So, this past week, I just finished playing through Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the first time, and like many fans of the series, I was incredibly impressed by it. It’s an open-world game, which is perhaps my favorite genre of game. It wasn’t the first time this series having an open-world exploration element – to varying degrees, the original Legend of Zelda for NES and Wind Waker for GameCube both had exploration – but Breath of the Wild presented the open world in a way that these other games couldn’t.
That presentation starts from the very beginning of the game, after Link awakens from a 100-year slumber, he emerges from his cave and looks out onto a vista where you can see a huge swath of Hyrule. In this view, you can see Hyrule field, the Castle, rolling hills, and in the distance, Death Mountain; all sights which are familiar to longtime fans of the series. While taking in the world in front of Link, the title appears on the screen. Admittedly, I’m not the world’s biggest gamer, but I can confidently say that this was one of the most visually enchanting sequences I’ve had as a player.
What I love is how quickly the massive scale becomes apparent as soon as you try to get anywhere. Once you can leave the plateau you start on, if you try to walk to Hyrule Castle or Death Mountain – and you certainly are able to – it will take you a long while to get there. That’s nothing to say about the difficulties you might encounter on the way. This version of Hyrule is on a massive scale. That’s what makes this adventure more grandiose, more memorable, and more fun than some others.
But, if there’s one element that I felt really showed the scope and scale of this game, it was the Guardian enemies.
The Guardians are terrifying when you first meet an active one; they’re eerie spider-like machines which have a laser that locks onto you as their unsettling music begins playing. In the beginning of the game, if you encounter one, your only course of action is just to run in the opposite direction. Early on, there’s no chance of beating them. After a few dozen hours of playing the game, you’ll be stronger and better equipped, and actually able to defeat one.
And then, once you’ve put enough time into the game, you can defeat them fairly easily. What made me happiest in Breath of the Wild was finally charging Hyrule Castle and finally getting to expend all of the items I had stockpiled in a furious battle against all of the guardians besieging the castle. I didn’t have to hide from them, or worry about getting the jump on them. After playing this game extensively, and preparing thoroughly to take on the castle, I could pretty much run up to any of them directly and come out the other side still standing.
That all came from grinding; playing the game until I had leveled up enough and collected all of the necessary items I could possibly need. And it was a delight; the satisfaction that comes from hours upon hours of grinding through levels, and finally being strong enough to take on anything that the game can throw at you. That’s one of the most appealing elements of RPGs and video games in general.
What’s been a game you’ve enjoyed that needed grinding?