‘Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ a gorgeous, immersive opportunity to learn how to fail
By Tommy Robbins. For many, last Friday was a beginning to a long, glorious weekend. After eager anticipation we finally got to dig into Zelda: Breath of the Wild, experiencing the majesty of the world we had all heard so much about.
My wait was a bit longer — I was unable to get my hands on a Switch until Tuesday, thanks to an “unexpected” Nintendo shortage — but the enthusiasm surrounding the game’s first weekend only heightened my anticipation, and on Tuesday afternoon, I dove into Breath of the Wild.
I should preface this by saying I have been neither a long running Zelda fan nor have I played many of the more recent games, though many would say the latter is more of a positive than a negative. I have very little affinity for the brand overall, aside from a few minor pangs of familiarity from earlier games, of which I vaguely recall from childhood. Before playing, I wondered if a lack of nostalgia would possibly be a prohibiting factor in my enjoyment of the game, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to realize that wasn’t the case.
The first moments in Breath of the Wild managed to be impactful even without that nostalgia. With basically no exposition, lengthy cutscenes, or cumbersome tutorials to hinder my immediate enjoyment, there I was — Link, the hero who would once again vanquish evil from the lands of Hyrule. Emerging from that first dank cavern onto a sunny peak, the game gave me its first (and practically negligible) version of tutorialization: Pick up that stick.
Approaching the ledge where the branch lay, I was only partially paying attention to what the game was instructing me to do as I soaked up the world that lay sprawling before me, unfamiliar yet recognizable, like fleeting memories from a dream. I picked up the stick. As the game gave me brief hints as to how to equip and swing my new weapon, I made my first mistake: instead of swinging the branch in front of me using the designated controls, I instead hit a different button, and as I held it, Link held the branch high over his head. (“Hm? An overhead power attack?” I naively thought to myself.) As I released the button I realized I had instead found the “throw weapon” button. As I soaked up the majesty of the world below, I watch Link toss the branch over the cliff, and down went my first training weapon.
The hilarity of the moment was not lost on me. My personal autonomy had been demonstrated literally by my first mistake, as I threw its little semblance of tutorial control right off the cliff. It was a perfect moment that encapsulated the rest of my next handful of hours: exploring, making mistakes, missing things in front of me, and all the while learning the depths of interaction contained within Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
In a recent conversation with The Verge, Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi had some things to say regarding the ease at which players will find themselves dying that play perfectly into how I met my first moments in the game:
“You learn to be careful and to be cautious. And we felt that that gave a lot of players the emotional preparedness to take on the rest of the world. So we ultimately decided that we should let them die. They fall, they learn.”
Without an established fondness for the series, Breath of the Wild has still managed to enamor me to its cause. Its playground for adventure and willingness to let players mess up, learn, and progress has already planted a seed of fondness in my stern gaming heart. The “Zelda chimes” that play upon every achievement are my only real standing point of familiarity anyway. But even without any established nostalgia, with each visit to Breath of the Wild, I still feel as though I am revisiting an old friend.
The LOAD FILE review of ‘Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ is pending.