The Worst Mission In The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

After dozens of wonderful hours playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I finally came across a bad mission. It's bad enough to serve as a point of reference for just how good the rest of the game is. It sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise beautifully manicured hand.

I'm talking about a mission called "The Lost Pilgrimage," which takes place in the Lost Woods outside of the Great Hyrule Forest. I will say up front that I have not played every mission in Breath of the Wild, so it is possible there's something worse buried somewhere in the game. But this mission is bad enough that I'm just gonna call it the worst.

"That mission is a dumpster fire," said Kotaku's new features editor Chris Kohler upon hearing that I was writing this article. "That mission is the Final Fantasy XV Chapter 13 of Breath of the Wild," he elaborated, "except Chapter 13 doesn't last as long."

Hyrule Forest is a sun-dappled enclave surrounded by a chilly, foggy maze that swallows any who lose their way. Once you've successfully made your way through the Lost Woods for the first time, you can easily travel to and from the forest center, where you can speak with the Deku Tree, trade in Korok seeds, and kill yourself attempting to get the Master Sword.

You can also set back out into the Lost Woods to take on one of four Korok Trials, each of which will lead you to a new shrine. The Lost Pilgrimage was the second of these trials that I attempted.

Head northwest of the Deku Tree and you'll find a Korok named Tasho standing on a rock in the fog. He tells you that his friend Oaki has set off to find the shrine alone. Oaki really wants to make it all the way to the shrine by himself, but Tasho is nervous about him. Would Link, whom most of the Korok affectionately call "Mr. Hero," please follow along and make sure Oaki gets to the shrine in one piece?

When Tasho mentioned that I shouldn't let Oaki see me, that probably should have set off some alarms. What would happen if he saw me? Would I... instantly fail the mission?

Insta-fail stealth missions, a term for any mission during which you must restart from the beginning if you trip up and get spotted, are among the most outdated and frustrating design tropes in gaming. Even Ubisoft, loath though they may seem to retire a formula, have begun to reduce these sorts of missions in their recent stealth games. Surely Breath of the Wild, a game that embraces player choice and creativity at every turn, wouldn't stoop to including an insta-fail stealth mission, right?

Right??

...Wrong. The Lost Pilgrimage is indeed an insta-fail stealth mission, and a particularly thankless one at that. At the outset I took a potion to raise my stealth rating, thinking I could easily keep my distance and follow Okai to his destination without being seen. My plan was immediately complicated by the fact that Oaki is a bland grey colour that almost completely blends in with the fog and grass around him.

Can you spot Oaki? Because he's standing right in front of me.

You're probably not supposed to be able to easily see Okai, but he's carrying some gear that loudly rattles around and regularly talks to himself. As long as you pay attention, you can keep track of him.

Even with Oaki's camouflage, I thought this challenge wouldn't be too bad. I kept some distance and kept moving, pausing when he paused, and keeping him within my sight. I took a detour around some trees and…

Oh, hell. We're still in the Lost Woods, which means that if you go too far off the beaten path you get swallowed up by the fog. Surely that just puts you back on the path and lets you proceed, right? Nope.

OK, so we can't go too far off the path in any direction. That means we're funneled onto a straight path behind Oaki, and if we deviate too far in any direction we'll have to start over. Let's try again, staying right behind the little guy. He follows a scripted path each time, so this shouldn't be too tough.

On the second or third time through, the beats have already become familiar: Follow Oaki as he spots a tree he remembers, pause as he thinks he hears something and stops walking, wait for him to dodge the branches that fall. When he gets to the hollowed-out log, carefully move alongside it and wait for him to come out the other end.

Follow him across the field after the log, and he'll stop and say "is someone there?" Your heart catches in your chest, but you stay still. He then starts walking forward again. All clear! You start to follow him and and…

...without warning, he turns around and runs straight into you.

The game has already established that you shouldn't move very far off of the linear path behind Oaki, lest you be forced to start over. Given that the player will almost certainly be carefully following near to Oaki, having him turn around and run backward is a pretty low trick for the designers to pull. Few players would have been prepared for their target to unexpectedly run backward toward them, and Link is too slow while sneaking for any but the luckiest players to react in time to get out of sight.

So, it's all the way back to the beginning to replay the entire sequence from the start. What initially seemed like a straightforward creep through the woods starts to feel like it might never end.

Yes, Oaki, I fucking remember this tree too.

Once more Oaki follows his little script; he remembers the tree, he thinks he hears someone, he sees the branches fall, he heads through the hollowed-out tree, he crosses the field. Now you're faced with a conundrum. What are you going to do when he turns around and runs backward?

It's hard to know when he'll stop running or how far he can see if he turns around, so you'll probably just have to wing it. Even after I knew his about-face was coming, I failed a couple more times after Oaki ran toward me. Each failure meant starting the whole thing over yet again, and yet again.

By that point I had entered a state of mind familiar to most who play video games. I'd sunk too much time into this stupid mission to give up now, but I was definitely not having fun. Once more into the breach, dear friends, let's follow Oaki and see how it goes.

