The title of this post really bothers me. This felt like the right angle at first as this article is basically a follow-up to my previous survival guide for Breath of the Wild, but the thing is, survival is a very relative term when it comes to Master Mode. Breath of the Wild was already a tough game where death is a normal occurrence, at least in the early stages of the game. Master Mode takes those early stages and makes them even more difficult to manage, and makes the period of time where this game is very challenging much longer than it used to be.
Still, I’ve been enjoying Master Mode and I wanted to provide a little something for those who might be having trouble jumping in. In my experience with Master Mode so far, this version of the game needs a different approach than the original. If you try to play Master Mode the same way you would play the standard game, you may never even make it off of the Great Plateau. Master Mode favors brains over brawn, so let’s jump off and open up our paraglider to seek out some ways to work smarter.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT?
Whenever you see an enemy in the distance, there’s an important question you need to ask yourself: should I really waste time fighting this guy? Generally in Breath of the Wild, the answer would be yes – defeating the monster will net you, at the very least, monster parts to use in elixirs or in upgrading armor. You could also get gemstones to sell for cold hard rupees, or maybe a new weapon or some arrows. But in Master Mode, it’s not as easy as all that.
Because enemies are increased by one level, they have significantly higher health and are harder to defeat. Now particularly against weaker enemies like Bokoblins, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal if not for the resource management aspect of the game. You don’t have an eternal supply of weapons or arrows, and blue bokoblins can take enough hits that you’ll probably break two early game weapons for every one bokoblin you defeat. Maybe more than that, if your weapons are particularly weak or fragile. In return, you’re getting a couple of monster parts and one more cruddy weapon that is not strong enough to take out another bokoblin on its own. In Master Mode’s early game, defeating enemies is actually going to expend more resources than you have to give.
Because of this, it is really important that you pick your battles. The advantage of Breath of the Wild’s open world is that there is rarely a time where an enemy encounter is totally unavoidable. You can find something to climb and jump over the bad guys, another path that leads to the same area, use crouching and cover to stealth your way through the area, or wait until nightfall and move through when the enemies are sleeping. Where in an action RPG you might need battles for XP, in this game everything is about resources – is playing out this encounter going to earn me more than I spend? If the answer is no, then just stay out of combat.
FIGHT SMARTER, NOT HARDER
Despite your best efforts to avoid combat, a time will come when you have no choice but to fight. When you do, to maintain your resources (and your teeny, tiny early game health bar) you need to fight as intellectually as you can. You have renewable resources at your disposal that will work in your favor when dealing with tough enemies – use them in order to succeed.
Your Sheikah Slate is your ally when it comes to resource management. Anything your Sheikah Slate is capable of basically has unlimited ammo – all you really have to worry about is a cooldown period. This is great for combat because it gives you options that don’t cause you to expend your weapons and ammo. By far the most important rune at your disposal is going to be the Bomb rune. Bombs don’t do all that much damage in the grand scheme of things, but they send weaker enemies flying and that effect is a powerful weapon.
While some enemies can survive in difficult conditions, many will die when plunged into something like water or lava. Bombs are a fantastic way to make that happen, as they launch lightweight foes straight into the drink if aimed correctly. This also works if you get the enemy to take enough fall damage by launching them off of a cliff. Using the natural environment to defeat your enemies for you prevents you from having to expend weapon uses and generally helps you stay out of harm’s way as well. If you’re facing an enemy like a Moblin that’s too heavy to be knocked into a deadly location by a bomb, try knocking them around with a two-handed weapon instead.
You have other valuable runes and resources as well. Some areas have large rocks that you can roll into enemies, or explosive barrels to light with your arrows. The triangular sky platforms that enemies can ride on in Master Mode will drop their cargo if you simply pop one Sky Octorok, making it simple to eliminate those deadly archers quickly. You can use stasis to send an object flying into enemies, or magnesis to swing around a heavy metal box instead of worrying about a weapon. Fighting in this fashion will allow you to reap the rewards of battle without expending your supplies, which makes combat more fruitful and worthwhile.
A final note about fighting smart – enemies regenerate health in Master Mode, which means you don’t want to skip around between different ones. The guy you beat up halfway will recover to full HP while you’re whittling his buddy down halfway. In group battles, you can get easily overwhelmed because monsters can back off and let their buddies keep you busy while they recover health. When facing multiple opponents, use your runes and the environment to isolate them. Take out one guy at a time so that guy doesn’t get the chance to start recovering from the damage you have dealt.
A HEALTHY DIET IS IMPORTANT TO A SUCCESSFUL ADVENTURE
I read an article a few months back by Sam over at Pixeldump Gaming which talked about why games should always be played on the hardest difficulty. In this article, he spoke about how playing games on hard mode forces you to take full advantage of game mechanics you might otherwise be able to gloss over. In Breath of the Wild, I think this is very evident when it comes to the game’s food.
In my armor guide for this game, I discussed how attack and defense increases actually apply to the numerical damage rating of attacks. The short version is this: an attack power buff increases the damage of your weapon by a percentage (20%, 30%, then 50%) and a defensive buff decreases the damage you take by a set amount (1 heart, 3 hearts, then 6 hearts). These kinds of increases were a luxury in the main version of the game, useful primarily against boss enemies and not necessary for winning the game. In this version of the game, cooking food that gives you attack power helps you to conserve resources, and increased defense will prevent you from being knocked out in one hit by serious threats.
