This week’s episode, so soon after the last one, was brought on by a crown breaking. Again. It’s fourth months old and has broken twice. In a minor way both times, thankfully, but it is still very frustrating that now I have to take more time out of my schedule to go to the dentist, my least favorite place I voluntarily visit at least twice a year. Growing up, my dentist didn’t believe in sensitive teeth, so every trip was miserable and I’ve formed a deep association between the dentist’s office and pain. As a result, even though my current dentist is wonderful and considerate and (mostly) excellent at their job, I still get unbelievably stressed every time I have to go there for something. Throw in that crown work generally takes a long time (especially if I’m gonna get it replaced this time, but we’ll see what the dentist recommends) and I just spend all of the time leading up to my appointments absolutely dreading them.
In order to counter that stress, I want to talk about weather in Breath of the Wild. Most of which is rain storms, with the occasional thunderstorm (or constant thunderstorm, if you’re in the right area) mixed in for flavor. Across the franchise, rain and storms have always held an important, symbolic place in the more magical side of things. In Ocarina of Time, you learn the song of storms in order to drain a well and clear the evil that infests it. It also does thing like reveal secret grottos, summon fairies, and cause super powerful healing fairies to appear. In Majora’s mask, the same song can cure you of curses and soothe the unquiet soul cursing a river. Generally speaking, the storms summoned by your music are cleansing things, either enabling you to better fight evil or fighting it more directly.
The symbolism present here, of cleansing storms, of wind and rain removing that which twists or torments us and leaving us whole once again, is common in a lot of media. Rain scenes in movies mark new beginnings, the ending of curses, or cleansing of damage done to a location or environment (and, more often than not, all of those things at once). It’s not terribly original or revelutionary that the Legend of Zelda franchise might do the same. Even outside of media, many people feel cleansed or refreshed by storms. Though many video games have included weather effects and rain, most of it stops at visual and aethetic effects, with a few mechanical effects thrown in for logical consistency (like not needing to water your farm in Stardew Valley, your flowers in Animal Crossing, or put out fires in Minecraft).
In Breath of the wild, I can clearly remember the first time I encountered a rain storm. I had just gotten off the plateau (after a long time exhaustively exploring every nook and cranny before finishing the quests and getting my glider) and so the game had a lot of stuff saved up for me that in had to work through. Straight off the plateau, my first night was a blood moon, which scarred the shit out of me. The day after that, as I was climbing a mountain to the east because my shrine alarm was beeping and, well, I COULD, I encountered my first rain storm.
Because the weather effects taper in and out, I started slipping as I was climbing that mountain and couldn’t figure out why. Once my stamina was gone and I had slid back down to my last ledge, the rain effects appeared. Since I couldn’t climb and I didn’t want to to give up the progress I’d made, I wound up just sitting on the cliff face and looking out over the rain-sodden world while I waited for the storm to pass. It was frustrating, but it felt so natural that I couldn’t really get upset about it. It did make me take note of the forecast system, though, so I was better prepared for future events, but I cannot count the number of times in that first play-through that I slid all the way back down a cliff or had to stop halfway up because it was going to rain. A lot of people complain about it, and I guess it could be very frustrating, but I enjoyed the way it made me stop and take note of the world I was inhabitting. It definitely helped that I’ve always enjoyed the sound of rain and found the dull grey visuals of rainy days incredibly relaxing.
Once I figured out how to use campfires, ledges, and time skips, weather rarely got in my way. If there was a bad weather forecast when I was going to climb, I’d find a covered area, drop some wood, light it on fire, and pass time until I had a clear forecast. Mostly, though, I just waited it out. There’s a lot of places you can sit and just watch the world unfold around you when it rains. There are covered shelters, tents, and hidey-holes that the travelers of this world all share to get some protection from the weather, nights, and monsters. Spending time in these places helped the immersion, making me feel more like a part of the world than just someone interfacing with it as I chased objectives.
And my first thunderstorm? It was nuts. I was riding a freshly caught horse accross Hyrule Field, chased by a Guardian, when the storm started and I heard the distant rumbles of thunder underneath the dramatic piano music of a Guardian battle. I had five hearts and was there simply because I wanted to see what there was to see (it wasn’t actually that long after my first storm experience). Suddenly, as I tried to weave around the shots the Guardian was taking at me and my mount, my shield and sword and bow started sparking with electricity. The zak of static building, warning me of impending doom, caught me off guard and, between the storm, the sparking electricity, and the Guardian, I barely made it out of there alive. I figured out pretty quickly that only metal weapons could draw lighting and that lighting didn’t really do much damage to Guardians, but I never gave up on trying to find ways to use it in battle (giant boomerangs are great for throwing lightning at enemies and being lightning/electricity proof is super fun in a giant battle, though lightning still doesn’t doo much damage to the more powerful foes).
Even now, over four hundred hours into Breath of the Wild, I still feel the same giddy anticipation and joy I feel in meat space when the grey clouds above open up and coat the world below in a nice refreshing rain.