The Listless Cartographer: Finding My Own Path in Breath of the Wild

As I’ve been making my way through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve begun to discover a lot about how I play games. It’s no epiphany as I’m pretty sure I’ve always followed a certain methodology since time immemorial (or  at least since the 80s), only that I’ve caught on to what I’ve been doing when faced with a beast of a game that’s had me enraptured since I first booted it up.

I am by nature a very deliberate person, not particularly prone to snap decisions or fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-ism. The few times that I have gone in guns blazing was met with not necessarily disaster but a realization that I didn’t go into a situation particularly level-headed. Thinking it through just works better for me as I apparently have a crappy gut instinct.

This is how I play games — I walk into something and take a step back rather than charge in full tilt. I’m a nooks and crannies type of guy; I like to soak in the ambiance, take in the sights and poke around in parts unexplored. Now remember that I’m playing the colossal Breath of the Wild. I think you know where I’m going here.

While that’s how I’ve rolled for a very long time, Breath of the Wild perpetuates this with its introductory area and helped me settle into a routine as I scour Hyrule for Korok seeds, shines, treasure chests and maybe a Divine Beast or four. Within a few minutes the wispy, ethereal voice of Zelda tells you to scope out a hidden tower, which opens up a segment of your map. You’re then urged by an old man to use your Sheikah Slate to scour the horizon for shrines that you need to complete in order for him to give you his paraglider. After this, most players (or maybe it’s just me) hike the perimeter of the Great Plateau as they set out to complete this task. Before you know it, the Old Man pushes you towards the Dueling Peaks (replete with a tower on the way) and you’re setting on this grand adventure.

As we’ve all probably discovered, the world is your oyster in Breath of the Wild. What I’ve discovered is that while I enjoy trotting around the world and stumbling upon secrets, I do so in a very meticulous and calculated fashion.

The first step involves, well, finding the tower in an area, scaling it then opening up a new chunk of map. This in itself is fun as each tower is a bit of a puzzle as to how you ascend it. But once you do that, it’s the same song and dance that has you surveying the land, marking interesting points with the always handy pins and doing your thing.

I like to segment my new map into areas based on landmarks, roads and rivers. I then set off for said segment and tootle around. I’ve quickly soused out that the main hook of the game, for me at least, isn’t necessarily the storyline (which in all fairness is great, but not the impetus for my journey at this point) or reaching 100% completion but just in seeing what Hyrule has to offer an ardent hiker like myself. The fact that I’m constantly finding little rewards for just traveling is like frosting on the cake.

Maybe this doesn’t sound fun to you; but I tend to be kind of a planner, so mapping out (figuratively and literally) my route, marking points of interest on my map and just walking around is a highly enjoyable experience for me. Even though I’m deliberate doesn’t mean I can’t be swayed to go off the beaten path if I see something shiny or intriguing in the distance. It just means that once I’m done meandering I go back to where I was going so I can do it all over again.  It’s been so much fun I’ve barely made a dent in anything I’d call progress in the story in lieu of just adventuring.

Most people have or are in the process of wrapping up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so they can “move on”, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing this through the summer because of my thoroughness. With this not only being a generation shift for me as far as what gaming console I play on, it’s also a shift in perspective. I don’t mind taking my time, and I’m in no hurry to get to the next game. I’ve picked up a few more games since then, and feel guilty as I see them on the menu of my Switch, left unplayed. Someday I’ll get to them. But that day isn’t coming anytime soon.

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