The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom by Nintendo has been breathing life into the wild now since launching exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on May 12, 2023. Having sold a massive 10 million units in the first three days, it’s quite rightly receiving critical acclaim. Sequel to Breath of the Wild, this is another huge journey through Hyrule. This time we have three major areas to explore in the Great Sky Islands, the general land mass of Hyrule and the caverns and dungeons deep below it. You can read about my first impressions and an overview of Link’s new abilities in my first article. I can now delve a bit deeper into overall thoughts on spoiler free story and gameplay mechanics as I find something new every day when I jump into the game. Learning that I could turn off motion controls was a godsend as I was ready to throw the towel in up on Great Sky Islands while trying to use ultrahand on things. If you are struggling with aiming precision, give that option a try.
I am not the biggest Zelda game fan. I remember playing some of the early games on NES but only because my cousins were playing them, and I didn’t play enough to be full bottle on the storylines. Then I had a huge gap and played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Nintendo Wii. That was a heck of a lot of fun, but a lot of that enjoyment was the novelty of using the Wii-motes to move around, fire the bow and so on. Next came Breath of the Wild and now here we are with Tears of the Kingdom. I cannot tell you much about Link and Zelda’s journey pre-BotW, but I enjoyed playing that game and I am having an amazing time jumping into TotK for 20 minutes here or an hour there in between family time.
The main story is obviously the biggest draw card as Link must save Zelda and the entire kingdom of Hyrule from an ancient evil that has awoken, causing a cataclysmic event that has splintered the kingdom apart. The music, the suspense, the emotions, and the wonder at what unravels is very much worth your time to work through at your own pace. For me, it was the plethora of side quests and things that I could see in the distance that drove me from one location to the next, and often sent me down rabbit holes I had not expected. The presence of gloom across the map far into the distance also gave you some pretty big drawcards too as Link finds stronger weapons, better clothing, gains new companions and allies, and becomes much more powerful.
Everywhere you go you meet some fantastic, weird and wonderful beings that will help you in one way or another, but you must help them first, of course. Sometimes solutions are relatively straight forward, like take this creature with you across a skyrail to be reunited with one of their kind on the other side. Or more dramatic where you need to defeat a boss or group of creatures that have been threatening the livelihood of a quiet village. It’s those little feel-good moments in helping others that I crave in RPGs like this, where your efforts, no matter the size or time commitment, are rewarded and you feel you have accomplished something.
In The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, there are so many ways to be rewarded for your time, and Nintendo fully respects all types of players and provides for them in this game. Whether you are a sprinter who just wants to go from story quest to story quest and complete the game as fast as you can, go for it. There is a heap of speed runners out there now that are clocking the game in under 80 minutes which is insane. Or there are players that have invested 100+ hours in the game and ‘completed’ the story, but the overall game completion stat is still sitting at around 40%. There is just a massive volume of content available for the player whether they choose to connect with it all or not.
For me, I love grabbing a main quest, running in that general direction and picking up any side quests along the way. There are so many shiny objects to collect too, whether that be resources or weapons that can take me off the beaten path. Rather than reaching for a walkthrough, it’s fun to experiment with different combinations of items to see their effects. Looking around I see landmarks in the distance that are begging me to explore them, or the game teases me with possible solutions to get there. This could be in the form of a large block floating in the sky that I can either use to go higher or lower, or a change in scenery that will require me to utilise food I have collected to use raw or cook into a meal for longer duration buffs (like when we go from sunny to snowy weather).
There is also the constant requirement to keep some stocks of melee weapons, bows and attachments we can use that can burn, freeze, blow up, slow down or a few other buffs we can use depending on the foes we come across. Weapon degradation really is annoying, but you work around it knowing that hitting this monster three times will break this weapon, so you prepare for it. At least we can fuse weapons together to lengthen their use and slowly increase our weapon power. You feel powerful slugging a long stick with a massive boulder on the end of it. There are many mini bosses spread through the lands that reinforce the skills and methods you have learned previously and are a good warm up reminder for the larger bosses we face throughout this epic story. It was a sight to behold going underground and seeing a whole new map with its own set of shrines to complete which double as fast travel points.
Given how massive and vast the Kingdom of Hyrule is above and below it, it is incredible to see how players are using the zonai devices and fusing them with all manners of objects to create vehicles to travel with, or creating massive weapons, setting them on a path around a boss, and then using recall to smash into the boss taking off huge amounts of hitpoints. This is using the player’s creativity within the freedoms of gameplay set by the developers. I watch players do things with the zonai devices that I never would have thought of doing. I guess my mind is built to just take advantage of simple gameplay elements, like riding a horse as opposed to building a contraption that will likely travel faster, but this is the beauty of an open world RPG with so many ways to play. There is no right or wrong way to go about the game or its challenges, so long as you achieve the outcome and move on to the next thing.
This is also where player creativity can be utilised to overcome the sheer volume of shrines you come across that contain puzzles to solve and enemies to vanquish. Again, it’s up to the player and the tools they have available at the time to overcome it. I will do it one way and feel gratified for finding a solution. I will then watch a streamer do it completely differently using a much cooler method, like jumping in the air, switching bow ammo mid-air, nailing the sweet spot on the monster perfectly, and relatively breezing through the whole thing. It gives me ideas to utilise for my next shrine encounter or boss fight.
As mentioned earlier in this review, I am not the biggest Zelda fan but Tears of the Kingdom has me wanting to jump in and explore something new almost every day. And whether I play for a quick 10 minutes or wait until my girls are in bed so I can play for an hour or two, it’s easy to feel accomplishment in the game. Every new area I discovered refreshed any exploration or quest fatigue I had up to that point. You may need to change your clothing or eat foods for protection buffs, it keeps you on your toes and pushing forward. I got killed, a heck of a lot, but I also had some great fights against bosses and solving puzzles in shrines was a gratifying.
Overall, I have enjoyed playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom much more than I did Breath of the Wild. It comes down to having the three distinct explorable layers that I can freely move between if I want different challenges and a different feel to the scenery. Like in MMORPGs where I can get sick of the look and feel of a particular biome, this along with the zonai devices allows me to go where I feel like playing with ease. I can’t imagine where Nintendo takes Zelda next but if there was this big a jump from Breath of the Wild, it’s going to be an amazing journey in the next game.
This review utilised a key provided by Nintendo ANZ and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is out now on Nintendo Switch.