Guardians were a phenomenal enemy from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Along with being terrifying, they marked an important point in progression when you finally had the strength and know-how of the game’s systems to face one or multiple of the spidery bots down. Their iconic theme still makes the hairs of my arms stand on end, and their obnoxiously powerful laser attack left me flummoxed before I could figure out the dodging and parry timing. Once I had better gear and understood their movement, I found myself gleefully toying with Guardians because of how much they terrified me in the early game, destroying their legs one by one and soaking in the victory as they couldn’t move.
After playing Tears of the Kingdom, which introduces you to a greater number of Constructs both friendly and aggressive, I came to regret my treatment of the original game’s Guardians. Seeing the Zonai Steward Constructs throughout the Great Sky Island stuck cycling through their work tasks centuries after their creators were long dead made what could have been a dull tutorial delivery system compelling and tragic. The stewards have a cool design, slightly resembling their Zonai creators, and their sound design lets some personality shine out. Even though plenty of the stewards just dryly explain control elements, a few of them seem to have patched in friendliness and other quirks through their centuries of operation, like the steward who offers your first tutorial as “unsolicited advice.”
The protective Soldier Constructs, which only attack because they register Link as an unfamiliar visitor, have a touch more depth than the unambiguously vicious Bokoblins in the tutorial area of Breath of the Wild because of this context. They are also a pretty decent challenge when surrounding you with fused weapons and are satisfying to fight with good hit feedback and a gratifying animation when they’re defeated. But I had a tinge of remorse wailing on them and plundering their horns and power sources in Tears of the Kingdom, much more often than with the old Guardians. But don’t worry, they’ll be revived at the next Blood Moon, so they can wait in silence to be pummeled by you another time when you’re low on resources again… forever!
I still appreciated the Constructs’ roles in the game after leaving the tutorial zone and meeting other new enemies in ToTK’s significantly expanded enemy roster. The soldiers and captains can help you test new combat and building ideas because they populate Shrines that strip you of your items and challenge you to use Fuse and Ultrahand to rig offensive contraptions together. You have even freer rein with vehicles in these Shrines because you’re given infinite energy for Zonai devices, so you won’t have to wait for your spiked death machine to recharge as you bowl the Constructs over. The stewards also remain invaluable post-tutorial, as they manage areas like the Abandoned Mines in the Depths and help you expand your maximum energy to keep Zonai devices running for longer.
I may be sympathizing with the Zonai Constructs more because their relationship with their creators is explored more deeply in Tears of the Kingdom. The ghost of Rauru, a mysterious Zonai who plays a major role in the game’s plot, observes his home’s mechanical servants and expresses distress in his inability to break their ongoing loops of maintenance tasks around the Great Sky Island. While the Sheikah populate Hyrule in Breath of the Wild, they don’t seem to have the same connection to the Guardians as their ancestors did. Basically the only person who learned to love the aggressive Guardians in the original game was maybe the Sheikah researcher Robbie, as well as of course the ball-hugging NPC Loone who was behind one of BotW’s funniest side quests.
Just like the Zonai creations, the Guardians were suddenly thrust from dormancy into a world inhabited by people with only basic knowledge of their nature. Guardians weren’t inherently bloodthirsty, but their directive was hacked by Calamity Ganon to make them the enemies we feared. It’s hard to remember that sometimes when you’re desperately fleeing from them after wandering too close to Hyrule Castle, but we were all on the same side! The Guardians and the Divine Beasts were invaluable foot soldiers for the ancient Sheikah people, staving off Calamity in Hyrule for many years before it could have occurred.
Thinking about the Zonai Constructs’ odd state of purgatory, looping through instruction and menial work, adds an interesting perspective on The Legend of Zelda’s frequent themes of living up to past legends, mythology, and fate. Like these bots, Link is bound to his duty as Zelda’s knight and inextricably connected to the generational cycle of heroes and princesses that must rise to defeat the enduring evil of Ganon. You can grind Shrines or wander around and sniff Sundelions all you want, but no one else can face off against the Demon King in the end but you.