As I mentioned in a previous Question of the Week post, I recently found myself stuck in a gaming slump. I was caught in that quagmire for a couple weeks. Nothing sounded fun or exciting to play and I just couldn’t will myself to buy a new game, as everything felt too much like something I had played before. I’ve thankfully paddled my way out since with a second run of Hollow Knight and diving into its DLC. But when my mind was endlessly brainstorming titles both new and old to fill that gaming gap, my thoughts drifted to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I have put a lot of time into this Nintendo gem, clocking in close to 200 hours between one complete playthrough (aside from Korok seeds) and another run with at least half of the total shrines finished. I debated returning to Hyrule when nothing else seemed to pique my interest, but I just couldn’t muster up the motivation. I didn’t understand. Breath of the Wild is easily the most exciting Zelda title I’ve ever experienced: why didn’t it sound even remotely entertaining now when I could use it the most? Then it dawned on me. The wall that barricaded my enthusiasm was none other than one simple fact: the mystery is gone.
When Breath of the Wild released in 2017, I was rabid. Eccentric. Hyped beyond measure. My anticipation of the new Zelda title couldn’t be compared to any game that came before, save for my treasured Skyrim. It was such a radical change for the land of Hyrule to be so grand in its scale, rivaling even the largest open-world games. I remember checking the map after completing the Great Plateau tutorial and feeling as small as an insect in comparison to its vast terrain! There were so many secrets to uncover.
While I still find the game to be immensely enjoyable even in my second playthrough, a large part of me was expecting that same ethereal sense of wonder from start to finish. But that’s not how games work. I’ll never have that same experience of learning how the physics of Breath of the Wild work. I can’t replace my first time navigating through the Lost Woods… without the use of a torch. And nothing will ever be as humbling or terrifying as my first sighting of Dinraal the dragon as it soared out of the Tanagar Canyon in the distance. Those moments of uncertainty in a strange world are unique and utterly irreplaceable by the adventures now blessed with talented combat skills and extensive knowledge.
It seems like a no-brainer to say that “no two playthroughs of a game are alike,” but that often stems from the gameplay. Skyrim allows the creation of countless adventures across several different characters. The Witcher III allows the player to choose a different combat focus with its rewarding Witcher gear sets. But Breath of the Wild is always the same game. You might choose a different direction to wander off in first, find certain equipment prior to others, and maybe decide to limit your playing with self-imposed challenges, but every playthrough will ultimately end up being the same. That is, except your first.
I would never deign to tell another player how they should or shouldn’t play a game. However, I feel that my personal scenario of starting a second file could be a lesson for other players who are considering waking Link from his slumber for a second time. Breath of the Wild is in incredible game: certainly my favorite of the Zelda series! I found that pumping my all into a singular playthrough would have been far more mesmerizing, memorable, and rewarding than dividing my time between multiple journeys. I should have created my own goals or freely tracked down more Korok seeds rather than scrapping my first file to start another.
What is your opinion on this? Does it vary from game to game, or do you always tend to play games just the one time? Let me know with a comment! Thanks for reading, friends, and game on!