Nintendo sticks to what it knows, and what it knows is how to put time and effort into its longest-running properties to make them feel fresh. Following the amazingly ambitious Breath of the Wild, the company has cried on the Switch the most anticipated sequel in Tears of the Kingdom.
You’ll be returning to The Legend of Zelda universe with all new worlds to explore, new mechanics to master, a whole new level of challenge, and more loose objects and collectibles to combine in whatever ways you can think of with a good chance of success. It’s been a long wait for this game, and the consensus would say that it was worth it. But is that the case? Or is this game mainly for fans of the Breath of the Wild style of gameplay?
What Are The Tears of the Kingdom?
The Legend of Zelda series has admitted to non-linear storytelling, but each game could be seen as a contained story all on its own. Tears of the Kingdom picks up where Breath of the Wild left off, with Link and Zelda working to protect and restore Hyrule.
While investigating a corrupted essence below the castle, the pair come across the remains of an entity called the Demon King held in place by a disembodied arm. The Demon King suddenly revives as the arm falls away and uses his restored power to sap Link of all of his strength, separate him from Zelda, and disrupt all of Hyrule with a cataclysmic event known as the Upheaval.
Link awakens in the newly discovered Sky Kingdom where the spiritual form of an ancient being called a Zonai explains that it was his arm that was restraining the Demon King and that it has now attached itself to Link in order to save his life. With a new world discovered and Zelda missing once again, that’s all you and Link need to set off for adventure.
Tears of Joy
The whole purpose of a sequel is to build upon what was established without removing what made the first entry great in the first place. Tears of the Kingdom has spent those years since the release of Breath of the Wild honing its craft. The mechanics are back with a vengeance, in both gameplay and control. All the moves such as climbing, running, gliding, and swimming are as tight as they could be and executed in a way that adds a strong value to your Stamina meter.
You also have a variety of new powers which align with the theme of freedom by letting you use them whenever you have the opportunity. It becomes a game in itself to figure out all the ways your powers can interact with the world and the only limits to what you can make are your own creativity.
Then there’s the main gimmick that popped up frequently during the game’s development: Vehicles and crafting. While the first game allowed you to attach certain objects together to create makeshift structures and vehicles, this one literally presents you with a tool tailored for just that. The Move power allows you to pluck a variety of items from the ground, attach them to others, and then orient your creation into the best position.
With all the new Zonai devices to find, there are a number of combinations at your disposal with resources to build your own pieces if need be. There’s also a capsule asset that lets you carry around Zonai pieces and pull them out whenever you’re in a pinch. If that’s not enough, there are also pre-assembled vehicles around the world ready for you to ride, and give you ideas for your own design.
Take To The Skies
Next, there’s the world. We’ve already been shown just how big Hyrule can be, and this sequel has managed to expand it. The game begins by literally introducing you to a whole new world in the sky. Once you gain the Paraglider, you can spend hours free-falling, gliding through the air with your body, and paragliding for slower descent and more control. This adds an element of strategy relating to the amount of Stamina you have.
You become very aware of the distance between different locations and try to find the best ways to cover the most ground. You take advantage of moving between islands in the sky to help you circumvent the more difficult terrain down below. Even so, the Upheaval has completely reformed the mainland of Hyrule. Things that you thought were in one place, have shifted in unexpected ways essentially making it a whole new world.
A big part of this transformation is all the chasms that have opened up across the land leading into the Depths. This is the first time that The Legend of Zelda has created a vast underground environment to explore which is fraught with darkness, danger, and adventure. When you’re down there, you want to stay down there as long as your bravery and resources will allow.
Then there’s the defining characteristic of this new take on the Zelda series, the sense of freedom. The series has developed a reputation for being strict and formulaic, but this new universe has thrown it out the window. You’re welcome to pursue main missions in whatever order you want with the only thing holding you back being your own skill.
From the beginning of the game, it’s possible to activate all the Skyview Towers across the map using perseverance, creative movement, and having the right items. The only thing stopping you from undertaking the available challenges is getting there because if you can do that, then all you have to do is complete it with whatever you have on you as well as your own creativity. There are seemingly innumerable solutions to tackle each problem, you just need to find enough tools.
Crying Tears of the Kingdom
A lot of praise has been showered on this game, and while it’s not undeserving, it still needs to be kept in check. Tears of the Kingdom provides a lot and gives a huge range of freedom, but there are some things that you can’t help but pick at repeatedly.
The first is a slight lack of clarity compared to the first game. A prime example is the starting area of the Great Sky Island, which is many leagues larger than the valley in Breath of the Wild. It’s an extended tutorial that is covering almost everything that the game has to offer, which is understandable but also very dense.
There have already been numerous players, both old and new, reporting the difficulty of navigating to all the necessary areas so that they can actually get to the bulk of the game. It’s very early that you need to start coming up with alternative solutions just to complete what is essentially a large tutorial. This can be especially intimidating to those unfamiliar with the new Zelda structure.
This leads to the next issue in that the game can seem and feel overly hostile to the average player. As previously mentioned, it is possible to complete the map from the start, but it is an ordeal. Though you can do things in whatever order you want, it becomes painfully clear that many of the areas you visit have enemies that can kill you with just one hit, with the only counter to that being evasion or discovering a mixture to boost defense.
Even if you figure that out by chance or get lucky with few enemy encounters, there’s also the climate standing in your way. A surprising number of locations are plagued by the severe cold which will quickly drain your health, are difficult to navigate, and can have surfaces covered in ice which are covered in ice and therefore impossible to climb. Essentially, you’ll need to follow the game’s path just to have a chance to go your own way. This means that certain quests which are tagged as “optional” now become mandatory.
Shed Some Tears For The Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the long-anticipated sequel to Breath of the Wild. Time was well-spent in refining the mechanics, adding new ones, and expanding the world to two whole other regions. It also shows just what kind of scale and quality is possible on the Switch, with a huge sense of freedom in exploration and gameplay. The powers and items you get access to encouraging creative and strategic thinking to overcome all the problems and challenges set before you.
That being said, it has lost a level of conciseness as it has grown, and early on, the game can feel almost hostile to new players. Missions and tasks can feel faux-optional since they’re the only way to gain things that will boost Link at a core level. It can be a time-sink, but it can also be an adventure, an exercise in crafting, or just a fun and wonderful world to roam in your spare time. This game can bring tears to your eyes in more ways than one, so make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.
Tears of the Kingdom was played on a Nintendo Switch following its release on May 13, 2023.