When I played through BOTW in 2020, I completed the game in 90 diary entries, totaling some 300 hours of play.
I’m approaching the halfway mark of that in TOTK, and I feel like I am maybe a quarter of the way through the game. It’s tough to say, of course, I could be just an 8th of the way through for all I know. Either way, it seems like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be done in this game. Never mind the things that you can build with Ultrahand and zonai technology, or the things you can fuse together, just the places you can go, the creatures you can encounter, the quests you can complete.
This game is huge. Vast.
I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but without a total social media blackout, that’s been all but impossible. Gamer websites, youtube, reddit, and facebook video clips abound with clips of people demonstrating skill, exploits, secrets. I’ve managed to avoid most of the plot spoilers, but the spectacle of some of the achievements of TOTK players is something to behold. People pulling off amazing trick moves, improbable events caught on video, creative or impressive engineering in zonai builds…
I haven’t done very much building, apart from basic vehicles. Although the mechanic definitely is fun and can be very useful, I don’t feel like it is an ideal fit for the character of Link as I envision him. Link is a youthful, courageous, resourceful sword-wielding adventurer. Occasionally a spell caster and wielder of magic. I tend to play the game, thinking like I think Link would think. So I think about how to defeat monsters with weapons, not how to engineer complex constructions and ways to combine the properties of different objects to create a useful effect.
As I’ve played, I’ve very gradually, and only slightly, started to think in terms of the full set of abilities the game designers have empowered the player with.
I feel like BOTW was a game that was a good bit more grounded in the reality of the world. Link’s abilities are enhanced by some magical capabilities, particularly by the end of the quests to quell the Divine Beasts. But most of his capabilities revolve around, and extend, his basic physical capabilities: to move faster, jump higher, hit harder, or add an elemental flavor to an attack. In comparison, TOTK’s abilities feel like the designers have removed limits and enabled cheats, and don’t mind how game-breaking an ability they’ve given you is, as long as you can have fun with it, and exercise your creativity, unleash your imagination, explore possibilities, and express yourself almost without limit. That’s not to say that one is better than the other, or even that I prefer BOTW. But I don’t know that you could have given Zelda fans TOTK without first giving us BOTW. I think we needed a more reality-grounded, lower power bounded adventure in this edition of Hyrule, before we could be ready for the more unbounded, over the top things that we get to experience in TOTK.
I start off today’s session standing with Tulin and some of the adult Rito warriors, who have given their blessing and encouragement to us to press onward and upward, to investigate what’s going on inside the giant storm cloud in the sky. The young warrior has given me a new ability, a means of generating a gust of wind while I’m gliding, which can push me forward at a high rate of speed for a brief period. He also seems to lend a hand with his bow, when enemies are around, although he’s not very aggressive or fast compared to me.
At first, I think the game intends for me to just take off from this mountain peak, right here, and begin to ascend through this new ability. Well that turns out to be completely wrong. I blow forward toward a taller mountain peak, where I land, and find a Korok who needs help getting over to his friend on the other side of a snow-covered mountain trail. Looking down to the trail below us, there is a camp of bokoblins and beyond that, quite nearby, a trio of Zonai construct soldiers. The Bokokblins have erected a wooden barrier, which keeps these two groups from seeing each other. I decide the way to handle this situation is to knock down the barrier and let them fight each other, then clean up what’s left.
I launch a fireseed arrow at the wooden barrier, it burns, and when it is destroyed, the two groups see each other immediately and start to attack one another. The Bokoblins make quick work of the Soldier Constructs, however, and take hardly any damage from them. I take them down with the bow, pretty quickly, and easily, however. The Zonai Constructs have some balloons and platforms, and I attempt to use these to help my Korok buddy, who needs just a little bit of height to get to his friend. Unfortunately, I screw this up and the balloon lift gets caught on a rock overhang, and remains stuck until the balloons are exhausted and disintegrate before my eyes. I have nothing else to work with, other than Zonai gear I have in my pocket, and even though I’ll probably never use it all, I’m stingy and leave the Korok for now, vowing to return later, and marking the spot on the map so I can find him easily again.
Moving on, I continue climbing up the mountain peak, step by step, with Tulin flying along beside me. We encounter another Zonai construct, and then reach the top of the mountain, where we meet another adult Rito warrior, who gives us some further encouragement and tells us to continue forward. From here, we can ascend into the sky level of the map, and we’re back in the chain of little islands leading upward higher and higher, into the area where I’ve already explored a bit, where I found the air ship trampolines, and got a good close up view of the storm cloud.
As we get closer, we being to encounter more Aerocudas and then we start to encounter Zonai construct soldiers, and we work together efficiently to take them out as we continue making steady progress, hopping from sky island to sky island, the gusts of wind making it a little easier to manage the larger gaps, but not all that necessary. Eventually we make it to the area where the Shrine I had previously cleared out is, and now I know that I could just fast travel to this point and not really miss anything by doing so.
