I’ve just played through the endgame in Zelda: The Breath of the Wild and I’ve to say that I was disappointed.
Here is what I believed to be a unique take on the story of Breath of the Wild. I’ll try to answer whether the game lead me to believe there would be more to it? or if I mislead myself.
I’ve never played a Zelda game before. I’ve owned a couple of Nintendo game consoles over the years, but I never got into any of the Zelda games. I didn’t quite know what to expect other than adventure, exploration, and grinding in repetitive tasks to level up. The game certainly delivered on these points and I quite enjoyed roaming around exploring Hyrule.
My expectations for the final stage of The Breath of the Wild was, however, way off the mark. From the very beginning of the game, the player is repeatedly told that the endgame will be a hard-fought battle against Calamity Ganon (or the “swirling swine” as he is best described as he is shown as a dark shadow swirling around Castle Hyrule). Link has to collect legendary equipment and prepare for an epic battle at Hyrule Castle against “hatred and malice incarnate”. Oh, and killer robots called “Guardians”.
The set up
Zelda: The Breath of the Wild is an open world game focused on exploration. The world of Hyrule is populated by mostly humanoid creatures and monsters. The Hylians, except for the protagonist Link and Princess Zelda were defeated 100 years ago by Calamity Ganon. Ganon wants to destroy the world for no reason – fair enough.
Ganon has been kept back at Castle Hyrule for the last 100 years by Princess Zelda using feminine charms. The game is a bit unclear on exactly how the Princess has managed to achieve that last part. Meanwhile, our protagonist Link has taken a nap in the Shrine of Resurrection for the last 100 years. The opening scene of the game, pictured above, shows Link having just been woken up from his stay at the spa, and find himself with a complete loss of memory. The player gets a fairly blank slate and learns the mechanics and state of the world alongside Link.
Alongside the Hylians, there are four other main races still roaming Hyrule. Each of the four races have their own “divine beast”, and you’re told that you need to wrest control of these mechanical monstrosities away from Ganon and use all of them to defeat him.
There are monsters and killer robots running all over Hyrule, so you quickly need to relearn how to battle these creatures to survive. —and you need to learn how to cook to heal yourself back up to full health.
Entering the wild
From the opening scene, you can choose to pretty much run straight in to meet the Calamity Ganon after just minutes of gameplay. You’ll be brutally murdered long before you reach him at Hyrule Castle, but the game does give you the option to try.
Taxation in Hyrule much have been pretty tough, as the Hylians apparently could afford paying the ancient — now extinct — Sheikah race to build 120 personalized gyms, or “shrines”, where Link can train his puzzle solving abilities and skills with a sword. As you run around Hyrule, you’ll find these strewn all around the landscape.
Link is given a ‘Sheikah slate’ early in the game, a tablet computer with a camera and various sensors that also work as a single-sign-on authentication device for entering shrines and downloading apps (or “rune powers”) and map updates. Like in real life, you’ve to wait for the updates to be applied in unskippable OS update cutscenes. The game could do without that bit of realism.
My main issue with the main part of the games are the misuse of cutscenes. There are small, annoying, multi-part cutscenes everywhere. Watching Link wave his iPad over an access panel, or standing on an elevator platform gets tiresome very fast. Some cutscenes are skippable, but different cutscenes use different buttons on the controller to skip them. If you can’t be bothered to learn which type of cutscene uses which skip button, then you’ll be reduced to aimlessly mashing the controller hoping the dreadfully repetitive cutscenes will end.
Along the way, you’ll rediscover some of Link’s lost memories. Or actually, they’re all memories of Princess Zelda — Link is entirely mute throughout the game and only communicates with others through hand gestures, so Zelda does all the talking. It’s slowly revealed that the background story of the game is Princess Zelda’s quest to become a woman – and unlock the “power to seal Ganon away”. She doesn’t discover said power until she comes of age on her 17th birthday, which is a tad too late to save the Kingdom of Hyrule.
At the center of the map, you’ve got an ever present reminder of what you’re trying to achieve. Castle Hyrule is dark and ominous, and if you get to near in the early game — you’ll be slaughtered by a Guardian robot.
You’re for the most part left with very few instructions about anything and just have to make your way towards the castle. I spent hours and hours just solving shrines, battling monsters, hunting animals and gathering ingredients for cooking, and just exploring the beautiful landscape. It didn’t even feel all that repetitive because of the variety in landscape and there’s enough new stuff to keep the interest going.
You’ve to find weapons and different environment-specific clothes for Link before entering a new region of the map. Link starts out in his boxers, but you’ll hopefully have found him some decent weapons and armor before setting off to defeat Ganon.
You can choose to encounter four optional bosses that also double as large puzzle sets. The divine beasts, as they’re called, are mechanical monstrosities designed by the Sheikah race, that were meant to help defeat Ganon.
However, due to poor engineering and outdated firmware — the divine beasts are captured by Calamity Ganon. The Sheikah have already demonstrated that their devices are capable of installing software updates, so we’re left to assume that Ganon exploited a 0-day vulnerability in the divine beasts.
