I transport back to the shrine near the wasteland stable, and talk to everyone there again.
One of the people was with a group that was attacked by monsters, and he was the only one who made it back. I decide to help him out first, and ride Horsier out to where he said they were when they got attacked. I get out there, and I’m down in a narrow canyon, just wide enough for a road, and not much more. There’s a series of catwalks above me on the right, and they bridge over the canyon to the left. One of the people is being attacked by a couple of bokoblins, and I quickly leap into action and dispatch them. The girl I rescue tells me the rest of her group are up ahead, so I run up the scaffold and fight bokoblins as I come to them. I’m wielding a big spiked bokoblin bat, or was it a moblin club, I forget . It packs a wallop and knocks enemies off the catwalk in two hits, leaving them mostly dead, and the fall to the canyon floor takes care of the rest.
This is weird, but good. When I’ve knocked enemies off of a high place with a bomb, they have survived impossibly long falls somehow, and I had been assuming that enemies do not take falling damage, perhaps by way of compensating for poor pathfinding AI and a tendency for them to fall to their deaths, maybe. But now I am starting to suspect that enemies simply have different falling physics when they are blown into the air by a bomb, and they don’t take extra damage from the fall, perhaps because Nintendo didn’t want to make bombs too powerful, since you get an unlimited supply of them and by themselves they do fairly weak damage. But maybe the enemies do take falling damage if you knock them off with force, such as a weapon. I will have to experiment with this further, and see if knocking enemies off of a height using an object controlled by magnesis also works.
I rescue three of the four people who I’m supposed to find, but don’t find the fourth. I continue climbing the catwalk system up the wall of the canyon, until I reach the top. There, at the top, is a wide, flat, open space, where there’s a large camp, with three lizals and a couple more bokoblins. I attack and wipe them out, but there’s no fourth hostage up here. I loot the camp, and continue forward, and climb and find a few more lizalfos, moblins and bokoblins, and they’re pretty buffed enemies. The lizals have electric powers and I have to be careful with them, but using ice arrows or the ice wand to freeze them, then switching to a powerful melee weapon and hitting them up close hard and quick does them in pretty well.
I also find a few random koroks. I go a pretty far, up and forward, and eventually get to the base of the wasteland tower. Did I miscount and already rescue the four people? I didn’t see a mission update. I think I’d better head back to the stable and see if they’re all accounted for. I return, and talk to the ones who I rescued, but there’s still one more. So I transport back to the tower again, and glide down from it back to the canyon where I started.
In the midst of this, a new Blood Moon happens, resurrecting all the enemies I had just killed, much to my annoyance. I’d broken the boko bat, and in the meantime had picked up a bunch of lizal boomerangs, which are fine weapons, but they don’t have the knockback power of the big club I had before, which makes the fights a little bit harder this second time through.
I make it to a point where I had a fork in the path on the catwalk, and go the way I didn’t go the first time, and find the fourth hostage, being menaced by two last bokoblins. I take them down and complete the mission.
I find Horsier and mount up and ride to where the man I had met on the road way earlier was stranded, and looking for a new horse. He offers to buy Horsier, but I’m not selling him. But I decide to sell one of my other horses, so I ride Horsier back to the stable, and take out another horse I had, who I had named Horst, and ride him out to sell to the stranded man. He gives me 300 rupees, which ain’t bad.
I transport back to the shrine near the stable, and glide down to the stable area, and talk to the old painter man, who tells me again about the oasis nearby, and I decide that’s where I’ll go next, because that’s where one of my 12 memory photos was taken.
I start out that way, and it’s hot in the wasteland, and in the midday heat, the temperature is too much to endure, and I start taking damage. I retreat back to the shadow of the canyon wall, and hang out for a bit to consider my options. I use the Sheikah scope to scout out a bit and see what’s up ahead.
The road becomes fainter as it extends into the desert, but I can see it runs alongside a slight rise where there are some boulders, and it looks like there may be a few monsters lurking there. I scope a bit more and, yeah, there’s a lizal or two, and a couple of bokoblins, and a couple of yellow chuchus. They’re sitting out in the middle of the sun, and it’s a problem. If I go out there, I’ll take damage from the heat, and I’m slow in the sand, so I won’t be effective at keeping my distance and engaging the enemies on my terms. This means they’ll have an easy time surrounding me and ganging up on me.
I think about lobbing a bomb arrow into the camp and seeing if it will even the odds by softening up multiple targets with my opening shot. A good hit on one of the monsters would kill them, and the splash damage and ensuing fire would likely destroy the chuchus, setting off their lightning burst death throes, and that could in turn fry more of them, leaving them with only a couple of hits worth of life bar left for me to take down with a Sheikah bomb or up close with the boomerang sword.
The shadow of the canyon is long in the morning, and extends nearly to where I would be able to optimally attack from, but I screw it up. I can’t get a good angle to fire the bow with any accuracy, and so instead I try lobbing a Sheikah bomb into the camp. It goes off and does do some damage, but not nearly as much as a bomb arrow would have. Worse, the blast radius isn’t as big, so mostly it has no effect, and only serves to alert the enemies to my presence, and there’s no secondary fires. One of the chuchus does get caught in the blast, and its death explosion may have caught someone in its radius and fried them for me.
The rest of them come streaming out of the little depression they had been hunkering down in, and they come to engage me. I fight pretty well, using my shield, which is something I haven’t done much because for the most part my weapons inventory has been all two-handed weapons, and using the shield, it gives me a number of advantages. I can protect myself against melee attacks and arrows, naturally, but also it seems to confer upon me some additional opportunities to attack quickly when I am engaged with them up close and they attempt to strike me.
I remember this happening in one of the training shrines, but I’m not sure how I’m doing it here. I’m not deliberately trying, but it is apparently fairly easy to trigger the condition that allows you to get extra attacks in. Which is good, because otherwise I’d probably be screwed in this fight.