We keep moving forward and eventually make it to a point where I don’t think I could have reached before without Tulin’s Gust. I’m exploring new territory. After a time of moving carefully forward, I make it to a new island. Tulin mentions to me that it’s cold up here, even for him, and he hopes that I am OK. My cold weather pants and armor seem to be holding up, but the temperature needle is just above where it would start to do damage if it went any lower. Up ahead, I see a Shrine, which I rush up to and enter without hesitation. Another quick-travel location to resume from if I fail and turn back. There’s no challenge here, just Rauru’s Blessing, a free one for making it so far.
A little further and I’m at eye level with the bottom of the storm. The storm system is surrounded by ships, as I had seen from below much earlier. But now I’m at an altitude where I can touch them. Looking up at the storm, we see multiple flashes of lightning, which illuminate the cloud, giving us a glimpse of an immense sky ship, much larger than the long boat type I’ve seen so far. It must be the fabled Stormwind Ark. That’s our ultimate destination. And to reach it, we must make our way still upward, jumping from long ship to long ship until we’re above the storm winds and can safely descend to the Ark from above.
I jump onto the first one, and am catapulted into the air, high enough to glide to another, higher ship. I make 4 or 5 such jumps in succession, ascending into the upper reaches of the sky like I’m pogo sticking up a moving staircase. My flight paths and drops have to be planned and executed properly or I’ll fall back down, possibly all the way back down to Hyrule level, and I’ve come too far to let that happen. Fortunately, I make it all the way up to a sky island at the very top of the storm, and this seems like the last place where I can stop and catch my breath before I can get high enough to fall into the storm from the top, and discover what’s waiting for me.
On the ship, we briefly see what appears to be Princess Zelda, who vanishes before our eyes, apparently stepping through a portal of some kind. Is she a ghost? Is this a vision of her from the past? Who can say?
What we see confirms that the Stormwind Ark is generating the winter weather that has been freezing out Rito Village, and we need to turn off the mechanism that is powering this disaster. There are five locks on the ship, which we need to open, in order to achieve this. A voice speaking to us informs us. I can see the position of these locks on the map, and it should be a simple matter, I would think. But as I go about the ship, looking for a way in to access them, I’m blocked by gates that allow me to look in, but don’t seem to be openable.
I find several treasure chests with medicore weapons, and fight afew Zonai constructs and an Aerocuda or two swoops in on us, but Tulin takes them out for me. There are white chu chus here as well. The monsters seem rather modest and weak, fortunately. But these obstacles are stopping us cold, a puzzle that I cannot figure out.
I climb up as high as I can on the ship, and look around, but while I can explore a bit more and find some more chests that don’t help me, I’m unable to find a way into the ship to the places where I can open these locks.
The ship is a puzzle, of course, and it takes time and observation to figure out how to get into parts of it where I need to go to activate the locks. The aft end of the ship has a turret with a massive cannon, which traverses and elevates. At first I think maybe I’m meant to jump down the barrel, it’s that big, and access the turret’s inside, but that’s not it. The turret is there to shoot me out of the sky if I try to hover for too long in one place in the updraft being generated at the center of the ship. There’s a tower at the forecastle of the ship, which I can glide up to on the updraft from the center of the ship’s main deck. I can land there, and discover that there are large steel doors covering a hatch into the tower, which is open and has a fan blowing up from below, with laser tripwires that I have to dodge. It’s not that hard, and I manage to get down to the bottom of the tower, where I find a bit of machinery, which I puzzle over, until I finally figure out that the way to turn it on is to use a gust of wind. Tulin is able to provide this, and I imagine my Feathered Edge blade could as well, or even a Korok leaf, if I had one. I’m not sure they exist in TOTK, I don’t believe I’ve seen even one so far in all this time.
There are similar turrets mounted on sponsons on the side of the ship’s hull, as well. The sides of the ship have some open hatches, and some with gates blocking them, I discover, and I can easily glide to them from the top deck, and access the inner portions of the ship. It’s a bit twisty, but I manage to find how to access 4 of the 5 locks that I needed to activate, and only one remains, the one located on deck B1.
I know once I start up that last turbine, the lock mechanism will be fully working, and I can expect a boss fight at any point after that. I’ve managed to get injured enough times by falling too far and minor scuffles with the enemies here that I’m down to just one heart, so I eat a food to bring me back up to full health. I guess this is supposed to be a Dungeon, or like one of the Divine Beasts, but the combat portions of this have been really easy, more like nuisance skirmishes than actual challenges, with weak-powered enemies that don’t take much to kill, and only one at a time. So it’s a little surprising that the designers don’t seem to think that much of making the combat a big part of the challenge in this part of the game. The enemies put up token resistance — the chu chus and aerocudas go down in a single hit, the Zonai Construct Soldiers only take a couple of hits with a decent weapon, and are easy to disarm with arrow headshots before they’re close enough to be a threat. And with Tulin’s help, it’s not a great challenge even with no armor upgrades. But I expect the boss fight to be different.