The beasts are in themselves quite interesting. Each divine beast is conquered in three parts: first you’ve to use different game gimmicks to defeat them, then you enter them and solve a set of puzzles inside which lets you take control of them, before you finally have to defeat a miniature version of Ganon himself.
Once you’ve recaptured a divine beast, it takes up position and aim at Castle Hyrule — waiting to strike against Ganon, and waiting for a signal from Link.
Storming Castle Hyrule
Eventually, you feel that you’ve done all that you can to prepare Link for the final showdown with Calamity Ganon. Every shrine you can find is solved, every mystery unraveled, every enemy (and animal) slain, and every rock turned. (You do have to pick up and turn every loose rock in the game, but that’s a story for another time.) It’s time to storm the gates!
I expected the castle to be as large an area as the other main regions on the map. However, only 18 minutes after entering the castle, I’d already defeated Ganon and felt disappointed with the endgame. I’d expected so much more of the final stage!
Shouldn’t Castle Hyrule have been more of a maze? I expected the whole thing to be one giant maze! Depending on where you enter the castle from, there are some simple puzzles you can choose to traverse. Optionally, you can just fly up the castle walls from the outside.
There isn’t much more to this final stage than finding Ganon. I don’t know about you, but I’d expected so much more. What I miss is for more of the elements of the game to play a role in the endgame, really. The boss battle itself was disappointingly bland on its own. However, there’s so much more to the game than the fighting!
At one part of the game, Link has to dress up as a woman to enter a women-only town out in the desert. So I’d expected to sneak past guards and play masquerade at some point of the endgame.
The game has a lot of focus on cooking and preparing dishes. Links learns to cook different meals through reading, quests, experimentation, and non-playable characters in the game. I’m not entirely sure what I’d expected, but I did expect it to play some part of the endgame. Maybe not a “Cooking with Moblins” contest or something silly, but possibly something requiring Link to demonstrate his cooking prowess to solve a puzzle.
The Guardians played a very small role in the endgame. They were originally designed by the Sheikah and was meant to serve the same purpose as the divine beasts.
However, the Guardians developed the same fatal software flaw that allowed Ganon to capture the divine beasts. Link encounters two “ancient tech” (technology left behind by the Sheikah) scientists in the game. I expected that at some point I’d use their help to capture a small army of Guardian robots that would help me storm the castle.
Halfway up the castle you find Calamity Ganon hanging in the ceiling of a large room. Finding out the final boss had been hanging out in a ceiling like a lump/bat for the last 100 years was a bit anticlimactic on its own. Having him fall down and smash through the floor to fall straight down a garbage chute to a battle arena located deep below the castle was another major disappointment.
The entire battle with Calamity Ganon takes place in a single round room. I’d expected that Ganon and Link would make use of the main castle as the stage for their final showdown. Being confined in a small room was definitely not what I’d imagined and disappointing. The Castle has multiple exterior levels and details that could have been put to good use as an open battle arena. The castle itself could be an increasingly challenging puzzle mixed with increasingly difficult combat. Instead, players are treated to the least interesting area of the game and a final boss less interesting than any of the divine beasts.
Speaking of the divine beasts, they were another disappointment. I’d imagined that I’d to get Ganon to retreat to the top of the tallest tower, and only then would the divine beasts attack Ganon. Otherwise their attack would completely destroy Castle Hyrule itself, right?
What happened instead as soon as Ganon falls into the battle arena, Durak, the Goron champion, proclaims: “Open up wide, Ganon!” As he shouts that, all four divine beasts open up a laser attack which results in a rain of small lasers hitting Ganon. Each divine beast knocks off ⅛ of Ganon’s health in the opening attack. If you’ve got all four divine beasts, that means Ganon start the battle at ½ health.
That’s it. The massive divine beasts are only capable of a single underwhelming shot each. After that, Link is left to defeat Ganon on his own with no further support from the massive mechanical beasts. What follows is a standard game boss battle in two rounds. The second round takes place outside the castle ground — again ignoring the castle as a possible battle arena — and is an even less impressive fight than the first round.
Then it was all over
The game delivered a varied and entertaining gameplay before reaching the final stage. I’d give the game experience until entering Castle Hyrule quite a high score. However, the endgame didn’t deliver on the game’s promise. I’m especially disappointed about having to battle Ganon inside a fish bowl in the basement of the castle rather than putting the castle exterior to better use.
The endgame was weak, and didn’t feel like it was any sort of conclusion nor a satisfying reward for all the hours I put in to the game. Maybe I’m expecting too much of a game, but I don’t feel the end to Breath of the Wild was anywhere near the level of good gameplay and not at all interesting compared with the rest of the game.
Breath of the Wild is an excellent game. The endgame, however, didn’t seem to be from the same game designers – let alone the same game. The game just ended as abruptly and unsatisfactory as this article.