I prevail, and clean out their camp and then continue down the road to the oasis. I talk to everyone there, and it’s mostly Gerudo. Gerudo are all women, like amazons of the desert, and they have a different language then Hylian, so they throw in some foreign sounding words for flavor. They all make a big deal out of explaining this to me, over and over.
I talk to a Gerudo standing guard as I approach the oasis, and she tells me about Gerudo town and the Divine Beast nearby, which is creating a sandstorm with lightning and is making it dangerous to travel, and no one can approach it. Also, as I am a voe (male) I’m not allowed to go to Gerudo village.
I talk to another Gerudo woman who is looking for a husband, and she tells me she is a skilled tailor. This gives me the idea that I could buy clothes from her, and perhaps pass as female, and get in to Gerudo town. But she doesn’t seem to be interested in selling me clothes. I wonder what she needs from me.
I find a bird-man, a different one from Kass, and he tells me it is too hot for him to go on, and he needs an elixir to cool him down. It so happens that I had whipped up a couple of elixirs before I went into the desert, and offer one to him. This completes a mini-quest without me having to actually do anything, but the reward is a paltry 50 rupees. I sure hope this guy does me a big favor later on, because those elixirs are worth a lot more than that. And now I only have one.
I don’t need it, though, because as I discover, when I equip the frost wand that I won in battle against the ice wizzorobe, it radiates a cooling effect that reduces the temperature around me. This is awesome and makes me feel immersed in a realistic world. I’m very impressed that Nintendo’s designers put so much thought into these details.
The downside is that the wand is very fragile, and it’s not a great weapon by itself. Switching to a different weapon immediately removes the chill effect, but if I actually use the want to create a frost blast, it does cool the immediate area for a bit, which is useful to keep me cool while I switch weapons. So if I get into a fight, I can freeze enemies, switch to a powerful weapon, and finish them, and then switch back to the wand.
In theory, at least. My wand is unfortunately near the end of its life, and will break if I actually use it for anything at this point. So it’s a very fragile lifeline that’s keeping me cool indefinitely, at least until I use it up, and then I’m down to one cool elixir that will give me about 11:30 to figure out what to do before I have to transport out of the desert using the Sheikah slate.
I can also stick to the oasis, which is cooler, and I can travel at night, and stay in shady parts of the desert.
It’s so cool that the game gives you multiple tools that you can potentially use to make your way and survive in these extreme climates. Now that I know aobut this, I’m going to have to make sure I pick up a flame wand when I want to go back to some of the colder parts of Hyrule, so I can explore thoroughly and without time pressure.
I’m not sure what to do next, but it seems like the thing to do is rest up at the oasis, make a few more elixirs so I have something to fall back on when I break my ice wand, and try to plan out the next leg of this journey, and figure out how I’m supposed to get into Gerudo town. I think about maybe going back into the Gerudo highlands to do some more wzzorobe hunting, but I dread facing their frosty might again. I need to get lucky and hit them with my fire arrows before they can freeze me and thaw-kill-thaw-kill me.
I should also try to restock on fairies so I can endure a few combats. I seem to go through them pretty quickly when I’m in a close quarters fight, and in the desert it’s a lot less likely that I can use stand-off tactics with arrows and bombs to avoid having to risk my heart meter.
Starting at Wasteland Tower, I notice on the map that the tower is standing on Spectacle Rock. It doesn’t feel like Death Mountain to me, but what do I know. To me, Death Mountain is in the upper northwest corner of Hyrule, and this is not the north. The tower is standing on the northwest “spectacle” so I decide to check out the other end of it before I take off. It is just a desolate, flat mesa, from what I can tell, and I don’t even find so much as a korok seed on it. Although, I do find one on a smaller hill nearby.
I continue following the East Gerudo Mesa, and start climbing another mountain, called Mount Garajh on the map, and find another korok on the top. This mountain is tall enough to have snow on the top, and it’s cold enough that I take damage even wearing the warm doublet, unless I eat a cold-resistant food, so I can’t spare a lot of time up here.
Nearby, there’s what’s left of an old shack, and here I find a journal left behind by whoever lived here. There’s some clues about how to find a shrine that is nearby. It mentions a pedestal on the top of the mountain, which glows faintly at night, and to reveal the hidden shrine, I have to “cast a cold shadow on it”. I don’t know what that means. What casts a cold shadow?
The tall mountain nearby where I found the korok has a couple of stone pillars topping it that seem like they’re the only thing around that could be a “pedestal”, and I can’t quite tell if they glow or not. I’m not sure, but I think I can see it, maybe, but it may just be the reflected moonlight. It’s hard to tell. They certainly aren’t illuminated like towers and shrines are. But the book does say that it glows “faintly”.
I stand around overnight watching to see if there’s any clue revealed overnight, but there’s nothing to speak of.
I give up and continue south, descending altitude until it’s no longer cold enough to hurt.
I find a few more korok seeds, and a couple of Guardian hulks, and a couple of live ones, which I fight and defeat, earning a bunch of busted ancient technology parts.
Nearby, I find an Ice Wizzorobe, and try to fight it, but I miss with my first arrow, and he’s alerted, and completely destroys me. He freezes me with his ice wand, it one-shots my healthbar, I resurrect with a fairy, and as soon as I thaw out his attack timer has counted down and he freezes me again. I have no chance, and it’s shameful. It wastes all my fairies, and then I die-die. It feels a little unfair.
I restore from my last save, and go at him again, this time using a fire arrow, and it does the trick, he is destroyed with a headshot, well placed and very effective. He drops his ice wand, and I pick it up.
Later on, I use it to take a couple of coyotes that attack me, and discover that it changes their meat drop to “icy prime meat” which has heat resistive power. So that’s very interesting. Not only does it matter what you kill, but how you kill it, and it can drop something different if you destroy it through an elemental attack. This game is full of thoughtful touches like this, it makes me wonder how much I’ll never find because there’s simply too many possible combinations of things. After getting the frozen meat, I die stupidly, and decide to restore from my last save point, and lose the meat. But I make it a point to pick up some if I can get another opportunity.
