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.
This is the last day of me sharing the joys with you and I close it off with a fantastic one: The Joy of Puzzling.
When it comes to The Legend of Zelda, you could accuse me of being a traditionalist. A Zelda title must have dungeons, there must be puzzles and challenges in the dungeons, and there must be many of these dungeons. There must also be secrets hidden behind puzzles.
This is the reason the lack of dungeons on the Triforce hunt in the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker bothered me and why The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past sat at the top of the mountain in my Top 5 Legend of Zelda list, for its large number of dungeons and variety in its challenges.
Under this paradigm, you would expect me to think of Breath of the Wild as inferior, as it doesn’t boast many dungeons, but I consider it superior to most if not all titles in the series when it comes to puzzles.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild might not have the dungeons, but it has the Shrines, which are micro-dungeons focused on a single thing: puzzles or combat. I mentioned the combat ones yesterday and how fun those fights were and today I’ll focus on the others.
Puzzle Shrines come with a theme, be it wind, magnetism, bombs, or whatever else Nintendo could come up with and which could be solved using one of your many tools. Some of these shrines are single room challenges where you complete a single instance of a puzzle, such as setting up a Rube Goldberg-style sequence to get a switch flipped just as you stand on the platform it raises, or making a giant ball leave its housing and come crashing through a door.
Others are much more complex, with multiple steps, consecutive challenges or several at the same time while also coordinating the use of Link’s powers. One such case was a shrine where you had to use the magnetism ability to move metal platforms to form a staircase. The platforms slowly slid back to their original position if you left them alone and the only way to the platforms was a narrow beam with hanging spiked balls in your path. In this puzzle, you have to make the balls swing, take care not to be knocked off or killed by them and also keep the platforms in place.
It wasn’t a too difficult puzzle but it needed some coordination and fast thinking to know which pieces to move and which ones to leave alone. You could brute-force it, of course and it’s something I love about the game, how it doesn’t try to force you to go down one specific path or solution. Many times, I’ve used the tools at hand combined with my weapons, particularly explosive arrows, to set things in motion.
Sometimes the shrines themselves just hold the ancient mummified remains of the monk and the puzzle itself is outside, with the monk telling you that by the reaching the shrine you’ve proven your worth. A fun fact is that I’ve reached a handful of these shrines by pure accident, climbing through a narrow cave exploring and coming up to the structure. A look around shows a complex sequence involving logs and freezing water that I thankfully skipped altogether.
But whichever the case may be, these puzzle shrines feature riddles and challenges that surpass anything we’ve seen in The Legend of Zelda series to date. These are proper puzzles, not just a bit of box pushing or torch lighting—though these elements are of course present as well, this is The Legend of Zelda after all.
But much like with The Joy of Battle, it’s not just about the puzzles inside the shrines or right outside them. It’s also about quests. Yes, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild might not be an RPG but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a quest system. Hell, side quests have been part of the series for years, so it’s not really a surprise, the only difference now is that there is a log for them now.
There are some run of the mill fetch and kill quests but the clear majority of them instead focus on rewards for solving riddles, be it finding treasures or you guessed it, more shrines, which is always great. Often these shrine quests fall in to the “if you enter here you’ve already proven your worth” kind, but not always, which I think is great because it gives me more puzzles to solve.
I did one recently where two treasure hunters shared a riddle with me—for the fee of 100 rupees of course, nothing is free in post-apocalypse Hyrule—that pointed the way to a bandit’s infamous treasure. The riddle read like this:
The Little Twin hops over the little river. Follow it to its source and you’ll find my treasure.
I stood in the shadow of the Dueling Peaks, that mountain I mentioned in The Joy of Exploration that a powerful creature split in twain. One of the peaks is larger than the other and there is a river coursing between them. So, I set out to the little twin, the smaller of the peaks and even following the river I found nothing of worth.
So, I returned to the stable where I had met the treasure hunters and opened my map. Nearby I saw two streams that fed that large river coursing between the Dueling Peaks and saw there were two bridges near them, one larger than the other, the smaller one standing over the smaller of the streams. I thought I had the solution and when I stepped over the bigger bridge and its name, “Big Twin Bridge” popped up, I knew I had it.
The place where you got the quest makes you think of the Dueling Peaks first, making them an exploration red herring and with so many secrets already around this landmark, it’s easy to assume the riddle referred to them and not the closer answer.
I had a similar experience with a shrine quest, where a small girl tells me the story of how her grandfather scaled a large mountain and at the top saw a beautiful snow-white bird flying in the distance and followed it, noticing something precious in its belly.
So of course, I climbed the mountain and waited for the bird to appear, my mind racing with the possibilities. What would this bird look like, what about its size, would its stomach glow?
But, alas, no bird showed up, so I paced around the area, looking down, trying to find an alternate answer…and I did. The bird itself never existed, it was merely a reference, told in that way by a grandfather to her loving granddaughter to make it a bedtime story.
As much as I love the huge variety of puzzles in the shrines, these tricky riddles are my favourite part of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s puzzles, as they often marry all three joys I’ve spoken about. The riddle points you to a place and an action, which might be simple exploration but might also mean some battle to clear the area or unlock the solution.
That isn’t to say I don’t adore the shrines. As I’ve said before, I do, they’re micro-dungeons focused on puzzling, and their challenges are exactly that, challenging, and you often need to combine tools and weapons to solve them, adding a bit of brawn to the brains.
How could I not love that?
Before I go, I’ll take a moment to talk about the last bit of puzzling, one that is all around the world and which I found by complete accident at first but have since grown to recognise for its signs: the Korok.
Yes, the little tree-people from The Wind Waker are back and they are still as playful as ever, this time stealing the Deku Nuts that go in one of their compatriot’s maracas. You find these little guys all over the world in stone circles, under rocks, near pinwheels that trigger a shooting range-like challenge and more. Completing these grant you that Korok’s Deku Nut and giving them back to their rightful owner gives you more inventory space which is a tremendous upgrade in The Legend of Zelda: Breat of the Wild!
It’s completely worth it.
I am still playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I keep finding new things in the world, particularly new puzzles and I can’t get enough. I am both driven to find all secrets and shrines, but at the same time I dread doing so, for it means I’ll have nothing else to do but focus on the main quest and finish the game, and I’m still not ready to do that. I want to find more in Hyrule.
What do you think of the puzzling in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?
If you’re thinking of buying the game, have my articles on these joys changed your mind either way?
Let me know in the comments!