When The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was first released back in 2017, I had but a faint idea of the sheer scale of the adventure I was about to embark on. I hadn’t been keeping up with most of the details on display, because I wanted my experience to be as fresh as possible. What I knew of the game consisted of the brief snippets I’d caught whilst browsing my feeds across various social networks and the odd ‘hey, have you seen this thing?’ messages from friends. When I purchased the game, loaded it up, and took those first tentative steps out of the Shrine of Resurrection, I was blown away. This world was huge. Every mountain, lake, forest, and desert in the visible distance was enticing me to make the trek and spend hours and hours uncovering their many secrets.
I did just that, and I had an amazing time doing it. Seeing the orange glow of one of the 120 Shrines was like a mini-Christmas, with the promise of a puzzle and subsequent reward. Despite their interiors being a bit repetitive (a story for another day), having such a variety of puzzles to solve really kept the game engaging. When it came to the game’s other checklist-able collectible (totally a real term), that same glee persisted.
Finding Koroks usually took a bit more effort than shrines. There was no familiar orange glow or associated quest that would lead you to them. Instead, the Koroks were discovered by partaking in perhaps the game’s greatest strength: its open-ended exploration. See, there are 900 of these things. 900 is a lot, you know, and they are spread out all over Hyrule in such a way that no matter which path you decide to take, you’re bound to happen across one sooner or later. You might see a set of three trees on a hill somewhere that are suspiciously distant from the rest of the nearby trees, or a conspicuous rock on the ground that might just be out of view of a circle of similar stones with a gap in the outline. That glee upon seeing just the slightest oddity never went away, and even though there were many, many times when that mysterious looking hill turned out to be just a mysterious looking hill with no hidden reward on top, I was never deterred and continued my odyssey across Hyrule, keeping a watchful eye out for anything that looked even slightly interesting.
The reward of a Korok seed incentivizes exploration: If there was no prospect of a reward, would you see any reason to climb the tallest mountain in the game, or dive off the highest cliff? Probably not. With that knowledge of Koroks hiding in any slightly noteworthy looking spot, though, you have that inkling in your mind that sparing those few minutes to climb that massive flagpole will yield a result.
The Seeds of Love
The primary purpose of collecting the Korok seeds is to expand your inventory of weapons, broken up into the categories of melee, bows, and shields. You only need to collect about half of the seeds in order to maximize your storage though, with the remaining amount of Koroks serving only to satisfy that completionist itch. Given how vast the map is, intrepid players who love to explore are likely to successfully find and obtain enough seeds to max out that storage without having to spend hours and hours trying to scrape the map. This gives enough leeway for an enjoyable treasure hunt that doesn’t quite give way to tedium and frustration, provided you’re willing to explore. It’s entirely up to the player whether they want to go and seek out every single seed, and the threshold at the halfway amount serves as somewhat of a litmus test towards their dedication. Sure, by now you’ve obtained every weapon slot and are probably exhausted by all the mountain-hopping, waterfall-climbing, and field-trekking you’ve done, but do you still have that desire to find the rest? Do you want to continue your adventure and uncover every single secret Hyrule has to offer? There’s bound to be loads you’ve missed, so why not give that area another sweep?
The Korok mask which was released as part of a DLC pack is a great piece of gear that assists in the player’s Korok Hunt. The mask will jingle and shake when in the vicinity of a Korok, and sometimes it’s just vague enough to not be a total crutch. The map is huge, so you still have to go out of your way to seek the seeds out, but now you have a way of ultimately confirming the presence of a seed. There could be an area that you previously visited and found no trace, but upon returning with the mask on it turns out that you juuuuust missed that rock on the ground that was hiding a Korok beneath it. If you run too far away then the mask will stop shaking, indicating that the seed must be in that specific area. This turns every ‘Korok Zone’ into a mini shrine in and of itself, with a reward upon solving whatever the puzzle is offering.
Speaking of the puzzles, they’re usually relatively simple affairs that consist of figuring out what category they fall into and then providing the solution. They’re usually either a wayward rock that needs picking up, a metal block that needs to be slotted into a gap via magnesis,a sparkling light that dashes around the floor, or a circle of lilypads that needs to be dived into from atop a cliff. Just figuring out what sort of puzzle is occurring often takes up the bulk of your time in each instance. There were times when I stumbled into a forest and my mask proceeded to shake, but I absolutely could not figure out what or where the puzzle even was and had to leave and then come back later with a fresh mind. They’re spread out evenly enough so that there will always be variation, despite the relatively low amount of different puzzles.
Fertile Soil for Adventure
A member of the development team said that he didn’t expect players to find them all, which is echoed in the final reward for finding the 900 seeds: a piece of poo. Literally, you get poo for your efforts. It’s all a joke, and Nintendo is laughing at you for going out of your way to complete the exhaustive checklist. You put in the time and effort and got literal poop in return. Whether or not that’s insulting is entirely up to you. For those who want to complete things for the lucrative rewards, there is no victory in this endeavor. For those who want to simply explore Hyrule and soak in their surroundings on the way through, the journey itself is the reward. They got to traverse the world, meet all the characters and slay all the beasts in pursuit of those seeds. They had to contend with harsh conditions and nail-biting encounters at the skin of their teeth, all in pursuit of the seeds.
I know that this doesn’t apply to everyone, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Breath of the Wild’s Korok quest is not for those seeking a great reward or those who are easily bored. For those who just want to experience a breathtaking, wild adventure without any sort of real final end goal other than their own personal enjoyment, then there’s plenty of fun to be had. You could stop at 500, 600, or 700 and leave it at that, with easily a few hundred hours under your belt. It’s up to you to decide when you’ve had your fill of the adventure, and the sheer amount of Koroks to find only supports that freedom. One of the most beloved aspects of the original Legend of Zelda was its openness and freedom to explore at the player’s heart’s content, and Breath of the Wild’s collectible side quests feel like the perfect natural evolution from that. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. Who cares about the frankly mediocre reward at the end? Breath of the Wild’s landscape is such a joy to explore that the expansive experience I had made every hour of collecting those little leafy rascals worth it. I stepped away from the game with my own fond memories of finding clever ways to solve those pesky water-rock-circle puzzles, or taking half an hour to notice a single acorn flying over a tree. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game about making your own adventure, and in my pursuit of trying to obtain every Korok, I fully embraced that mindset.
Do you agree with my defence of the Koroks in Breath of the Wild? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter!