By Nick Rounds
2017’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was groundbreaking and special for a Zelda game; finally having a Skyrim-esque open world Zelda felt fresh and unique. Long gone were the linear dungeons and paths that were predetermined. Now the player was free to explore the world at their own pace and uncover the mysteries of Hyrule. Armed with a bevy of new game mechanics, all skinned in the magical mythos of the Legend of Zelda, Link’s journey in BotW felt more magical and special than usual.
It would be hard to surpass that level of surprise and delight, let alone match the number of new features in Breath of the Wild. Luckily, Tears of the Kingdom plays it smart by taking everything that worked in Breath of the Wild, and sprinkles in new mechanics that incentivize creativity and exploration, without taking away from the “at your own pace” joy of an open world.
First Time User Experience (FTUE)
The beginning sky island is extremely well crafted both for returning players, and for brand new players that never played Breath of the Wild. There are portions of the island that have shortcuts for elder players to zip past tutorial areas (tutorials about cooking or how to craft meals that’ll keep them warm) and straight to the shrines that they’re looking for. The island makes sure that the player is well equipped and familiar with all the new features of the game before setting them loose in the giant sandbox that is Hyrule. Though the world of Tears is just as brutal and unforgiving to under-geared and ill-prepared players, starting out in a (mostly) chill experience in the sky makes for a much more fun onboarding experience.
The story beats and objectives are something I won’t spoil, but with every quest objective, and every tear found, Link will learn more about the world and how to rescue Princess Zelda once again.
Much like BotW, the early game of Tears of the Kingdom is spent mainly exploring the world and getting your bearings on what’s happening in it. Namely, by using towers to unhide the map, unlocking shrines as convenient fast travel points all across the map, and chasing after any conversation with a red dot. The shrines in particular are still fun and challenging, and chasing after horses continues to be the bane of my existence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been kicked in the face after casually walking up to a wild horse with an apple, but I digress.
Speaking of horses, any horses you registered in BotW will be present in Tears of the Kingdom; It’s a nice touch that makes the world feel more lived-in. Tears really plays with the idea that the events of the game have drastically changed the landscape. Chaotic weather and changes to familiar topographical areas make areas that you’ll remember from BotW feel drastically different. Characters from the last game will remember Link and have new character development that will challenge your impressions of them from the last game.
In addition to the standard activities that carried over from BotW, some new activities that have piqued my gamer interest have been treasure hunts for special clothing that vastly change or improve gameplay. For example, the glide suit, once fully assembled, allows for no fall damage at all. Meaning that you can perform your best “The Other Guys” moment by jumping off of a building and “aim for the bushes”….while landing face first into the ground. Unlike Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson….you’ll survive the fall.
With the new updated areas, there are also fun new mechanics that completely change the way that Link fights enemies and solves puzzles.
Almost all of the metal weapons in Tears of the Kingdom have been corroded and corrupted. Weapons that would be top tier in BotW are now weak or brittle in Tears of the Kingdom. However, thanks to the fuse ability, you’re able to extend the damage and durability of combining two elements together. A shield and a trampoline? Sure. A soldier blade and a bone hand? Enjoy your new 27 damage sword. The creativity and things you can combine is astounding. If you’re feeling particularly wacky, you can fuse a minecart to your shield and Tony Hawk your way up minecart rails.
Being able to ascend straight through ceilings and into secret areas, or to the next portion of a puzzle or a map is a fantastic ability. In addition to being a fantastic puzzle and collectible mechanic, it feels super satisfying to float up through the floor and to the next level of an area. Additionally, having areas that focus on going underground or raiding a cave or a dungeon means that exiting said dungeon is as simple as pulling up ascending and yeeting Link up to the surface.
Gloom is probably the biggest and most significant change to the game. There’s an entire underworld of Gloom in Tears, and touching gloom lowers your maximum health. Not to mention that gloom enemies are some of the most relentless and brutal enemies that you’ll face in the game. Gloom is meant to be a challenging elder player activity, but there are some areas where you’ll be forced to fight gloom, even if you weren’t asking for the battle in the first place.
Tears feels like the sequel that fans of BotW were hoping for. The fun new mechanics add a ton of creativity and challenging new encounters that challenge even the most expert level players of Breath of the Wild. I’ve kept much of my review vague and hand-wavy for two reasons:
- I’m still actively playing the game and these were my first impressions.
- There’s so many fun and exciting moments in the game that I don’t really want to spoil anything.
What do you think of Tears of the Kingdom so far? Leave a comment below.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available for purchase at Amazon or GameStop.