Tears of the Kingdom: Brightblooms in the Depths.
Updated: Jul 5
The Zelda franchise has constantly been skilled in reinvention and rejuvenation. Zelda, Link, and Ganon have been living out a similar story since I was in Kindergarten, yet it still is made fresh every few years. They usually accomplish this by adding a new element or twist on the story that makes the gameplay more dynamic. The additions work for revival, but that doesn’t mean I like them. The water temple in Ocarina, hate it. Wolf Link in Twilight princess, not a fan. The time limit in Majora, nope. The sea travel in WindWaker, ehh. Here’s the thing these were all really well done, and well executed, I just didn’t necessarily enjoy them as much. Maybe the challenge, maybe the stress, maybe I’m just not a fan of water, who knows. I’ve appreciated them all, even if I didn’t enjoy them. That is of course, until we get to the depths. Bump that.
When I started seeing advertisements for Tears of the Kingdom long before the game dropped, most of what I was seeing was the new element of being in the sky. I thought, “Cool, they’re giving us a more polished feature of Skyward Sword.” But the literal first thing you do in TOTK Is start plunging your way downward into a gloom filled darkness before all Hyrule breaks loose. The depths are my least favorite addition to the Zelda franchise. It is absolutely a great addition, but my least favorite, which probably means they are doing their job well.
Being plunged into a dark void, where everything around you is toxic, and there’s unseen danger lurking in every corner. Nope nopenope. See I’m mentally prepared for that when I’m playing Resident Evil. I have that mindset ready to expect that. I wasn’t ready for that in my happy chaos of Hyrule. I genuinely began to dread knowing that I would have to be spending time in the depths. In fact, I took the time to unlock the entire surface area on the map, as well as a good region of the sky, and the first 4 temples before I even really began consciously going into the depths when it wasn’trequired. The uncertainty, the anxiety, the tension, the literal despair, I just didn’t want to voluntarily spend my time in the darkness. As much as that seemed like a reasonable desire for my Zelda gameplay, it’s even more so a practical instruction and expectation for what Jesus calls us to do as believers.
“So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” - John 12:35
“But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” John 11:10
Jesus warned on multiple occasions that walking in darkness could lead you to stumble because you don’t know where you are going. You don’t know what is waiting for you to stumble over. In TOTK if you just go roaming in the depths without light present, you could stumble into a small fort of monsters, a pit of gloom, bosses from the previous temples, some enormous frog creature you’ve never seen before, or even a gloom infested LYONEL!!! Listen, you can’t imagine the scream that came out of me the first time I ran across a Lyonel in the depths caked in the vibrant red of the gloom. Because I was enveloped in the darkness of the depths, I was always subject to danger of what lurked there.
The darkness of this world isn’t as visually and atmospherically dramatic as what lies in the depths, but it truly is just as evil and malevolent. It may be beyond our visual scope, but the spiritual darkness is as thick and present in our day to day as the gloom is in the depths. We may not be stumbling over literal monsters here, but we are stumbling over the sinful nature of man, the self indulgent depravity of our hearts, and the bitter rejection of all things related to God, Jesus, repentance, and salvation. Factor in temptation and spiritual warfare, and the darkness is just not somewhere we have any business traipsing through without help. Which is why we have to choose to bring light into the darkness we face.
I can be a stubborn gameplayer, and my first time in the depths I was too overwhelmed to remember to use the brightblooms. Just like the first time I fought the small assembly of Phantom Ganon’s in Hyrule castle. I stood there and panicked as I watched my friends be swallowed up by the gloom. I saw the darkness and froze. We do the same spiritually. We see darkness, we see evil, and we freeze, but that is not what Christ called us to do.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” - John 1:5
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” - Ephesians 5:8
Jesus and Paul both instruct us to walk in light. To walk with light, and to bring light into the darkness. That as believers, we are fully equipped as those who know Him to shine His light into dark places. In the depths I would literally develop finger cramps keeping the motions to throw or arrow bright blooms into the darkness. Every little circumference of light made the darkness that much more bearable. The same concept is relatable as we share the light of Christ. Sadly, we can’t just chuck a physical manifestation of light in the face of darkness. Our brightblooms look a lot more like bringing encouragement in the midst of negative situations. Our brightblooms look like carrying other’s burdens. Our brightblooms look like service, sacrifice, hope, and speaking truth in love. Every action and attitude where we bring the light of Christ into dark circumstances, it’s one more section of life that is no longer shrouded in darkness.
