BotW: inverted challenges…

Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a third-person open-world exploration/puzzle/combat game with some elements drawn from RPGs. There’s some variety in playstyles, but no real choices that would differentiate one person’s save-game from another’s. Once you’ve progressed past a certain point, you can do anything that anyone else has done in the game, simply by swapping in the appropriate gear.

Assuming you have the twitch reflexes and well-honed console skills to pull it off, of course. Personally, I suck at precisely-timed button/button/stick combos, so many of the “easy strats” you can find on gaming sites and Youtube are almost impossible for me to pull off reliably, while a straightforward sword/board/bow-focused slugfest worked just fine for getting me through the main story and the major side quests.

Since I went through the main quests methodically, I saw a generally sensible progression in difficulty. Puzzle and combat shrines started off easy, outdoor fights that were obviously too hard were avoidable and could be returned to later (much later…), and most problems had multiple solutions. Creative use of the special powers you pick up along the way makes it possible to cheese your way through situations where your gamepad skills aren’t up to par.

Usually. There are certain things, however, that I just can’t pull off reliably.

  1. Rapid headshots; there’s a significant benefit to hitting certain creatures in the head, and sometimes specifically in the eye. In certain situations you can slow down time long enough to line up a precise shot, but in real-time, I often miss, with messy results.

  2. Perfect blocks; get it right, and your enemy takes all the damage from the attack he just hit you with. Get it wrong, and he gets another free shot while you’re rolling on the ground recovering. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got the timing down against Guardians, but then I’ll suddenly miss 80% of them, lose half my health, and break three shields.

  3. Flurry of blows; this combines the precise timing of a perfect block with pressing the left stick in a specific direction. As a result, I think I’ve done it half a dozen times accidentally, and never when I needed it.

Mastering all of these skills makes combat much, much easier, leading to Typical Internet Responses for anyone foolish enough to ask questions about how to deal with situations those skills make trivial.

I went through a pretty standard progression, using a walkthrough just enough to expand my inventory and work around the weapon frailty system. That means I visited a lot of shrines to boost my health and stamina, wandered all over the map collecting things to craft food and upgrade my armor, defeated the four preliminary bosses, and then set the final boss battle aside while I acquired and upgraded the best gear in the game, until I was sure I could survive the fight long enough to win.

It was a cakewalk. Out in the world, I could still get my ass handed to me by carelessly engaging a group that turned out to have neighbors, overlooking a distant enemy that could stun or disarm me, taking on two guardians at once and suddenly having three leveled-up undead and two ninjas spawn, or, say, being spotted at long distance by a silver-maned lynel who has AoE arrows.

Main boss? I think he knocked me down once at the start of the fight because I was trying to take a picture of him. Then I just shot him with arrows until the fight moved outdoors, at which point I shot him with even better arrows (supplied by a special this-fight-only bow that can’t run out of ammo).

I checked the FAQs and walkthroughs, and there are all sorts of things that can happen in the big battle, but I never saw any of that; the only brief change was that right before he went down for the first time, he gained an energy shield, and kicking off Urbosa’s special took that down so I could shoot more arrows. I didn’t even use any specials in the outdoor fight; I just aimed where Zelda told me to.

I got into more trouble cleaning up outside the castle after it was over. I still have difficulty taking down lynel without suffering a ton of damage and/or breaking multiple weapons. But I could kill the Big Bad any time, just to show someone the ending scene, no problem.

I’ve got a bunch of shrine quests and DLC content to go through now, and now that I have some basic franchise knowledge and console skills, I may play through again on hard, but for that, I’ll stack the deck in my favor. Literally; I ordered a set of fake amiibo cards that shower you with loot once every 24 hours. (turns out I had just enough left over from that silly Paypal/Ebay gift card I got for Christmas a while back…)

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