A few disclaimers before we move forward:
- Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
- These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
I would also like to state before continuing that this post will not cover the Divine Beast or the things pertaining to its conditions for entrance. I will dedicate an article to the Divine Beasts in general at some point in the future.
My first time playing Breath of the Wild, I stumbled upon the trigger to Zora’s Domain by accident. Playing around in the wilderness, killing Bokoblins and hunting for goodies, I saw a shrine in the distance. Naturally, I darted for it, and after completing it, I wandered the area when I came across a bridge, glowing with a pristine silver blue. Stepping on a certain spot, a cutscene occurred, introducing me to the first of four major characters that act as the catalyst to Link appearing before the Divine Beasts. Sidon, prince of the Zoras, flashed that overconfident grin and I immediately became hesitant of his character. As it continued, though, I became smitten with the prince, slowly melting the assumptions made about up-and-coming royalty with his sense of bravado and cheesy sense of justice.
The path traveled just getting to Zora’s Domain was a journey in and of itself, as I had little experience with what was to come; most notably, the future was to become shocking. A pleasure it was to cruise through a winding path that gave a variety of different platforms. Rivers, Lizalfos camps, bridges, mountains, and ruins. Every five minutes, the layout seems to change just enough to provide a sense of variety for the player to acclimate themselves to. Not to mention, aside from Lizalfos, the enemy variety is also fairly astute. Basically everything is present at some point or another, including a lone Wizzrobe. This sense of building was, once again, a nice transition from simply playing the game to being immersed in its environment. Like being in the tranquility of Kakariko Village, the path leading to Zora’s Domain gave a world-building experience worthy of its challenge.
Being perfectly biased, Zora’s Domain is essentially my dream world’s perfect aesthetic. Glamorously shiny, structures adorned with the same glowing silver blue that various parts of the preceding path had, and almost Atlantic-like in appearance. Water seeps in from all directions from rivers, streams, and large waterfalls. And, flashing some light on my preferences, the sky is fairly dark and gloomy, allowing the ebbing translucence of the domain to stand out even further. Sweeping corridors without roofs meet in the middle to a main living space which houses the King of the Zora. When first arriving, I was bewitched by the visual spectacle. Even coming back to it, after seeing everything else the game has to offer, I still feel a little in awe.
What’s interesting about the Zora is that they have incredibly long life spans. So long, in fact, that despite the fact that Link has been asleep for over a hundred years, many of the Zora present upon his arrival recognize him almost immediately. Whether old or semi-old, many will greet Link with statements such as “Link! It’s been so long! Do you remember me?!” This allows the player, despite not knowing any of these characters, to see Link as a different entity, as a character of his own with his own perspective. These Zora have a history with him, and the familiarity immediately makes the place inviting to explore, if only to see who else recognizes him and how they’d react. Even without calming the Divine Beast, there is a reason to be invested with the world present in front of the player. Creating a legacy from scratch is fine and dandy, but interacting with those who knew the character from before the amnesia provides a lot of intriguing possibilities to the character’s growth and behavior. If only Link actually had a personality…
Even the King of the Zora recognizes Link, who laments that he does not recall anything of his past, including his late daughter, Mipha. Mipha, in all respect to her character, is one of four token “spiritual guides” that appear once Link has ventured inside a Divine Beast, but more on that later. It is revealed that the Divine Beast’s wrath has caused an overflow of rain to plague Zora’s Domain, causing massive bouts of floods that, in all honesty, don’t look too alarming. It is up to Link to appease the Beast and stop the rainfall that it seems to be causing. But first, he needs to talk some sense into some old asshole who holds a grudge against him because he believes Link let Mipha die. Mipha, you see, was apparently the belle of the ball in the Zora’s land, and every boy had the hots for her. Seeing as she was one of defenders of Hyrule against Ganon, she went off to try and fight him alongside the other defenders, Link, and Zelda, only to fail, and die. Clearly, it’s Link’s fault.
On the very edge of breaking my own word, to appease the Divine Beast in this region, it is recommended that the player collects a load of shock arrows, most prevalently found at the top of one of the mountains surrounding Zora’s Domain. It is here where the player, assuming they haven’t explored much of the world, faces off against their first Lynel. And boy, was it a huge bitch for me the first time around. Their behavior patterns are a little tricky to pinpoint, and they have a massive amount of HP. You can’t even cheese it and shoot them from a distance, as they’ll pull out a bow and arrows and shoot you right back! It ended up becoming one of the more memorable situations while within Zora’s Domain, with the promise of fighting more had me uttering grievances under my breath.
Without going any further, Zora’s Domain ended up becoming the first of four areas where Divine Beasts raged wild that I
inadvertently chose to pacify, and during my second playthrough, ended up being the last. Fun fact: if you arrive at Zora’s Domain without triggering the cutscene where one meets Sidon at the bridge, the cutscene won’t ever play, and the game will carry on with Sidon having no idea who you are. Which, in hindsight, is kind of a letdown, as Sidon’s charm is a better improvement of the experience of Zora’s Domain. With aesthetic details to die for, a reason for Link to care about those present (if not for his current mindset), and a likable cast of characters, Zora’s Domain is a high point in the game in both gameplay and narrative gusto. I really do think it would be a great starting point for any beginning player.
(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)