“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” - Psalm 18:28
One of my favorite moments of just pure enjoyment was riding the light dragon down into the depths and literally throwing dozens and dozens of brightblooms off its back as it soured through the depths. I littered the dark ground with light like confetti. Every little speck of light made the darkness less intimidating. That is incredibly helpful because it’s a lot easier to move forward when you aren’t completely encased in darkness. In life and in game, I think that’s a place we all find ourselves, surrounded in darkness, looking for a light of hope.
In the depths as I stare at my screen in the haze of dark dusty particles with faint red glowing death on the ground, there’s nothing more beautiful than a Lightroot in the distance. In the darkness it’s a beacon of hope. It’s a reminder that I’m not lost. That I’m not alone, and if I can just make it to that place of light, things will be better, even if it’s momentarily.
That’s what we as Christians and the church are called, and declared to be.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16.
The deactivated lightroots are like lights being hidden. They have the ability to light up the whole region, but have been reduced to a faint glow, allowing darkness to creep ever closer. We see this in our own lives when we water down our faith or our commitment to our faith for social and circumstantial situations. We see it in our churches when we reduce our existence to social organizations that provide activities and service but limit the presence of God or the Gospel to be spoken freely. There are of course times when we need to be wise when we are choosing how brightly we shine.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” - Colossians 4:5-6.
You wouldn’t go shooting a brightbloom arrow directly into a horde of gloom infested monsters you aren’t prepared for. But we can’t get comfortable just being dimmer for the sake of convenience and the lack of confrontation. Some people prefer living in the darkness. Some people enjoy the secrecy and the lack of accountability, and to them, light is just offensive because it makes their actions visible. That’s why the Yiga clan have basically set up shop in the depths. They can do their wickedness without fear of being seen and every brightbloom or Lightroot makes it that much harder for them to do as they desire.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” - John 3:19-21
That’s why it happens so often in our lives when things are off, or people are distant or all together ghosting, because they are more comfortable in the dark.
Not only is the Yiga clan roaming around in the depths, but it makes all the more sense that Ganon would make his home in the depths. When I first heard that I was absolutely defeated. I hate fighting moblins in the darkness of the depths and gloom, there’s no way I actually wanted to face Ganon there. But that’s exactly what has to happen. You descend below Hyrule Castle in the broken remains of the castle’s subterranean monster infested levels until you reach “Gloom’s Origin,” and come face to face with Ganon. He then begins to villain monologue saying “How disappointing. This world should be shrouded in darkness, not bathed in insufferable light.”
Now I doubt the people we interact with on a daily basis are going to express their desires in such Bond villain dialogue, but if we are left to our own devices most people would rather dwell in the darkness so they can operate without accountability, responsibility, shame, guilt, or disappointment. I don't believe in shaming people or operating out of fear in any capacity. But I think it’s a good indicator of our heart and spirit, that if we want to hide what we do, we shouldn’t be doing it.
Link’s role isn’t just to light up the depths for his convenience, but rather that his role is to eliminate the darkness that has control over his region and those in it. Because where there is light, there is freedom.
When Jesus called Paul, Jesus gave him this instruction;
“‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” - Acts 26:16-18.
Jesus knew that even though people willingly embraced the darkness, that there was no true life for them there, and that he wanted them to be free from it. He sent Paul into the depths of the culture of their time, like Link descended into the depths of Hyrule, and like you and I are sent into the world we live in now. To bring light into dark places. Because in that light is where we find life and hope.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” - 1 John 1:7
“ For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” - 2 Corinthians 4:6
I just finished the main storyline of Tears of the Kingdom yesterday. It was beautiful. But I finished the story before I finished illuminating the depths. I know that it’s just a game and I have no real responsibility to do so, but I’m going to pick my Switch back up at some point soon and make sure I completely illuminate the depths with all the lightroots. I’mgonna let it be a reminder that my world doesn’t belong in the darkness, and that as long as I have the ability to do so, I should bring light where I can.