Feature: Why don't you hate the towers in Zelda: Breath of the Wild?


There’s this game where, when you start, the map is largely blank, and to reveal more of it you need to travel to towers around said map. You have to climb up the towers and, once you get there, sync with the top. This unlocks the area map (just for the area you’re in, mind, there are other towers you need to sync with to unlock different areas). Then you jump off the tower, but you can fast travel back to it later if you need to.

I am, of course, describing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Towers are a very maligned mechanic, now associated inextricably with Ubisoft games, and specifically Assassin’s Creed, where your little dude in a hood crouches on top of a church until an eagle has screamed at him enough that he can tell where all the nearest side quests are. It’s not even a proper eagle: the sound often used in Assassin’s Creed, and the one most people associate with an eagle, is actually a red-tailed hawk, because the real call of a bald eagle is the petulant toddler of bird calls and is not at all sexy. 

Whenever towers turn up in a game, especially an open world game, you get people going ‘Awh, it’s got towers, towers are shit, they are the worst kind of shit and I cannot abide them, and they are a sign that the game they’re in will also be dreadful shit!’ (this imaginary person is also spitting a bit, that’s how livid about towers they are, they’re properly raging about them). You can, genuinely, find people complaining a game has towers in, like this thread about The Crew, wherein they also complain about the towers being a staple in the other Ubi games. Someone in this thread even says they won’t be buying the game specifically because it has towers in it.

Example of giant Dinosaur Tower Bastard in the background, there.

Horizon Zero Dawn has towers, except they walk around and look like big robot giraffes with the Starship Enterprise for a head, and a lot of outlets directly compared these in Horizon to Ubi games and/or Assassin’s Creed, citing the towers as an example of Horizon carefully picking elements from other games and franchises. Some people thought this was bad; other people thought Guerrilla did well with said towers. But still: what’s the obsession with the towers?

As far as I can see, nobody has yet been saying fuck all about Zelda’s towers. I did a word lookup for ‘tower’ on the major reviews and some of them never even mentioned them at all. Some mentioned them in passing as cool things you can jump-and-glide from, and a very few pointed out that they are a thing in Zelda but they’re alright this time: GiantBomb, for example, says that yeah, they’re totally map towers, but ‘unlike many open world games, filling it in doesn’t mean it gives you the location of shrines, towns, and other points of interest.’ 

This — that in Zelda it’s alright because the towers don’t give you loads of side quest markers — seems to be the consensus, assuming the towers have even been mentioned at all. Because, let’s be clear, in every other regard the towers in Breath of the Wild are functionally indistinguishable from an Ubisoft tower. You climb up them and sync your map at the top, and the camera pans wide around when you’ve done it. You can use them as fast travel points later. Sometimes there are enemies around the bottom, or other hazards that mean you have to do a bit of 3D platforming to get to the top. They are the same thing. So why don’t you hate the towers in Zelda?

Breath of the wild map
There are two towers in this picture alone.

In my case I never hated towers in the first place. I actually like them as a method for gradually revealing more of a game, as well as almost soft-gating it, in the sense that if you’re not quite familiar enough with all of the in-game skills yet you might not be able to make it past the challenges around the bottom of said tower. I think towers are much misunderstood, and Zelda is evidence of this. Breath of the Wild has received a staggering number of 10/10 scores and this means a game that is a very good game made a deliberate choice to have a bunch of map towers in it. Therefore the lack of anyone moaning about the towers in Zelda has two possible explanations:

  1. We will allow anything in a Zelda game because only a dead-eyed, empty-hearted shark of a human being doesn’t like a Zelda game, even if it does have towers.
  2. You never actually hated the towers, you disliked the world they were appended to, because the devs felt that as the world they’d made grew larger they had to put more things to do in it, and you, the player, ended up on a Sisyphean quest to wipe the map clean of all the icons, out, out damned spot! So leave the towers alone. The towers are innocent in all this.

Arguably The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best Assassin’s Creed game ever made: You, a warrior in service to a group of other warriors as explained to you by an old man, are sent on a quest to eliminate several different targets by any means you see fit. Special abilities are passed down through family bloodlines. There’s future tech that is somehow from the past. The Royal family is involved. Things could get ugly.

Anyway, the point is you have two choices. Admit you’re a filthy Zelda propagandist, or recognise the towers have been subjected to misplaced anger and deserve an apology.


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