By the third or fourth time he turned around, I had worked out that I could go off to the right and hide behind a large tree root. I'd have to move myself around the tree, perfectly timing it with Oaki as he ran backward. I had to stay pretty close to the clearing or the fog would eat me and force a restart, but I couldn't get too close or Oaki would spot me, which would also force a restart. Figuring out just where to stand took some trial and error.

After the turnaround sequence, Oaki declares that he's "not scared one bit" and begins to move quickly forward. You'll have to run along behind him or risk losing sight of him in the fog. He reaches a small clearing and… a wolf howls. Calamity! Little Oaki is under attack! Time for some snap decision making.

"Help me, Mr. Hero!" Oaki cries out, spurring you to action. He needs help! He's under attack! Surely this is what Tasho was talking about when he asked you to keep an eye on him, right? Time to make your presence known and save the day!

Only..

…actually, no. You weren't supposed to do that. If you respond to Oaki's EXPLICIT CALL FOR HELP, he'll get mad and you'll fail the mission. Back to the very start, my friend. Time to do it all over again.

Once more through the woods, to the tree Oaki recognises. Once more through his hesitations and forward jogs, the tree branches that fall, the hollowed out tunnel, the clearing. Once more past the point where he panics and runs backward, once more to the wolf. Now what?

I'm not sure if there's one set way you're supposed to deal with the wolf, but I shot it with an arrow and it died. I also lost track of Oaki and, while looking for him, accidentally stumbled right on top of him and failed the mission once again. Back to the start.

At this point it had been more than a half an hour. My patience had long since evaporated, but I was going to finish this mission if it killed me. The only thing bringing me solace was knowing that I could eventually write a Kotaku article about how bad it was.

Through the woods I followed Oaki, and when we arrived at the wolf clearing, the beast was nowhere to be seen. Praise be! The wolf doesn't respawn! I stayed behind Oaki and, at long last, I reached the ending. The little guy stood triumphantly in front of the shrine, then turned around to face me.

My heart sank. I still didn't quite believe I'd really made it. Part of me was sure I was about to be thrown all the way back to the beginning. Maybe this time there'd be two wolves waiting in the woods.

But no, it really was over.

Yeah, Oaki. You're a real frickin Lancelot.

The shrine ahead was mine to enter, and that's just what I did.


I dislike The Lost Pilgrimage not just because it's cheap and frustrating, but because it's antithetical to what I love so much about Breath of the Wild. This is a game that inspires so much joy from letting you solve its puzzles in a variety of ways. The people who made it want you to break the rules and bend their game to your will. By contrast, The Lost Pilgrimage felt so rigid and punishing that I quickly stopped wanting to experiment. I just wanted it to be over.

It is, of course, possible that there are indeed creative ways around parts of the mission that I didn't think of. I've seen some players talking about using Link's Stasis module to make it easier to see Oaki, for example. My boss Stephen Totilo tells me that he beat it on his first try by skirting the trees and being careful, which, wow, ok. But the mission's overall inflexibility and immediate, time-wasting punishment for failure still set it apart from the rest of the game.

Upon entering the shrine that served as my reward for finishing, I was greeted with the following message:

"By entering this place," the spirit of the shrine told me, "you've already proven your worth." I don't know about my worth, but I sure proved my patience.


Comments

    Holy crap.... What a massive article making a big deal out of nothing...

    This isn't that hard, I had the Sheika boots on the mute my footsteps and just followed him through the route on my first attempt.

    This is far from the worst thing in this game. I'm a bit lost for words by how over the top your reaction is, so I'll end by saying "Get good".

      I agree, such drama queens these Kotaku staff are. I finished it second go, I got caught first time in the hollowed tree. I put on my Shiekh gear and nailed it.

        Every time there's stuff on difficult missions in a game there is always some sad tosser who tells you how it easy it was. These children think playing games is simply a skill competition between players.

          Yeah, how mature of you. You can't figure out that a stealth mission needs stealth gear so revert to playground BS. Grow up, you're in the minority here as 95% of people here seem to have not struggled with it.

          Last edited 25/03/17 6:02 pm

          Your statement is confusing because only children should have had any difficulty with this mission.

      He's soooo unaware that you have to wear stealth clothing or chug a silent meal/potion first. He's also unaware the reason he turns around to "see a ghost" is because HE MADE TOO MUCH NOISE.

      Stealth mode, walk quietly... it's actually one of the easier trials. Drama Lama

        He very clearly showed in the pictures that he had a stealth food buff the entire time. It's cute that you think you're smart, though. Please learn to read before spewing your scum opinion on the internet.

      Just played this quest and it is absolute dogshit and this article is 100% correct.

    Like Mr Totilo, I was also successful on my first attempt.

      Ditto, I beat it first try as well, and I somehow managed to do it without stealth gear or stealthy food, lol. Not sure how but I did it either, but I did it.

    Totally agree....this mission is the absolute worst, and plays against everything good about BotW.

    Yeah I did it first try, I thought it was a nice change of pace!

    Didn't even use stealth gear or items, I think I just lucked out.

    Last edited 24/03/17 3:28 pm

    I had issues.