Continuing down hill back into the Gerudo desert canyon, I find an interesting circular emblem on the canyon wall, and puzzle over it, wondering what it could be, and what it means. There are no answers forthcoming, but I take a snapshot of it for later, in case I see anything similar.
I’m very annoyed with the limitations they programmed into the Sheikah slate camera. I can only take a limited number of photos, and if I add a discovery to my Hyrule Compendium, but later delete the image off of my camera roll, it also deletes it from the Compendium as well. There are way, way more things to take pictures of for the Compendium than there are slots on the camera memory. This is really unfortunate, I would have liked to get a 100% Hyrule Encyclopedia, or at least try to.
I reach the southern border of Hyrule’s west end, an unclimbable cliff face, and can’t continue in this direction. The game explicitly tells me you cannot go further in this direction, so that’s that. I reverse direction and head back north, this time at a lower altitude, the mountains I’d just come over to the east of me.
My Sheikah sensor starts picking up a nearby shrine, and I head in the direction of it, and come to a huge rectangular building with very tall walls. I’d seen it from above, so it’s not a surprise, but it’s still impressive how big this thing is in person.
It is a labyrinth. I glide down to it and land on top, and walk around the outer perimeter first, trying to see if I can make out anything of the layout of the place, but it’s not possible. I run into two bokoblins, both fairly tough ones, and decently well-armed, but I’m fighting with my Soldier’s Claymore, and it hits hard, knocking both of them right off the wall, out of my way to where I can’t fight them. I don’t want to jump down and finish them off, and when I end up down there later I don’t want them to surprise me, so I lob bombs down on them until they die. This takes a while but is the only way to do it that doesn’t involve wasting a lot of arrows for no good reason.
I glide down into the labyrinth, and it’s revealed that it is a shrine challenge. The shrine is in the exact center of the maze, and I just have to find the way to it.
This is easier said than done. I explore the twisty maze of passageways, all alike, and find three treasure chests in the middle of the three quadrants of the rectangle, but have a hard time finding a way to the center.
I get wise and climb the walls to get back on top of the labyrinth, and using a stamina elixir am able to do it. This lets me cheat a bit, I take a random guess and drop down a shaft into the unexplored fourth quadrant, and it leads me to the shrine at the center. I get there, and am rewarded with a suit of armor that buffs my attack power. It’s not great armor, but perhaps it can be enhanced at the fairy pond.
I don’t bother searching for the fourth treasure chest that I infer must be somewhere in the last quadrant of the labyrinth. The others had 50, 100, and 300 rupees, or perhaps an opal, and it’s not worth the time and effort to find it when there are so many easier ways to get those items.
I move on, checking out the corner of the valley, to the northeast of the Labyrinth’s main entrance, and find a couple more korok seeds.
Next, I proceed west, through a narrow pass called the Champion’s Gate, and run into a few lizals, who I kill without much fuss, and pick up a few nice boomerang weapons.
Further up, I reach the barren wastes of the Gerudo desert, where it is too hot during the day to survive in my current outfit, and I do not have any cooked dishes that confer heat resistance.
I find that if I stay in the shadow of the canyon wall, I am just under the heat limit to take damage, so I continue along, following the canyon wall, and hope that the sun doesn’t kill me if it comes around to cast shadows on the other side of the world. It doesn’t, and I eventually make it to an area where I’m close enough to the Divine Camel Beast that I can hear it’s thundering hoofsteps crashing in the distance. It sounds awe inspiring.
I’m at a position just south of the ring of giant statues, and all I need to get to them is to climb over the canyon wall. The first time I attempt this, I run into a live Guardian, who immediately activates and starts advancing towards me. I’m climbing and don’t have any fighting gear equipped, so I jump down to what I think is safety, arm myself, and climb back up, only to find myself nose to nose with the Guardian, who is already targeting me and ready to fire. I miss with my arrow, and it blasts me off the canyon wall, and I die.
I respawn and return to same general area, but climb up a bit further down the wall, and don’t see the guardian anywhere. I cross the mesa and drop down into the ring of giant statues.
At this low altitude, the heat of the day is again damaging, but I can stay in the statue’s shadows and survive as long as I am patient.
Toward the evening, the temperature dips, around 4:30pm I am able to move about freely. I find a ladder going up to a scaffolding around one of the giant statues, and use it to climb up, then look at it up close, find nothing interesting, and move on to the next statue, and the next. I find a korok seed, and then I find a large metal orb, too heavy to lift. I try pushing it and it is too heavy to push. I try placing a bomb next to it, and it shoots off the statue’s arm and crashes into the ground below.
I glide down and, using bombs, nudge it toward a basin with a hole that looks like it was meant to receive the orb. This takes many bombs, but I eventually succeed in bomb-golfing it into place. Nothing happens. I look around and see many more orbs. At this point, I realize that I should try ot use the magnet power, and sure enough this works, and it is much easier to manipulate the orbs this way.
I spent so long with the first orb because of how awkward it was to bomb it into position that the rest of the orbs takes me until the heat of the day has returned, and I have one orb left to go, and I don’t see it anywhere.
Eventually, I discover that I had accidentally put two orbs into one basin, and correct my error. Then, nothing happens. I’m puzzled, but eventually I figure out that the badges that I noticed on the statues match with glyphs on the orbs, and they have to be placed in the correct basin. I use the map to mark the basins that I have correct, and check each on in turn until I have the solution.
A shrine erupts out of the ground, and I’m awarded a spirit orb and a flaming spear.
I now have 6 spirit orbs, so I go to Kakariko village and upgrade my stamina meter again, visit the fairy pond to upgrade my clothing and get my rubber pants enhanced, and then I go to the arrow shop but they are out of normal arrows, so I transport to Hateno village instead, visit Purah, and get my Sheikah slate upgraded to improved bombs. I try to upgrade the Stasis power as well, but I don’t have the right materials for it still.
