More Loot, Less Direct Combat: My Breath of the Wild Play Style

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I was one of the many gamers who was not excited for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW). I was annoyed at Nintendo thinking they could take the easy way out. I felt insulted, “do you really think you can just throw me this delayed Zelda game, nothing else, and expect me to celebrate?”

Admittedly, I wasn’t a Zelda fan–having only played a few hours from several games. I tried to imagine a world where I was a Zelda fan because, in that universe, I’d probably be just as excited as everyone around me. But imagination can only get you so far. I felt slighted.

Believing the hype… eventually.

In the months leading up to the Switch I felt like I was on the outside of the BOTW hype looking in. Sure I knew I’d buy BOTW when it came out, after all there weren’t many options. The Zelda series consistently delivers good games and I was confident BOTW would be no different. But I was wrong in the best way possible; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may, just be, the greatest video game I’ve ever played.

Thus, I was one of the many gamers who ate their words. I was wrong. I was dead wrong. And I am sorry. There are plenty of places on the internet that go into what makes BOTW brilliant so I’ll spare you my (now cold) hot take. Just know that I took my paraglider and leaped into the fandom as if my life depended on it. But as I floated away from The Great Plateau I realized something, I have zero schema for any of this.

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breath of the wild

Experimenting with formulas I’m unfamiliar with

My Zelda background consists of a good chunks of Wind Waker, Phantom of the Hourglass (DS), and Majora’s Mask (3DS)—none of which I actually completed. And as usual, I’m late to gaming’s hottest trends. My first shooter experiences weren’t until last year with Halo, some Gears of War, and a bit of Overwatch. And my first open world experience is… well, this: Breath of the Wild. All of this makes me feel a little out of place with my love for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; it’s a love that feels uncontextualized. I don’t think this makes my appreciation for BOTW any less valid, but it’s a bit strange and impacts my play style quite a bit.

Everyone else is talking about how this is such a “Zelda game” (or not) and making their comparisons to Far Cry 2 and Shadow of the Colossus I’m like “hey, can you help me with this puzzle?” Something I’m guaranteed to struggle with because I never play enough Zelda to build an understanding of its puzzles, despite enjoying the puzzle genre. Meanwhile, my peers are like “of course you shoot the Sheikah eye with an arrow, it’s a Zelda game!” My lack of background in this genre also makes me even more inclined to explore the world. This is the first time, in my personal gaming experience, where I get to go anywhere and I intend to do just that.

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When “the extras” become your everything

But as much as I try to expand my gaming repertoire I’m still a platform lover at heart. Actual combat skills? Nope! I just run up and start gooning on people or die and repeat the process until I get lucky.

As usual, instead of working on my shortcomings I just boost all my stats until even I can’t fail. And on some level, my BOTW play style is more than just wanting to stop and smell the roses… it’s me trying to get strong enough that I can take on foes even with my low attack skills. I want to be the best but I don’t want to try my hand at improving my combat skills. Instead, I’m an avoidant, petty fighter. I climb mountains and patiently drop bombs over and over again on large enemies and Bokoblin camps.

breath of the wild

When they don’t come by the bombs I blow my whistle until they walk in the right direction.

breath of the wild

Instead of going to the next objective, I travel all over finding more Korok’s because they’re adorable and the seeds can help me expand my inventory.

breath of the wild leaf

I visit every shrine I see in the distance, even though it’s miles off course, so I can boost my stamina and max hearts.

link offering

I have more food than I can cook at this point and have become an opal hoarder, convinced every item I pick up will help me later or can be sold to buy cute and practical clothing.

And I’m convinced all my problems will be solved if I just get enough horses that I can use all the names Ikki (from Legend of Korra) gave those baby flying bison:


But they also have to have a “look” that fits those names. So far I have two horses, Muffin and Malibu. Muffin is the first horse I got and I love it. Malibu is Blonde with a spotted butt. Its glorious blonde mane reminds me of the Anderson Paak album, Malibu, thus its name. All of this is to say I want an intense fleet of horses.

Overall my winding road, avoidant play style has been paying off. Minus the shrine that was named a Modest Feat of Strength, which wanted me to fight a fairly powerful ancient robot.

Breath of the Wild Game Over

I suppose old habits die hard. When I was a kid I would never work on my weak points. For instance, I’d avoid, or have very sloppy, long jumps only to reach a boss that required constant long jumps. I worry the same will happen in Breath of the Wild — that, eventually, my cheap combat tactics will leave me ill-prepared.

I’m positive I’ve played double digit hours already and still haven’t even reached the first dungeon. I’ve been declaring by love for BOTW since the first time I picked up the Joy-con grip, yet I have little to say about the main game. At the end of the day, I’m a collector, not a fighter. So here I am, going over Hyrule with a fine-tooth comb, grabbing every firefly and lizard I can find. Destroying every camp I come across for the sake of whatever exists inside that chest.

When it comes to Breath of the Wild, I truly feel like I am Link: walking into a new world, one that everyone expects me to be familiar with… needing to engage with a history I have no memory of.

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