Happy Birthday The Legend of Zelda (or Why I Now Hate Breath of the Wild) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Happy Birthday The Legend of Zelda (or Why I Now Hate Breath of the Wild)

Hannah celebrates Link’s birthday the only way they know how, setting themselves an unachievable goal…
I’ve made it no secret how disappointed I am with how Nintendo chose to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda (see Day 4 of my E3 rundown). I understand the hype around the Italian plumber’s birthday was always going to be greater, but to finish six months of Mario celebrations to then essentially ignore Link - even going as far as to release three other Mario games near enough straight afterwards - it’s just downright disrespectful.

Well, after a whole lot of sulking and shouting to anyone that listened, I decided if Nintendo wasn’t going to celebrate my beloved hero of time in an appropriate manner, I would hold my own birthday party. How? Well, having purchased Breath of the Wild on the switch, I would finally set out to do what dozens before me had failed to. I was going to achieve the absolute behemoth task of 100% completion rate for Link’s biggest adventure yet.

I also failed, spectacularly. Which is, for anyone that knows me, hardly surprising.
For those of you who have better things to do than play videogames, Breath of the Wild was Nintendo’s wildly anticipated 2017 offering to The Legend of Zelda franchise. It’s first truly open-world entry to a long line of beloved titles, the game set out to be bigger and better than any that came before it, but most importantly, offered completely open-ended gameplay for every player. Want to run straight to the final boss at the start of the game? Good luck buddy, here’s a stick and some underpants, off you go! Playing for a more complete experience? We got plenty to do, have fun! As a self-proclaimed completionist, I have dedicated hours of my life to achieving that coveted 100% mark in all manner of videogames, so why should this game be any different? The idea of open-ended gameplay appealed to completionists and speed-runners alike, right?

Well, having put over 150 hours into my first casual playthrough of Breath of the Wild - completing optional side-quests, finding secrets, beating dungeons and slaying the big bad – my completion rate sat at a measly 29.3%. Here is where we begin to unravel why achieving 100% in this game is such a mammoth task. The game is built for the explorers: it encourages you to swim to the bottom of every lake and climb to the top of every mountain, and it rewards you for doing so. A Korok seed here, a shrine there. Unfortunately, with 900 Korok seeds and 120 shrines, you need a whole lot more than gentle encouragement to master this game.

That’s not to mention that to achieve 100% in Breath of the Wild you also need to:
  • Take pictures and catalogue every weapon, animal, monster, treasure, plant and item in the game.
  • Upgrade all outfits (the later upgrades requiring large amounts of hard to come by items such as falling stars and dragon scales).
  • Collect every key item and Dungeon item in the game.
To put it into perspective, the current record for a 100% speedrun of Breath of the Wild is 16 hours, 48 minutes and 27 seconds. That’s after four years of route optimization and practise. I was going in blind with cake and a shrug, and by about the 80th korok seed, the challenge was wearing a bit thin.
The game itself is gorgeous: my original playthrough was on the Wii U, so the Switch upgrade was a welcome surprise, and I found myself lost in the beauty of Hyrule on more than one occasion (right before a Guardian or Lynel wiped me out that is). But with no plan in place, I found myself just wandering around large expanses of field and stumbling across Korok Seeds and Shrines as I went. Which, I think brings us to the crux of the issue: Breath of the Wild is a game about discovery, and that discovery - much as it would be were you actually Link waking up from a hundred year slumber – is supposed to feel organic. To go into the game with the decision to complete it to 100% is doing a disservice to the world that Nintendo has created; unless you want to dedicate literally years of your life to exploring every inch of Hyrule, that is. There is nothing organic about lifting up every rock hoping a Korok might pop out or running around in circles as you try to navigate the ‘Shrine Detector’ system.

I don’t think I will ever achieve what I set out to do, and if it weren’t for me writing about it, nobody would be any the wiser thanks to Nintendo not handing out achievements for completing in-game tasks. Then again, maybe that’s the problem? Without the serotonin inducing ‘ping’ of a job well done, my monkey brain refuses to participate in the challenge.

If that is the case, then I put this out there in the hopes that somebody cares enough to challenge me to finish my mission. For now, though, I will continue to aimlessly run around Hyrule, bopping Bokoblins with worn out weapons and occasionally stumbling across an objective, ignoring the jeering tracker in the corner of my map screen.

Preferring the company of fictional characters to living, breathing people; it should come as no surprise that Hannah is a connoisseur of all things geek. Whilst their body resides in the capital of Wales, their heart resides in Middle-Earth and their mind remains firmly lodged in the memory of that embarrassing thing they did when they were eight.

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