I visit the shop in town and replenish my bomb arrows and normal arrows, both.
I also talk to a few townspeople, and uncover two new side quests. One has to do with finding a shrine that I already found, it’s in line with the three trees on the mountain tops to the north of the village. I found the korok up there, but didn’t realize that the shrine was in line with them until the lady from the village pointed this out to me.
Then I meet a young boy who asks me about weapons, and he wants me to bring him back some weapons to show him. Specifically, he wants to see a traveler’s sword. OK, fine, I’ll use an inventory slot to store a shitty traveler’s sword so you can see it. I’ll even give it to you. I guess I’ll probably have to show him a few other weapons, and then he’ll give me something. Probably it’ll be shitty, but maybe it’ll be something that belonged to his grandfather and is moderately not-shitty.
In general, the vast majority of rewards in this game are not that great, relative to what I expect to find. Like, in the original Legend of Zelda, I liked finding sword upgrades, the magic wand, the book of spells, the red candle, the red ring, and the magic boomerang. But in BOTW, everything you find is only temporary, and thus can’t be so powerful that it is essential to completing your quest, and so isn’t all that memorable or essential, so it seems like a letdown when you complete a challenge and all you get is some weapon that’s maybe not even better than what you’re already carrying, or like 50 rupees, which is what ONE bomb arrow costs at Hateno market.
Another sidequest I can’t seem to figure out is the guy in Hateno who has a crush on the girl who runs the inn. I’m supposed to talk to her to find out what she loves most, so I can tell him, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to talk to her other than to rent a night in the inn, and this doesn’t advance the quest any. Maybe I need to arrive at a different time of day, but I don’t know. I don’t go to the inn much, and I haven’t gotten anywhere with this sidequest.
Alright, here’s a thing about the enemy AI.
I don’t really care for the way game developers use the term “AI” to mean “enemy behavior”. Most enemy behavior is not remotely close to anything resembling what academics and researchers mean when they talk about Artificial Intelligence. Much “AI” in games is super simple, deterministic, and basically linear. More sophisticated “AI” combines several behavior states into a finite state machine system, where the enemy will shift from one to another depending on context. These can be fairly sophisticated and make the enemies feel almost alive and maybe a little, tiny bit intelligent, but not really. Most of them are super easy to fool, and once you figure out how they are triggered, what their vision radius is, they’re generally pretty easy to kill.
Bokoblins and Lizalfos for example, they seem to have a “home” point on the map, and they will not chase after you beyond a certain distance from this point. It’s like in The Dukes of Hazzard, when the the Duke boys would be on the run, and to get away they would cross the county line, and Sheriff Roscoe couldn’t go after them across the county line… for some reason. Once you’re out of their territory, it’s like they can’t see you anymore, and they don’t care, and they’ll turn around and walk back home.
To some extent that’s reasonable behavior. I wouldn’t chase kids off my lawn for blocks and blocks. Once they’re outside my property line, if they keep running away, I’ll let them. But if they just stand there, and shoot arrows at me, I’m not going to start walking back to my house, take an arrow in the back, act surprised and look around, and then not see them because they’re across the street in plain sight but I can’t see them for some reason, and then give up and head back toward the house, only to get nailed again with another arrow.
But these bokoblin boys sure do!
That’s sad. That an “AI” in such a beautiful game that in many ways is more an attempt to create a realistic model of a fantasy world than any game I’ve played before, still has such poorly developed AI. This can’t be a limit of the hardware, and even the programming, I’m sure, could be done if someone had the notion to develop it.
I think if the bokoblin should be able to still see you, he ought to react to you, as though you’re a threat. He should either attack, or seek cover, or run away, or call for help. They do a lot of these things if you run into their camp area, but if you go outside, they lose interest in you a bit too quickly.
It makes the game easier, and there are times when I’m grateful for it, but I feel like when I run away, and succeed at getting away, I should have to have earned that, by really doing a good job of hiding and not by simply traveling beyond their give-a-damn radius for patrolling their home turf.
I also find it unenjoyable that it’s possible to use lame tactics like firing arrows from extreme range, where you can hit the enemy and do damage to it, but they will never see you or react to you in any way. They do react to the injury, sort of — they get knocked down, get angry, go over and pick the weapon they dropped back up, look around for a few seconds, and then if you don’t show yourself by charging in to finish up the attack, they… forget all about the arrow they just took to the head, and go back to standing around like an idiot waiting for you to finish murdering them.
Better AI would respond to these situations more realistically. Getting hit with an arrow should be a major, life-altering event for an enemy AI, not something you forget about in five minutes, and you go back to standing where you were, only now bleeding.
An enemy that takes a hit should not go back to standing where it was. They should go off and seek healing. They should run over to their friends and tell them what happen, and then the friends should bandage them up a bit, while one or two of the others grab some weapons and armor and head off into the general direction where they think the attack came from, and hunt you. And if you get spotted, sometimes they will come over to attack you, but if you can hit them from way, way far away, well outside their visual range, they never will. It’s like the world doesn’t exist for them outside of the bubble they live in. And there’s plenty of ways to dish damage from a quarter mile off and never be seen. They never seem to look up. If you’re high enough, up a tree or on a tall hill, they’ll never know what’s been raining death on them patiently for minutes.
If you miss with the arrow, and it hits nearby, they’ll be alerted for a few seconds, but again, they’ll decide after a short time “it was nothing” and go back to their idle state, and completely forget about anything that just happened. Well, every time you trigger an enemy from its idle state to an alert state, it should never go quite back to idle again. It should go into a “heightened idle” where it remembers that something funny just happened, and if something funny ever happens again, at least in the next few hours, that should trigger them to go into a higher alert state than the first alert state they went to.