    Failed it at the wolves one time, then the next time I managed to make it to the end, and activated the shrine, only to realise I somehow hadn't triggered bloody Aoki, and therefore hadn't finished the quest.

    He'd gone AWOL somehow and wasn't in the meadow near the shrine...

      This same thing just happened to me. At this point I want to shoot him with an arrow and go tell Tasho he made it safe and not wait up for him.

    yeah, got it first go in the stealth armour. seemed pretty basic and straight forward

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated this freaking mission.

    I played it a total of 6 times and was already annoyed by it after the first fail due to its pace. I had the full set of Shieka Armor which you think would make it easier but yet he still managed to see me when I was completely hidden behind a flipping tree! hes sudden freak outs were completely random each time I played it and I got caught out a couple time with those and the wolf scared him so much that he ran all the way back to the hollow log and refused to move forward again so I had to get caught to reset the mission and another attempt seen me just step outside where the fog rolls in to send you back to the start.

    I probably wouldn't have such an Issue with this mission if it was set out as a stealth mission. there were no set obstacles to break line of sight, no obvious path or wall to stop you from steping outside the bounds of the mission, yet the Trail on the other side of the forest that requires you to use the wooden weapons had boxes you had to climb over, barrels you could pick up and use to create a bridge. The Lost Pilgrimage sucked a big fat sausage.

    I was infuriated by this one... I failed like 4 or 5 times including at the end when he said save me mr hero - such a long grind stalking over and over again >.< thank goodness there was only 1 of these quest types

    I had a worse time with this mission... failed 10++ time and most of it was during the wolf, they kept respawning each time, and each time I tried to kill it triggered the korok to see me. Only managed to finish the mission when I climbed the tree and let the wolf be.

    THIS MISSION!!!!!!!! It is SO SLOW! It takes literally 5 mins of boring walking to get to the part where chances of failure skyrocket, and then.... BACK TO SQUARE ONE!!! Such poor design. Does it really have to be so damn long?

    P.s. - Love Splitscreen by the way Kirk. Listen to it each week!

    Never had any problems with this quest. Wear the Sheikah outfit and don't walk directly behind him and you should be good.

    Had no problems with this one. Had full Shiekah gear and turned on the Magnesis rune when I had trouble seeing him. The bit where he started running back because of the 'ghost', I just walked back into the hollow log. Saw the wolf thanks to Magnesis and took it out before it was a problem. I was surprised when it finished so quickly...

    Just switch to the magnet or suspend view (e.g. turn the screen red or yellow), then you'll have no trouble keeping track of him as it removes all the misty atmosphere.

    Took me three tries, and only because I didn't talk to him at the goal the second time I did it, and the first time I ran right in front of him right at the start.

    I finished this on the second attempt - turns out if you do nothing when the wolf attacks the little dude will be fine anyway. Despite the fact that it only took me around 5 mins I still hated it.

    Wow, what a non-issue. The instant fail state sucks, but anybody that's played this game while crouched for like 5 mins will understand where to hide and how far to hang back.

    If you still keep getting caught then either drink a stealth potion or use the Sheikah armor, but it's not the WORST THING EVER in BoTW; I'd reserve that for incliment weather while climbing and fighting, or my weapon mounts disappearing from my house in Hateno, but this should really only take about 2-3 times to complete.

    Failed twice. Made wife do it. She did it on hers and now on mine. Not wasting time with that.

    easy side quest. lose track of kid in full spy gear... then follow the glowing flowersand bee hive at night. if the wolf attacks, bomb it and restart. wolf will no longer be there the second time. ghost attack stay in the wood tunnel. Actually thought the wooden weapon shrine was harder

    Wow lol this guy should not be writing gaming articles professionally lol if he found this trial THAT difficult to the point where he thinks the 'average' player couldn't react quick enough to avoid being seen. You can literally step backwards hardly 5 steps and your far enough that he won't find you. After griping about how stale the formulae is, you're really not expecting that they turn around at some point and come back at you? That happens in every insta-fail-stealthy game ever lol

    For real? I beat this on my first try without any stealth enhancements (no gear, no potions). Didn't realize it was that hard to keep your distance. Must suck to be you.

    seems the people commenting on the article is complaining more than the writer of the article. tbh I hated this mission too. 😒

    First, I would like to say I created an account on here to comment this. Well how did I get here? I made it all the way to the end and stayed in sneak mode. I had already been caught a handful of times and there is no way in hell im going to get caught last minute WHILE im looking at the shrine. Nope. I stayed. I watched him jump around for a few minutes and I thought "fuck it". I snuck right past his little jumping body and onto the shrine. I PUT MY TABLET INTO THE SHRINE. I GOT THE ORB. I left. All good. I beat it no? ..... Nope..... When i got out he wasn't there. I go to run back and got lost. I pop at the beginning and have to start all over. I came here to find out what to do...... This is beyond annoying....

    Damn why do video games always have to end up in a pissing contest. It’s so pathetic.
    Article was justified, this quest is devastatingly boring and frustrating when you lose your patience and f it up.
    And my quest completion bugged so I thought I needed to do it again. FFS

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