The New Hyrule

By Zach Bowman
April 26, 2018

I recently made a big purchase. This was something I looked forward to for a while, but had not quite committed to getting into yet. I bought a Nintendo Switch console. And what better way to start out my adventures on the Switch than with Link in the new Zelda installment? When was the last time I was this excited about a game? It had been a while, and this was the first time I have really purchased a system with a single minded motivation…Zelda.

I started up the game, Breath of the Wild, and that old excitement flooded over me like the Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask. It had been a long time, indeed. I remember speaking with a family member before playing this new Zelda game. “If you want to go there, or do something, anything, odds are…you can.” That stuck with me. The Legend of Zelda games I remember had a certain strict formula for gameplay. Link could walk, jog, run, slash, raise a shield, and use items in the previous installments. I never thought I would ever see the day when Link could JUMP. Upon this discovery, my expectations of this game had already been exceeded. Along with the ability to climb, now there is also a faster way to travel as well?! A hang glider thrown into the mix of cool things to do in this game blew my expectations out of the water. Mix that with the lush and colorful scenes, eerie yet beautiful music, and the variety of characters was superb; all was wonderful.

Suddenly though, after about 2-4 hours of gameplay, I was feeling stuck. I’m not afraid to admit that things felt a little dry at that point. I had not yet experienced any substantial plot points, and after completing about 20 shrines I had this nagging feeling that this would become repetitive. I put the game down. I played some others games after this, Breath of the Wild was at some serious risk of not being played again.

My best friend and I had a conversation a little while after this lull with my Zelda experience. I told him a little of what I had experienced in the game (which of course, was very miniscule compared to the scope of the whole game) and that I had run into a wall. He encouraged me to do one thing, and this setting alteration flipped my attitude toward this game. He asked me, “what HUD mode are you using?” To this I responded “just the default.” He very kindly recommended to me, “switch it to pro.”

I sat down with the game again, determined that this time, things would be different. I had to relearn one thing about playing games: exploration. Exploration was the missing piece to this conundrum I had landed myself in. My friend explained it to me sort of like this: This game was not meant to be a list of jobs, plotting a course from one objective to the next. The true nature is in the exploration of this fresh new Hyrule.

My initial experience with this pro HUD mode was a little lost feeling… Again I felt a sudden decrease in my desire to keep playing this game.I kept at it though, often switching back and forth on the HUD modes but mainly staying in the pro setting. I noticed that after a while, I did not want the default normal HUD mode. All of those extra icons and the mini map suddenly became little annoyances that hindered my exploration. Getting lost…was the whole point. I turned it over the pro mode for good after that, and I have no regrets. This was the way I was meant to play Breath of the Wild! Remember my measly 2-4 hours of gameplay? After I woke up from the wonderful daydream of a game this really is, I was over 45 hours in. Did that do the trick? Yes. Am I becoming bored? Nope! Will I put this down in a bit? Absolutely not.

I have much, much more to say about Breath of the Wild, but I could on and on. To keep this brief, let this be an encouragement to anyone who experienced the same as I have. I do not doubt there are still players out there new to the Breath of the Wild experience, and I want to give you guys a reason to return to it if you haven’t found your groove for the gameplay. Pro HUD mode, it was that simple. For years, I have been playing games that rely heavily on the mini map with a waypoint to guide me through the experience. This in no way is a bad thing, especially for certain games- but playing Breath of the Wild the same as those other open world games was not hitting the spot for me. It was such a simple fix, but took some time for me to get back into the swing of true exploration. Everyone plays differently, but I finally found how I play Breath of the Wild best, minimal style.

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