How did you play Breath of the Wild? Did you mainline the Divine Beasts and head straight for Ganon, or did you soak in every peaceful moment across the expansive world of Hyrule? The 2017 masterpiece is known for its flexible systems and seemingly-endless ways to play. But for most of you out there, I’m guessing you didn’t play the game like this:
Folks rushing to their PC after hearing there’s new “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” news #AGDQ2023 https://t.co/x81FahevHc pic.twitter.com/DhlhaqMPcx
— Games Done Quick 🔜 #SGDQ2023 (@GamesDoneQuick) January 8, 2023
Welcome to the world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild speedrunning. In the six-plus years since BotW’s 2017 launch, a hardcore group of dedicated Zelda speedrunners have whittled down Link’s biggest adventure yet to just 23 minutes and 50 seconds.
That’s right — you can collect all four Sheikah Slate powers, leave the Great Plateau, and destroy Calamity Ganon in less time than it takes to do a load of laundry. Well, you or I probably can’t. But Breath of the Wild Any% speedrun world record holder Player 5 can.
After years of making discoveries and optimizing speedrunning strategies in Breath of the Wild, the game is about to change. The Zelda speedrun community is turning its attention to Tears of the Kingdom, the Breath of the Wild sequel that’s due out in less than a month.
IGN spoke with Player 5 and fellow Breath of the Wild speedrunner Tom “Tallest Thomas” Rasmussen about how the community is preparing to hit the reset button when Tears of the Kingdom launches next month, and how the new Fuse ability and other mechanics shown have a chance to radically shake up the scene.
A Return to the ‘Wild West’ of Zelda Speedrunning
Both Player 5 and Tallest Thomas started speedrunning Breath of the Wild about three years ago. Player 5 is the current Any% world record holder (and the player who beat BotW 50 times in a day), while Tallest Thomas was in the top ten at one point. Any% is a speedrun category where the only goal is to reach the end of the game as fast as possible. Compare that to a 100% run, where a player has to complete every objective the game has to offer as fast as they can.
When Tallest Thomas joined the speedrunning scene, the record times weren’t nearly as efficient as they are now. He describes it as the “wild west” of Breath of the Wild speedrunning before they had all the current tricks and strategies. But the runs rapidly grew more and more efficient over time thanks to a community of players determined to break Breath of the Wild in any way possible.
“I’ve never seen a glitch hunting community as dedicated as Breath of the Wild,” Tallest Thomas says. “We have people in our community that literally play the game to break it. They’re not speedrunners, all they do is they go ahead and try to find new ways to break the game.
In fact, a BotW game breaker — not a speedrunner — discovered the game’s most groundbreaking speedrunning technique. It’s called BLSS, and it stands for Bow Lift Smuggling Slide. In the video seen at the top of this article, Link is basically flying across the map at way higher speeds than he can naturally move.
In very basic terms, Tallest Thomas explains that BLSS has players essentially trick the game into picking up an item while holding a bow. If you step onto a ledge with the right timing and perfect button inputs, the item will start pushing Link across the map at high speed.
BLSS is a staple of Player 5’s record-setting runs, but the speedrunner doesn’t want it to return in Tears of the Kingdom.
“I’m hoping that none of [Breath of the Wild’s speedrunning techniques] get carried over so that we have kind of a brand new set of techniques to use,” Player 5 says. “Because I can just play Breath of the Wild if I want to use those glitches… Getting to figure stuff out at the early stages of the game should be fun, before there’s an established route.”
Six years in, the community is excited for a fresh start to experience the early days of Zelda speedrunning all over again. Tallest Thomas echoes those feelings, saying he is excited to figure out the new speedrun techniques.
“I’m not a big fan of BLSS… We use it cause it’s good, I just find it irritating in my personal experience to use,” Tallest Thomas says. “I’m not actually discouraged by the fact that mechanics are changing. It’s gonna be weird, it’s gonna be an adjustment, but it’s definitely going to be something very fresh and very cool to use. I love helping develop strats and learning setups… That’s one of my favorite things about speedrunning… So I am super excited for the whole new, ‘Let’s explore and discover everything’ of Tears of the Kingdom.”
