the Tunic of Twilight or a hat, but we’ll take the Wind Waker tunic to start with.
I scan the Zelda and Ganondorf Smash Bros. amiibo after that, getting some random herbs from Zelda and a bunch of barrels from Ganondorf that only contain arrows and the like. More trouble than they’re worth. I finish by scanning my Cloud Smash Bros. amiibo, just to add variety. Non-Zelda amiibo still spawn things, just not cool things. In this case, Cloud makes a collection of random items appear, like a steak and some mushrooms. Nothing to write home about. We’ll try the Zelda series amiibo again next session to see what that dice roll delivers.
With my new shirt and supplies, I’m ready to start adventuring once more. Near my location is a tall pillar with a wooden box sitting in front of it. This seems almost perfectly set up to allow me to test out the limits of my climbing ability, so I hop onto the box and try climbing the stone pillar. The genius of this little moment is that the pillar is sectioned off into about four pieces, giving me a clear distinction of distance compared to my stamina meter, letting me measure about how far I can climb with my current stamina. I have just enough to reach the top, using a final jump with the last bit of stamina. My reward? Some arrows, but that’s fine, I want arrows since they’re the lifeblood of my bows.
Turns out I’m near the edge of the Great Plateau and can see out at the world beyond but can’t get down. The edge is almost entirely surrounded with some ruined ramparts, adding another level of lore to the area. The old man already established that the Great Plateau is supposedly where all life began in Hyrule, so who built a wall all the way around it with towers and everything? What did they need to keep out, or in? The amount of damage to the ramparts suggests they’ve been around far longer than 100 years, begging me to fill in the possible history. Breath of the Wild does this so well that it’s hard not to applaud these little details.
In exploring I find some more boulders near the lip of a cliff. My four-year-old Charlie is once again watching me, so when I mention that there are probably Bokoblins down below that I can smash with the rocks, he gets very curious, wanting to know more about what a Bokoblin in. Are they bad? Why do I need to kill them? Why do they want to hurt me? All fair questions without answers other than “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Because of the first two yes answers.”
As predicted, pushing the boulders over the edge flattens a few Bokoblins, clearing the area for me to slide down the incline into a small ravine and investigate a skull-shaped cave. These look to be Bokoblin dens of sorts, usually heavy with treasure and enemies. This cave, eh, it had a chest with some arrows maybe. I can’t even remember, it’s all early game stuff that doesn’t get the blood pumping.
Around the other side of the ravine is a strange arrangement of blocks with one metal block sitting off to the side. Using my magnesis rune allows me to pick up the block and place it into the arrangement, making the two piles of blocks symmetrical and prompting a Korok to pop out and give me a Korok Seed. This acts as my lesson to look out for more block formations needing a metal block pushed back into place, a puzzle that I actually really enjoy finding.
Following the ramparts around the Great Plateau in a counter-clockwise direction leads me to an enemy outlook where Bokoblins have built some platforms up around a tree. A small campfire sits nearby, giving me a quick idea to pull out my bow, nock an arrow, and dip the tip into the flames, thus lighting it on fire and turning it into a flaming arrow. I’m not sure if this just makes it a fire arrow or if it has different properties, but the point is it’s on fire, so shooting the Bokoblins up on the platform manages to light their wooden weapons on fire, doing added burn damage.
While they start to toss rocks at me, I find the ramp up to the platform but notice that it’s currently pulled up, suspended with two pieces of rope. I’m able to shoot the rope with my bow, cutting the ramp down and giving me a way up to finish off the Bokoblins with some smacks from a Boko club.
Up on the platform I encounter something that early players generally fear: a blue Bokoblin. The first variety of Bokoblins are red, with the blue variants being stronger both physically and defensively. They’re not actually overly scary, but their base damage potential is higher and they’re typically holding stronger weapons. This blue Bokoblin, for instance, has a sword with a base power of 14, quite a bit better than my Boko club’s 4 or my traveller’s sword with 5.
Once cleared, the platform yields useful resources, specifically some spicy peppers near the base of the tree. These will become very important for exploration since some foods, when used in cooking, can produce special effects. In the case of the spicy peppers, the benefit is cold resistance for a short amount of time. I light another arrow on fire and ignite the bundle of sticks under the cooking plate next to it, giving myself the necessary tools to cook up a few cold-resistance meals.
Finding the spicy peppers right here seems appropriate as continuing further leads me to the cold region of the Great Plateau. BotW makes full use of its environment, emphasizing aspects of each. In cold temperatures, Link will shiver and take damage unless something is done to offset the effects of the cold. There are a few tactics to this, such as eating spicy foods, wearing warmer clothing, or carrying a flaming weapon like a torch. Each of these methods cut off options though. Wearing a warm piece of clothing removes the chance to gain other abilities from your usual attire. Food-related effects can only exist one at a time, so by having cold resistance on, you can’t add more defense or something. The hardest method to work with is carrying a lit torch or weapon since putting it away even once snuffs the flame entirely, negating the warmth entirely and leaving you potentially in the middle of a frosty region without another plan.
