I received my Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Friday and the moment I was done with work, I started playing and have done so every moment I can. I sincerely love the game and if this feeling I have while playing it carries to the end of the game, then we’ll have a new number 1 Legend of Zelda title in my Top 5.
For me, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a joyous experience, and no matter what, not even if I’m constantly dying to that one sneaky enemy that circles around the group and kills me from behind, or I fall off a massive height because a storm came in and made me slip on a giant climb, I’m always smiling.
So, for the next few days, I’d like to share with you some of that joy, without spoiling anything and tell you why it’s so good for me.
Yesterday I mentioned the Joy of Exploration, but the one thing that surprised me the most about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was how much it’s made me enjoy fighting enemies, how much I love the strategy of it, how I need to be aware of their position. The AI isn’t dumb in Breath of the Wild and while you’re busy fighting off the tiny mooks before hitting their more powerful companions, they’ll be moving around to hit you from behind, which can be devastating.
Unless you have a piece of equipment that shows monster health, the only way you know an enemy is a more powerful version of the same species is by the colour of their skin. Bokoblins start out red, taking only a couple of hits from mediocre weapons to die. When they turn Blue, they need a few more whacks, and then the dark grey ones take more of a beating. But with the increased health comes enhanced aggression and a massive boost in damage that makes you fight these enemies carefully even if you’re wielding weapons that can take them out in a couple of swings.
In past Zeldas I was never afraid to go into battle, because I knew for certain that at most an enemy would take a couple of hearts from me, four of them at the most and only in the final dungeon. In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve had enemies hit me for 8 hearts, I’ve been one-hit-killed so many times now that I’ve lost count. And you know what, I don’t mind, because it makes sense!
Before, in earlier titles in the series, enemies had fixed weapon and attack values, so there was that two to four heart cap across the entire game, with only major bosses being able to dish out great amounts of damage. But in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the monsters and critters have weapons, the same weapons you use, with their attack values and move sets, and the rules apply the same to everyone. If you can take them out with two swipes, guess what? They’ll butcher you with one if the attack value is enough to take out all your hearts.
And that’s without even mentioning the Guardians, the ones you see in the trailers, the big spider-like tanks that fire giant lasers. Those things will take you out with one shot, no matter how much health you have. At least that’s been my experience and I have around 10 hearts right now, half the maximum number in other titles in the Legend of Zelda series.
With good enough armour and using defense-boosting foods and elixirs you can survive these powerful attacks by enemies, but I’ve learned to do without them, mostly because when I run into a strong enemy or a camp, I’m far away from a stove. Hell, most of the time the stove is in the enemy camp, so I must storm the place, take them out and then use their kitchen!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn’t an RPG, there are no levels, no skill trees to unlock and fighting with my best weapons only means they’ll break and I’ll have to look for more of them to fill out my inventory again. I should avoid the camps, but you know what, I still sneak in, take out the sentries and battle it out with the remaining forces. It’s fun, it’s exciting and the challenge of the battle, the threat that a single swing can take out my remaining hearts makes it a worthwhile experience.
Best of all is that in some camps, clearing all enemies unlocks a chest which usually includes a powerful item. Worst case, I’ll just harvest the monsters for parts which I can later use for elixirs, something I’m using a lot of recently in my time on Death Mountain and its burning soil.
There’s also the fact that not all shrines have puzzles. Some of them have combat challenges, ranging from minor to major encounters, each against a small robotic Guardian using a variety of weapons and strategies. These are exciting fights, harrowing experiences in fact if you don’t have the proper equipment and I’ve come to enjoy them so much I’m excited every time I step into a fighting shrine.
The Guardians always drop some amazing weaponry, but to fight them you must be on-point with your defensive skills and what better wait to train them than by fighting other enemies around the world? I’ve clear camps without raising my sword even once, but I’m still incapable of clearing one out just by fighting its denizens head on.
And speaking of Shrines, I have a quest to unlock one that needs orbs gathered from three Giant brothers, and each Giant is a menace. They’re slow and easy to hit, true, but if they manage to connect with one of their meaty fists, it’s game over, literally.
Don’t get me wrong, there are fights I avoid, particularly those with the Stalfos that pop up at night, of which in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild we see in all their forms, one skeleton warrior for each monster species. I’ve even fought a boss-like Giant skeleton. It was a hard fight, particularly because just as I fought the monster, a Guardian showed up from afar and locked on to me and charged its very destructive laser.
I had to die and come back to the fight and drag the monster much farther away to avoid having issues with the Guardian should it show up. Even so, the fight took a few tries, with the giant smacking me right as I was about to kill it, which, considering it was a Stalfos version, meant take out its head and damaging it.
I thought I would hate the weapon breakage but I don’t. It’s strange, as it’s a mechanic I’ve come to despise in most action RPGs, but with the abundance of replacement weapons in Breath of the Wild, in melee and ranged, one-handed or two-handed, you’re never without options, and managing the weapon’s durability becomes part of your battle strategy. You know that your Soldier’s Claymore will break after three full combos, so you know that the moment it happens, you’ll switch to the Ancient Axe, a Guardian Weapon, and use that instead.
If anything, the weapon durability mechanic makes you experiment more with the different items you collect, and teaches you to hold on to your most powerful items and use the weaker ones on normal enemies, saving the high damaging ones for advanced creatures and Guardians.
Fighting the full-size Guardians is one hell of a challenge and I’ve died more times than I’ve take one of them out, but once you take away its tentacles and start running circles around it and beat the crap out of it, there is as feeling of elation, of conquering a powerful foe that is very similar to what Dark Souls players feel when clearing out a particularly nasty boss!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a challenging game on all fronts, but in terms of combat it makes it exhilarating, and I’m always looking for the next fight, so I can dodge and even shield parry to open counter-attack opportunities, the same way I would do it in From Software’s Dark Souls, something I never expected to see in The Legend of Zelda.
It fits and it’s amazing!
What do you think about combat in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to come back later this week, on Friday for the last of these joyful articles, where I’ll speak about the Joy of Puzzles.