The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom presents an incredibly vast world for Link to explore. What’s more, there are three levels of world map — the Depths, the main surface map, and the skies — that lend the game a daunting sense of verticality. Thankfully, Link has a full toolkit that allows him to travel from the highest of sky islands, through the deep chasms in Hyrule’s surface, to the game’s enormous underground areas. Chief among these is the paraglider, which lets Link gracefully float through the air and spares him fall damage once he lands. It’s a key part of Link’s kit from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that feels more useful than ever in this sequel.
And yet, at least one enterprising player has forgone that paraglider in his playthrough. (Link doesn’t start the game with a paraglider — in the tutorial Great Sky Island region, he leaps into bodies of water, which negates any fall damage.) Chris Brune has played significant portions of the game without the glider — and shared his findings on Reddit, to a stunned audience. In fact, Brune managed to make his way to the four temples from the game’s “Regional Phenomena” quest and finished them without the borderline necessary tool — a testament to the game’s true sandbox qualities, and also one gamer’s absolute willpower.
Polygon interviewed Brune, via Reddit chat and email, to get his take on how he pulled this off, and what inspired him in the first place. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
[TotK] If you complete the four regions without getting the paraglider, Purah has special dialogue.
by u/SicSicSicSic in zelda
Polygon: What inspired you to do a no-glider run of the game?
Chris Brune: I wanted to go into Tears of the Kingdom blind, so I avoided most of the marketing material. Because of that, I wasn’t even sure if the paraglider would be making a return. After about an hour of putzing around the Temple of Time, I started to assume it wouldn’t. When I encountered the wing Zonai devices, I remember thinking to myself, “Bold choice for Nintendo to replace the paraglider with this.”
It wasn’t until I encountered Impa that I was tipped off to the paraglider’s existence. After she takes you up in a balloon to get an aerial view of the first geoglyph, she says, “If you would like to examine the geoglyph from ground level, you can float down with a paraglider.” I had to extinguish the flame of the hot air balloon we were both in to get down.
By that point I’d already completed the Lightning Temple and about 30 shrines. After that, my fiancée asked me if I was going to get the paraglider, and I told her, “I’ll get it once I run into something I can’t do.”
That never happened.
Were there glitches, armor sets, or gadgets (Zonai devices, builds, etc.) that you relied on?
I did my best to avoid spoilers, and with it, most basic information about the game. I was flying blind. My friend and roommate, Odi, and I spent hours designing, tweaking, and testing different Zonai creations, especially when trying to access distant sky islands. The device I used the most was a wing device with a steering stick and two balloons on either side, each powered by flame emitters. The flame emitters/balloons would give height and, when the batteries ran out, the wing provided distance.
How far were you able to get? Why did you stop/what obstacles prevented you from being able to continue?
During day two of the playthrough, still before I was aware of the paraglider, I stumbled my way to the final boss arena. I kinda suspected that’s where I was heading, but I wanted to be sure so I could avoid it during the playthrough. In doing so, I inadvertently proved I could access the endgame without the paraglider.
What were the hardest or most annoying obstacles and challenges?
The hardest challenge was absolutely phase two of the Wind Temple boss fight. I spent about five hours testing different strategies before finally landing on something that worked.
Other than that, accessing and traversing the Depths was a huge pain. In that pitch darkness, the world sometimes just falls out from under you. Not good when you can’t catch yourself.
How in the world did you manage the Wind Temple and its boss?
I dragged my feet on doing this for a couple days, because I thought that it would spell the end of the run, that it would be something I could not do. (I didn’t know anything about the Wind Temple, but I assumed that if anything would end the run, it would be the region associated with flight.)
The approach up to the Wind Temple is littered with trampolines but without the paraglider, I couldn’t make meaningful use of them. Zonai devices bounce off of them haphazardly without gaining much height, so they were effectively useless. Fortunately, the boats are accompanied by large floating rocks that act as checkpoints. I used the aforementioned wing-balloon device to fly from one rock to the next, reassembling the machine at each landing spot to refresh the devices’ durations. During the final approach, I attached a stabilizer to the machine and tore off the balloons when I was over the storm’s entrance. This kept the wing stable while I fell to the temple below, but I misjudged my momentum and had to dive off about halfway down. Fortunately, the temple has a cutscene that starts once you’re within a certain range, sparing me from impacting the temple at terminal velocity.