As I’d just cooked some spicy meals, food was my plan going forward. Before getting fully into the snow though I came to a river with a bridge across most of it. The last section had fallen apart but a nearby metal door seemed to be the most likely solution. Here’s where I get to gripe about the magnesis rune for a moment in that I can pick something up, carry it around, move it side to side, push it forward or back, up and down, all that fun stuff, but I can’t rotate it unless I pick it up, set it down, walk around it, and pick it up from another angle. This makes placing the door perfectly across the bridge posts harder than I expected. My first attempt had the metal door sitting sideways across the river, which I thought would do fine. I was wrong, so a poor jump landed short, sending me right into the water. Freezing water does immediate and rapid damage to Link, eating through my three hearts in a matter of a a second. Game over from something really stupid.
My last auto save is even stupider, spitting me back to my Bokoblin encounter after killing all the red Bokoblins but standing right in front of the blue Bokoblin. The spoils from the slain red Bokoblins had disappeared, as had the treasure chests on the platform. I’m able to dispatch the blue Bokoblin rather quickly but have to forage for food and cook a series of meals all over again, adding to the tedium and frustration.
A second attempt with the metal door goes better. I take my time and put it into place exactly as intended, making it possible to cross the river without dying twice to the same stupidity. I eat a spicy dish that gives me six and a half minutes of cold resistance so that I can explore the snow a little bit, mostly so that I can climb up and find the next shrine.
The Keh Namut shrine houses the Cryonis Rune trial. Of all the runes, this one sort of gets the least amount of use. Cyronis is used to create pillars of ice from water and...that’s it. You can use it to raise submerged chests in a lake to the surface, create a makeshift bridge across the water, lift a gate or something that happens to have water flowing underneath, or make it possible to climb waterfalls. It’s a wonky little rune and it’s perfectly fun, but the most use you’ll get from it is in the shrines themselves to solve basic puzzles. Easily my least favorite rune, but only because one of them has to be my least favorite. Still a fine tool, but one with highly specific uses.
While solving the simple puzzles of the Keh Namut shrine, I encounter something that really grinds my gears about Breath of the Wild. Opening a chest shows you the item inside, but if it’s a weapon and you’ve hit your max, the item just goes right back into your chest. Sometimes the item is better than the weapons you already have and you’d have preferred the game brought up the option to quickly manage your inventory right there, but nope. I have to cycle to that weapon, toss it away, and then open the chest again. That’s assuming it’s a weapon though. Bows and shields can only be dropped by going into your inventory and manually dropping them. It’s annoying with chests and it’s annoying when out and about right after a monster fight. It’s just a strange, clunky black eye on a game that has so much micromanagement.
I complete the shrine and obtain a second Spirit Orb, then run out into the elements again. My cold resistance has worn off, so I try a different tactic and pull out a torch, lighting it on a nearby campfire. This keeps me warm enough to explore the region a bit longer, particularly a couple of short mountain peaks not far from my location. The old man suddenly greets me at the top of one, showing up in perhaps the most unexpected place yet. He mentions how he’s impressed with me so far and gives me a warm doublet, a piece of clothing that permanently increases my cold resistance as long as I’m wearing it. I slip it on and continue looking around.
Nearby is a small Bokoblin camp, once more right under some large boulders. Pushing the stones off the cliff’s lip sends them down onto some exploding barrels, wasting all of the Bokoblins in a flash. Sometimes efficiency feels good, and here I didn’t have to waste a single arrow, which is nice.
I have a wooden Boko club equipped, so I swipe it through some fire to light it up, making it a flaming weapon capable of lighting other things on fire, including grass and wooden boxes. Very useful when you have to quickly inspect a camp’s spoils and it’s mostly full of wooden boxes and barrels.
Making my way down to the frigid river once more, I spy a raft and a deku leaf. Just like in The Wind Waker, deku leafs are a means of creating gusts of wind, another functional tool rather than a weapon. I couldn’t do much damage with it anyway since its base power is 1, but I can certainly use it to ride around on a raft, blowing gusts of wind into the sail to push myself around.
There’s a waterfall near the raft launching point, so, like any gamer, I’m compelled to go look behind it. Lo and behold, there is indeed a path behind it on the opposite bank, leading to a small nook with some treasure. Can we all just agree that if a waterfall exists in a video game and there isn’t treasure behind it, the developers have done a bad job?
Back on the raft, I scoot down the river, arriving at the edge of the cold region where I first walked in. I switch back to my Tunic of Winds and decide to make my way into the clearing that gave me so much trouble in the first session.
Along the the way I spot a yellow flower sticking out of the ground, just begging to be plucked. I run over to add it to my inventory and it disappears, reappearing a few feet away. Following it for a little ways reveals a Korok, which just means I need to keep my eyes open for more yellow flowers.
Being back in the woods also gives me a chance to do some more boar hunting, sneaking around and firing arrows when I’m close enough. One thing I really like about BotW is how if you miss a shot with your arrow, you can still usually track down the arrow and pick it up for use again. That’s a nice touch, and really impressive considering how much the game already has to keep track of at any given time.
I arrive in the clearing, equip my strongest sword, and get ready for a rematch against the dreaded Stone Talus. This time things go quite differently. My attacks do a bunch more damage, my confidence is high, and I’m wearin the Tunic of Winds. I am unstoppable! Or at least lucky. After only two rounds of climbing its back and slashing away at its weak spot, the Stone Talus crumbles and leaves behind some rubies and other valuable minerals. I have no use for them yet, but they seem impressive, so this victory is acceptable.
We leave off here with two more shrines to complete. Come back next session to continue questing through the Great Plateau!