One of the things I love about Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is how little instruction it gives you about pretty much everything. It makes you feel like an absolute star when you’re able to figure out some weird puzzle solution or screwy battle plan, but it does make the games first dozen hours pretty tough. Hyrule and its monsters are very unforgiving, and if you’re like dpgillies, they might have you at your wit’s end. Of course, the friendly folk of the Gameological commenteriat are here to help. Down in the comments of this week’s Game In Progress installment, Wolfman Jew laid down some solid advice:
1. Do not feel afraid to run away. I think I’m around 30 hours in, and only a scant few encounters ever felt forced. I could definitely see pacifist runs of this going really well. It’ll take over a dozen shrines for you to even get to a point where a number of even mid-level enemies won’t one-hit kill you. That’s one reason why increasing your stamina is a safer bet early on.
2. As a melee fighter, Link is suited for the one-on-one samurai duels that inspired Miyamoto for Ocarina Of Time. As a game, though, Breath Of The Wild is suited for group fights, tricks, sneak attacks, and exploiting the physics. Use bombs to separate enemies and kill smaller ones. Be willing to go through weapons quickly, and throw them when they’re about to break. Snipe lookouts with your bow beforehand. Constantly keep moving. Find metal objects to magnetize and use them as a shield or battering ram. I’m not sure if you can exploit the weather like this, but I suspect during a lightning storm you can throw a metal weapon at an enemy to attract lightning strikes. [Editor’s note: Yes, you can do that.]
3. That last point is a big one, because this is a world based on rules that are omnipresent but pretty malleable. Use flaming weapons to hurt enemies, but also try to avoid their weapons catching fire as well. If you have a sledgehammer and a weapon that freezes enemies, use the latter then the former to shatter them. Goad a baddie into the water, then pull out a Lightning Rod and zap ‘em. These guys have done virtually all of this and more to me. Nothing wrong with evening the score.
Exy had another suggestion, based on a ridiculous anecdote:
Another piece of advice: Never assume you’ve won until the body fades away. I managed to deprive a Bokoblin of all methods of attack, only to lose to said Bokoblin as it tore its own teeth out and threw it at my head. That’s dedication. And pretty metal.
Elsewhere, folks got talking about boomerangs, and Sandler’s List discussed why they’re a great representation of the game’s brilliance:
The fact that you have to press A to manually catch your boomerang on the return is basically a microcosm of everything great about BOTW. Nobody petitioned Nintendo to make you catch boomerangs manually. Nobody would have been mad if you just automatically caught it like you do in every other game. I probably could have gone my entire life without even considering the possibility that I might have to press A to catch a boomerang in a video game.
And yet the very first time I watched that thing sail by my head and realized I was about to have to decide whether to hunt for it in the grass or just say “fuck it” and continue on my way, I immediately felt like an idiot for not even trying to catch it. Why would I think I didn’t have to catch it?
To me, that’s where the true genius of this game lies: not in its awesome sense of scale and spectacle, but in its ability to just quietly make sense at even the most minute levels. Even when it’s showing you something you’ve never seen in a game before, you accept the logic of it before you register the novelty. By the same token, the moment you realize you should be able to do something is the moment you realize you can do it, and that fact has left me in a state of sustained amazement since the first minute.
The Other Side
Also this week, Clayton Purdom finished off his thoughts on Horizon: Zero Dawn. There were some things he liked about it, but overall, he found it hard to get over the game’s cascade of errands and map icons. In critical circles, the game has proved a little divisive, with plenty of reviewers leaving it similarly unmoved. But lots of people love it, and down in the comments, several readers came out to sing its praises. Unspeakable Axe gave a lengthy break down:
While Horizon is a typical action RPG in many respects—you do activities and plunder fallen foes to upgrade yourself and your weapons, hopping on a treadmill that you won’t get off until more than halfway through the game—the one thing that really makes it shine is that it puts you in a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, quasi-prehistoric world with dozens of interesting creatures to hunt, then gives you a raft of fun and varied tools to hunt with. On any given encounter, there are a number of different ways you can approach it—different weapon combinations and most effective.
It’s just satisfying, and glancing at the HZD sub-reddit will show you thread after thread of people talking about their incredibly different loadouts and preferred weapon coils (the upgrades/mods that make them better). A lot of games pay lip service to tactics, but this is one of the few I’ve played where every battle really feels like a chess match. Or maybe something more bruising but still cerebral, like, say, a football game. You can pound the ball (run up with your spear and short-range rapid-fire bow), air it out (the long-range sniping bow), be sneaky (traps/stealth), or just count on your defense to grind out a win (the ropecaster). You can even run a pick play (corrupt or override an enemy to start internal fighting). Enemies all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses that encourage dabbling in a few different approaches. And to back up all this tactical mishmash, Aloy’s movement is fluid and satisfying. You might sometimes sit on a ridge and pick away from a static location, but equally as often you’ll find yourself in the midst of an unexpected monsoon of varied enemy types, and you’ll need every ounce of the dodging, rolling, leaping, and slow-mo concentration she has in her.
Clayton did praise the game’s Cauldron levels, which he described as “a series of four subterranean dungeons full of cybernetic tentacles, pulsing yellow assembly lines, conveyor belt mayhem, and enormous, glowing boss battles.” Thomas England also had kind words for them and made an astute comparison:
I will say I love the Cauldrons, but I also liked the rest of the map too. The Cauldrons had what I like to call the “Fallout Vault Feel.” (FVF for short!) In other words, every Vault has a feeling of despair and destruction to it, but also mystery. You find yourself asking, “What new hell happened here?” And then reading and finding out about people’s last minutes can be a very emotional matter. Like the Vaults, those Cauldrons brought us into the death of that world.
That’ll do it for this week, folks. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!