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The 'Git Gud' of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild may be one of the harder titles in the series.

Analysis by Mike Williams, .

If you've read my review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, then you noticed that one of the areas I pointed out as potentially divisive is the difficulty. Breath of the Wild is full of quick and easy deaths for players. Some of those are from poor planning, but others are from situations that Nintendo has built to be damned hard.

This is a direct part of the Breath of the Wild experience, according to Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi.

Brought a bow and arrow to a laser fight.

"There's actually kind of a fun to be had from falling and dying," Fujibayashi explained about tuning the game's towers. "You learn to be careful and to be cautious. And we felt that that gave a lot of players the emotional preparedness to take on the rest of the world. So we ultimately decided that we should let them die."

That feeling extends to the rest of Breath of the Wild, especially in the face of certain encounters. I've avoided writing about those encounters until now because of spoilers, but now that folks have had a chance to dive into the game, I feel it's a good time to dive in.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Director on Difficulty: "We Should Let Them Die"

The director of the latest Zelda is all about letting players suffer their failures.

Let's talk about Thunderblight Ganon. Good ole' Thunderblight is one of the five bosses you have to fight in the game. He guards the Divine Beast Vah Naboris, the giant mechanical camel that wanders the Gerudo Desert causing vicious lightning and sandstorms.

Thunderblight was the second to last Ganon aspect that I fought and the one had me going, "Huh, this is going to be a high barrier to climb for some folks." He's definitely the hardest of the four aspects, and that's mostly down to the fact that defeating him requires rather precise timing for a Zelda game.

Thunderblight has three phases. The first is all about his zig-zag Shadow Step attack: either you block it with a shield and counter, or you dodge at the right moment to set up a Flurry Attack. This phase is pretty easy and feels more like it's setting you up to succeed in Phase Three. Phase Two involves Thunderblight calling down successive metal spikes and striking them with lightning. I died here once, but only because I wasn't moving fast enough and took a bolt of lightning full-on.

Phase Three is the cliff you have to scale. Here, Thunderblight returns to using his Shadow Step attack, but this time you can't just block it. He's charged with lightning in Phase Three, so blocking the attack causes Link to get shocked and lose his equipped weapon and shield. You have to perfect dodge his strike and Flurry Attack him to get anywhere. If you don't have the timing, you're screwed.

I later found out you can just use a wooden shield during this phase, but I'll assume that most other folks probably ran into the same issue. I died twice before I finished Thunderblight off, but he represented a pretty strong spike in difficulty. The other Zelda bosses I've really broken a sweat against were perhaps Dark Link or Thunderbird in Adventure of Link or Puppet Ganon's third phase in Wind Waker. But they were rare and nothing that particularly required the kind of precise reflexes Thunderblight wants; the closest I can remember is Darknut from Twilight Princess, who isn't actually a boss.

Nadia's Zelda: Breath of the Wild Travel Journal -- Hyrule, a Land of Pain and Plenty

DAY ONE: Nadia learns some hard lessons about this newer, more brutal version of Hyrule after moblins use Link's head as batting practice.

Another facet of difficulty that pops up in Breath of the Wild is of the situational variety. Given the open-world, you'll occasionally blend together groups of enemies that would be easy on their own, to create an encounter that will test you. As an example, I was hunting Guardians in Hyrule Field so I could craft their body parts into valuable Guardian armor, but while I was facing a mobile unit, I crossed path with two Bokoblins riding horses. Both were using bows with elemental arrows. I was dodging and weaving like a madman, but the enemies aren't kind enough to stagger their attacks and eventually I fell to a combo of Shock Arrow and Laser.

Breath of the Wild will throw combinations like this in your direction, mostly for wandering too far afield during combat. Running from a Moblin may find you up against a pack of Lizalfos. Avoiding a different group of Lizalfos may find you in combat with them and a Wizzrobe. Breath of the Wild's open world nature means the player needs to have a certain degree of battle awareness at all times. Some folks have compared this to the Dark Souls series and I wouldn't say it's that difficult, but it's harder than most Zelda games, especially since it can creep up on you.

