Had my best Eventide Island run yet, and got killed by a freak glitch.
I started out by taking the raft on a circle around the island, and killing all the offshore octorocks using the bow, at ranges where they aren’t any real threat. Then, I cheat a bit, and drop my best sword, shield, and bow on the raft, so that after I set foot on the island and have all my possessions removed from my inventory, I can just pick these back up again and be very well equipped. This makes the regular bokoblin encounters very easy, and removes a lot of the need to scour the island scavenging and looking for hidden weapons that are more useful than the tree branches and bokoblin arms. All there is to do then is forage as much food as possible, and cook it so that you can heal yourself as necessary, find some arrows, and go clear out the enemies and put the orbs in the altars.
I start out and do it near-perfectly, and going great, I get 2 of the 3 orbs in the altars, and all that’s left for me to do is slay the Hinox and the small bokoblin camp on the southeast corner of the island, and I’ve done it.
I decide to take out the Hinox first. I sneak up and got in the Hinox’s hand, and he puts me on his chest. I have my best weapon equipped and begin charging up my attack, when I somehow clip through the Hinox’s body, fall to the ground, waking him up. My attack charge-up got interrupted, so it is no longer charging, and I can’t see anything since I’m standing inside the Hinox, so the game stops drawing properly, and because I’m inside its body, the game engine treats this as him hitting me, and I’m one-shot dead with absolutely no way to avoid it. Bullfuckingshit.
I decide to take a break from making Eventide Island runs, and go back to exploring the jungle waterfall area by the new stable I found.
Exploring this region is slow going. The jungle vegetation limits visibility a lot of the time. And it’s very rainy, as well as foggy. The rain brings lightning with it, and there are electricity-based monsters that you’ll encounter. I have my rubber helmet, which protects me somewhat against the lightning, but any time it’s raining, it’s tough to explore because you can’t climb, and it’s also a bad idea to try swimming, because you need to climb to get out of the water in most places. Plus, I haven’t had a lightning strike nearby with me in the water, but I assume it will damage me.
There’s a bunch of waterfalls just outside of the Stable area, and I get down there and start exploring. I find the usual — korok seeds, floating boxes with items, sunken treasure chests with more stuff, rupees, arrows, gems, and a couple of weapons, including a two-handed boomerang. Boomerangs are weird in BOTW — not like a traditional wooden boomerang, they’re swords with a bent blade, a bit like a kukri knife, and you can melee with them or throw them, but they are more interesting thrown. I have yet to throw a weapon effectively, because I’m so bad with the analog sticks.
But today is different. Today, I found that I had purchased a Pro controller, a long time ago, and forgot that I had it. All this time, I’ve been playing either with my joycons in handheld mode, or docked using a wired gamepad. With either of these, the fine control with the analog sticks is just not there. With the Wireless Pro controller, it’s a different world entirely. The precision with the analog sticks is there, and I finally have the ability to smoothly track the camera at a slow speed and stop exactly where I want to. Now, I can shoot arrows and throw weapons with accuracy. Finally.
I’m not looking to get into combat this session, and am trying to avoid it so I can keep my weapons.
I clear out the first pool area, just north of the Stables, and it starts to get dark. I climb a cliff, and a couple of bokoblin skeletons pop out of the ground, but I run past them and get away, as they’re too slow to follow me and it’s too dark and poor visibility for them to follow. I can see them, they can’t see me. I duck down in some tall grass and hang out for a bit, looking around to see what’s around on this level that I can either climb to or investigate.