Say something lands by your feet, startling you. You look around to see where it came from. You’re maybe not sure what it even was, you just heard a whoosh and a thud by your feet, but you didn’t actually see it. Maybe you can’t see the arrow, you don’t know exactly where it landed, and they’re hard to spot unless you know where to look, or happen to be looking right at the spot where it hit. So after a second or two, you think to yourself “I don’t know what that was, but that was weird. Huh, oh well.” and you go back to what you were doing. But then it happens a second time. Ok, now you know something is up. Something is out there. You don’t know what. You don’t see it yet. But now your hair is standing on end. You feel as though you’re being watched. You feel vulnerable. You move, and get out of sight, and start eyeing the treeline near the outskirts of your vision, straining to see any glint or motion, or something that wasn’t there before, something that isn’t right.
If something happens again, well, you call your friend over and get them to help you, or you go find your friend. Maybe they sneak out around the back way, out of sight, and start sweeping the general area, looking for you. If you’re not up a tree, motionless and silent, or using some significant stealth buffs, they’re likely to find you, unless you carefully use cover to stay out of sight.
And that’s if you miss. If you hit them, or if you lob a freakin’ bomb into their camp and it goes off with a huge, loud explosion, they ought to damn well behave as though that just happened. A general alarm should go off and everyone should be on alert and they should hunt for whoever did that until they find them, and not give up for a day or two of wide-ranging perimeter patrols. And after that, things should not go back to normal. They should set up an ambush point on the approach to their village, or beef it up if there already was one. They should set some traps or trip-wires or additional fortifications. They should go to high alert much more readily after the first alert, and respond in an escalating fashion where they do more each time something sets them off, until they perceive that the threat has been dealt with, or the unknown has been identified and determined to be harmless.
That’s what it should be like, and that’s what’s missing with from the game, with the “stupid” AI behavior of these enemy creatures.
As well, there should be more variability into what the AIs decide to do next when they change behavior states. The typical AI finite state machine is a series of interconnected behaviors where one behavior state connects to one or more others in the state machine. But most of the time the state changes are too predictable, because they are connected by a rigid, deterministic logic.
For example, if an enemy is on its “high alert” behavior, it will either transition back to “idle” if the enemy isn’t able to detect the player, or elevate to “attack” mode if it is. This is too simple, and leads to the AI agent always behaving in the same way, repeatable and predictable, manipulatable and exploitable.
Instead of that, it would be better if AI agents had behavioral drivers, which model the agent’s decision making. Then the AI’s state machine transitions could be influenced by a complex, less deterministic seeming process. Various factors could enter into an agent’s decision-making: are there other friendly agents near it? Is it injured? How badly? How long has it been since it last was in its sleeping behavior state (ie, is it sleepy?) Is it exhausted? Is it frustrated (has the player been screwing with it a lot?) Has it seen the player? Is it able to tell whether it’s stronger or weaker than the player? Is there a nearby object that it wants, such as a weapon, or food, or some treasure that it guards jealously? Various behavior drivers could influence the agent to make better, more realistic seeming choices to move through its behavior-states, and avoid looping through the same “dumb” behaviors repeatedly, as though the AI has no memory or ability to reason, or to choose between a few roughly equally reasonable behaviors.
I think some day we’ll see this, and it will probably be fairly soon. It might even be in other games that I haven’t played or heard of for all I know. But I think when that level of sophistication becomes normal and expected in video games, they’ll have advanced the state of the art to a new level.
We get a few glimpses of this in BOTW. If an enemy has dropped its weapon when it gets knocked down, it will go and pick it up first before running back to fight the player. So it has a certain priority order in which it decides to do things. But this priority system is as yet too simple and agents always decide the same thing given the same collection of factors. An enemy never gets knocked down, drops its weapon and decide it’s too injured and should run away, or surrender. It always gets back up and grabs its weapon and tries to fight. And when it goes to fight, there are a couple of different tactics that it might use, but mostly it’s charge the player, or stand at a distance and use a ranged attack. A few enemies do have multiple tactics that they can switch from, but for the most part it seems like they make the “decision” randomly, rather than with cunning.
Breath of the Wild does have some amazing stuff in it. The atmosphere created by the Day-Night cycle and the weather system is impressive. The climbing animation and kinematics is very well done. The horse riding is pretty good. The fact that pretty much anything in the game can interact with anything else through the physics system or through elemental effects is amazing. But I’m not impressed with the enemy behavior — it still feels about the same or not much more advanced than what I was seeing in games like Half-Life 20 years ago.
And that’s kindof a shame.
I double check the dragon’s mouth, and re-read the clue the statue gives me. It says I need to get a golden scale from Farosh, which is the name of that dragon I’ve been seeing in the night sky near the Great Plateau and on into the jungle region.
Great, so how do I get a scale from him? The statue says he gives it to me? Huh. OK. The Goddess Hylia will show me the way. Right then.
I leave the dragon’s mouth temple and head back to where I left Horsier. On the way I get ambushed by a couple more lizalfos, and they’re in water deep enough that I have to swim to get close to them, which means I can’t fight, so I can only take them out with bombs and arrows. They’re not particularly strong, but I’m pretty low on normal arrows again, and I’m trying to conserve them. On the way back, I blunder into another bokoblin camp, and wipe them out. My faster weapons have all broken, and all I’m left with right now is high-damage two-handed weapons that are slow and awkward to use against weaker enemies, and it leads to me taking hits from them that I could ordinarily dodge or use my shield or pre-empt with a speedier attack.
I don’t much care for the two-handed heavy weapons. But maybe I just need to use them on the right type of enemy.
I get back, and find Kass the bird-man still sitting there, too, playing his accordion. I talk to him more, but he just tells me the same thing about the “shrine” at the dragon’s mouth, which makes me think I didn’t find something I was meant to, because Kass always tells me something congratulatory after I solve the puzzle in his songs. The place I found isn’t a “shrine” in the sense of the Sheikah Shrine puzzle dungeons that are all over Hyrule, so maybe there’s still one in that general area, waiting to be discovered? Only, my scanner never went off… So, I dunno.
