Riding the Backlog - Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Part 4)

By Chris Pranger

Session 4: Off the Plateau, Into the World

Hello again! Fancy seeing you here in beautiful Hyrule. I’m riding my exercise bike while playing Breath of the Wild and I’ve just gathered four Spirit Orbs so that I can trade them with an old man for a paraglider to go stop an ancient evil. It’s Riding the Backlog!

As will become standard, each new play session will requires starting with some amiibo scanning. I have to scan Zelda, Ganondorf, Adult Link, and Toon Link, otherwise I won’t potentially get some really great gear, and I like me some gear! The gear in this game may be my favorite part of it, actually. It’s fun to dress up.

Speaking of gear, I should list out my favorite runes, from favorite to least favorite. There are only really four, so it’s simple enough, but the remote bomb rune is my favorite because bombs. They’re an emergency weapon, they’d a good distraction, I can drop them while paragliding over enemies or explosive barrels, they’re fun and they’re bombs that glow.

Second place goes to stasis, a rune that becomes incredibly vital later on when fighting stronger enemies. While stasis feels good for moving rocks by freezing them in time and pounding away to build up kinetic energy, using stasis on an enemy and sneaking in some cheap hits feels even better. I’m all about the cheese!

In third place is the magnesis rune, which also feels very good to use. It’s satisfying to smoothly grab something big and metal and just fling it around without a care in the world. It’s also delightful to grab a big metal box and drop it from 20 feet in the air onto an enemy’s head. That’s definitely always cool.

My last place rune is the cryosis rune, not because it’s bad but because it gets relatively little use compared to the other three. It requires there be water to use, which isn’t always the case, and much of the time it’s not all too necessary since creating blocks of ice to form platforms doesn’t work as effectively as just climbing the tallest thing nearby and paragliding. Still, the four runes are fun and easy to use. I wish there were more, but we dance with the one who brought us.

Technically, there is also an amiibo rune, which is used for scanning the amiibo and dropping game-breaking treasure into the world, but I’m not counting it as it’s not really required to play. So then, what did my amiibo haul give me today? Not a lot, same as always. I’d really love for a hat, that’s essentially all I’m begging for, but Toon Link did reward me with a boomerang, a one-handed weapon that when thrown will actually come back. Fancy that.

With no more unfinished business, I make my way into the Temple of Time to speak with the old man, if that is his real name. You’ll never guess, but it’s not his real name. His real name is King Rhoam, AKA the King of Hyrule. Or at least he was. He is no more. This king has ceased to be.

There’s a statue of the goddess Hylia that, when I offer it four Spirit Orbs, grants me either a new heart container or a little bit more stamina. This is a really big bummer for two reasons. First, instead of just rewarding players with heart pieces or stamina pieces, you’re given Spirit Orbs, which add another step before getting my actual reward. Second, I don’t like having to choose between more health or more stamina so early. I need both, and a minor addition to either isn’t going to make or break my quest. I opt for another heart though since tradition demands it.

King Rhoam beckons me to the roof of the temple, perhaps to scold me for giving away the treasure I was supposed to trade to him. He doesn’t have a problem with it though and instead gives me the big exposition dump that the game eventually had to deliver. It’s at least a pretty cool bit of exposition, if not another huge bummer.

Everything happened 100 years ago. A prophecy foretold of Calamity Ganon appearing and wrecking Hyrule’s ish, so King Rhoam got proactive and start preparing. In the processing of mining for resources or something, his soldiers uncovered the Divine Beasts, big monstrous weapons that could be piloted by the four Champions. They also found the Guardians. Hundreds of them. In theory, these things were made by Hyrule’s ancestors, which sets the true beginning of this story so much further back that it hurts to think about, but everyone is like, “Hey, free loot, what could possibly go wrong?”

A whole lot could go wrong. Ganon came from under Hyrule Castle in a classic, “Hah! I took your castle!” maneuver not seen since Napoleon II (citation needed). He then proceeded to take full control of the Divine Beasts and all the Guardians, killing the Champions and pretty much all of Hyrule Castle’s immediate population in the process. This is what we in the business like to call a “big ol’ oops.”