Which Legend of Zelda Should You Play First?

Hey! Listen! Finished with Breath of the Wild? Wondering if you should start elsewhere? Read our guide to Nintendo's legendary series.

That combines with the fact that even later in the game, many enemies can hit incredibly hard. Moblins and Lynels both wield massive two-handers, while Lizalfos archers tend to have high-level bows. There does seem to be a mechanic in the game that prevents one-shot kills - the resulting attack takes you down to a single quarter of a heart rather than outright sending Link to his grave - but it's damned vicious otherwise.

And all that's before you get to the named world bosses. The Hinox are mostly battles of attrition, staying alive and whittling down a foe that can squash you if it catches you. (The hardest one is in the shadow-shrouded Typhlo Ruins, but that's because of the enviroment, not the fight itself.) The Lynel are a bit more difficult, with elemental arrows requiring good dodging skills and fairly quick two-handed swings up close. There's one section at the base of the Lanaryu mountain where you can fight both at the same time if you're not paying attention, which turns two very manageable fights into one very hard one.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn't impossible by any stretch, but it's one of the few games in the series where things can get hard very, very quickly. It's a game that I think will separate the enthusiast player from the mainstream one. The average non-gamer will enjoy much of what the game has to offer, but when it comes to actually completing the game, Breath of the Wild is meant to test you. So far, it seems to be working out for Nintendo, but I'll be interested in seeing the reception to the game six months, a year, or more down the line.

Regale me with your deaths! What surprise deaths have you fallen upon? What enemies or situations caused the most difficulty for you? We want to know, soi share in the comments below!

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Comments 23

  • Avatar for kazriko #1 kazriko A month ago
    The one in the Typhlo ruins is the only one I've beaten so far, he was easy. I had a fire spear and was able to get behind him, and for some reason he didn't see me while I roasted his ankles with the spear.

    The tower with the 3 lightning wizards, and 3 lizards with thunder spears, etc was the toughest one for me. I died a lot of times until I finally just managed to kill 1 lizard and 2 wizards with my bow before trying to climb.
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  • Avatar for Xemus80 #2 Xemus80 A month ago
    The thing about the wizzrobes and lizalfos is that, if the latter are the elemental variety, you can basically one-shot them by using the opposite element. Nothing like cutting into an ice lizalfos with a flameblade and watching it instantly poof.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #3 Roto13 A month ago
    Once I upgraded Stasis, everything got easier. It will interrupt any attack, especially ones that involve enemies charging at you (aka: the hardest thing about Lynels). Plus, if I'm alone, I can shout "ZA WARUDO" when I use it, which makes it last twice as long, that's just science.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    The Hinox are really easy for me now. You just land an arrow to their eye and they drop. If you have a flame weapon or fire arrows you can set their "clothing" on fire and distract them that way as well. The only one I had an issue with was the one on Eventide Island and I just figured out you can steal the orb off of it anyway. GRANTED I SAY THEY'RE EASY but only because I'm really deep into the game, have upgraded armor, badass weapons, etc. They are not easy if all you have is a boko bow and a rusty halberd.

    The regular Talus is pretty easy once you realize it's best to fight them from a distance. But the Frost Talus can be a proper pain if you don't have flame weapons to thaw them.

    The Lynel's are still insane. Honestly, I'm over 85 hours into the game and I fought the white-maned Lynel in that ruined coliseum and yeah, I beat it and yeah, the gear you get is amazing, but MAN the Lynel's are brutal. They're harder than any boss fights I've run into and they aren't considered bosses like the Talus and Hinox. Go figure. It is fun to mount them and attack for massive damage though. Their gear is worth the trouble of fighting them!

    In terms of bosses, I'm actually at Vah Naboris right now, so I skipped over your Thunderblight Ganon segment since I want to fight it on my own. But I found the bosses at the other three Divine Beasts to be manageable. Maybe Thunderblight is a bigger spike in difficulty, but in that case I did good putting it off for last.

