“Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is a rare treat that comes along every decade or so — a game that moves the entire medium forward.
It’s receiving near-universal praise from critics — reviews aggregation site Metacritic lists the game with a 98/100 average score, based on 67 reviews. It’s being hailed as a “new classic,” and rightfully so: It’s a tremendously good game.
Beyond just being really good, “Breath of the Wild” is a truly difficult game. It’s also wide open — you can go virtually anywhere in the massive open-world of Hyrule. And that combination of difficulty and openness means that you’re likely to want some guidance as you venture into the wild.
We’ve got just that guidance below, based on my own experience and that of many other reviewers across the world. Let’s begin.
WARNING: THERE ARE MINOR SPOILERS BELOW FOR 'THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD!' IF YOU DON'T WANT ANYTHING SPOILED, TURN BACK NOW!
There's a lot to see in Hyrule, and you're more or less unequipped to go anywhere. You've got no weapons, no shields, no armour, and no food to help you survive. Figuring that stuff out on your own is the easy part. It's the little stuff that you'll need help with.
Let's start with the stamina meter -- that little yellow circle above Link's head that appears while climbing, running, gliding, or using special attacks. It runs out pretty fast!
1. While climbing, the stamina meter is especially crucial -- running out of stamina could mean a fall to your death. So here's a tip: try to avoid jumping while climbing, however much faster it is.
The jump saves you some time, but is a risky move if you're climbing something tall. You might think that the distance covered in the jump is equal to the amount of stamina it would have taken to climb there. That isn't the case -- the jump actually uses more stamina than the amount it would take to climb the same distance.
The jump-while-climbing manoeuvre becomes more useful as you play the game, when you're scaling stuff constantly and know you have more than enough stamina to get where you're going. It's a nuanced move that requires experience with climbing in the game to know whether or not you're gonna fall to your death. Lay off it at the start!
2. To extend your stamina meter, you'll need to visit the many, many shrines all over Hyrule -- like this one:
You must acquire four Spirit Orbs to increase health or stamina. They can be traded at various religious altars throughout Hyrule:
3. While we're talking about stamina, let's look at climbing -- you'll be doing a lot of this. And, often, what you're trying to climb will seem unclimbable with your level of stamina. Here's a tip: Look for diagonal edges, or intentionally placed footholds, for a place to regain stamina mid-climb.
4. One last note: If you think you're not going to make the climb, let go as early as you can and glide safely down. The last thing you want is to fall to your death, forcing you to re-do a bunch of stuff.
Survival is hard in the wilds of Hyrule. Even if the monsters aren't trying to kill you, the elements are persistent. Simply put: You're going to die a lot. Like, a lot.
There are dozens of recipes to cook from the food you hunt, forage, and pick in Hyrule. But how to cook them? Simple:
- Find a fire with a stone hearth above it (seen above).
- Go to your inventory, select a food item, then choose 'Hold.' You can add more items, up to five, into your hands while in the inventory.
- Exit the inventory while standing next to the fire, and the game will offer and option to 'cook.' Select that!
6. You can use cooked meals to replenish health, increase certain attributes (defence, strength, resistance against elements, etc.), and to make money (sell meals to merchants!). They're crucial as you explore various environments and fight your way through the brutal world of 'Breath of the Wild.'
There's a whole mess of different recipes in 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' that you'll want to use. The long and short is this: You can combine proteins (meat) with most vegetables for a nutritious, healing meal. There's a solid list of recipes right here.
7. Another tip: If you're going to sell your meals, make sure to use five ingredients for maximum ROI (return on investment -- we are a business publication, y'know).
8. While we're talking survival, let's talk about fighting. Weapons degrade over time, and arrows are limited. But you know what's unlimited? Bombs!
9. Bombs aren't the most powerful weapon, but there is a way to upgrade them. You'll want to head over the Hateno Village with some ancient machine parts, and speak with the folks at the Hateno Ancient Tech Lab. They will hook you up!
You can get ancient machine parts by killing guardians, or finding treasure chests inside of shrines. As often as you possible can, seek out treasure chests in shrines -- it's almost always worth it!
9. You can upgrade each of your runes at the Hateno Ancient Tech Shop in this way, using ancient machine parts. It's unlikely you'll find a lot of ancient cores (or giant ancient cores) early on, but I've mostly found them in shrine treasure chests.
