The Legend Of Zelda: Bus Of The Wild

Yesterday morning. 6.37am. Same time, same place, same bus. The 614X. Baulkham Hills to the city.

Occasional sleep-ins aside, this is the bus I catch every single weekday. That morning was no different.

Or so I thought.

I didn’t know it at the time -- how could I? -- but this bus trip would be different. This bus trip would be special.

I was about to embark on the strangest 20 minutes of my video gaming life.


Let’s talk about Breath of the Wild.

Breath of the Wild is a video game I love very much. At this point it feels like obsession. I’m at the end point of a unique journey. Playing immediately after (sometimes in tandem with) another instant classic in Horizon: Zero Dawn, I had some unfair, knee-jerk reactions in the beginning. "These textures are terrible." "The world is too empty." "Climbing is boring."

But I persisted.

Slowly the game began to make sense. I switched to the Pro HUD, committed to exploration, committed to playing this game on its own terms. Slowly I fell in love. Last weekend I finished Breath of the Wild and I'm now convinced my 80 hours spent in this world was the most rewarding video game experience of my adult life. What a strange thing to admit or even think, but it's an idea I have committed to.

Breath of the Wild might be my favourite video game ever.

A large part of my love for Breath of the Wild is inexorably tied to the Switch itself – more specifically, how we interact with it.

A huge chunk of my time with Breath of the Wild took place on public transport. I'm a 35-year-old adult man. I’m married with two children and I lead a busy live. The Switch feels like a tailor-made response to that. It’s a special console and the experience is fluid. The Switch is a console that pours itself seamlessly into the slimline gaps in my life. It adapts to those spare moments. At least 40 of my 80 hours with Zelda: Breath of the Wild took place on the 614X, either en route to the city, or on my way back to Baulkham Hills. Stuck in traffic on the M2, not caring because I was lost in one of the purest adventures I’ve ever experienced.


Back to those 30 minutes.

Barely awake, bleary-eyed. Ignoring eye contact, crumpled on the bus seat like a folded up slinky. Deciding whether to nap or play.

Play.

Bung on the headphones and switch on the Switch. I defeated Ganon over the weekend, where to now? The need to explore and just exist in Hyrule is still tangible at this point. ‘Completing’ the game has not dulled that urge. I set myself vague targets and goals and set off. Adventure is out there.

I’ll never forget what happened next.

I was in the desert. I began climbing the highest mountain I could see, exploring regions I’d only briefly spent time in. I climbed higher. The sand turned to snow. I clambered over a rock and saw something I didn’t even think was possible.

A bad screenshot, so I’ll elaborate.

That’s two Bokoblins. They’re not riding horses. They’re riding fucking bears. Up until this point I hadn’t even seen a bear, let alone tried to ride one.

These Bokoblins are riding fucking bears and they’re hunting Zelda’s equivalent of a buffalo.

This was already amazing.

I knew the Bokoblins would inevitably turn their attention towards me, so I decided to get the jump. I shot one from his bear mount with a fire arrow, completely oblivious to the chaos that would soon ensue.

The Bokoblin landed on a slope. The slope was covered in grass. He was on fire and soon the grass he landed on was also on fire.

That fire spread.

Within seconds everything was on fire, including the bears, which were now attacking me.

To recap, I was now in the snow, on a mountaintop, surrounded by a perfect ring of fire, being assaulted by two BEARS that were also on FUCKING FIRE. This was sheer insanity.

See those trails in the above screenshot? Those represent an updraft. Whenever there's a fire it creates an updraft. You can launch into it with your paraglider and fly headlong into the sky -- and that's precisely what I did, leaving the bears and the fire behind.

That's when I saw the light.


I saw two lights actually.

The first, a shooting star. I'd seen one of them before. Head to the source and you'll pick up a Star Fragment, which I did.

But I was more interested in this:

What the hell was that?