In Master Mode, your enemies are significantly stronger than you, particularly in the early parts of the game. Blue Bokoblins have 72 health – Link has 12. And there’s typically two or three of them to your one. The gap only gets wider with stronger enemy types and stronger enemy colors. Closing the gap with a stat boost is a key weapon in your arsenal against such powerful foes. While you can’t stack every type of bonus, take advantage of the ones you can in order to pose a greater threat to your opposition. A really good combination would be to eat food that grants artificial hearts alongside food that gives you a boost to attack power. This makes you a bigger threat offensively while also giving you some defensive cushion as well.
So how do you make good stat-increasing food? The best way is to combine multiple ingredients that grant the same stat boost. Throw five Iron Shrooms in the cooking pot together, or five Mighty Carp. The Hyrule Compendium is a handy tool for this as it allows you to specifically hunt down any ingredient that you have taken a picture of with the camera once you have the Sheikah Sensor upgrade. Don’t just rely on the random apples and acorns you find along the way – spend some time actively hunting truly useful ingredients and preparing them into meals that will make you more effective in battle. That’s the difference between normal mode and master mode – you can’t just waltz through master mode. You have to actively and purposefully take advantage of every tool at your disposal. Go on ingredient hunts and intentionally seek out ones that give you valuable stat boosts.
ORDER OF EVENTS
Yes, Breath of the Wild is an open world game and you can go pretty much anywhere you want. But in the early game, there’s a pretty specific set of things you want to do first, and this is particularly important in Master Mode as it will help guarantee your survival.
After you get off of the Great Plateau, head for Kakariko Village. It’ll be marked on your map by a quest. If you jump off of the east side of the Plateau from the guidance tower, you can follow the road east from the Outpost Ruins towards Proxim Bridge and run into a shrine on your way. The guidance tower for the Necluda region is north across the Squabble River just before you go between the Dueling Peaks. If you climb up the peaks you can complete the Twin Shrines for two more Spirit Orbs. On the east side of the Peaks you’ll find Dueling Peaks Stable, a perfect place to get your first horse and the location of a fourth shrine. You now have enough Spirit Orbs for another heart container (and by golly you need to be getting heart containers exclusively during this point in the game)!
Follow the road from Dueling Peaks Stable north across the Kakariko Bridge. Along this path you’ll meet Hestu and unlock the side quest for expanding your inventory. Personally, I recommend spending any Korok seeds you have at this point on your weapon inventory, as it will seriously help with the resource management aspect of combat and make it easier to take out the stronger enemies of Master Mode. After completing that, continue to head north and you’ll reach Kakariko Village.
Complete the shrine in Kakariko, talk to Impa, and head to Hateno Tech Lab next. This is where you’re going to unlock the Camera rune and the Hyrule Compendium, as well as giving yourself access to the Captured Memories quest. You also want to spend three Ancient Screws to get the Sheikah Sensor upgrade, which is seriously valuable for ingredient finding and intelligent meal preparation.
Head back to Kakariko Village to do some questing. Your goal here is to unlock the Sheikah Heirloom quest to get an easy shrine. All I had to do was Pekango’s quest (taking a picture of the Great Fairy Fountain), find the ten cuccos for the guard in front of Impa’s house, and release some fireflies in Lasli’s house at night. The Fairy Fountain is seriously important – you want to unlock this early so you can start getting armor upgrades immediately. That along with the heart containers from completing shrines will make combat a lot easier to handle. Finally, once you’ve talked to Impa, you’ll want to quickly collect a Captured Memory (here’s my guide so you can find one easy; I recommend the one near Kokomo Garrison Ruins as it is very close to the Plateau) and return to her to get the Champion’s Tunic, the best single armor piece in the game. You can even upgrade it from 5 to 8 armor immediately courtesy of the fact that the item needed to upgrade it, the silent princess flower, grows right by the fairy fountain!
At this point depending on how much side exploration you did in addition to this and how much money you spent, you should have 5-6 hearts, the camera and Sheikah Sensor upgrade, and the upgraded Champion’s Tunic as well as some other upgraded armor for somewhere between 18-22 armor. This should be good enough to open up the world to you a little bit – specifically, you want to start moving from region to region and unlocking the guidance towers. This is easiest in central Hyrule where you can ride to most locations on horseback. Stop in at any shrines you detect along the way and make sure you hunt down all of the Great Fairies and awaken them (instructions for that are in the armor guide I linked earlier). The more fairies you’ve unlocked, the more you can upgrade your armor and increase your survivability. At this point in the game, your focus should be on gaining heart containers and armor upgrades. Once the whole map is unlocked and you’ve got some protection, you should be ready to take on a storyline quest!
There you have it, folks, my guide for survival in Master Mode. Naturally a lot of this stuff is easier said than done, but if you can power through these early sections of the game, you’ll be able to become strong enough to where you can fight your enemies in a more traditional manner and Master Mode will become a bit easier to survive. Remember that the best thing you can do for yourself in this mode is to capitalize on every feature that can help you: eat stat-boosting meals, upgrade your armor with intent, utilize the environment in combat, and you’ll be well on your way to defeating Calamity Ganon in the game’s Master Mode!