Eventide Island or, Dumb Ways to Die

I do wish it was even easier to take screenshots on the Wii U, but here we are.

My love for THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD continues in leaps and bounds, and I recently found myself on a quest chain reaction which began when I noticed a far-off island which I had tried and failed to paraglide over to from a high cliff. (Paragliding takes stamina, which regenerates over time and has a limit which can be incrementally increased.) Because the distance was too far to do it in one go*, I decided I must cook some meals with ingredients that give stamina boosts.

* This, in a nutshell, is BOTW’s very subtle and very clever system of ‘blocking off’ certain areas – it doesn’t actually block you from doing anything, really – you can just tackle any terrain or monsters with whatever you have on hand before figuring out for yourself that to do it properly you’ll need more of X or Y.

So I went off to do some cooking, and I specifically looked for ingredients on my way that would give me stamina boosts. This probably in turn led me to spotting something else and going off to investigate that, and maybe chatting to a NPC who gave me a side quest that I may or may not choose to follow and HOLY SHIT THIS IS THE GAME ISN’T IT? THIS IS WHAT I’VE SPENT ABOUT FIFTY HOURS OR SO DOING ALREADY.

And golly, I love it.

So, I found some stamina-boosting ingredients, I cooked some meals, and I headed back up to the clifftop. It was a bright sunny morning (I had initially arrived early evening, pissing down with rain – I couldn’t even light a fire – so I went to a nearby hostelry to get a bed for the night) and things were looking good.

So I leapt off the cliff and glided down to the distant island. As expected, I needed a stamina boost as I got closer, so I had a mid-flight snack (Link is so good at multi-tasking) and carried on. As I got closer to the coast I saw an orb receptacle thing – a round, metal platform – much like one that I’d recently interacted with on another task. In that task, my duty had been to land on it with my paraglider, so I re-routed for the platform instead of the beach and oh shit I ran out of stamina because I got distracted on my approach.

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This is someone else’s screenshot of gliding down to Eventide Island. They, too, are about to run out of stamina (the little circle near Link’s head)

When you run out of stamina while gliding, your glider basically stops working. This means you plummet through the air from whatever height you were gliding at. If you’re lucky, this is onto dry land at a height from which Link can merely dust himself off and carry on his merry, elfy way.

If you’re not so lucky, it’s either too big a drop to the ground below (insta-death), or you might fall onto water – but swimming¬†also requires stamina, so if you land in water with no stamina? Oh you’d better believe that’s a drowning.

So, of course, I died and was placed back on my clifftop launchpad and I tried again, scoffing my handily-replenished stamina-boosting snack en route. This time I managed to land on the orb platform but was disappointed to find it did nothing special. This was annoying, as I’d seen others around and about and presumed, having successfully completed the aforementioned task of gliding onto a different one, that this was all you had to do on them. As it transpires, it seems they all have different requirements.

So I landed in an incredibly beautiful paradise called EVENTIDE ISLAND. Quickly, however, some text appeared onscreen akin to the text you see when entering shrines. This island isn’t just a pretty place to explore, it’s a shrine/dungeon/level that requires beating.

And what’s this? As part of the challenge, Link is stripped of all his items. Everything. The screen fades to black and Link reappears in his pants on the beach with nothing in his inventory. Rather than disappointed, I was excited. What a cool concept! You’re promised all your belongings back once this task is completed, but for now you’re back to square one. The game has spent X hours teaching the player how to interact with the environment and objects, and you are temporarily stripped back, at least conceptually, to the start of the game except now I know what the fuck I’m doing.

So I gleefully began to start collecting crabs and tree branches and plants and other bits and bobs that might come in handy, and even as I came across my first moblin camp, I had an air of confidence about my actions that this island was just gearing up to knock out of me.

I successfully completed the first of three challenges on the island and thought I had the measure of the task ahead of me. But when I began the second challenge, I very quickly died. Normally when you die in BOTW, you restart nearby and you crack on, perhaps with a different strategy. But reader, I did not re-start on the island with my little knapsack of crabs and tree branches (not to mention the weapons and body parts I’d recently looted off the moblins’ still-warm corpses)…

No, I restarted on that blustery, sunny clifftop once again, my work thus far for nought, the clock wound back to when I’d last been there, the meal I’d scoffed for extra stamina on the way over magically restored in my inventory, and the morning light still highlighting that temptress of an island in the distance, although it had less of a paradisaical look about it now that I knew what was in store.

I let this setback sink in for a second… And then I leapt off the cliff with my paraglider and of course gave it another bash.