All of a sudden, a fairy-like(?) being appears in mid-air, floating in front of me. I’m not sure what it is at first, friend or foe, but soon enough, it attacks me with lighting balls, and then teleports away. I take some damage, and respond a bit clumsily, caught off-guard. I manage to hit it a few times with arrows, and have it nearly defeated. I’m armed with a dragon bone spiked boko club, a good choice in this area, being that it is made from wood and therefore doesn’t conduct electricity, yet has high damage output. It’s main downside is low durability, and after a few hits I break it, and have to switch to a metal weapon, which is a bad mistake. The lightning attacks do more damage, and seem to home in on me while I’m holding metal. Very quickly, I’m taken down, rescued by my fairy. I end up dropping my knight’s broadsword, and can’t pick it up again because I’m already back down to half a heart, and looking to avoid dying more than recover my items. I was close to taking down this enemy, but suddenly disarmed, near dead, and looking like my options are few without a wooden weapon to fight with, I turn tail, and teleport back to the shrine near the stables. It’s cowardly, but I wasn’t prepared, and wasn’t looking to get into a fight. But suddenly, I’m down one fairy, one broken club and one barely used knight’s broadsword.
And, this is one of the shortcomings of the game, I think. The fact that you can teleport any time you want, by hitting pause, and just get out of any kind of dangerous situation. Pretty much any other time, you want to get out, you just have to hit the “-” button and bring up the map, and pick anywhere you’d rather be but where you are, and in the blink of an eye you’re whisked away.
For that matter, you can also pause at any time and eat to regain health or stamina, and bail yourself out of any situation. The entire meal takes place in the pause screen, taking up zero in-game time, and potentially you might have every slot of your prepared foods inventory devoted to life refills, so as long as you can keep an eye on your health meter, you can pack away virtually infinity hearts. And unless you take so much damage that you get one-shotted, if you can hit “+” fast enough when you’re down to your last few hearts, you’re very nearly immortal. The only thing that stops you from doing that is failing to have the presence of mind to bring up the pause screen because you’re too busy dealing with what’s in front of you.
This takes away so much of the danger to the game. The fun parts are exploring, figuring out puzzles, finding things. The combat, I’m still reserving judgment, until I’ve played more with the Pro controller’s actually-usable analog sticks enough, but I think the core of it is OK, but it’s flawed in several ways — the pause-heal/escape being too easy.
I mean, the original Legend of Zelda also gave you pause-heal, so this is not completely unprecedented, but it was only up to two doses of medicine, and medicine took some time to figure out how to get. In BOTW, how many prepared food slots do I have? I don’t know, it’s more than I can visually count at a glance, that’s for sure. Two dozen, maybe? And you could warp away with the Whistle, but that was of limited usefulness — you had to wait for the whirlwind to pick you up, and you had to not move out of the horizontal row you were in, or it would miss you, which limited your dodging while you waited for it, and then you had no real control over where it would take you. It was deterministic, but you didn’t have any choice in the matter — once you signed on for the ride, you were going to where the wind was blowing you. And it might be right into another dangerous spot, or far away from a fairy pond, or medicine shop.
And on top of all that, when you do die, the penalty for death is pretty light. You respawn at your last auto-save spot, and it’s usually pretty close to where you bought it. You only lose maybe the last few minutes of your progress. I actually like this, I don’t want a harsher penalty for dying, that makes it really suck, like losing your whole inventory, or half of it. That would just put me into a mode of saving every ten feet and respawning if anything bad happened, and that’s no fun. But this combination of design choices all factor into making the game feel rather… casual.
That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. I like that the game feels like a relaxing place where I can just hang out and explore for hours.
But, some hundred or so hours into the game, and having explored perhaps a third of the world, I have to say so far I haven’t enjoyed the combat too much, and mostly have sought to avoid it as much as possible. Most encounters are not that challenging, and also aren’t that rewarding.
Random encounters serve to deplete your hearts and wear out your weapons, and leave you with nothing worth the time.
The camp raids are fun exercises in tactics and strategy, at least at first, until you’ve run through a few dozen of them, and then they feel a bit routine — the AI’s limited and predictable responses doing little to keep them fresh. You take them on, more or less because they’re there, and to be able to say you did them. But most of them do not help you to advance the story or get you closer to defeating Ganon. And I think this feels like a mistake. I want these encounters to feel meaningful, and they just don’t. Especially once the Blood Moon happens and undoes all the death I’ve dealt them.
Then there’s the Guardians, who at first seem impossible, the challenge curve shooting up near vertically — that is, until you figure out what works on them, and then they’re manageable: Shoot them in the sensor with an arrow to reset their insta-death laser countdown, and hit them with a weapon good enough to do damage, and probably be ready for it to break at least one, because you’re going to need to hit the thing a bunch of times to knock its hit points down to nil.