    But I really like this game. I've never put in 86 hours into a game over such a short period of time. I think it's one of the best games I've played. For instance, I love that if you go to Rito Village you can buy clothes for the snow and explore the cold regions, but the game also lets you keep yourself warm by equipping flame weapons, so even if you skipped Rito village and started in the snow like me, it gives you options to figure things out and experiment. Maybe that's not for everyone, but for me it's been a constant sense of discovery and I'm happy all the time that I play it.

    Well, except for the apparatus shrines. If there's one noticeable flaw it's those.
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  • Avatar for photoboy #5 photoboy A month ago
    Thunderblight Ganon was the first boss I got to, it's also where I gave up on the game. I used to be a hardcore gamer but I don't have time for that now, I guess I'm just a casual...
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #6 Tetragrammaton A month ago
    Thunderblight has three phases? Huh. I killed him a minute into phase 2. I had the anti-electric set upgraded to level 2, so I took 0 damage from his electricity. Once I figured out the metal post thing I zapped him, pulled out a guardian 2 hander I'd been keeping in reserve and went to town. I did need a pick me up when Thunderblight started teleporting, but I'm so used to needing food that it's just part of the experience.

    My best difficult battle... well, the first time I fought a Lynel I had amiibo Epona with me and had just come back from Hateno village for the first time. The Lynel blasted me off the horse when I attacked it and the fight was on. I watched its health bar not go down even as I started eating all the food in my inventory and I knew I wasn't going to win. I couldn't call Epona over and run for it because I knew horses could die, and I didn't know that I could just get her at a stable.

    Long story short: I died and respawned next to the horse. But I made it a close match, the Lynel had gone into its third and final attack pattern after I'd mounted it twice and broken most of my weapons. I might have won the fight if I'd had better dodge timing.
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  • Avatar for Mr.Spo #7 Mr.Spo A month ago
    After playing the original Zelda a few years ago and Link to the Past last year, I'm really, really glad Nintendo have upped the difficulty for Breath of the Wild. One of the first lines in the series is "It's dangerous to go alone", and it should be.

    One thing I am a little disappointed with is the lack of enemy variety. I think they've done a great job with the overworld bosses, and a great job bringing Lynels into the 3D series for the first time, but it'd be great to see more one off bosses in the overworld, things like Gleeok, King Dodongo, and Manhandla. Darknuts, Poes, and Iron Knuckles too. I'd be happy for an expansion or bit of dlc that adds this stuff. Maybe in the Hard Mode dlc?

    Plus, I do think they should add a way to unlock the amiibo gear/Epona/Wolf Link without buying the amiibo. Prices for the Zelda amiibo are extortionate now.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #8 Modern-Clix A month ago
    @Mr.Spo If it makes you feel better, except for Epona and the outfits, you can get all the weapons in the game :) You can even use any Amiibo you have.

    You can also get the green tunic in game as well, if you beat all the shrines lol
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #9 Modern-Clix A month ago
    @NiceGuyNeon For Hinox, what do you do when it starts getting smart? After two shots, it starts covering its eyes :(
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  • Avatar for Mr.Spo #10 Mr.Spo A month ago
    @Modern-Clix Epona and the different armour sets are what I was interested in! I have the Wolf Link amiibo. I'll be doing all the shrines, too.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #11 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    @Modern-Clix when it covers its eyes try to set one of its legs on fire with a fire arrow or flame weapon. It freaks out and you can land a solid bullseye.

    If you can't or that isn't enough to kill it off, stay close enough for it to try to grab you. When it uses both hands it lowers its head and then looks to see if it caught you. That's your chance to get an easy shot off and go to town.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #12 Roto13 A month ago
    I didn't even consider blocking Thunderblight Ganon's attacks. Or, like, most attacks. Makes more sense to dodge and do that flurry strike, so that's what I always do to everything.