How to enjoy a Bank Holiday weekend

There are many ways to enjoy a nice three-day weekend, but here is just one set of ideas that worked for me this weekend just gone.

A little dash of videogames, including Banished, Anno 1404 and Firewatch

Banished, I fear, I have gone off a little on account of it offering little to no guidance on how you are doing, or how to do better.

I’ve quite enjoyed the long, slow grind to achieve equilibrium in terms of getting your growing population to continue growing while ensuring there is enough food and fuel. But beyond that, the game kind of stagnates. It deliberately has no ‘story’ – the game is itself an education in the basic need to just grind away in order to survive – but there don’t seem to be any opportunities to upgrade or progress or ‘win’.

A scattering of quite prosaic achievements are available, but they seem like box-ticking. I suspect my future enjoyment of Banished will come through trying new strategies, imposing my own artificial restrictions, and investigating the modding community.

With Banished growing stale, I turned to Anno 1404, which I’ve been enjoying. It’s very much a game of its genre, but it’s done with some style and panache. It has quite a hand-holdy tutorial, but it’s done through the medium of a story and several small individual tasks which must be completed for a cast of characters. But games of this complexity do require some hand-holding; it’s not possible to set oneself up for ‘the long game’ if one overlooks a crucial part of the game’s system.

I think I will return to Age of Empires II shortly – the HD remake, naturally – but that is a game I know quite well, so it’s been nice to give Anno 1404 a fair shake.

I’ve also enjoyed little stints in Firewatch, which continues to enchant me. The opening prologue was an unexpected punch in the guts, and I’m a little concerned that the story will give me the sads later on. But the story-driven gameplay – it’s sometimes little more than ‘go here, do this, now go here’ – works nicely, and it’s an enjoyable blend of a game in an artificially vast environment that’s actually really rather on-rails.

The above have all given me plenty of opportunity to get the Steam Link figured out. (It’s a small streaming box which allows you to play your PC games on your TV in another room.) Mostly I’ve learned that there is inevitably a little bit of latency inherent in a powerline adapter I know to be slightly flakey. For some games, like Firewatch, the lag isn’t too noticeable. For Anno 1404¬†I’ve had to reduce some graphical settings to find a compromise between responsiveness and playing comfortably on the 40-inch screen in the lounge. It plays beautifully on my computer monitor, but it’s nice to play games in the living room.

An overnight microadventure by bicycle to Buckinghamshire

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A few years ago, I went on a few microadventures which usually consisted of bugging out on my bike after work with little more than a tent and some snacks.

Since moving to London, I’ve not had such easy access to do this, but the opportunity came up this weekend for Megan and I to hop on the Tube to Chesham, cycle to a tiny village near Wendover, and pitch camp for one night in a cute, remote farmer’s field.

Our rewards included: peace, space, woodland walks at dusk, the sounds (and, occasionally, glowing eyes in torchlight) of various animals, a lovely pub meal, the rare novelty of seeing one’s own shadow cast by the light of an almost-full-moon, and a simple but delicious breakfast cooked over a Primus stove.

We also popped in to visit my mother on our way home, which was lovely. And a good opportunity to dry off, as we were caught in a torrential downpour on the ride home.

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One nice thing about a single night’s camping is that it often feels as though you’ve been away for several days, and this was just such an occasion.

And a trip or two to the cinema

We went to see Mission: Impossible – Fallout recently, which was far funnier and more enjoyable than I had expected it to be. As much as the film takes itself seriously, and the films increasingly feel like the Tom Cruise vanity hour, this one is just a stunning summer blockbuster, and just what the doctor ordered. The set-piece stunts are bonkers; there is enough humour scattered throughout – Simon Pegg is a fantastic addition to the franchise; and the whole thing rollicked along, and I loved every minute.

Oddly enough, I had decided to go and see M:I-F to scratch an itch I’ve had recently of having not seen a balls-to-the-wall blockbuster on a balls-to-the-wall¬†GIGANTIC screen with a balls-to-t– LOUD sound system.

So you can imagine my joy, just days after seeing this film, when I learned that the BFI IMAX were showing a 10-year anniversary run of The Dark Knight on 70MM film. So that’s what we did on Monday, and I had a blast. I think Megan enjoyed it too.

The film itself holds up pretty well ten years on, and I couldn’t contain my happiness seeing the IMAX sequences on the biggest screen in the UK, and hearing the deafening explosions and stirring soundtrack using what sounds like all 11,600 watts at their disposal. Just fabulous.

Of course, it’s now about a thousand years until the next proper bank holiday weekend, and it definitely feels like Autumn is almost upon us. But that brings its own charms, and I am almost ready to embrace it.