Along with the prophecy was a princess, in this case Zelda because this is The Legend of Zelda, and a bodyguard for the princess chosen by a dope-ass sword that isn’t specifically namechecked yet but is the Master Sword. In the biggest of shocking reveals, the hero that was supposed to protect Zelda was Link, the very same Link we’re playing as. And he utterly failed 100 years ago, getting ganked in the process and having to be placed in the rejuvenation cave in a last-ditch effort to set things right.

What’s actually sort of cool about all of this is that Zelda then returns to Hyrule Castle solo and takes on Ganon alone. And has been for 100 years. And is somehow fighting him to a stalemate. Sure, it’s explained that she’s just somehow containing Ganon’s power, but whatever the case, this is one hell of a Zelda. She’s earned the series name of The Legend of Zelda. Just look at that Ganon up there and tell me you wouldn’t high-five a princess who took that on by herself and survived for 100 straight years?

King Rhoam gives me my next objective, which is to head through the twin peaks and toward Kakariko Village, a name that should be instantly understood by a Zelda fan. Furthermore, there’s a woman named Impa in Kakariko that Link should speak to, being another name we should recognize.

There’s a bit of a weird disconnect with the king’s story wrapping up though. All of his exposition is delivered via fully voiced lines, which sound great, but as soon as we’re done with the cutscene, he’s back to text-based dialogue again. Nintendo is still learning, I guess. One of these days they’ll figure out how to fully voice a game that doesn’t star anthropomorphic space critters, but that day is not today.

After giving me his final words and the paraglider, King Rhoam fades away, ready to rest for eternity. Because he is dead, lest we forget that we’ve been given a tutorial by a ghost. There’s a really nice feeling when your next quest objective is listed and it’s just “Destroy Ganon.”

Were I a more skilled Breath of the Wild player, this is where the game opens up 100%. Though it would be exceedingly difficult, I am now allowed to bum-rush Hyrule Castle and fight Ganon right the heck now if I so choose. I do not choose that, instead deciding to follow the king’s final bit of advice and head to Kakariko. For being so open-ended, Breath of the Wild does still lead you around pretty strongly for the first chunk of the game, assuming you’re following directions. I’ll get into why you really do need to follow a specific path to get the most out of the game and overworld, but we’ll get there when we get there.

Though the spot is clearly dotted on my map, it’s a bit more fun to just listen to the directions of “go through the twin peaks.” There’s something really satisfying about using a little brain power and discovering things for yourself. It’s not even a complicated direction as the twin peaks are obvious and invite exploration. I pick my heading, walk toward the edge of the Great Plateau, and leap to my destiny.

Gliding sure is sweet. If most Zelda games are about finding a gimmick and sticking to it, the gimmick of climbing and gliding is perhaps the most simple and fulfilling one you could think of. It’s better than “you can turn into a wolf sometimes,” “hey you can sail a big empty ocean,” or “what if you owned a giant bird and had nowhere to go.” Just find a thing, climb it, and jump. The essence of exploration in the purest form.

As I’m gliding, I see the destroyed Hyrule that King Rhoam had described. Stone buildings are in ruin all around, some with treasure and some without. One such house (I assume they were houses?) has a blue Bokoblin guarding a chest that contains a red Rupee. This catches me entirely off guard because this is the first moment of the game where the concept of Rupees is introduced. I’d been under the assumption that the game would work on the spoils system where I can trade specific things for other things, but the thing I’ll mostly be trading for is Rupees and I’m fine with that.

Though exploring the ruined buildings is fine, there’s actually not a lot to find, so I move on. While I jump over a hill and start gliding, I spot an orange glowing shrine just like the ones seen on the Great Plateau. You’d be forgiven as a player for not realizing that shrines were going to be a thing and that the first four were absolutely just the first four. Time to detour into this shrine since shrines also act as quick-travel spots and this world demands them.

This is Bosh Kala shrine and its trial is call The Wind Guides You. One might think this was the next shrine the game expected you to find since it’s almost a tutorial on how to use your paraglider. Big fans are set up with two extremely simple challenges. First, step in front of the fan and jump, gliding with the wind to your back, pushing you quickly through the air. Then do that again. That’s it, nothing elaborate or anything. There’s an extra chest that requires a bit more finagling while gliding to reach, but other than that it’s a simple shrine to show you the sort of distances you can cross when the wind is working with you.

