As is the norm in Breath of the Wild, I was investigating Hyrule’s shores when I spied a curiosity in the distance—an island I forgot to visit. Making my way by raft, I set upon its beach as a storm drew in. I had arrived at Eventide, and was informed the awaiting trial had a nasty surprise in store. Hooray?
**Spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to follow**
Eventide Island’s trial takes away your inventory items: your collected food, your cooked food, shields, armour, and weapons. It strips Link down to his undies and maroons him on the island under these conditions. The taunt is that you’ve probably been living it up through Hyrule with a reliance on security-cushioning amenities such as a weapons cache and stat-boosting items.
This was absolutely true of me.
Taking away players’ weapons is a dirty trick videogames love to play. It’s usually a harrowing experience, particularly after being empowered by them for hours on end. In that regard, Eventide Island should be scary—and it was certainly startling when I found myself stranded at first. But when I got there, I already had 75 hours of Hyrule-trekking under my belt. Four Divine Beasts were back on my side. And I had filled out the map, meaning I had faced many battles and survived through the multitude of the harsh conditions that accursed land and its regions call its diverse weather system.
It was nighttime when I landed, the storm was fierce and stalkoblins popped out of the ground. A nearby branch was all I had to defend myself and I relished every moment I landed a hit, knowing I’d soon have a creepy, ever-moving skeletal arm as a next, new weapon. I did my favorite move with confidence—I picked up its head, and with Link’s underplayed sense of wicked humour, had him kick it over the edge of a cliff into the briny drink.
At first, I didn’t even notice that Breath of the Wild had somewhat of a fail safe attached to this island castaway scenario. Link’s runes were fully functional, lessening the impact of this mini-game of survival. But it didn’t matter. Before I caught on to that fact, the voice (text) told me I needed to survive and I dove right in. I did it mostly without hesitation after the initial fleeting panic.
At that point, I had learned too much in Hyrule to let the island’s handicap get the better of me. At that point, I was already a master stealth procurer of Hyrule’s wildlife to cook up elixirs and food if needed. It helped that Eventide is a microcosm of Hyrule’s abundant landscape which provides everything you need if you’re smart about scavenging, stealth and utilizing higher ground (and running) to avoid dangerous situations.
I had all the skills I needed to survive, and a wealth of confidence. I wasn’t afraid of taking chances and I certainly wasn’t terrified of playing too cautiously because I had died so many times in the game prior to Eventide’s trial. But I also knew the strengths of my enemies and how to proceed if I found myself in a pickle. This approach was a far cry from the game’s opening when I knew nothing and truly came from nothing.
What I discovered, in place of fear, was that Eventide Island’s turn of events felt freeing. It’s no small feat in a game where small and big discoveries could take your breath away. And yet Eventide felt a brand new experience on a whole other level. The game over-prepared me when I stumbled on it. It put all of my skills to use for a short while. Even when standing on a hill overlooking a Hinox to destroy it via a cascade of bombs, it was part of a learned tactic. A cheap trick perhaps, but a necessity of survival to be sure.
No doubt, had I arrived on the island earlier in the journey, I probably would have had a much different outlook on the entire affair. It’s possible I would have been praising and cursing it for being yet another spooky instance in my gaming history. One where being mostly powerless instills an inexplicable and unwarranted fear in me. But here, so far along on Link’s latest adventure, I appreciated it for seeing how far I’d come and applying my resourcefulness to its mini-game trial with bad-ass results I could take pride in. The survival genre isn’t one I usually excel at. I outright avoid them. On Eventide, I was playing a different game in a genre I am mostly unfamiliar with.
My time spent on Eventide was a small feeling of a distinct kind of accomplishment. It was a welcome vacation after hours and hours of climbing mountains seeking out shrines, running around completing quests, and destroying moblins with an arsenal of powerful weapons. All of these things, particularly the shrines, have their “a-ha!” moments in puzzle solving but they eventually became part of an overall routine, and an albeit loose plan that’s mapped out for you, should you choose to pursue them.
Eventide Island showed that Breath of the Wild still had some new tricks and surprises to offer, even if it’s a mechanic that’s not uncommon in video games. I just experienced it at the right time in my journey, and in a whole other light than I am accustomed.
All images via screen capture.
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial here and join in. Follow us on Twitter@KoTAYku and Like Us on Facebook.