Open-world role-playing game
Link, the long-standing player-controlled protagonist at the heart of the Zelda series, awakens in a strange chamber – the Shrine of Resurrection – following 100 years of deep sleep. As a Knight of Hyrule, the fictional kingdom which features in many previous Zelda games, Link possesses the spirit of the hero, and must once again save the land from catastrophe. Breath of the Wild (BOTW) sees Link in a race against time to prevent Calamity Ganon (who represents the primal evil that has recurred throughout Hyrule’s history) from escaping the magical prison Zelda is attempting to hold him in at Hyrule Castle.
Hyrule is a gigantic open world, made up of numerous regions populated by an assortment of NPCs (non-player characters) who seek to help or hinder Link’s progress. Whilst growing stronger and developing a variety of useful skills by undertaking different missions and Ancient Shrine trials, Link looks to undermine Ganon’s strength by defeating four Divine Beasts – the Beast were originally designed to defeat Ganon, but he managed to corrupt and turn them against Link and the other Champions of Hyrule.
Link is aided in his quest by a number of recurring characters from the series, alongside useful equipment and powers that are accrued via quests and side missions. Each mission adds background to the history of Hyrule and its people, as well as showing the challenges that different groups face in trying to live their lives. Link can craft, cook, ride, fly and fight his way to Hyrule Castle, battling increasingly diverse enemies ranging from one-eyed bats to gigantic living robots. If you’re lucky, the fabled Master Sword will make your quest all the more satisfying, but uncovering its whereabouts is a gargantuan challenge in itself.
What we think you can learn from Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Whilst Hyrule appears to be a limitless playground, there are rules which govern your progress. Understanding and manipulating these rules can be crucial in moving through the different game environments, from the Tabantha Tundra, through the Great Hyrule Forest (home of the fabled Master Sword…if you can ever find it…) to the endless lava of Death Mountain. Fortunately, alongside building your stamina and health, you are helped along by a variety of tools including a boomerang, bow, grappling hook and – most exciting of all – a paraglider.
Whilst you’ve got all sorts of tools and weapons to support your quest, you also need to develop a reasoned approach to skills and inventory management. Completing Trials allows you to take on different runes, through your Sheikah slate, that grant link tools to approach tasks effectively, and knowing which one is most appropriate in a given situation is vital (do you need ‘stasis’ to stop time for ten seconds, or ‘cryonis’ to freeze ice?). On top of this, your weaponry is prone to breaking, so careful management of your resources, and effective deployment against foes, is another important lesson to learn.
In helping ensure Link is strong enough to defeat Calamity Ganon, you can learn about how individuals are made up of multiple characteristics: for instance, Link starts as a relatively unskilled character, but through dedication and training becomes stronger, is able to climb higher and fly further. Relatedly, gradually gaining mastery over skills development and inventory management makes Link a better-rounded character able to adapt and respond to a variety of challenging environments and circumstances. Finally, you can learn about social and cultural diversity. This might involve the current inhabitants of Hyrule (the bird-like Rito; the forest-dwelling seed-people the Koroks) or those that have come before. For example, in BOTW Link encounters the Sheikah as part of the main story and through side missions to complete trials in Ancient Shrines. 10000 years before the story of BOTW begins, the Sheikah were a technologically advanced race who used their inventions to fight off the Great Calamity, but following this the King of Hyrule viewed their technology as a risk and had them exiled. Some of the Sheikah split from the exiled group to form a clan of assassins – the Yiga – dedicated to defeating the hero as payback.
National Curriculum links
As a single player game, BOTW offers opportunities to discuss differing gaming experiences. This can contribute to the ‘use [of] discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas’
Engagement with core and peripheral narratives in the game text, including storytelling, experiences with unfamiliar languages and non-verbal communication. This can contribute to the acquisition of ‘a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language’
The game features resource and inventory management as a key dynamic to progress through the game. In a practical sense, this contributes towards solving ‘problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of routine and nonroutine problems with increasing sophistication, including breaking down problems into a series of simpler steps and persevering in seeking solutions’.
By engaging with conflict, avoiding conflict, understanding issues around stamina and life force, gamers are able to explore associations between cause and effect, in line with ‘the assumption that every effect has one or more cause’
A key game dynamic is the ability to combine ingredients and cook them to help with health and developing particular skills. This enables the gamer to ‘understand and apply the principles of nutrition and health [as well as understanding] the source, seasonality and characteristics of a broad range of ingredients’ in a representative sense.
Hyrule is a vast and diverse landscape of rugged, changeable geography and different communities. Exploration contributes towards understanding ‘the processes that give rise to key physical and human geographical features of the world, how these are interdependent’.
The game combines examples from both physical and human geography, allowing gamers to interact with ‘human and physical geographical processes and patterns and the way in which they interrelate’.
Similarly, moving across the landscape, talking to NPCs and even experiencing the Blood Moon facilitates engagement with ‘geographical concepts of space, place, scale, environmental interaction and change and interdependence and diversity.’
• Activate at least one tower outside of the Grand Plateau
• Tame a horse
• Fly the furthest distance you can from the highest point you can reach
• Take on a foe you know you cannot beat.
The open world nature of BOTW means that, once you’ve obtained the means to leave the tutorial ‘Great Plateau’ area, you can largely explore the entirety of Hyrule.
• Selecting a point in the distance, and moving towards it, what are the physical barriers that impact your progress?
Hyrule is populated by a diverse array of friends and foes; moving between Windvane Meadow and Hyrule Garrison Ruins for example, there are several Guardian Stalkers
• As you attempt to evade or attack the stalkers, how do your interactions make you feel?
• Is the experience positive (perhaps finding success in downing a deadly machine!) or less-than-positive (how tense does hiding from their laser eyes make you feel?)
Hyrule is a massive open world of opportunity that both encourages and rewards exploration
• What can you see from the highest reachable point on the map?
• What does it tell you about how the games designers wanted to design an open world for you to explore?
• Does it resemble places you are familiar with?
Having completed a shrine or two, outline the scientific process(es) through which Link is able to solve the puzzle and unlock the chest and spirit orb (there are 120 to choose from so plenty of options!)
- What branch of science is needed to complete the Trial you have chosen?
- Would it be possible to use of forms of scientific enquiry to resolve the issue?
- If so, which? If not, do you think this is a decision the makers of the game considered?
Compare and contrast the physical geography of two regions. What impact does the geography of these spaces have on Link?
- What sort of people or creatures occupy the place you’re in, and why might this be the case?
- Can you identify a climate-based puzzles associated with the space?
A straightforward way of replenishing health in BOTW is by cooking and eating.
- Is there a relationship between the types of ingredients you find and their geographical location?
- If so, why do you think this might be the case?
- Is the same true of the supplies needed to prepare food?
Hyrule is made up of a number of different races, including the Zora, the Rito, the Goron and the Gerudo. In a small group, consider the cultural similarities and differences between Hyrulian races, and discuss whether or not there are similarities and differences between these fictional cultures and groups you are familiar with. To get you started, an example of cultural attributes might include how Gerudo Town is populated entirely by females (vai) with males (voe) barred entry – what might this tell us about society in Hyrule?