The Legend of Zelda: Volcano of the Wild

Hello everybody, we have our first guest blogger looking at the representation of volcanism in videogames! We have Ed McGowan taking us through the gorgeous environment of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! Sit back and enjoy, it is awesome. If you want to have a go yourself, just let me know and I will give you the space here to write up!

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The latest game in the Zelda franchise, Breath of the Wild (BotW) throws out the rule books of the semi-rigid storyline structure well known to all Zelda players. Instead, BotW was the flagship of the Nintendo Switch, and so designed to show off the full capabilities of their new console. With a map bigger than any of the previous games, BotW offers an open-world gaming experience with a Zelda skin, where you are free to climb any and every mountain, exploring every single nook and cranny possible, all the while reminded it’s a Zelda game by name drops of the Master Sword, Princess Zelda, Hyrule and more.

One such popular Zelda classic is the volcanic region, Death Mountain. Having appeared in 9 of the 19 Zelda games to date, this is one of the franchise’s most well-known landmarks. Usually Death Mountain is an average sized active volcano with a path up to the dungeon entrance that is found within the volcano itself. However, thanks to BotW’s developers focusing so much effort into creating gorgeous scenarios, this game’s Death Mountain is massive! And taking full advantage of the game’s open-world-ness I made sure to leave no molten rock unturned!

To keep in line with the other reviewed games, I’ve continued Jazmin’s criteria out of 10, 1 being unrealistic and 10 being realistic for:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Accessibility
  3. Viscosity
  4. Death
  5. Overall plausibility

Results: They really did pack this game with a lot of content…

BotW (2)

Like with any volcanic area in a videogame, BotW couldn’t make it that easy to access Death Mountain thanks to the game’s new temperature feature. The closer to the volcano I got, the hotter things became. Soon my temp gauge reached 37°C, beyond this point the gauge breaks (saying ‘error’) and things quickly become a problem. The first is that any wooded weapons equipped ignites and if left burning for too long are destroyed… Remain here for a few more seconds and your clothes ignite, causing fairly quick health damage till death…If you teleport in at a closer distance to the lava lake or volcano itself then death is near instant.

BotW (1)

Looking up the autoignition temperature (the temperature at which things spontaneously catch on fire) for oak (because the game has acorns), the US Department of Agriculture found that oak could last 30 seconds at 430°C before igniting. As for cotton (I assume that’s what the basic clothes are made of in this game), autoignition temps are also around 400°C, depending on how wet the cotton is. No wonder the temperature gauge breaks. Although a sudden temperature increase from 37°C to 400°C in a single step sounds a bit much.

The only way to bare the scorching temperatures is to at, first drink fireproof elixirs made of locally found fireproof lizards, which only last a couple of minutes, until better fireproof clothing (like the silver space-looking suit real volcanologists have to wear) can be purchased in the aptly named Goron City (home of the Gorons).

Now it’s truly time to explore!

First up is a look at the physical volcanology. One of the few obstacles met on the way to Goron City is a still hot lava flow (fig b), that has been channelled down the valley, covering the path. A simple climb up to continue on track, but still a nice sight to see.

Next up is the lava lake north of Goron City (fig c), fed by lavafalls from a second smaller lava lake that surrounds the main cone, like a three-tiered fountain! To me, it looks like each tier of the fountain is an old caldera (rim marked out in red lines on the map), now acting as a bowl to contain the flowing lava.

BotW (2)

Volcanoes found within old volcanic craters are very common on Earth, forming after the caldera collapses and a new volcano dome begins to grow (e.g. Anak Krakatau, or volcano island inside Taal volcano). Here’s a time lapse of a lava dome forming within Mt St Helens’ crater:

Continuing further we finally reach the active cone of Death Mountain. When first reaching the mountain, it is very restless due to a ‘divine beast’ roaming around the crater (left flank of fig a), causing a plume of ash and lava bombs to be thrown into the air. Like with Jazmin’s review of Lego Marvel Superheroes 2, the ash plume from Death Mountain unrealistically rises up and evenly disperses in all directions instead of being blown in a prevailing wind direction.

