‘Breath of the Wild’ (Divine Beasts): Vah Ruta Puts a Welcome Spin on the Zelda Dungeon Format
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As part of our month-long spotlight on boss battles, we’ve decided to dedicate this week to the bosses in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Going in to Breath of the Wild, there was one of the four divine beasts I had never actually seen in any trailers or gameplay; Vah Ruta. Coincidentally, this is the one I ended up tackling first, due to an unexpected run-in with the Zora prince Sidon during my tower hunting. As far as Zelda dungeons go, Vah Ruta is quite different from what we’re used to. All things considered, it doesn’t take that long to complete. Your only real objective is to activate five terminals, as opposed to reaching the boss room, and once you have the dungeon map in your sheikha Slate, all the locations of the terminals are marked for you. Cleverly, the puzzle of these terminals is solved by manipulating the beast itself and the game’s physics engine. The Elephant-shaped Vah Ruta is constantly spitting water from its trunk, and by changing the angle of the trunk, you can manipulate the dungeon using the force of the water. This is a pretty clever way of designing a dungeon. It allows the use of water-based puzzle solving, without contributing to the poor reputation water-based dungeons have suffered in the past. It feels a lot like one of the longer shrines in the game, complete with guardian enemies and unclimbable walls. Unlike the larger Zelda dungeons of days passed, figuring out the puzzles within Vah Ruta wasn’t complex or contrived whatsoever, and instead of focusing on one ability, you had to make use of a good number of your arsenal to get the job done.
While not technically a part of the dungeon itself, I believe the short sequence just before link enters Vah Ruta is worth mention. It sees the player riding the Zora prince Sidon around Ruta like a jet ski while avoiding projectiles and waiting for an opportunity to strike it with electricity. This is one of the faster-paced sequences I’ve encountered in a Zelda game, and it was extremely enjoyable to partake in. It somewhat felt like an action sequence ripped out of Grand Theft Auto. Once you get into a good groove, you and Sidon become a well-oiled machine, and that feeling does wonders for his likeability as a character. It also gives an immediate use to the Zora tunic by requiring Link to use it to scale waterfalls coming out of the divine beast, thus showing the player how useful the item can be.
The final aspect of the Vah Ruta encounter is, of course, the dungeon Boss; Waterblight Ganon. Unfortunately, this is where the experience falls flat. While the fight was fairly challenging at first, with the range of Waterblight Ganon’s spear making a direct assault very difficult, it soon devolves into a basic routine and a boring battle. Once you realize that Z-targeting the boss allows you easy headshots, it just becomes a matter of walking up to it and spamming your attack button once it’s down. Even when the boss limits your movement by flooding the room and leaving only four platforms on which to stand, things only become more tedious, not more difficult. If you’ve kept any guardian weapons on you, the fight becomes even more of a joke. It’s Queen Gohma levels of easy as far as Zelda bosses go, and sours what would have otherwise been an extremely enjoyable dungeon from start to finish. At the very least, the monster has a striking design that incorporates elements of Ganon himself, the guardians, and that dangerous purple slime spread out across Hyrule. Despite Waterblight Ganon’s lackluster fight, though, the Vah Ruta encounter was very satisfying and puts a welcome spin on the Zelda dungeon format.