I mount Horsier and we ride down the road, racing past any enemies we come across, until we get to the Highland Stable. I board Horsier there, and then transport to a shrine a little closer to the dragon’s mouth area. It’s still a hike to get there from the shrine, but I save about half the distance. I take a wandering path, checking out anything that looks like a korok seed, and I find several more, getting my total up to about 90.
I encounter a few more of those floaty teleporty guys with the wands, including ones that use fire. I get a picture with my Sheikah camera, and they are indeed Wizzorobes. The fire ones are a little different to fight, as the fire can set blazes nearby you when you dodge them, and you end up taking damage from the secondary burn anyway. I find they are hard to hit with arrows when they dance around, but once in a while they kindof stand still and you can take a shot at them, then run up and hit them a few times, and this is the best way I’ve found to handle them so far. If you don’t have arrows, they’re tough to fight. Arrows knock them down to your level (they seem to float above and a bit out of your normal reach, otherwise) and stun them long enough that you can nail them pretty solidly if you’re quick about it. When you defeat them, they always drop a wand for you, which is a fairly weak weapon, and delicate, but it does elemental damage and has a range effect, which makes it worth having while they last. The fire wands are almost as dangerous to myself as they are to my enemies, though.
I climb a small rocky hill and find a little lake at the top where I see three fairies and a bunch of fireflies. The fairies are high over the water, and it’s hard to get at these ones. I manage to screw up and make noise that scatters them and they disappear. Drat.
I continue northward and encounter a chain of shallow marshy wading ponds, with lots of forage, snails and frogs and plants. I find a couple of korok seeds there, and continuing a bit further, end up in an area I recall from my first trip off of the Great Plateau, down the main road to Kakariko village. I am near the big river with the bridge where I met Brigo the Bridge Guard. There’s the giant fallen hollow tree, where I found one of my first korok seeds, and a swampy low-lying area with a lot of ruins that I haven’t explored. I decide to search the area, and encounter a couple of weaker lizalfos, who I kill without too much difficulty. I get to the far end of the swamp, and there’s a large rock, which wakes up and it’s a big Stone Talus. I don’t have a iron sledge hammer to fight it with, so I mark the spot on the map, and transport back to the Highland Stable again, where there’s a free hammer that I can pick up, and then I transport back to a shrine that is very nearby the site where I found the Stone Talus.
This Talus fight is tougher, because his vulnerable ore-spot is not on top of him, but on his back, high enough that I can’t reach it with the hammer easily. He’s pretty hard to get behind, and when I do he has to be bent backward to make the vulnerable spot low enough that I can hit it, or else I need to be standing on a raised part of the ground. This is very difficult to arrange. I try jump attacking at the spot, but this isn’t really any easier.
I find if I climb up his back, and roll a my round and square Sheikah Slate bombs down his back, and detonate them, they do enough damage that it’s a worthwhile little bit extra. Then I can jump off his back and do a falling attack, which is tough to connect with, but works maybe half of the time or less. When I do manage to hit with the hammer, it does a big chunk of the Stone Talus’s life bar, about 1/5th or so. I also equip bomb arrows and when I can, I get a shot off at him, hitting twice, and the combination of all that manages to defeat him, but only after he hits me 3 different times, forcing me to eat two foods to keep my health up. The reward for victory is the usual massive gemstone drop, which to be honest isn’t such a great reward at this point, as I’ve found dozens of amber and other minerals, and don’t have much use for them still. Despite that, the Stone Talus fight is pretty enjoyable, about “just right” as far as the challenge level I can handle, and I like the battle music.
Having vanquished the Talus, I complete exploration of this swamp ruins area, and find a couple of hidden chests, and some animal and plant forage, and then I head back over the hills intending to make my way back toward the wooded river area that leads to the Dragon’s mouth and see if there’s more stuff I missed there, which I’m sure there is, but if it’s just forage and minor enemies, I don’t care about it. I only want to find a shrine or some clues that can tell me how to proceed on the main quest.
On my way back, I come to that fairy pond that I found earlier, and the fairies are back. I manage to capture two of them, but spook the third one away. Still, not bad, and it’s very good to have two fairies again.
I make my way own into the wooded area and find another small bokoblin camp. This makes the third or fourth one that I’ve cleared out in the area, and I wonder how many more there must be. You can’t see far at all from the ground here, which makes finding things much harder. I could walk right past something and have it be on the wrong side of a tree or a river bank, and never know it was there.
Champ Games revealed their latest project last night: an Atari 2600 port of Robotron 2084. One of the best videogames of all time.
The announcement, released through ZeroPageHomebrew’s twitch.tv stream, comes a year after Champ announced their homage to Galaga, later renamed Galagon. Champ is also working on an Atari 2600 port of early 80s arcade classics Zookeeper and Lunar Lander, both of which look fantastic even in pre-release work-in-progress states.
The video stream doesn’t start to show the actual Robotron gameplay until about an hour in.
Champ have been consistently delivering amazing port of classic games on the Atari 2600 platform that far exceed the system’s original capabilities, and play very close to arcade-perfect. This version looks a tad bit slower and not as smooth, but is incredible considering it is running on an Atari 2600. There’s an ARM processor inside the cartridge helping out, too.
This is a must-own port of a classic game if you own an Atari 2600, and it’s on my very short list of eagerly awaited Atari 2600 games that I want but don’t have.
Even if 2020 is a complete dystopian hellscape, at least we’ll have Robotron and Zookeeper to play during our indefinite social distancing and sheltering at home. That makes it almost OK, right?
It turns out there’s a few areas I had yet to explore in the jungle region.
I get on my horse and take a ride out on the road, and let him take me where he wants to go, and I end up in a part of the map I hadn’t wandered to on my own. Somehow or other I had just missed this entire branch of the road, and it takes me through some low-lying jungle floor part of Faran.
