Back at the Outskirts, Pikango the painter told me that one of my memory photo locations was nearby, and someone else at the stable told me of a pure white horse that had been spotted in the area nearby, so I go to check both out.
I head out walking down the road headed north, cross a bridge and start heading uphill and west. Around a bend to the right, I go further uphill, and I find the white horse, almost exactly in the spot I had guess-marked the map. I try to catch him, but he’s too spirited and breaks free.
I look for the memory photo site, and find it easily, at a fountain where there’s a prominent statue of a rearing horse. After going weeks wandering about Hyrule and not finding any, it seems that any time I run into Pikango in a new location, he tells me where I can find one, and it’s making life easier than I had made it out to be when I had no clue how to find them.
Somehow or other, I didn’t learn very well from the very first interaction with him that this was the way the game would provide clues to me about the 12 memory locations. In the early going, when I had only been to Kakariko village and Dueling Peaks Stables, my understanding and expectation for these places wasn’t fully formed yet; I didn’t expect to run into recurring characters in many locations throughout the land, and that many of these characters would fulfill a similar role in whatever part of the world I’d happen to run into them.
I don’t know precisely how the game could have communicated this to me better, and I don’t know that it needed to, exactly — maybe it was just something that I needed to figure out, or maybe I did it to myself by avoiding reading too much about the game so that I could have the experience of discovering these things on my own, rather than following a walkthrough that would rob me of the joys of solving problems on my own.
But I did spend about a 2-3 week period feeling lost and without direction, and spent probably close to 100 hours, where I hiked all over the place, wondering how to find a second location to unlock Link’s memory, finding dozens of korok seeds and occasionally a shrine or two, but not making much progress at all on the main quests.
I think that, if I’d been a bit more constrained to following the roads, I might have bumped into more friendly characters who I could interact with and learn things about the world, and this might have helped. Being able to climb any nearby mountain relatively easily and then glide a long distance made for a more disjointed and solitary experience, which in retrospect I believe contributed to a disjointed unfolding of the game’s story to me, which resulted in me getting off-track and not knowing how to resume the main quest.
What I did in the meantime wasn’t unenjoyable, but I’m not sure I could have endured such a long period of not knowing where to go or what to do next if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m shut in my house on a shelter-in-place order in response to a global pandemic, and have a lot of time on my hands that normally I would not have.
I don’t know that I’d say I’m complaining about having had that experience; but I did spend a long time wondering WTF I was supposed to do and how to get back on track with the main mission. I spent a lot of that time using either Kakariko or Hateno as a central hub from which I’d go exploring, rather than finding a next village or stable, but now that I’ve found several more, it’s starting to make more sense to me the role that they serve in presenting Link’s core mission to the player.
I recall that initially I pretty much did what people told me I should do, and it felt like the game was leading me on a path: the old man revealed himself to be the spirit of the King of Hyrule, and he suggested to go east to Kakariko, so I followed his advice. At Kakariko, I did what people told me to do, and found a shrine, my first memory photo location, and then Impa suggested that I travel onward to Hateno village. And in Hateno village I had a number of local side quests and minor quests, but from there, little direction about where to go next. Bolson the house builder suggested that I could find one of his crew far to the north, but when I went north, I found the Lanayru mountain area to be difficult going, and haven’t pressed any further beyond in that direction, and instead tried going south. Maybe I was supposed to keep going north? The people in the beach village of Lurelin and the jungle area in Faron haven’t given me a lot of leads.
I guess this was where the game was designed to let go a bit from hand-holding and let me decide what to do. And from that point onward, my further exploration had been hampered a bit by dangerous environments: the damaging cold of Lanayru mountain, the lightning storms in the jungle area, deadlier monsters for which I was not yet prepared. And so it has taken me all this time to acquire enough heart containers and inventory slots to fill with decent weapons so that I can make forward progress — but forward has been anything but a clear direction, as this game is not at all linear.
Then again, I don’t think that’s any different from the original LoZ, either. How many hours did I wander about the overworld looking for dungeon entrances, bombing every rock, pushing on every statue, and burning every bush? When this occurs to me, it fills me with a nostalgia, and I realize that I’m having that same experience again now, and if I allow myself to be patient, the reward of finally figuring out these things on my own is worth it. This is not a game to play in a hurry, at least not on your first run.
Granted, BOTW is an open world adventure game, but was this what the designers expected my experience to be like? It seems that the game’s design is such that it intends to reward world exploration, and wants you to go off-road every chance you get. Everything is beautiful and calls to you to go there to see it up close and in person. The developers truly wasted no space in this vast world. And nearly every spot along the way gives the player some reward for traveling there — in addition to the beautiful vistas, there’s often a korok seed, a shrine, or a treasure chest. It’s almost too much — when I get to the top of a hill or a tree and there isn’t something there for me to pick up, I find myself wondering “Well, why is this place even here?”
And while I have complained that these rewards aren’t meaningful enough, they’re enough that they encourage me to continue seeking them.
