Game moments feel too meaningful to be left to just mechanics. It’s worth taking a moment just to play, today in Breath of the Wild.
On the Great Plateau, Hyrule is beautiful. Huge stretches of grass dance in all directions, painting the scenery in lush growth. Every distant hill shimmers softly through hues of nature, every distant lake reflects the sun overhead in glittery splendor, and the sounds of nature and life sing an ideal accompaniment to the striking landscapes in all horizons.
Fresh from the darkness of the temple behind me, the world calls to me, far more than the old man peering curiously at me downslope. I take off. A tree branch, some apples, a nearby axe, a small pond surrounded by rock—I find myself bouncing from moment to moment, almost drowning in things to touch, to climb, to slip down, to splash into, to collect. A rusty sword juts artfully from the set in the middle of a serene lake. A nearby temple, half-standing against the elements, time and growing vines, begs to be visited. In the distance, the sun glows warmly. Distant mountains are bathed in the white of snow.
The next few moments are lost to memory, discarded in favor of an experience. Lancing an axe through the grass just to see its length sliced apart. The bare texture of the ground beneath looks alien compared to the jutting blades all around it. Hacking apart more grass leads to new bare patches looking awkward next to their overgrown peers. Does carving a path make the lack of overgrowth appear less unnatural? No, not really. Perhaps cutting along the curve of this hill? Mm, somewhat. What about leaving a patch there? Yes, that looks about right. That’ll do.
Climbing a nearby hill puts me face to face with gangly creatures I’ve never seen before. They’re spit-roasting meat over an open flame. They’re crouched around a center point, twitching and squawking amongst one another. I approach, and with theatrical recognition, they rush to arms. Their too-lanky limbs and reddish-brown skin don’t immediately strike me as hostile, and I’m thrown quickly into defense before I realize I’m being threatened.
This first dance is an awkward one. I struggle to fight without a shield, and their movements all look grossly overblown to me. Is this wind-up for a strike, or is it about to hurl itself into the air to drop on me from above? My tree branch, still sporting a few leaves, shatters into splinters mid-swing, but the one that follows manages to live long enough to dispatch the first of three combatants.
I’m still sluggish in my waking moments, my exuberance for this world too much for my lack of sharpness. Thankfully, their weapons mirror my witless dullness; solid hits on my side and face throw me around but don’t rip my skin or tear me apart. My torn pants are hardly armor, and these hits will unlikely add to the collection of artful shredding, but I survive the combat with a few aggressive strikes and a wooden pot lid for a shield. Three lay defeated before fading back into the earth.
Hours drift away with more exploration. I find hot peppers growing from bushes. Curious creatures cackle at me when I explore the strange vignettes they hide in nature, and they hand me seeds whose purpose eludes me. I find rusted spears, practical swords and more little encampments of the terracotta goblins. Rocks tumble as I dash across cliffs, crashing into the rocky ravines below. In some places, the moblins—as I learn they are called—are huddled around barrels that explode when struck or under a precarious boulder atop a sloped hill. I can’t shake the feeling that there is a higher power to this place, leading me in certain directions. Sometimes, things feel a little deliberate. I wonder if it isn’t those strange, cackling, childish imps that seem intent on painting their own oddities into manufactured realities.
The voice of the woman who spoke to me in the cavernous temple eventually finds my thoughts, directing me to a plain not far from where I woke. The hills have started to glow with a bit of orange as night quickly approaches, but I begin my walk. The object on my hip, a little tablet of some kind of technology that feels achingly familiar, urges me to a specific point. I pause in my walk to retriangulate from time to time. Occasionally, something catches my eye, and I wander off in a spurious tangent, looking for more curiosities hidden in the forests, caverns, and camps.
When I arrive at my destination, I find a spire of earthcraft plunged through the relative stillness of this place, as if a speartip of mountain had been thrust through. Inside the curves of rock, I find a pedestal that glows. By instinct, I grab the slate on my hip and press it against the glow. For the briefest of moments, nothing, before the floor beneath me quakes to life and I hear the sound of stone wrenching free from its place beneath. On instinct, my eyes close, I fall to the ground, and the world slips into movement beyond my control. I fear what I may see, jostled and tired as I am, when I open my eyes…
Taylor Hidalgo is a freelance writer, editor and enthusiast. He hopes to make words people like, friends with those people and enough to keep writing. You can be friends with him on Twitter @NukeLassic and find more of his words here.