10. Part of the magic of 'Breath of the Wild' is how alive its world feels. Hyrule's many characters are surprisingly developed, and many offer major clues to secrets -- some outright offer side quests.
This is an especially important tip to follow after defeating each 'Divine Beast.' Re-visit the town you just left -- in the case of the Gerudo Desert, re-visit the Gerudo Town, for instance -- and talk to everyone. You may find new rewards, new side quests, or simply an end to a story arc or two.
This concept is nothing new to video games -- of in-game characters reacting to story developments -- but 'Breath of the Wild' makes it especially rewarding.
In the image above, I'm riding Epona from 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,' and by my side is Wolf Link from 'The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess' -- all within 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.' But how?!
By using amiibo -- this works for both the Switch or Wii U versions of the game -- you can unlock Epona and Wolf Link in 'Breath of the Wild.'
In the case of Epona, you'll need the Link amiibo that comes from 'Super Smash Bros. for Wii U' -- the one in the green tunic. For Wolf Link, there's a new amiibo of Wolf Link himself that you'll need. He only has three hearts, so he can be taken down by enemies pretty quickly. You can re-spawn him once every 24 hours.
There are other bonuses and unlocks associated with other amiibo. Give them a shot and see what happens!
The game's tower system is useful for two reasons that might not seem immediately apparent:
1. Towers offer a means of seeing a massive area of the game's world at once. You can use your Shiekah Slate to zoom in on potentially interesting places, and then tag them directly on your map from there. And you should be doing this: It's the primary means of discovering cool stuff in 'Breath of the Wild' (at least in my experience). It's also a great way to spot shrines in the distance.
2. Towers are fast-travel spots, and gliding down from them is an easy way to get from place to place. Often I find myself fast-travelling to a tower nearest to where my mission objective is, then floating as far in that direction as possible.
13. That said, take the road instead of the woods or mountains. You'll find vendors, side missions, and lots of other stuff.
14. Stay under a roof of some type in lightning storms! You will die if you are struck by lightning!
15. If something looks 'off' or strange, you should probably go explore that. It could be a one-off secret, of which there are many. It could also be a Korok!
And Koroks are important, because they give you Korok seeds. These little guys are everywhere. If there's a circle of rocks, perhaps there's a reason it's there. If there's a lone rock on top of a mountain peak, there's almost certainly a Korok underneath (old Hyrule saying).
Oh, and why do Korok seeds matter? Because you can upgrade your inventory slots by trading in Korok seeds to the Korok Man on the road to Kakariko Village. Boom!
16. Turn on the game's 'Pro' HUD (heads up display) mode! Notice how the screen below only has hearts in the upper left corner, and none of the UI stuff that's normally in the lower right? That's the 'Pro' HUD. It makes a pretty game look even prettier!
You turn on the 'Pro' version of the HUD by going to the game's options menu and selecting 'Pro' from the 'HUD mode' toggle.
17. Save early, save often. Save before missions, save after missions, save after particularly tough fights. Truly, seriously: Save constantly.
18. Don't be afraid of running. You're almost certainly going to encounter an enemy that's far more powerful than you at some point. Play it smart, and run for your life.
19. Fast-travel is your friend. When in doubt -- before a big mission, for instance -- don't hesitate to fast-travel back to, say, Kakariko Village to stock up or prepare yourself.
20. Get you a horse! If you don't happen to have the Link amiibo, there are wild horses all over Hyrule. Sneak up on one and mount it!
Finally, this isn't a tip so much as it is reassurance: Stick with it! The further you get, the less you'll die.
'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' feels punishing -- punitive to the point of 'Dark Souls,' almost -- at the start. You die a lot, and it's not always clear what happened. Maybe you just ran into an enemy who was strong enough to kill you in one hit. Maybe you don't have any armour yet. Maybe you tried getting to the shrine in the mountains without any cold resistance food (it's made with red peppers).
I assure you, it's worth it to persist. You'll soon have plenty of health, stamina, and strong weapons. 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' rewards discovery. It is a game that encourages exploration and determination with delightful treasure. Telling you what those treasures are could ruin the surprise, but rest assured: You should stick with it.
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