The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an enormous game with an open world full of places to explore and stuff that will kill you. These kinds of challenges will be familiar if you’ve played recent entries in the Elder Scrolls or Fallout series, but the game might be a bit overwhelming if you’re a casual Nintendo fan.
I’m going to help by pointing out ways to increase your power quickly, as well as explain the most efficient ways to get the stuff you need to undertake the game’s challenges. This information could be seen as spoilers if you want to figure everything out for yourself, so this is your warning.
The first step is ...
Identify your needs
It’s best to think about open world games as having two interwoven progression paths. The first is the narrative; following the quests and spooling out the game’s story. The second path is exploration, and that can be either aimless and free-form or the deliberate pursuit of power-enhancing items that are outside the main quest.
Generally, the difficulty of the story quests’ will ramp up more quickly than those quests dole out power, nudging you to go exploring. Exploration, however, rarely pushes you back onto the quest path. You can spend dozens of hours combing the world for powerful stuff, and then return to the main quest wielding god-killer weapons and wearing armor that is basically an Iron Man suit.
Stomping through the story quests with overwhelming force can feel like a brilliant plan paying off, or it can feel like playing on easy mode. It’s all in how you look at it, and how you prefer to play. There is no “right” approach.
Regardless of whether you’re playing story quests or venturing into the most dangerous parts of Hyrule in pursuit of phat schwag however, you need three things:
- Consumables that heal and buff you
- Cash money to pay for armor and upgrades
Here is how you begin that process.
Collect the Shrines
The most straightforward path of power progression in the game is solving shrines. There are 120 of these mini-dungeons hidden around Hyrule, and each has a puzzle to solve or a combat challenge and awards you a Spirit Orb. Four Spirit Orbs can be traded for a heart container or a vessel to increase your stamina wheel.
Beyond getting a map that shows you the shrine locations, or walkthroughs for individual shrines, there’s no real shortcut to this process. You just have to go to all the shrines and solve the puzzles. Find a high spot, take out your scope and mark all the shrines you see and head to ‘em.
It is worth noting that shrines are fast-travel points, so when you find an enemy with a powerful weapon, or if you find a cluster of a useful commodity, you can mark it on your map with a stamp, and teleport to the closest shrine to collect the loot whenever it respawns.
Be prepared to grind
You’re going to need a lot of arrows to fire at enemies who are too dangerous to risk engaging in hand-to-hand combat if you’re headed into the harder areas, and you’re also going to need consumables to heal the massive damage these enemies will deal you and to buttress your paltry defenses and insufficient stamina early in the game.
You’ll find the route from Inogo Bridge up to Zora’s Domain pretty early in the game, and it is extremely lucrative. It is populated by lots of Lizalfos soldiers who frequently drop bundles of five to 10 arrows. The route is a path through a canyon — so you won’t get lost — and the river that you walk along is full of useful fish you can grab on the way.
Those fish include Armored Carp, which can be cooked into food that gives a powerful buff to your defense. You’ll also find Staminoka Bass which, when cooked, restore a full wheel of stamina. This allows you to climb walls and towers you could not scale otherwise.
The only caveat is that some of the Lizalfos use Shock Arrows, which deal electric damage that bypasses your armor and can kill you in one hit early in the game. You can learn to dodge the electric attacks with practice, or you can protect yourself by eating food made with ingredients like Voltfin Trout or Zapshrooms that buffs your electric resistances before engaging them.
Speaking of food? Satori Mountain, just northwest of the Great Plateau starting area, is a great, efficient place to collect it.
This mountain has a huge grove of apple trees with lots of fruit; you can collect 100 apples in a single visit. Just cut down the trees or blow them up with your bombs to knock all the fruit to the ground. The trees respawn. Apples are a low-quality food but, if you cook five of them at once, you get a healing food that restores five hearts. Head to this area to fill your inventory with that potent item.
There’s also a grove of trees nearby with a fruit called Hearty Durian. Cooking a single one of these creates a meal that heals all your health and gives you four bonus hearts temporarily. Grab some before you leave.
And nearby, there is a glade full of herbs, including elemental resistance herbs that are generally pretty rare, and another glade full of useful mushrooms. There’s an image of the map above, and the locations of these areas are marked with cooking pot stamps.
Plants respawn on a pretty quick timer; it’s probably there for you to grab again if you have played for more than an hour since you last harvested all this stuff.
You will still need to find other spots to find foods that buff stats in quantity, but once you establish a fast-travel location at a shrine near this mountain, you are set for healing items.
The Blood Moon is a great excuse to cook
The Blood Moon is an occasional event that is just an excuse for the monsters you’ve killed to respawn, but it also improves all the food you cook when it’s active. The actual event occurs at midnight, game time, but the cooking buff becomes active at 11:30. You can see the red moon at 9:00, and that gives you a couple of minutes to get somewhere that you can take advantage of the event.
When you cook your standard five apple fruit meal during the blood moon, you get a healing food that restores 8 hearts instead of the normal 5, and your foods that buff stats cooked during this time will be more potent or last longer.
If you can, try to keep an eye on the sky whenever night falls while you are questing, and get to a cooking fire when the moon is red.
Get rich or die trying, using meat
Skyrim and Fallout both have complex in-game economies involving dozens of vendors trading in huge selections of weapons, armor, ingredients and consumables, and those systems also interact with character stats.