I don’t get to explore much, for one because I’m on horseback, but more because it’s raining like hell again, and I am dodging thunderbolts. I forget that I’m equipped with a metal weapon until I start sparking, and just in the nick of time do I put it away, and thanks to Horsier’s speed, I just barely evade a humongous thunder blast that crashes behind me. Wow.
I continue on the road a ways, until I notice a bridge up ahead, and I almost stumble right into a bokoblin treehouse. This one is up an embankment to the right of the road I’m following, and there’s a ramp leading up to it, but it’s destroyed, and I have to climb up a tall tree right next to their platform, and jump over. Fortunately the bokoblins are pretty weak, and I take them down quickly. I find an opal, and a few arrows, which is good, because I’m all out of normal arrows.
I’m also hearing Kass’s accordion song again, and after crossing the bridge I find him at the road side, and here he’s singing a song about a dragon and a secret shrine that’s located in its jaws.
I puzzle over what this could mean, and continue down the road a ways, and run into an ambush of lizalfos, which I just ride through, speeding up a bit, but then not much past them I run into another ambush of bokoblins. These guys have arrows, and I want them, so I dismount and run them down, killing them all pretty quickly, without taking too much damage. I manage to get up to 19 arrows, pretty good replenishment up from 0 without having to spend a rupee.
A little further down the road, I run into a girl who I’ve encountered a few times, who is always talking about dragons. Something she says clues me in to check the map for a river that looks like a dragon, and sure enough, there’s a river that looks to me like a dragon. But it’s clear on the other end of the jungle area. I look again at the map, and there’s another river nearby that looks like a dragon too, and I decide this looks more like a dragon than the other one (I mean, who knows, really, and is it really a contest?) but this one has a much more pronounced delta that looks like jaws, so I go to check it out.
It seems the most direct way is to follow the river, which means leaving Horsier behind. I dismount near the bridge, and right by the bridge, there’s three rocks in the river. Two of the rocks have smaller rocks on top of them, and the third rock is bare. I scan the water with magnet-vision, and spot a third rock. This seems like a novel korok puzzle, but I can’t figure it out. The rock in the water was chained to one of the other rocks, and the slightest movement causes the first rock to fall off the rock. It’s extremely touchy, even with plenty of slack on the chain, so I feel like it’s an unfairly difficult puzzle due to poor physics simulation of the chain.
After several minutes of frustrating attempts, I finally try arranging ice blocks to hold the rock in place, but it doesn’t work. I give up and move on down the river.
Further in, I find a circle of water plants in the river, which I know from other ones is another korok spot. I jump in and find my guy.
I’m up to 78-79 korok seeds, and have yet to find Hestu again to give him more of them. Where the hell could he be? I first encountered him on the road, maybe I should try traveling down more roads, instead of veering off all the time to check out the local forage or hunt for more korok seeds. But the road has a lot more encounters, and if you want to get anywhere, you need to avoid them. But if I want to find a guy who’s known to hang out on the side of the road, I can’t avoid them!
Well, I continue down the river, and check the map to note my progress and correct course every so often.
Eventually, I get up to the area near the mouth of the river. I encounter two lizalfos ahead of the mouth, and then I enter into an open area. There are a couple of small, primitive foot bridges crossing some water into the center of the delta, and I can see stone ruins, pillars, and statues that have an ancient look to them.
Upon entering into the area, I’m immediately attacked. Horn blasts, and then lightning arrows. The lizalfos here are well equipped, and there’s a good 8 of them, I think. I’m quickly incapacitated by a shock arrow, and drop my weapon, and then am killed quickly thereafter.
I try again, with another frontal assault, feeling I’m ready this time, but I’m really not, and I quickly go down again. The lizalfos are so fast afoot, jumping and dashing, and they are hard to close to fight hand to hand. And at range, I can’t move much while I try to aim, and the arrows don’t do enough damage to take them down quickly. So I don’t have much good options to take them on this way, and my execution is even worse than my non-existent tactics.
Determined, I take a sneakier approach on my third attempt, and skirt around the outside of the kill zone. I stalk the lizalfos, one at a time, and kill them quietly, a single shock arrow to the head in most cases, and in some cases at extreme range, angling my shot to arc high into the air in order to get the range I need to connect. This works much better, and I clear the area methodically, probing ahead cautiously and backing off when I find the next target, assessing, and then taking it out with cruel, merciless stealth.
At the far end of the kill zone there’s an ancient stone construction built to look like a dragon’s head.
The mouth of the dragon is guarded by two more powerful lizalfos, but I spot them from far off, and take them down the same as I did the first 8, the only difference being that these two take several arrows to bring down.
The final enemy is a moblin, even more powerful than the two elite lizalfos. This one I could probably take on hand to hand, but I’m in bow mode, and I just lob bomb arrows in from probably the maximum possible range I can hit from using the bow, and drop him. In all, I’ve expended a small fortune on special arrows, but it was worth it, I had an easy time and got through it by using my abilities effectively and planning.
Inside, I’m expecting the usual shrine, but instead of that, I found a different sort of… I guess temple? Altar? Whatever you want to call it, it’s a statue, similar to those where I’ve prayed at to trade spirit orbs for heart containers or stamina meter upgrades. This one tells me about a quest, that I need to find a scale from this dragon, and then do something with it? I’m kinda vague on what I remember from this. I’ll go back and read it again.
Also, on top of the dragon head temple, there’s what looks like another korok puzzle, a rock block arrangement that I have to match to the one next to it. This one appears to be missing perhaps two blocks, so I go looking for blocks. Much later, it dawns on me that maybe the first one has the extra block that needs to complete the other one, so rather than one needing two blocks, one needs to give one to the other. Sure enough, that’s the solution, and I feel so smart that I figured it out on my own by just intuition and reading the obscure visual language of the puzzle correctly. This one was more difficult than most, but not as frustrating as the river stones that were chained together.
