It’s been almost two years since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hit shelves. If you’ve played it at all, you’ve probably played it to death, unlocking every shrine, saving every divine beast, and giving up halfway through finding every Korok. It’s time for a radical proposal: delete your save file.
I know, but hear me out. The idea of starting any massive sandbox game from scratch sounds like a nightmare. Imagine starting Skyrim over and throwing out all your money, gear, and homes that you’ve built. It’s hard to go from one-shotting dragons in your meticulously upgraded armor to getting killed by the first wild bear you encounter? After a certain point, you’re just asking for a long grind just to get back to where you were.
Breath of the Wild, I would like to argue, is different. This is the story of the time I deleted my save file, and why I don’t regret it.
Most sandbox games have some kind of reward for the dozens of hours you invest in the game. In Skyrim, you can build an entire house (or three) from scratch and start a family. Spider-Man for the PS4 hands out tokens for most side activities that you use to unlock new powers and upgrades. Resetting these games means giving up everything you’ve worked on and starting over with nothing. Which is why games like Spider-Man come with New Game+ modes that let you start over while keeping all your power-ups and gear.
Breath of the Wild—which, unfortunately, does not have a New Game+ mode—has comparatively little in the way of accumulated resources. Most of your core abilities are unlocked before you even leave Tutorial Plateau. There are a couple of minor upgrades for them, but it’s trivially easy to get them again. You can buy a house for a bunch of rupees, but there’s little else that having a lot of money gives you. At worst, you might need to replace some armor, but the quests to get them are part of the adventure you’re trying to re-experience, rather than a grind.
In fact, the only resources that are difficult re-acquire are Spirit Orbs. If you completed every shrine the first time around, it can feel unsatisfying to go back to three hearts and a single stamina wheel. However, this is where Breath of the Wild’s approach to its open world pays off. Every shrine’s puzzle uses the same visual design, and there are a lot of them. Replaying games like Portal are tough, because you can’t solve a puzzle for the first time again. However, it’s hard to remember the solution to every single shrine. Some will probably come back to you, but you’ll also probably struggle with some.
More importantly, there’s a benefit to losing all your hearts and stamina. While most sandboxes encourage to a degree, Breath of the Wild makes wandering across the world a core element of how you progress through the game. You can stand on the highest tower and spot shrines from across the map, mark them, then discover more shrines, quests, and NPCs as you spend your time trekking to those markers.
This approach makes it hard to follow the same path twice. Even though I did all 120 of the shrines in my initial playthrough, the second time around I discovered new side quests, new Koroks, and new parts of the map I hadn’t found the first time. Moreover, I found new paths to get from one place to another. Traversing the terrain is a unique puzzle all on its own, and it’s hard to solve it the same way twice. Take a left instead of a right the second time around and you could have a totally different experience.
You also get a second chance to use a different playstyle. I didn’t discover Revali’s Gale—an ability that launches you into the air from wherever you’re standing—until I was nearly finished with the game the first time. You can complete the dungeons in any order and most of the powers you get for finishing them are just nice-to-haves, but in a game that centers so heavily on traversing uneven terrain, Revali’s Gale is incredibly useful. On my second playthrough, I went straight for the Rito dungeon so I could get this power, and it changed how I explored immensely.
If you’re not sure the benefits of experiencing the game a second time around are worth giving up everything you worked for the first time, there’s a workaround. You can create a second profile on your Switch under a different name and use that to create a new game save. While the game itself doesn’t support multiple save files, the Switch supports up to 8 different profiles, which is more than enough to start the game a few different ways.
However, in my own experience, cutting the cord is the way to go. You first embarked on Link’s journey in Breath of the Wild with naught but the shirt on your back—err, well not even that—and most of your adventure was spent clawing a living out of the harsh and unforgiving wilderness in Hyrule. Now that all the DLC has been released and the memories have faded just a bit, give up Link’s house, throw your weapons off a cliff, and give the game a second go the way it was meant to be played.
Are you ready to take the leap and start your game over? Or would you prefer to play it safe and keep all your hard work intact? Let us know in the comments.
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Image credits: Nintendo (captured by Eric Ravenscraft).