Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 14, 2018
 
Skill vs. Gear in Zelda - Breath of the Wild

I have played 120 hours of Zelda - Breath of the Wild now, and my main game character is advancing very nicely; I'm now able to kill boss mobs and tough mini bosses with relative ease or even farm them when required. More because I was interested in the technology than because I needed the boost I bought a couple of amiibo, which are Nintendo's "toys-to-life" figurines: You can scan them with your controller and have the amiibo appear in your game, or trigger some sort of bonus effect. But because I was relatively advanced in the game already when I got them, they didn't really change much.

So I was wondering how much of an impact it would make if one had those amiibo right from the start of a game. Now normally you can have only one save game in normal mode and one save game in master mode for Zelda. But that is per "profile", so you can easily just create another profile and start a new game from scratch without affecting your main game. I did that, and it turned out you can't use amiibo at the very start. You need to play until finishing the first shrine, and then you can turn the amiibos on in the options. And at that time the treasure chests you get from amiibo contain stuff like rusty or travelers weapons; which are still useful that early in the game compared to tree branches and bokoblin weapons, but certainly not game breaking. You need to finish the whole "tutorial", that is all four shrines and get the paraglider, before the amiibo result in the "normal" treasures, e.g. the guardian amiibo drops guardian weapons and shields.

So while I was testing that, I had another idea: You can finish the tutorial in well under 1 hour, so how does a new character in an 1-hour old game compare to a character that has been played for 120 hours? If your first character was lost and weak, was that because you were still learning the game, or was that simply that he didn't have the stats and gear you get from playing a long time?

So I took my new character without even exchanging the first 4 spirit orbs to the toughest place in the game, Hyrule castle; dressed in the starting shirt and trousers, and equipped with nothing more than can be found in the tutorial. And I am happy to report that I was doing quite well there: I basically cleaned out the place, except for the game end boss of course. I got the complete royal guard armor, which involves getting three pieces from the bottom, middle, and top of Hyrule castle. And I didn't just sneak through the castle, but actually killed even tough mobs like moblins and guardians. Of course then I found lots of awesome weapons, so my new character now has a very impressive armory, much better than anything you can get from the amiibo.

In short, knowing the game helps a lot, and the best way to get great gear early is using that knowledge to loot the toughest places in the game. I probably won't play that second character much, because doing the same 120 shrines again isn't going to be all that fun, but it is interesting to know that in Zelda - Breath of the Wild skill beats gear.

Comments:
Or you could argue that, if you can go to "the toughest place in the game...dressed in the starting shirt and trousers, and equipped with nothing more than can be found in the tutorial" and "clean out the place, except for the game end boss", then the progression part of the game is at the very least badly compromised, if not broken. Effectively what you've proved is that there's no improvement required between the end of a one-hour tutorial and the last boss in the game.

It wouldn't particularly bother me as an Explorer type but I can imagine that knowing it makes no difference what gear you acquire after the tutorial might put a dent in a lot of people's interest in carrying on.
 
The gear system in Zelda - Breath of the Wild works differently than other games: Weapons break after some use. Thus you constantly chase new weapons not because those new weapons are necessarily better than the old, but because the old ones are at the end of their durability.
 
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