At any rate, back to the adventure at hand:
I find the memory photo location at the horse statue, and I watch the video clip, but it doesn’t really tell me much. It seems these story fragments serve mainly to heighten dramatic tension and establish the sense of desperation that existed 100 years ago when Link fell in the battle against Ganon.
The thing about that is, a century since then, the situation has no urgency, and little desperation. People seem to go about their lives, and their towns are safe. It’s far from ideal, but it’s not like Ganon’s wiped everyone out by now, and yet he’s had a century to do so where he easily could have, I would think. Supposedly I guess Princess Zelda has been holding him back with her power for all this time, but there’s no explanation as to how a stalemate could exist for so long, and. well, I’d like one. Because it seems a bit farfetched. Zelda must be ancient, unless she’s also in suspended animation or gone through reverse aging, but we don’t really know. If she’s old, it could be her powers are weakening. But something tells me when we see her she’ll be Link’s age. Or if not, she’ll probably return to Link’s age after visiting Purah. I guess maybe she could just be in spirit form now, or trapped in a spirit world where aging doesn’t happen.
It’d be nice if these unlocked memories also provided a bit more in the way of clues as to what I need to do, how to deal with a Divine Beast, where to go, an item that I need to recover, something.
Anyhow, after unlocking the memory, I return to the Outskirts Stable and at the cook pot there, I concoct a stamina potion, using a Hinox part and four frogs that boost your max stamina, then head back to find the horse again. I do so, and this time it goes easily. More so than the Giant Horse. This horse has a good top speed and high stamina and strength, and I run back to the Stable to register it.
On the way back, it’s dark, and I spot a strange orange glow up on the mountain near the road I’m traveling. I can’t go up there just now, but I scope it on the map and mark it for later. I don’t see a shrine, and the glow doesn’t look like a shrine or a tower, so it’s a bit mysterious what it could be. Coming back toward the stables, over the bridge, I run into a bokoblin marauder harassing another Hylian traveler on the road, and I stop to fight it from horseback, charging it with a spear, repeatedly until I defeat it. I talk to the guy to make sure he’s alright, and I think he gives me something, rupees or some minor reward, like a food. I get back to the stable and register the horse, naming him Horsimus, replacing Horstimus, who I had to let go because I didn’t have any free horse slots.
I show the old man who was interested in the white horse, and he thanks me and gives me Zelda’s personal bridle and saddle, so the horse may be properly outfitted in something befitting a horse that is thought to be descended from royal stock.
I take the horse out to explore the mountain in search of the source of that orange glow. I get to the base of the mountain near the spot I had marked on the map, dismount, and begin climbing. This takes me aways further than I had guessed from looking at it on scope. Distances are deceiving in this game, and I always think things don’t look that far away, and it turns out they’re always a little or a lot further than I estimate.
Making my way up, I find a few korok seeds, and run into enemies any time the ground levels out. I don’t have too hard a time handling them. The mountain gets steep and I get to a spot where I can’t get up to the next level even with my augmented stamina, and so I have to walk around the base of the mountain, looking for an easier route.
This ends up taking a lot longer than I had planned, but I end up basically exploring most of the mountain. On the map, I’m back in the Gerudo Highlands now, and it gets to an altitude where it’s permanently icy, and I need to carry my flame spear in order to stay warm enough without using my cold resistance foods. This makes combats a little trickier, as I don’t have much life left in this spear, and I can’t afford to waste it on weak enemies. But I’m not going out of my way to get into fights anyway, and manage to avoid most of them, and deal with weaker enemies by using bombs, either blowing them off the edge of the level I’m on, or taking them out.
I get to the very top of the mountain, and find nothing much. A couple of korok seeds, a White Wizzorobe, patrolling around three oddly shaped blocks of ice, which I melt with arrows to see what happens, and they melt, which is tantalizing at first, but nothing else interesting happens. This area seems like it should have some significance, but I can’t really say that I found any. Further upward, I encounter some lizals here and there, and at the very top, a bokoblin cave, but none of it turns out anything great, not even a skull treasure chest as a reward for clearing this one out, although in the surrounding area I do find a couple of treasure chests half-buried in snowbanks. I rely mostly on fire arrows this time, and they’re very effective, as well as good for keeping me warm when I have to switch to the bow. Fortunately, I have a large supply of these.
I eventually make my way back to the side of the mountain where I spotted the glow, and by this time it’s dark again, which makes finding the glow a little easier, although I had the spot perfectly marked on the map. What I find when I get closer is that the glow fades away and disappears. I’m on a snowy ledge with a small boulder, the kind I can lift over my head. And below is another snow covered ledge, this one with a circle of similar sized boulders, with one missing. I’ve seen a ton of these in various locations, and they’re all korok seeds. This one is no exception, although getting the boulder down to the lower ledge without dropping it off the mountain completely is a trick. But I manage it, after a few tries and restoring from my save point, and claim my reward.