    Though apparently you can use a perfect block to send a Guardian's beam right back at it, which is totally badass. I just shoot it in the eye before it fires, though. (The non-mobile Guardians are so easy. You can literally just hack away at them, pausing to poke them in the eye with an arrow every now and then.)
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  • Avatar for Outrider #13 Outrider A month ago
    @Xemus80 I hadn't tried that with Lizalfos, but yeah, taking down Wizzrobes isn't that bad if you have a stock of elemental arrows.
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  • Avatar for Outrider #14 Outrider A month ago
    @Roto13 Reflecting a beam back at a guardian IS badass and it feels great when you manage to do it.

    Unfortunately, I screw up the timing more often than not, and dying in a heap feels a lot less badass.
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  • Avatar for meta-mark #15 meta-mark A month ago
    I went for Divine Beast Vah Naboris and Thunderbolt Ganon first, I had no idea that he was regarded as the most difficult of the divine beasts, thankfully I had cooked many-a-big hearty radish in preparation!

    After that I went to Vah Ruta and that was a joke in comparison (especially because now I have the Master Sword as well).. I feel like I should have started there.

    But that is the fun of it, trying different strategies and playing whatever way you want to.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #16 Roto13 A month ago
    @meta-mark It does feel a little strange that the some dungeons are quite a bit tougher than others. Seems like Zora > Rito > Goron > Gerudo was the way to go if you want a real difficulty curve.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #17 brionfoulke91 A month ago
    I think it's awesome to see difficulty come back to Zelda, it's the one thing I think the series has been sorely lacking for awhile. Personally I wish it were more of the punishing variety, because that's the sort of difficulty I really identify with. But I'll take what I can get!
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  • Avatar for swamped #18 swamped A month ago
    The only deaths that have really annoyed me at this point are the result of physics. I was doing the Igneo Talus on Death Mountain quest, missed a dodge, and got knocked over on an incline. Before I was able to get up, I slid into lava and died. I've also had multiple instances of getting hit and sliding off a mountain to my death. It's annoying but you can't really get rid of those things without also losing the benefits of the in game physics.

    Oh, and getting ready to climb a mountain but it starts raining and there's no place to build a fire. FUCK THAT.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #19 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    @Mr.Spo I do agree. The ganon bosses in the dungeons are fun but I miss the cool variety from the other games in the series.

    I think there's still room for traditional dungeons in this type of game too. The beasts are close but they're all themed the same: the inside of a machine, but I mean like a traditional themed dungeon like Ancient Cistern or Arbiter's Grounds. It doesn't need to provide you with an item. I think they can just comfortably exist in an open world setting.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #20 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    @photoboy I just beat Thunderblight. It's s tough fight though. Honestly if I were you I'd go through the areas of the game before attempting it. It's the last boss and I had trouble. Used a lot of high end health items.

    That said, the dungeons and bosses in this Zelda are optional as far as I'm aware and you could completely skip them and just enjoy exploring, seek out shrines and Koroks, and find better gear.
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  • Avatar for Absurdjacob #21 Absurdjacob A month ago
    The hardest battle i guess ive every had was thunderblight ganon, due to the fact that i went through the gerudo desert first and was set on beating thunder first...rip me.
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  • Avatar for Arrowned #22 Arrowned 27 days ago
    "What surprise deaths have you fallen upon?"

    This is probably not the answer you were expecting since this article is about the difficulty of enemies, but the biggest surprise death I ran into over the course of the game (which I finally beat a few hours ago) was that shrine where you have to carry a battery with you through the whole thing. At on point, I found a chest, opened it, saw it had a better weapon than anything I had equipped, and dropped one of my weapons behind me to get that one. The weapon I dropped was metal, and touched the nearby battery, so I instantly electrocuted myself to death.
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  • Avatar for liahmonteiro #23 liahmonteiro 11 days ago
    Zelda is a good game and will always be ... just like the GTA, because a name of weight of this, the company has to do well done ... but of the jogos do nintendo switch only Zelda is saved, because the rest .. is the same...
    And Nintendo fans here confusing Zelda sales that comes with toast console with console sales ..
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