Hmm, I wonder if I hit the chain with a strong weapon if it might break, and then I could… Hmmmm.
I’m sure there must be a lot more in the area, but it’s night and not a good time to be foraging in a place that’s likely hostile and I’m not confident I’ve completely cleaned out the entire area, although for the immediate moment I appear to be alone and safe.
I wish there was a fire nearby that I could sit next to until morning, but you know how that goes.
I continued exploring the jungle region. Climbing again up the bluffs behind the Lakeside Stable, I find large statue with what might have once been an altar in front of it. I don’t know if there’s anything here to do or not, but I try various things and nothing does anything.
I take advantage of my altitude to look around a bit, but I don’t see much of anything that I haven’t seen, although I’m getting a bit different perspective. Down below, there’s another bokoblin camp, and I drop bombs on it for a while until the two blue bokoblins are taken out, then drop down and take care of the sentry on the tower. I loot whatever drops, and move on.
Continuing West, I run once again into the two sisters, Nat and Meghyn, who hunt truffles outside of Hateno village. They’re under attack again, and this time they get knocked senseless by their attackers, who I drive off a bit slowly. They’re just stunned, though, and are revived after I rescue them.
I have found several truffles, so I try to offer them one, but the game doesn’t allow it. I hold it and stand next to them, I try to talk to them, I tried even putting the truffle down on the ground in front of both of them, but they ignore it. They say they’re out here risking their safety to find a truffle, and here I am giving them what I have so they can return home and be safe, but there’s nothing.
This is a broken moment, I wish that the programmers had thought of this situation and accounted for it.
I move on, and come to the boundary that separates the jungle zone from the next area, and it looks like I’m coming into the area where the Horse God dwells. There’s a road that goes along the border, and I follow it a bit, and find a few more korok seeds.
I’m now up to nearly 80 korok seeds, and since first encountered Hestu, and gave him all the seeds I had at the time, that puts me over 80 and probably close to 90. I feel like I’ve been playing a game that should have been titled, Korok Quest: And Incidentally Link.
I’m not figuring anything out, I’m just on a mission to explore the world, lift every rock, climb every tree and mountain, and look at everything, but so far there’s been next to nothing about the main mission of the game, defeating Ganon. The Shrine tests don’t do anything other than give me a puzzle to solve. But they don’t tie into the story. They purport to prove my worth as a hero, and that’s fine, and the challenges themselves are mostly OK, though not amazing, but I really wish that they had designed them in such a fashion that they would reveal clues and story. Like, a clue to where the next shrine is. Or tell me who this Monk was, and let him tell me about Hyrule, Ganon, Zelda, or anything, really. My only real driver for finding shrines is that they put me 1/4 closer to a heart container or stamina meter upgrade, and a waypoint that I can teleport back to if I decide that I haven’t found enough korok seeds out in that part of the world yet.
But there’s jack shit out in the world telling me about how to find the Four Legendary Beasts, What to do when I find them, How to defeat Ganon, more about what Happened 100 years ago, or any of that stuff. I know that it must be out there. I haven’t found 10 of the 12 photographic memory spots yet. But there’s TWELVE of those, and there’s got to be a good 200+ korok seeds in the world, and I believe north of 100 shrines, although I have not found that many myself — not that I’ve been counting, but I think I’ve probably cleared maybe 16 to 20 altogether thus far. Most of the time, my sensor doesn’t detect anything when I’m exploring, so I must have cleaned out the parts of the world that I’ve been to. But I keep finding ridiculous amounts of korok seeds and forage and hidden weapons everywhere I go.
I continue following the road until it is clear that if I go further, I’ll be leaving the jungle area, so I turn off and head back into it. I find yet another korok, and then I encounter a sleeping red Hinox, who I defeat pretty easily. He manages to hit me one time, but with my armor equipped it doesn’t one-shot me, I take a mid-combat meal and recover, and take him down. He’s got some decent item drops, including some Knight’s-level arms.
Moving on, I find more hidden treasures in the water, and by this river, encounter that same odd hovering, teleporting, lightning shooting creature. It looks like maybe a Wizzorobe? But it’s wearing white. I get excited and forget to photograph it to get an ID for sure, and I don’t notice it displaying a name on-screen when I target it. This time I manage to take it down with a couple of good arrow shots. I’m running low on arrows again, down to just 4. Hitting it with the bow stuns it, and gives me ample time to hit it again, which I do, and it only takes two arrows to take it down. I happen to have a pretty nice bow equipped, which has an attack rating of 36, so other bows probably take a few more shot than that. I don’t think I headshot it, but maybe that happened, and made it a relatively easy encounter. The creature, whatever it is, drops its lightning rod, when I kill it, which fills my last weapon slot. This is a cool weapon, a bit inexact, and not great damage, but it gives me a range alternative for weak enemies, and can be used effectively to fight meta-users and aquatic creatures.
Crossing the river and going up another level, I find a large, flat, open area, and spot my second Lynel. This one is red. He’s also equipped with lightning weapons, and has very good vision. He sees me a long way off, and I try to run, but he comes up and even though I think I’ve gotten far enough away that he should have reset back to his idle AI behavior, he’s still tracking me, and hits me at long range with a thunderbolt, taking me out in one shot.
I experiment a few times, going up against him with different equipment, but nothing makes a bit of difference, he simply outclasses me, and by a large margin.Looking at my photo album of clues to the story, it looks like one of the photos was taken somewhere in this area, but I haven’t been able to find it. I see palm trees and ferns and square-shaped red rock formations, and what looks like some kind of building near a lake, but I have yet to encounter it. It feels like I’ve been all over this part of the map, pretty thoroughly by now, but of course it’s very possible that I’ve missed a huge swath of land somewhere. And of course, I have not really been anywhere near where that Lynel is patrolling. Although, I have come up adjacent two its area from two different directions, now.
I wonder how I’ll ever become powerful enough to stand toe to toe against one of those things.