I’d like to think I took my time with BotW, and I probably did for the first 30-40 hours, but revealing the path I took to complete the game it became obvious that after the first two spirit beasts, I was pretty much gunning for Calamity Gannon. Vast holes in my exploration gave obvious clues to the location of shrines I’d yet to find, Korok seeds I’d left behind, and enemy encampments which at this point in the game guarded chests with weapons and supplies I needed. After so many hours I decided it was time to approach the Hynox unafraid, and once I figured them out it was on to the Lynels. I practiced fighting certain enemies with Monster Hunter like focus, taking my time dancing around and learning their tells, their every move. Not going to lie, Lynels still ravage me, but once I turned my eye towards the guardians littering Hyrule, and mastered the timing to deflect their deadly attacks, the game became something different to me. And after I amassed the Ancient Amor from the research lab, that was when I turned my eye towards the castle, and the final encounter with Gannon.
After completing the main mission I continued roaming around Hyrule, thinking I would fill in the unexplored portions of the map. In the weeks that followed I purchased the DLC and began the quest at the Great Plateau, frustrated at the difficulty, but appreciating it all the same. Once I was finished with the Great Plateau portion of the DLC I put the game down for the day and other things caught my attention, Fast RMX, Super Meat Boy. But it was during a night shift talking to a co-worker about the game (he is playing it too) I decided that the best way to continue the game was to start fresh in master mode. I realized that the first take of Gannon was a primer, and I wanted more from the game. What I didn’t want to do was find every since collectible seed and piece of gear in normal, only to start master mode with a checklist of I-must-complete-this-to-see-the-entire-game items that would bore me. I want to find every nook and cranny with the added difficulty and terror that comes with each enemy I encounter. And that is exactly how it feels.
Leaving the resurrection chamber to have that first conversation with the Old Man, I headed to the mark on the map at Link’s request, to find a single Bokoblin tucked away under two trees I climbed to get eggs, thinking I’ll need every resource available to complete the game. That Bokoblin killed me 5 times before I thought to myself that maybe stealth is the way to go at the beginning of master mode. As of now, I’m going to say I was right. Completing the lower two shrines, I needed to cook cold resistance food before heading to higher elevations. I found a cooking pot guarded by three Bokoblins and I only managed to kill one of them, using bombs to knock the other two off the ledge allowing me to cook up an hours worth of hot food. The two high elevation shrines were easy enough to get to after that, and now I’m on my way to the wider world, wondering when I’ll be able to face enemies with any confidence but happy with the difficulty so far.
Some early observations; there are more enemies, they have better weapons and a higher health pool, and that higher HP regenerates if you do not fight aggressively. In my normal mode playthrough I took my time leaving the Plateau, but in master mode I feel the urge to head down to find better gear. I don’t seem to be able to do enough damage fast enough to deal with groups of enemies at all, 2-3 hits and I’m dead, and my stamina wheel reminds me of how frustrating it was to climb or run or glide long distances early in the game.
I will take my time with master mode, but master mode will not take its time with me. This may be my favorite game of all time, so I am willing to commit to taking my time with this playthrough. I feel like the first time completing the game was a warm-up for the real thing, and now that I have expanded my library of Switch games I think it will be easier to take my time. Now if I could just remember where I found the climbing gear…