The temple itself was pretty easy for the most part. I was able to climb my way up, down, or across to most objectives. A wing with a couple fans gave me access to everything else.
Colgera was a nightmare. The fight starts with Link falling in the air. Without the paraglider, it’s just not a feasible starting point. I figured out pretty quickly that if you die to the boss, you spawn on a floating rock above it. With this solid ground, I was able to leisurely lob arrows at the boss while it circled underneath me.
The real issue came with phase two. The game spawns you in the air again, and there are no useful vantage points on the way down. Even if you survive the landing, the boss spawns tornadoes with such frequency that you get knocked off Zonai devices before gaining enough height to reach its weak points. It took me about five hours of testing, split between two days, to come up with a solution: I started the phase by drinking a stamina fortifying elixir (this was still relatively early in the playthrough, and I hadn’t upgraded my stamina yet). Then I dove as close to the boss’s midsection as I could. As soon as I was under the boss, I drew my bow and, using bullet time, fired Keese wing-fused arrows at all three of the weak points, killing the boss before I hit the ground. The Keese wings provided much-needed extra shot distance for reaching the two farther weak points.
Roughly how many times did you die from fall damage? Not just this boss fight, but total?
Are you familiar with the euphemism “lithobraking”? After getting accustomed to the playthrough’s limitations, dying to fall damage was less of a hazard and more of a means of transportation (with fairy assistance, of course). That said, I would guess I’ve properly died from fall damage about 150 times.
Were there shrines that you simply couldn’t do without the glider?
I treated shrines designed with the paraglider more like unsolved math problems than outright barriers. The solution existed, but it required active brainstorming or passive rumination. If I couldn’t come up with a solution, I’d leave and keep it in the back of my mind while exploring elsewhere. I was particularly pleased with my solutions for “A Bouncy Device” [Morok Shrine] and “Unlit Blessing” [South Lomei Labyrinth].
The only shrine that I never revisited was “Ride the Winds” [Gatakis Shrine] in Rito Village. I was able to bridge the first gap by shield surfing on a rocket, but the second gap was too large for that.
Were you able to use skyview towers?
The quest that gives you the paraglider is also the one that activates all the map towers for use, which I had no way of knowing. Accessing a lot of the map towers was difficult without the paraglider, so I didn’t go out of my way to activate one until well into the playthrough. I opened the door to one, saw that there was nothing to interact with, and reasoned that the shaft leading up into the sky meant I had to access the top of the tower (similar to BotW). It took me 20 minutes of climbing in the rain to reach the top. When I got up there, I was met with a closed hatch and, again, nothing to interact with. The gliderless run would have to be a (mostly — I was still able to map the Depths) mapless run as well.
Now that you have a glider (assuming that you do now, since you spoke with Purah), are there techniques from your no-glider playthrough that you’ll carry over?
I begrudgingly got the paraglider, so I could access the camera (which is needed for certain quests). I’m still treating the playthrough as gliderless even if I know in my heart it’s not true.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
When I encountered the Depths, I was blown away that the game had not just two layers but three. I set out to map as much of it as possible. Climbing many of the sheer walls was simply not possible with the stamina and devices I had available to me. Instead, I would have to reenter the Depths from somewhere else. Somewhere along the way, I’d obtained my first fairy, and I decided to treat it as a one-way ticket to the Depths. I picked a chasm, jumped down and subsequently smashed into an outcropping (activating the fairy) before tumbling down into the darkness and my now inevitable death below. Navigating chasms would require a more graceful solution.
Fortunately, the chasm I’d selected had building materials nearby. I constructed a cube out of wooden planks, held it over the center of the chasm, and brought it back so I could step inside and seal off the remaining opening. Then I reversed time on the cube until it was over the center of the chasm again and allowed it to drop. It worked perfectly. The cube survived the trip down, and, since I only hit the ground once this time, I only needed the one fairy. Thus, the Pain Cube was born.