Considering exploration and discovery was at the heart of the Breath of the Wild experience, I'd been avoiding any and all 'spoilers' regarding strange or weird phenomena in Hyrule. You may already have heard of, or experienced, this blue light but I hadn't and I was intensely curious.

I headed towards it.

Of course it was raining, which made climbing difficult (read: impossible) but via a combination of smart route finding and Revali's Gale (mostly Revali's Gale) I eventually found myself paragliding into the source of the blue light: a hidden lagoon on top of a mountain, surrounded by strange, blue ghostly animals. I'd seen a few of these in the wild -- I'd chase and they'd disappear -- but here they were congregated, dozens of them, and it was incredible to see.

I floated down, a big clumsy human pile of flesh, and one by one the ghostly animals became aware of me and evaporated into the night sky. All but one.

What in the actual fuck?

A unicorn? It looked like a unicorn, but not quite. More like a ghostly white horse. Immediately I knew what I had to do.

I had to mount and ride this horse.

I skulled a potion -- a potion I'd been saving for a moment like this. A potion that provided a high-level stealth boost. Surely this would enable me to sneak up, mount and tame this strange horse.

I approached. Slowly. Step-by-step I moved towards it, terrified I'd spook her and lose this once in a lifetime chance.

And of course that's precisely what happened.

One false step in the lagoon and the horse turned, bolted. And then evaporated into the night.


The sun rose and the blue light left with it. What was once a translucent lagoon populated by strange otherworldly creatures was now just a regular lagoon. A gorgeous spot, but a lagoon nonetheless. The horse was gone and so was the moment.

I looked up. My bus was on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was minutes from my stop and the end of this particular trip.

I'd been playing for roughly 20 minutes.


Comments

    I'm curious Mark: how much of your love for BotW is of the game itself vs being able to fill otherwise drab commutes and limited time with the gameplay thanks to the switch?
    Like if you were just playing it on your couch would you care so much?

    As an aside the last game I remember providing such emergent, spontaneous gameplay like your story was actually Farcry 2. I hate the sandbox vs themepark analogy of open world games but sometimes it has a point. Most games are just a string of quests on a mostly static backdrop and even if you avoid fast travel there is nothing unique to see.

    Last edited 04/05/17 10:26 am

      BOTW is just as good on the big screen in normal gaming times.

      It is simply fantastic in almost every regard.

      yep, cant answer for him but I've barely played it outside of home and its my favorite game of all time. If not the greatest, easily top 3.

      Can't answer for Mark personally, but i played through BOTW on wii u (about 45 hours played if i recall correctly) got a switch on the weekend and already have about 10 more hours in a fresh BOTW save on that.

      Wouldn't say BOTW is my favourite game all time but for me it is definitely one of my favourites for at least the last 5-6 years and most of that opinion is based on the wii u on the couch version.

      It just has a nice flow for me, i'm always finding new things to do and explore but at the same time the majority of things in the game don't take long play sessions to feel like you have acomplished something. It works well as a game you can play in short spurts when you have the time but also works for longer play sessions.

      There's a lot of room to improve though in the story and story associated dungeons though.

      I've spent 155 hours in Hyrule and 95% of that has been on my couch, with my 65" 4K TV (and external upsampler) and the experience has been nothing but glorious!

    Amazing story, I especially appreciate you told it in a way there's no real spoilers in it and kept it vague and abstract.

    I am torn between losing the sort of Zelda games we have had up to this point, and embracing this new sort of Zelda experience going forward. I suppose it's time to accept it's an evolution of the conventions the series is known for, rather than a total reboot.

    Other franchises under Nintendo's roof might actually work in this sort of world, I don't want to say 'engine' but I wouldn't mind a proper Donkey Kong Island that is as lush and vibrant as the old games showed you in map screens. Breath of the Wild provides an excellent template for such a game.

    An obvious one is Pokemon, but I don't think that's really what we want, despite the constant 'MMO MMO!' stuff.

    The land is truly the best part of the game, and while I have my issues with it (I don't typically find open world games that good) it's its own bloody character.