The final physical volcanology aspect I found lies just NE of Death Mountain and was not something I expected to find, a tall pillar sticking up in the middle of a crater. Its purpose in the game is to act as a mini climbing challenge to reach the shrine on top (BotW’s mini dungeons), but how on earth would something like this realistically form?

BotW (9)

One option is that it was part of the volcano that was flung in the air by a very powerful eruption, smashing to the ground and formed an impact crater. Very plausible…

The other option is that it is a volcanic plug, eroded out and exposed. These form when lava within the volcano’s vent cools, corking the volcano like a bottle of champagne. When the surrounding host rock is less resistant to erosion than the plug, they are often left exposed as tall pillars of volcanic rock. Examples of volcanic plugs can be found across the world. One of the most well-known examples is the Devils Tower in USA.

Devils Tower

The other volcanic part of this game I want to quickly cover is the hazards posed to locals, as despite volcanoes being as deadly as they are, people still live within their shadow. In Death Mountain’s case it’s the Gorons.

Goron City is dangerous enough to human standards with its intense heat and rivers of lava flowing through the streets. But during the divine beasts rampage the ‘magma bombs’ (technically lava bombs because they’re above ground but I’ll let Krane off), are mentioned to be falling daily (fig b), which even to strong Gorons are a deadly hazard.

But why would they live in such a dangerous place, as is the case with so many people in real life? The reason is the rare ores they mine (fig c). Volcanic porphory deposits can host many riches such as copper, silver and even diamonds. As a result, people live in dangerous, volcanically active areas such as Chile and Bolivia for copper and silver.

But I suppose when Death Mountain is less active the risks are less severe, it is actually a nice place to live. Similar to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, there are a few volcanic hot springs on Death Mountain that actually restore your health if you swim in them (but do keep your head above water unlike that little one).

BotW (13)

1. Aesthetics: 10

  • The game was designed to look beautiful, and I can’t deny they did a good job of it! From the flowing lava to the mountains themselves I can happily just stand and watch the scenery.

2. Accessibility: 10

  • Again, the game was designed to be fully accessible, so you can literally go where ever you wish to. The only thing you can’t do is swim in the lava lake but that’s how it should be.

3. Viscosity: 7

  • See Death and Plausibility.

Death: 7

  • Whilst the fireproof clothing looks heavy enough, you sink into the lava like its water. Lava can be viscous, but I’m sure you’d sink a little slower than this.

BotW (4)

  • Also the massive jump from 37 to 400°C in one step mentioned at the start still gets me.

5. Overall plausibility: 8

  • Death Mountain’s massive size and the sheer volume of lava produced is very big. A lava lake that size would soon start to cool and harden on the surface instead of remaining that molten. But the rest of the volcanism I can’t argue with.

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I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Ed will make another guest appearance in the future with a different game! I might be slow this month, but the next post written from me will be on The Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Happy gaming 🙂

Spyro: Spyro: The Questionable Volcanism Trilogy

Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 and Lego DC Supervillains: Lego Marvel-at-this-lava (and DC Supervillains)

Volcano-videogame inventory list: Volcano-videogame inventory

16 thoughts on “The Legend of Zelda: Volcano of the Wild”

      1. oh ok il wait for ed then , but what is your opinion on this theory? also just note that this theory is still getting updated (edit13-15 was added since you replyed)
        i also think rito village is on a volcanic plug as well.

        Like

      2. Hi Josh, sorry for the late response. This is certainly an interesting theory. I replayed the game looking at some of the areas you thought might be volcanic/ calderas and agree that some like the Great Hyrule Forest and East Necluda are crater like enough that they could be calderas.
        However, I would hope that in a game so geographically diverse as BotW there would be a wider range of geological controls (e.g. mountain forming tectonics and localised erosion). While this would make my opinion slightly biased, I don’t think that every mountain and crater is a caldera. In cases like Lake Hylia there is no evidence of volcanic activity, and even looking back at Twilight Princess when you can go under the surface of the lake floor (into the water dungeon) the walls are made of sediment and fossils, not lava. The Zora Domain is also confirmed in the Stone Monuments side quest to have been carved out of the local rocks.
        All in all I do think you are onto something, however, I wouldn’t say there are as many calderas as you think.
        Happy to discuss further if you want opinions on certain areas.

        Liked by 1 person

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