All that complexity created opportunities for characters who leveraged those mechanics to gain tremendous power. A crafty merchant could obtain huge quantities of energy cores to fuel the power armor in Fallout 4, and players could leverage a profitable vendor shuffle to gear themselves out in insane crafted equipment and also to level up repeatedly in Skyrim.
Zelda’s economy is much simpler, which means there are aren’t nearly as many opportunities for exploitation. There are few vendors with limited inventory, and they take a long time to restock when you buy all their wares.
But you still need a bunch of rupees, the game’s currency. You need money to buy armor sets from shops, to pay the great fairies to unlock your armor upgrades and to buy specialty arrows whenever they’re in stock.
The thing you want to look for in any game where you interact with an economy is a commodity that you can easily collect in large amounts, but that sells to vendors for a lot of money. In Zelda, that commodity is meat.
If you follow the path by the shrine above Kakariko Village, past the first great fairy fountain, you’ll come to a field where Kass the bird-bard is playing his accordian. The area is full of deer you can slaughter — there’s actually a shrine quest here that involves trying to ride on one — and you can retrieve an item called Raw Prime Meat from their corpses.
A single deer will frequently drop two of these items, and if you cook three together with a couple of random lower-tier foods to push the heart-value of the final meal up a notch, you can sell the result for 150 rupees. Remember the location to harvest those apples? This is a good excuse to use even more of ‘em.
Some players prefer to farm rupees by cheating at minigames, and once you’ve collected some extra hearts and powerful gear you can profitably farm the guardians near the castle. But hunting deer and cooking meat is about as lucrative and efficient as any other method of farming rupees, and you can do it very early in the game.
Buy the stealth suit in Kakariko Village and upgrade it to level two so you can stack that with a stealth potion to get close enough to throw your bombs at the deer. This way you don’t even have to use your arrows to kill them.
And while you can’t pet the dogs in this game, it is pretty amazing that you can beat an entire family of wolves to death with a club. It is also endlessly fun to chuck some explosives at a serene flock of majestic heron, and then scamper around collecting the ragged chunks of flesh and gristle that rain from the sky. There’s a reason this is one of the best-reviewed games of all time, so feel free to get creative with your meat harvest … but harvesting it is absolutely an easy path to those sweet, sweet rupees.
What you’re hunting for
The Climbing Gear set is awesome. Each piece gives you a speed boost when climbing, and you get a bonus reduction in the stamina cost to jump up the side of a wall if you upgrade it to level two.
This is fantastic, since Hyrule is full of mountains you’ll need to scale, and you must unlock your map by climbing Shiekah towers, frequently while under fire from dangerous enemies. You want this armor as early as you can get it.
The trouble is that the climbing shirt is in a chest in a “major” combat shrine, guarded by an extremely powerful robot miniboss who has an absurd amount of health and deals very high damage.
Later in the game, when you have access to powerful gear, he’s not too difficult to manage. In fact, once you’re geared up, you may want to farm him when he respawns for the powerful guardian weapons he drops. But he’s a beast early in the game.
So, if you hope to take him down and loot the gear before you’ve already climbed most of the stuff in the game without the benefit of the sweet climbing bonuses, you’ll need all those elemental arrows you bought with the rupees you got from selling meat, and the highest-tier defensive buff food you can cook during a blood moon to keep him from slicing you in half with his ridiculous axe.
Perhaps the ultimate prize is the Ancient Armor set — really the Iron Man armor set — which has the best defense rating in the game, reduces the damage you take from guardians and increases the damage you deal with ancient weapons. To get it, you have to journey to the Ancient Tech Lab at the far northeast corner of the map, and the set costs 6000 rupees.
Other armor sets, including the stealth suit you can get in Kakariko and sets that allow you to resist elemental damage, cost around 2,000 rupees each.
Powering that armor also requires unlocking a Great Fairy fountain for each of the four tiers of upgrades, and unlocking those fountains costs rupees: 100 for the first, 500 for the second, 1,000 for the third and 10,000 to unlock the final tier four upgrade.
That’s a lot of dead deer.
Arguably, that last 10,000 rupees is an unnecessary spend. Tier three armor is sufficient protection, especially with buffs from consumables, and in addition to the cost of unlocking the Tier 4 upgrades, actually upgrading your gear requires hunting down rare and esoteric items like dragon scales and fragments of falling stars.
Most players will complete the game without ever getting them, but if you spend the 10,000 rupees and hunt down nine star fragments and nine giant ancient cores, each piece of your Ancient Armor will have a defense rating of 28. With that much armor, you can take a Lynel axe to the face and barely notice it. The guardians’ death lasers will feel like tickle beams, and Calamity Ganon will seem more like Nuisance Ganon.
Is it gross overkill? Almost certainly. But let’s be real: you didn’t buy a brand new console at launch when it only has one game available for it because you are a subtle person.
Have fun exploring
The cool thing about open-world games is that you can go in any direction at any time and find something to do. Sometimes it will be something lucrative and surprising, like the orchard randomly placed on the side of the mountain. Other times, exploration will be less productive, but you’ll still chart a new part of the map, or at least pick some herbs while you run around. No matter how you play, over time, you’ll make progress.
But if you want to have a more concrete goal to work toward, hopefully you now know what you want, and have a better idea of how to get it. You can skip a lot of the difficulty in the early game by spending just a little time farming and grinding using these methods, and that can make the game a lot more fun.
Daniel Friedman is the Edgar award-nominated author of Don’t Ever Get Old, Don’t Ever Look Back and Riot Most Uncouth. He lives in New York City.