      I think we can have both. Next Zelda game I'd like bigger dungeons again. Same style of overworld, but slightly bigger dungeons. I don't need 10 of them. 4 was fine. Just a bit bigger and more elaborate.

        This is exactly how i feel, loved BOTW but they should try and fit in the usual story/in depth dungeons in to this open world style over world next time.

          I agree completely. As I said back in my BoTW review post way back when, I'd be happy to drop my trousers, bend over, and take another Water Temple if it meant that I'd get to delve into the previous games' style of dungeons again. BoTW's Divine Beasts were amusing but still felt like a individual demo disks compared to the dungeons of old. At least five or six.

          Edit: That said, that first time I traversed the valley, up and down the mountains, on the path to Zora's Domain, it actually felt more like a dungeon. It was early on in the game for me and moblins and lizalfos could still kill me in a couple hits, so the trip was harrowing at times. By the time the bridge to Zora's Domain came into view, I was low on health and weapons and had just taken out a particularly challenging moblin and lesser cronies. And then a Blood Moon appeared and I piss-bolted across the bridge with an anxiousness that comes from the fear that something much bigger than you is hot on your heels.

          Last edited 04/05/17 11:31 am

    Reminds me of that time I got a herd of Tramplers to fight each other in Horizon Zero Dawn. I was perched up on a cliff at dusk and sprayed the herd with corruption arrows. It was such an awe-inspiring and beautiful sight, this herd of magnificent creatures charging each other like it was the flaming nightmare apocalypse, creating clouds of flammable gas and then detonating it. The explosions rolled like thunder.

    Or the times when I've got two Thunderjaws to fight each other, killing multiple other small machines and creatures unheeded in the midst of their titanic death struggle.

    Or the time when I've got two Longlegs to fight each other like preening peacocks of doom.

    (I find it amusing to get dinobots to fight. It's a leftover from my younger days playing with transformers)

      Horizon: Zero Dawn is so fucking good. Crazy that two of my favourite games of the last five years came out within a week of each other.

    My wife, won't let me near the switch after she started playing Zelda Botw. All i remember was showing her that i could climb a tree to get apples, and she pointed out there were eggs. So i let her play and after a few hours later she was STILL climbing trees and picking fruit and eggs like no tomorrow. From there botw has been but a memory for me. She has killed all 4 divine beasts, and now is a zelda pro.

    She is not a gamer. But boy is she obsessed with Zelda. She plays it like a devoted gamer and now has long blown out convo's with my friends about Botw. I just sit there and pretend i know everything they are talking about. I do feel left out sometimes, but watching her talk excitedly about it, is very endearing.

    Have to give props to Nintendo for turning my beloved hardcore. :3

      Hahaha, same here. My wife is on it all the time. She would show interest in maybe 1 in every 3 or 4 games I would buy and play a few levels then never come back. She just keeps going in this.

    Without throwing too much in the way of spoilers, me and my missus have a switch of our own (after we got BotW and realised there was no way we could share).
    The heartache that ensued when she realised you couldnt tame the skeletal mount that you need for a side quest - even had a name picked out.
    My missus nearly cried when daylight broke and it disintegrated.

    For what it's worth, bears can be found in a small forest near the first stable just a few hours after Link begins his adventure.

    Mark, it's almost like you wrote this article for me.
    As a 35 year old father of four, who lives in Baulkham Hills, catches the 615X to the city every day (so close), and also heartily likes porridge - I have now been convinced to buy myself a Switch and BotW.
    Well sold.

    What an amazing story. As I mentioned above I've spent 155 hours in Hyrule and I only just saw a bear, let alone bokoblins riding bears. The two sights mentioned here I've yet to experience and it just shows just HOW MUCH there is to see and experience in this game.

    It is a remarkable game in every respect, perhaps no better illustrated in that when I finally (and easily) downed Calamity Gannon, I just shrugged - reloaded the save prior and travelled out again looking for more adventures.

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