I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 11

At one point into my first play-through of Breath of the Wild, probably at 1 or 2am on a night I had to be up early for work since that was pretty much the entire month following the release of the game, I discovered that I could hold items I’d been collecting in my hands. For whateve reason, it never occurred to me that this could serve any purpose other than to cook things over a fire. I’d, of course, discovered that you could interact with objects in the world before you picked them up, but it had never occurred to me that it might be useful to put them back into the world once I’d put them in my pockets.

The game itself hints at this idea, through NPCs and the descriptions of some items. I can’t remember where I saw the text that gave me the idea, but something, somewhere, suggested that I could use the different elementally charged chuchu jellies to cause typed explosions. Ever willing to experiment with the limits of a system, I promptly blew myself up almost as many times as when I’d made the mistake of saving inside the special sub-map of Hyrule Castle right before getting shot by a legless Guardian when I first ran in their with five hearts and half an extra stamina wheel (It took twenty minutes of repeated deaths and an increasingly zany combination of maneuvers to eventually escape the cluster of Guardians that had hemmed me in without dying, so that’s a lot of getting blown up). From there, I started to wonder what else I could do by tossing items on the ground. After all, information about monsters never fails to mention the different types of foods they might enjoy.

There are a great number of systems that come into play when you’re dumping stuff on the ground. Namely, once you pass ten objects, they start to disappear, starting with the oldest. This limit can be surpassed if enemies or creatures drop items, meaning you don’t need to pick everything up super quickly when you’re fighting a large cluster of enemies, but it puts a pretty hard limit on your ability to sprinkle a field with hidden traps you can shoot to trigger. Throw in the various systems that govern the world and drive certain types of behaviors (wind direction, weather effects, monster reactions, and flammability), and you can end up with a few clever methods of fighting most enemies that don’t involve smacking them with your precious weapon collection.

As someone who took a great deal of satisfaction in collecting stalkoblin arms I would use for the sole purpose of fighting other stalkoblins, I wound up taking far too much time to set up a series of intricate traps mixed with photo opportunities. My collection of photos (from before you could take videos) show Link enjoying a barbecue in front of a field of burning Bokoblins, enjoying a meal as a swarm of angry bokoblins roar at him, flying through the air as a result of an explosion as a bokoblin fort burns behind him, and sailing a raft held aloft by a series of octorok balloons as mounted bokoblins give chase below him. Each of these took multiple hours to complete, since I had to figure out if the base idea would work, wait for the enemies to respawn, and then practice until I could get everything to play out in the desired sequence for my picture.

One of the best things about Breath of the Wild is that people are still finding new secrets, easter eggs, and mechanical exploits after five years. Even better, all of them feel fun and rewarding rather than like you’re playing a broken game because the game was designed to be this open-ended. It encourages creativity and rewards you for finding interesting ways to bypass intended systems. There are only a few cases where something doesn’t allow you to do things out of order, and most of those make a certain amount of sense given that they revolve around before/after moments of fundamental changes to the world the game takes place in (the Divine Beasts, generally speaking).

I genuinely hope that more games will be made that give me this level of creative satisfaction, that pull me in and keep me with them for as long as Breath of the Wild has. I can honestly say I’ve never played a game all the way through as many times as I’ve played Breath of the Wild, and that I’ve never spent as many hours overall playing any other game. Even now, as I wait for news of the sequel and work my way through the pile of games I have on my plate, I am finding myself wondering what new things I could get up to in another play-through of the game. For now, my other games are holding my attention, but there’s no telling how long until I put them aside to play through this game again, perhaps this time finally topping the guardian-escaping sequence in terms of complex, ridiculous, and deadly feats of video gaming prowess.

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