Tears of the Kingdom could also breathe new life into Breath of the Wild’s somewhat stagnant speedrunning route. Tallest Thomas explains that when Skyward Sword came out, speedrunners discovered a speedrunning technique dubbed Back In Time that allowed players to control Link during pause menus.
Players went back to Twilight Princess, the previous Zelda game, and found the trick worked there as well. That’s because Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword run on the same engine, just as Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom appear to. While you might have expected a new Zelda entry to kill the speedrunning scene for Breath of the Wild, I’m told Tears of the Kingdom could actually help keep it alive.
“With a new game coming out, since it shares the same game engine, there is potential for cross referencing glitches and bugs and tricks that we have in each one to help out,” Tallest Thomas says. “I think there will be more discoveries in Breath of the Wild as Tears of the Kingdom evolves.”
How Tears of the Kingdom’s Mechanics Can Change the Game
Tears of the Kingdom looks to have an even more impressive sandbox to play around in than its predecessor. When Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma revealed Link’s new Fuse, Ascend, Recall, and Ultrahand abilities in the Tears of the Kingdom gameplay demonstration in March, imaginations quickly ran wild thinking of all the possibilities. Zelda speedrunners, on the other hand, instantly started thinking of how these new abilities could break the game.
Player 5 explains that one of the most important aspects of the Breath of the Wild speedrun is weapon routing. To beat the four Blight Ganons and Calamity Ganon as fast as possible, the most efficient speedrun route swings through Hyrule Castle to quickly loot some powerful weapons. The new Fuse ability will likely require a lot of experimentation before the community figures out the best way to make use of it.
“I think Fuse could make the weapon routing for fighting the bosses in Tears of the Kingdom pretty cool, pretty unique,” Player 5 says. “I think Ascend could be pretty interesting. It’ll be interesting to see if we can break that. In Breath of the Wild, you can clip out of bounds, and Ascend is kind of putting you out of bounds, but only shortly. But maybe we can find a way to use it in places where it’s not intended.”
Ascend lets Link swim through solid objects above him. For the casual Tears of the Kingdom player, this will be a convenient way to circumvent climbing in many cases. But speedrunners are imagining what could happen if they force Link out of bounds to save time. Tallest Thomas agrees that Ascend and Fuse are the most interesting new mechanics we’ve seen so far when looking through the speedrunning lens.
“The ability to go through floors up to something is possibly very, very relevant to the speedrun. I would definitely be interested to see how Fusing works. If some of the inventory tricks and glitches we have in Breath of the Wild transpose over to Tears of the Kingdom, it could lead to some really wacky things that we could possibly do with Fusion.”
Zelda Speedrunners Are Also Excited to Play Tears of the Kingdom Normally
With all the talk of speedrunning, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these speedrunners are also just huge Zelda fans at heart. The Breath of the Wild speedrunning Discord server has a channel dedicated to talking about Tears of the Kingdom hype.
So while Player 5, Tallest Thomas, and the rest of the community are excited to dive into breaking Tears of the Kingdom, they’re planning to start out with casual playthroughs first and foremost. Tallest Thomas says you don’t just speedrun any game — you pick one that you truly care about.
“When I play through Tears of the Kingdom the first time, I’m going to try to break it as minimally as possible as I’m doing my first playthrough,” Tallest Thomas says. And then once that playthrough is over and I’ve beaten the storyline or whatever, then I’m gonna go ahead and start going really hard at trying to break it and beat it fast.”
For more on Zelda, check out IGN’s breakdowns of the gameplay showcase and the final Tears of the Kingdom trailer. Plus, read what IGN’s own Zelda nerds are saying about Tears of the Kingdom, and prepare yourself for May 12 by checking out our ultimate Tears of the Kingdom preorder guide. Tears of the Kingdom is out this week, and you can preload it now.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer at IGN.
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Author: Kat Bailey