Exiting the shrine triggered another quest for me that I’d never heard of before called “Xenoblade Chronicles 2.” I mean, I’d heard of the game, but it wasn’t something that was included in the game when I first played it on the Wii U. I forgot just how much Nintendo was pushing that game. Not my thing, but sounds like it was a good game for those who do love JRPGs. The quest wants me to find some red stars in the sky, looking from specific locations that I can quickly recognize from my first playthrough but am nowhere near.

More enemies start showing up, now consisting of parties with at least one blue Bokoblin, if not two or three. By now I’ve got weapons that can handle the increase in damage necessary to fight blue Bokoblins, and red Bokoblins are swiped away in one hit, but the amount of damage I can take isn’t up to snuff. It is, in fact, pitiful. One good hit from a blue Bokoblin with a decent weapon does all but a fourth of my health. In general, the game always leaves you with a fourth of your health if you take a hit with full hearts, sort of as a failsafe to prevent the ultimate frustration of everything being a one-hit KO. I’d still like to get some real armor or something, but we’re not there yet.

Along with fighting more enemies, the issue of micromanagement rears its giant ugly head. I only have a few weapon, shield, and bow slots, so trying to pick something new up is a hassle with a capital Aggravating. If I see a sword on the ground that’s stronger than my current one, I can’t just pick it up, I have to throw or drop the sword I’m currently carrying before I can pick up the new weapon. It also feels pretty stupid when the weapon on the ground is the same as the weapon I’m holding, except the weapon on the ground didn’t just go through a small party of enemies, so it’s not as close to breaking, meaning I’ll still want to throw my current weapon away and pick up something fresh. This system stinks. If I were asked to come up with a better system, I’d say that trying to pick up a weapon similar to yours would instead just be absorbed into your weapon, restoring its durability or possibly stacking up. Or at least make a prompt appear that lets me press like the X button to swap for the new thing, I mean come on.

There’s a long bridge across a river where I meet another living, breathing, talking person! This is a Hylian named Brigo, who has no significance whatsoever other than being alive and existing around me. He tells me about how he was nearly killed by a Guardian and how he’s been watching the deactivated ones, just in case they come alive. He also noted that when the Sheikah Towers were activated, the dormant shrines all started glowing. Seems Link has already begun causing a change to take hold in Hyrule, though whether that’s good or bad is debatable.

More Bokoblins await me on the other side of the bridge, as do Octorocs. It’s nice to see more variety to the enemies, especially a new version of a classic favorite. Octorocs are the very first enemy you encounter in the original Legend of Zelda, so it’s refreshing to see them here, and very satisfying to instantly pop their balloon-like bodies with an arrow. While fighting near the Octorocs I also discover that Bokoblins can’t swim, so knocking them into the water instantly kills them, even the blue Bokoblins. More opportunities for cheese!

Following the river takes me through more Bokoblin camps, with one in particularly giving me a chance to light an arrow from a distance and shoot it at some exploding barrels, wiping out the camp in an instant. Still feels good. Sharp cheddar cheese!

There’s a random boulder just hanging out on the lip of an obvious hole dug into the earth, practically screaming to be pushed. I oblige, making another Korok appear. Gotcha, sometimes rocks go in holes, do that, I’m on it, chief.

Near the base of the twin peaks is another Sheikah Tower. This one actually kinda short, clearly acting as the tutorial tower. The first one I activated didn’t require any climbing, instead being buried and lifting me up after being activated. This one, the Dueling Peaks Tower, is my first chance to actually try scaling one of these, yet another miniature climbing puzzle. This challenge is simple, just having me notice that there are ledges at regular intervals, making it simple to climb to one, catch my breath, and continue climbing.

Reaching the top lets me activate the tower, thus giving me a view of the land and updating my map to show some highlights of the area, specifically important landmarks and area names. This shrine also gives my Sheikah Slate a new power, the Sheikah Sensor. This little doo-dad pings when a shrine is close by, acting as a rudimentary version of hot/cold whenever I get near enough to trigger it. As soon as it’s turned on, it starts chiming, letting me know that another shrine is somewhere close.

Seems like as good a place to rest as any. Join me in the next session where I paraglide off the tower in search of another shrine and Kakariko Village!
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