Looking out a bit further, I spot something odd-looking in the distance, and decide to glide down to it to get a closer look. It turns out to be a large ice formation, and it’s being patrolled by three White Wizzorobes — the kind I had such a hard time dealing with on my first encounter, where there was only one to deal with. These three don’t seem to spot me, as I am quite a far distance out. I have difficulty hitting them with arrows at that range, but after several attempts, I connect with one with a fire arrow, and it snuffs out of existence in one shot. Fire items are super effective on things that are vulnerable to fire. I eventually take down the other two, and none of the three seems to notice when one of his buddies gets killed, which means I can continue to plink at them without much risk to myself. They’re more or less oblivious, except when I have a near miss, and they stop what they’re doing to look at the spot where the arrow impacted nearby, as though studying it. This is perfect for me, though, as it means they’re holding still an right near a spot I just hit, so I can follow up with a second shot, adjusting my aim slightly, and *wink* they go out of existence in a poof of steam.
Some of the my missed shots hit the ice formation, and it melts a little bit, so I continue shooting at it, until it all melts away completely, and a shrine is revealed beneath it.
I glide down to the shrine and enter it. This challenge involves carrying an ice cube through an obstacle course made of flame jets. I need to use the magnesis power to manipulate a large metal box to shield me from the flames while carrying the ice cube to the end of the shrine, where I offer it to the master, and he gives me my orb. I also claim a frost blade sword, a decent weapon on par with the Thunderblade.
There’s a lot more territory up here to explore yet, but I think for now it’s a good time for me to return to my Horsimus and head back to the stable to board him and rest.
I had left Horsimus at a spot not far from where I’m at now, but a direct line there involves climbing up this mountain again. But that’s within my capability, so I go to it. At the first level spot, I find myself face to face with a bear. He’s close and spots me, and I have only seconds to decide whether to try to fight, or run. The bear rears up on its hind legs, and what happens next is pretty great. I run up to it, get behind, and press the A button, and mount the bear, riding him like a horse! The bear is surprisingly docile and I soothe him almost immediately, although he gets cranky easily and requires more frequent soothing to prevent him from throwing me, and he doesn’t seem to take direction quite as well as horses do. I want to find a path down the mountain so I can ride him to the nearest stable and see if they’ll register him, but it seems that there’s no direction down from here that doesn’t involve climbing down a sheer cliff, so after a bit I give up and dismount, and the bear just goes off, leaving me alone.
I re-check the map to get my bearings again, and resume heading back to where I had parked Horsimus, and end up wandering through the same region where I had awakened the Frost Talus on my first trip up Gerudo Heights.
This time, I decide to stay and fight it. Fighting a Frost Talus is a bit different from fighting a normal Stone Talus. I find that if I try to climb the thing, it freezes me solid, which makes me an easy target for it to finish off with a mighty blow. So this one I’ll have to take out from a distance. I shoot it with fire arrows, and this de-frosts it temporarily, giving me a few seconds that I could use to climb up it if I wanted to. But I don’t even have an iron sledge hammer in my inventory, and the only smashing weapon I do have is a dragon bone moblin bat — a pretty decent weapon, it has an attack power rating of 27, over double what a sledge hammer has.
I run up, and standing on the ground behind the Talus, I unleash a charged attack, spinning and hitting multiple times, doing a hefty amount of damage, until my club shatters, and now the only weapons that I have that will work on this guy, I think, are fire arrows, bomb arrows, and sheikah bombs. And the Talus still has about half of its life bar left. I keep my distance and shoot arrows at it, and they do slight damage if I connect with the body or limbs, but keep it defrosted, and when I manage to hit his weak point, it does a lot better damage. The fight goes on for several minutes, but I manage to bring it down, and he drops a bunch of gems that I quickly scoop up.
I’m also pretty injured by this point, and just want to get back home, so I adjust my priorities to reach Horsimus as directly as possible, not stopping to pick up or investigate anything. I glide down the mountain, taking several stops to do so, and eventually make it down to where I left Horsimus. I call him over to me, and we ride back to the Outskirts Stable. I board him there, and then transport back to the shrine in the river by where I fought the skeleton Hinox, because there’s a bear in that woods, too, and it’s close to the Dueling Peaks Stable. I find the bear, and manage to mount him and ride him down to the river where there are some bokoblins, and I expect the bear will help fight them, but he doesn’t seem to have any kind of attack, and doesn’t even want to fight. He just gets upset and tries to throw me. So I calm him down and run away. We get back to the stable, but the stable refuses to register him. They’re horses only. Well, that sucks. I dismount the horse right there and let him wander about the place. People start freaking out that there’s a bear loose, and acting fearful, which is a great touch on the part of the designers. But then, the bear just suddenly disappears, literally despawning and vanishing in front of my eyes. Bye bear, I’ll always remember you.
Now I want to know why I can’t ride the water buffalo that I encounter in the mountains.
I am at about half hearts, so I transport to Hateno village, where I sleep in my own bed to recover my life energy.