I’m actually not that sad right now (super tired, though), but I feel compelled to stick with the title. My time off messed up my sleep schedule since I didn’t make myself go to bed at the right time every night and my past few nights haven’t been much better thanks to anxiety and new video game enthusiasm. The two kind of feed into each other, so it’s no wonder I’ve had trouble the last few nights. Anyway, time to start the third installment of my favorite recurring series on this blog! This time, I’m going to talk about Koroks in Breath of the Wild.
The first Korok I ever found was maybe 5 minutes into the game, when I noticed a ring of water plants and dove into the center of it. I was expecting to find a fairy or some money or another item like that, so the cheerful fanfare of the Korok appearing was a pleasant surprise that had me looking out for them as I continued the game. I’ll admit that I didn’t initially grasp just how many Koroks would be in the world and wasn’t as attentive as I might have been, but the hiding places of the Koroks wound up sticking out just enough, on average, that I was able to find enough to unlock several upgrades as soon as I found where I could turn them in what I got for finding them (I dropped everything to find the Lost Woods after I ran into Hestu the first time).
One of the reasons I would hold BotW up as a master class in video game creation is because of how intuitive the game was and continues to be. I’ll admit that a lot of these expectations require being at least passingly familiar with video games and how one plays them, but much less so than most other games. For instance, you don’t need to know that loot is frequently hidden underneath rocks to grasp that this weird arrangments of rocks probably needs a rock from somewhere else to be complete and that completing it might reward you with something. Or that the rock sitting in a tree might be hiding something. Or that the weird pinwheel on a tree stump or peak of a dilapitated tower should be investigated. Breaks from the expected pattern grab the players attention and investigation and interaction using the game’s limited options means that the player will stumble across the right course of action almost without fail. After all, the ballons have targets on them and flying accorns are just asking to be shot since they disappear if you move away from them.
Perhaps the most clever part of the entire Korok hunting system is that almost every Korok is found as a result of a disruption to the natural world. A bunch of targets around a horse track that no one but enemies uses anymore? Three trees in a perfect line and oriented EXACTLY the same? A pile of rocks begging to be bombed that wind up with a single liftable rock remaining once you’ve broken the pile? Offering dishes in little shrines that are partially filled with the same object? All of it is the sort of thing you would stumble over once, figure out the puzzle, and then start to look for as you continue to play the game. They even walk you past an obvious example of most of these puzzles (and an NPC to introduce you to the project if you’ve somehow managed to not notice any of them up to that point) while following the initial steps of the main quest line so you are made aware of the most common forms these puzzles take.
Once you know the signs, you start being able to spot them from far away and make specific detours. Stone blocks, isolated trees, little hilltop shrines, strange rocks, and the odd glowing pinwheels that show up in the most unlikely places, all of them can be spotted from far away in this huge, open game. It’s one of the few games where the reward for climbing to the top of something tall is actually the view you’ll get from the top and everything you’ll see while you’re there. No need for a chest or a Korok (though those are frequently there as well) if you find yourself in a position to mark half a dozen Korok hidey holes or the location of the next shrine to puzzle your way through.
It’s just such a damn good game. It is so good, in fact, that I was willing to overlook the fact that I realized the Korok was giving me a little lump of poop-looking material from the very beginning (the item text even comments on the strange smell, c’mon).