Area of Effect
The adventurer Link standing in a hooded scarf next to a large stone well in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

All’s Well in the Kingdom

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #164. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


What does digital grass feel like?


I feel like I should be a bigger fan of the Koroks in the latest two Legend of Zelda games.

The idea of having a funny little guy pop up as a reward for exploration and curiosity about the smaller corners of Hyrule’s vast open world is a good one. But soon into Breath of the Wild, I stopped caring about climbing weird trees or replacing rocks in circles. Although you can trade the seeds these forest spirits give you for weapon slot expansions, I never needed that many, and spotting the puzzle was basically the same as solving it.

In Tears of the Kingdom it’s even less interesting to me. I understand the motivation behind the backpack Koroks; toppled over and needing Link’s building help to reach a new area. They’re an engagement with TOTK’s added mechanics, in the same way that BOTW’s Koroks tied into its bigger, more open world. But TOTK’s building isn’t that engaging to me, so the backpack Koroks mostly stay stranded. (Sorry.)

A korok, a small wooden creature wearing a large leaf as a mask, stands on a grassy hill in the open world of Hyrule, the setting for the latest Legend of Zelda games.

When I realized this early on in playing TOTK, I was a bit discouraged. BOTW and TOTK are both wide open spaces with plenty to discover just by wandering around, but too often it was either a Korok or a bokoblin tower that looked intriguing from a distance, but didn’t actually offer anything interesting close up. Not having a cluttered UI full of points of interest still elevated them above other open world games, but at least in Assassin’s Creed I know which icons not to bother running towards.

But then I ran into the well NPC.

Fera was just standing at the bottom of a random well that I wandered into. A self-described well enthusiast, and clearly hyperfixated on these underground water reservoirs, Fera is an incredible source of money, which is much rarer in TOTK than it was in BOTW. Tell them about other wells you’ve spotted, and you’ll get 10 rupees per location. Given that wells are in many common areas, like stables and towns, talking to Fera is about the most lucrative part of the game.

Fera the well enthusiast of Tears of the Kingdom consults some notes.

But more than money, Fera also single-handedly invigorated me on wells, too, in the way that only a true enthusiast can. The wells in Hyrule are incredible. I want someone to talk to me about all the wells in Hyrule, as well. The way that all the ones under Hateno village are connected, or how some have just a few fish while others have diamonds hidden down there. Or the time I found a child growing extremely valuable vegetables because they wanted to cook a special recipe for their family.

All of that, down the fifty-something wells in Hyrule. You can play the whole game without ever entering one. And that’s one of like a hundred things you can do or not do in the game. You only have to pick up a few Korok seeds to be set for life. There’s nothing that necessarily leads you to discover that some of the rivers around Death Mountain are so warm they restore Link’s health, like a soothing bath. You’re likely to run into a bubbulfrog, but not so likely to find out what you should actually do with them, and less likely still to figure out how to get all of those cave entrances marked with a mysterious glow to make their gems easier to find.

But across Hyrule, there are NPCs who love each of these little details. Explore enough, talk to enough people, and you’ll not only be led towards the richness of Hyrule, but made enthusiastic about it by transference.

I moved, recently. There’s a two-hour walk that loops out from my house, down through a beech forest, across the river, through some planted fields and then climbs up back to the road through a meadow. When my mother came to visit, she was absolutely taken by the meadow, which I had mostly ignored, because it’s a steep uphill, so walking that part kind of sucks.

The next time I was there, my sister was with me, and I told her about it, too. She pointed out that there was speedwell among the other flowers, which is one of her favorites. I love that meadow, now.

Space requires interpretation. In games that’s usually through interaction – finding Koroks or fighting bokoblins. But TOTK makes it interpersonal. Fera wants to infodump about wells, and now, so do I.


Jay Castello is a freelance writer covering games and internet culture. If they’re not down a research rabbit hole you’ll probably find them taking bad photographs in the woods.


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