I consult the map of the Stormwind Ark, and try to figure out how to access the final lock. The B1 deck seems to be divided into two separate but interlocking sections. I’ve been through half of it, but the other half, I’m not sure, but I don’t think I have.
From the F1 Deck, I do a little more thorough inspection of the hatches in the side of the hull, and only now do I realize that there are four: starboard and port, fore and aft. One of these is an accessway into the final area of the B1 deck where the last lock is. This portal is blocked by icicles, so when I glide over edge, I first have to clear it out with a bomb arrow. I wasn’t expecting to need to do this, so I’m a little too close, and end up taking some damage, and the blast knocks me away from the hatch. I somehow just barely manage to recover before I fall too low to get back into the ship, and feel very lucky.
This last area of the ship only has one Zonai soldier guarding it, but he’s got a shield, which makes him a little tougher to deal with. But with Tulin’s help, we outflank him and he can’t use his shield against both of us. Tulin’s arrows keep him off-balance, and I manage to stay out of reach of his attacks when he tries to land them on me. I hit him with an arrow and them land a few blows with my melee weapon, taking him down.
Now, it remains to find access to the machinery that we need to activate in order to unlock the final lock. There’s a gear turning in the room where we juts fought the construct, and it seems this is connected to a gate, but there’s a missing linkage. Only problem is, there doesn’t seem to be anything available there that I can fuse the two parts of the gear system together to open the gate. I end up improvising by dropping a spear from my inventory and use it to bridge the two halves of the machinery. This does just barely work, the gear only seems to connect to the spear on one end, and the other just freely meshes with the other side of the machinery, but it does the job. The gate opens, I climb in and use Tulin’s wind blast to start the turbine, activating the final lock.
I retrieve the spear and head back up to F1 Deck using Ascend. From there, we proceed to unlock the main hatch on F1 Deck.
A massive blast of wind comes up through the opened hatch, and Colgera, the boss of the Wind Temple, emerges. At first I think it’s a dragon, but it has a more insect-like look about it, with pincers and arthropod-like carapace and five eyes. It is icy and as big as a dragon. Tulin and I are blown high into the air, with a constant updraft keeping us aloft. I catch the wind in my glider, but the winds are powerful and sometimes I’m knocked reeling. Colgera flies at me, and I have to use Tulin’s gust to evade it.
This boss battle was not terribly difficult — I managed to win on the first try, using some meals at about the midway point, and one fairy at the end, and all of my Fireseed fruits.
The Colgera flies at me, and when it hits it does only very light damage, allowing me to absorb the hits even though I have no armor upgrades. Maybe the cold resistant properties help here? It can shoot ice at me, and wind blasts, and towards the end it even generates a swarm of tornadoes. Most of this looks more dangerous than it apparently is, because I manage to dodge most of it, and when I do take a hit now and then, I lose about a heart and a half, and am knocked reeling, which disrupts my glider and puts me into a dive that I have to recover from. But this is a good way to dive out of harm’s way and avoid taking further damage, it seems.
Colgera’s weakness is a series of three body segments which are rounded, almost disk shaped. There’s a carapace covering these, which opens briefly, and enables Colgera to launch his ice attack at me. But this also leaves him vulnerable. I fire into the open body segment with fireseed arrows, and these only take 2-3 hits to destroy. Once destroyed, the body segment becomes hollow, like a ring, and I’m then able to turn my focus on to the next one.
I go through about 20 fireseed arrows, because I miss with a lot of them. The wind is a factor, a bit, but also the range, which is very tricky to estimate. I do my best when I fall very close to Colgera and then enter bullet time when I’m at near point-blank range, and let loose with a couple of arrows.
Managing my stamina meter isn’t that difficult, although it definitely helps tremendously to have two full wheels of stamina at this point. But it seems that I get free refills of the stamina meter whenever I’m knocked reeling and recover my glide in mid-flight, which is pretty generous of the game designers. The “arena” where this fight takes place is encircled by a broken ring of sky islands, mere rocks that afford a bit of a standing spot to land on, and provide a tiny bit of shelter, shielding Link from the attacks which, mostly come from below.
Tulin doesn’t do much directly to help, but his gust is very useful for dodging or getting into position where I have a good shot at the vulnerable spots.
I finish the battle with my last two fireseed arrows, and then I switch to bomb arrows, and down he goes.
We’re victorious, and we meet the mysterious voice we’ve heard while up in these clouds. It is the Sage of Wind, an ancient Rito ancestor of Tulin, who passes his legacy on to the youth. Tulin swears an oath to give me aid in the battle against the Demon King for all of Hyrule, and seems honored but mainly excited beyond belief that he has been chosen for this.
Back at Rito Village, the weather has turned warm again, and the snow and ice rapidly melts away. The elders meet with me and Tulin, and thank us and congratulate us. Tulin’s father gives him his bow, and Tulin shows me he has some ability through the sage’s stone to project his spirit, so it can always be with me to protect me.
This completes one of the Anomalous Conditions, one segment of one of the Main Quests.
Well, hey, I did a thing.