Fighting a Hinox is a bit more interesting, and feels almost like a boss fight. They seem to have a bag of tricks that is fairly shallow, though, too. I would have liked to see them more fully fleshed out, with some more tactics, in addition to uprooting a tree to use as an improvised club, and butt-stomping you.
- a stampede charge where they trample you;
- hurling boulders,
- picking you up and bringing you close to their face for a big bite, where if you can work your arms free, you can take the opportunity to smash them in the head or put an arrow in their eye.
- Or taking on two Hinox at once, and dodging quickly out of the way while they clumsily run into each other, hit each other, etc.
I will grant that when I encounter mounted enemies, they seem like a lot more fun. I’ve had very few mounted encounters, but I am looking forward to having hopefully more.
I know there’s supposed to be Lynels somewhere in the game, and they’re tough, but I’ve yet to run into them. And I’d run like hell if I did, until I get a lot more heart containers, and some decent armor.
But I also wish that there would be more classic Zelda enemies, like Tektites, Leevers, Pols Voice, and Like-Likes, Lanmolas, Ghinis, Darknuts, Wizzorobes, and Iron Knuckles. And Moblins that look like Moblins, you now the bulldog faced guys. Not the weird tall troll dudes. (Edit: the electric fairy creature that attacked me was a wizzorobe. )
There’s basically only a few types of encounters, at least so far:
- Easy encounters where you are never in serious danger, and can just walk up and swing away: chuchus, kees, boko skeletons and the weaker bokoblins.
- Ambushes, where you can see your quarry from far away, and plan an approach that will maximize the amount of damage that you do before they even know you’re there. Plan, prepare, and execute, and you earn a meager and ultimately meaningless gem or a few arrows, or earn a completion of a sidequest. But usually nothing like a wondrous new item, or new capability.
- Somewhat challenging fights, with blue bokoblins, moblins, and lizalfos.
- Near-impossible odds, where you just need to run away as quickly as you can, because you don’t have a good enough weapon to do enough damage to survive the encounter, like the disabled Guardians in the early part of the game, or the enemy variations with elemental buffs, like cold Lizalfos, or the electric teleporting fairy who just kicked my ass.
On the plus side, I really do like the variety of weapons, their meaningfully diverse mechanical differences.
But the enemy AI is rather too easy, in most fights, and once you figure it out, it doesn’t offer a great deal of challenge, unless you’re facing down multiple well-armed enemies when you break a weapon or get knocked down. I wish the enemy AI was a bit more cunning, a bit more cutthroat. Maybe not for the random nuisance encounters, but definitely for the more serious ones. The first time you run into something new, it’ll probably get you. But after you figure them out, they’re pretty easy to deal with.
But I do think that because of the pause-screen mechanics of eating food to recover health and using the map to teleport to any convenient wayport at any time, they designed a game that sacrifices combat that feels truly deadly.
Anyway, enough criticism.
Back at the stables, I heal up, and rest until morning at the inn. The next day, I venture out over the bridge to the east of the stables, and check out the waterfalls nearby. Midway across the bridge, my Sheikah slate starts detecting another shrine nearby, but I’m unable to find it.
Looking around for the shrine, I spot a bokoblin outpost below the bridge, just south of it, and decide to raid it. I clear it out pretty easily, breaking another broadsword in the process, but picking up a halberd and a bunch of arrows. There’s another waterfall nearby, and I check out the pool there, and find a korok seed, and another couple of sunken treasure chests.
It gets dark, and the electric dragon appears and starts shooting lightning at me again, and I again decide to transport back to safety, wait until morning, and resume exploration.
On the third day out, I cross the bridge and continue looking for the hidden shrine. I’m close, but not finding it. I’m about to try climbing up the cliffs to the next level to explore there, when it starts raining. A woman from the stables comes walking by, and I talk to her. We take shelter under a nearby lean-to, as lightning starts to crash down, and wait for the rain to let up.