Published on May 19th, 2023 | by Daniel
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review
Summary: Tears of the Kingdom captures and improves upon everything it's predecessor was. The sky was they limit and they certainly reached it!
If people though that Breath of the Wild was a massive game, then they’ve got another thing coming. From the moment I pressed start on the title screen, Tears of the Kingdom has had me enthralled. Apart from contractually obligated daily adulting, I have spend every spare moment playing this game and I feel like I have barely even scratched the surface of everything this game has to offer. Breath of the Wild Hyrule, was huge all on its own, but next Tears of the Kingdom? It’s feels like the preschool sandpit by comparison. Zelda is one of those series that simply and completely encapsulates me, I’ve grown up with it since I was a child. I adore it so much that it’s literally inked into my skin, a tattoo I show off whenever I meet a new gamer friend. It’s a story we’ve seen done over and over and yet fans of the series keep coming back every time to see Link save Hyrule alongside Princess Zelda. So here I am, fifteen years after my first Zelda game (Ocarina of Time), feeling like a little kid again as I venture out into the world of Hyrule and beyond!
You start out in a spoiler packed intro segment with Link and Zelda doing some exploring, before something happens and all chaos is let loose once more. When Link comes to, he’s naked once again, got a fancy new arm and with that, some fancy new skills! Without getting too spoilery, the story plays out very much like any other Zelda does in the past with some unique caveats in each new installment. Get strong, rescue and team up with Princess Zelda to save the kingdom of Hyrule and all its people.
After the opening events, an evil deep beneath Hyrule castle awakens, sending the castle skyward. Several islands from an ancient civilisation known as the Zonai fill the sky. Link awakens similarly to his hundred year slumber in the previous title, is barely shocked at the realisation of his new arm, perks of a mostly silent protagonist. After a tutorial level spent on the Great Sy Islands, complete with it’s own, working version of the Temple of Time. Come to grips, (ha ha funny joke) with his new abilities and explore the island before getting right down to business of restoring peace and calm to Hyrule.
Or at least he would, if he wasn’t getting constantly distracted with all the things he can do in this, new yet vaguely familiar world of his. Full of caves, chasms, people to talk to, mountains to climb, recipes to discover and weird and wacky things to create, experiment on and merge together. Oh wait, that’s me, the player’s fault. The moment I touched down in Hyrule, I began exploring, mostly stumbling upon the main quests that took me to the first settlement. I’ve spend so much of my time spelunking through caves, diving deep into chasms and the darkness that I’ve barely even touched the main story. The game is so full of distractions, Hyrule is vast enough on its own, but adding in the sky islands of the Zonai and the vast network of chasms underground.
There’s a feeling of almost endless exploration, the aforementioned chasms for example, are pitch black. And as a result of the gloom infesting the whole underground, there’s only select few locations or items that allow you to recover full health. As a result, you’re almost forced to take it slow, planting down plants that glow in the dark or consuming food/potions to give you a faint glow. Taking each encounter with the local baddies one step at a time, planning out how you’re going to approach a skirmish is key here. The whole world feels so alive too, with travellers needing help, foes disguised as regular folks to ambush an unsuspecting player and so many sidequests ranging from short and sweet, to long and exciting. It’s a land, a story so vast and open, that you can’t help but be drawn to every new and shiny item, quest or encounter. So full to bursting that you can’t help but get lost in it all. Too often I’d come home from work to play, before I knew it, it was already bed time.
Folks who are familiar with Breath of the Wild will instantly feel the nostalgia. As it play very much like its predecessor, with tweaks and additions. The main gimmick of Tears of the Kingdom, is the ability to merge items together to create a new combination of the aforementioned items. Attached two sticks for a longer stick, with the swing speed of just a single stick. Attach a rock to make a rock hammer, or a flat rock to make a stone axe. Merge a stick with a sword and you have double the range of a single sword with the swing speed of one too! You can also mix things up with your shield! Attach a fan to blow your opponents away, or a flame emitter for a fire breathing shield, to set your foes alight!
Or perhaps you want to blow something up from a distance, well, simply attach a bomb flower to your arrows and you have yourself an arrow that packs quite the punch! There’s so many different combinations, from simple damage boosts, to homing, or other special effects. Want to light something up in the distance? Chuck a brightblossom seed onto your arrow and fire away!
Combat itself is much the same, but the aforementioned merging skill makes every combat fresh and exciting. I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to approach a given situation. This of course leads to one of my few issues with the game and that is the inventory. Because of this new merger feature, you’ll find yourself often scrolling endlessly through items to find the combination that you want. At first, while you’re experimenting, it’s fine. But soon, it becomes a little tiresome to keep scrolling through the entire item menu every time you want a new or previously used combination. The problem could easily be fixed with a primary and sub menu, or perhaps just adding in a favourites menu, for you to select up to a certain number of favourites.
It’s a small issue in the grand scheme of things as I’m often just having too much fun just being in the world to care too much about fine tuning things. I just know that others, especially new players might be turned off by this. I also get the feeling on subsequent new playthroughs it’ll stand out as being a pain.
Combinations are the bread and butter of Tears of the Kingdom. The possibilities are endless!
Other mechanics are neat features; Recall, obviously lets you rewind time for an object and things connected to said object. Autobuild; records previously built structures and allows them to be recreated in an instant, so long as the requisite materials can be piled together. Ascend; as the name suggests, allows you to shoot straight up and through some surfaces above your head. Allowing you to instantly climb to the tops of buildings or mountains, granting access to hard or otherwise inaccessible places. But since they’re relatively unremarkable, I often forget to use some of them, mostly relying on Fuse and Ultrahand to get around. Though now that I sit here and look at the abilities again, I remember areas I struggled to get out of, that Ascend would have perfect for and now I’m kicking myself!
Aside for the new features, it’s you could basically treat Tears of the Kingdom as an expansion, rather than a whole new game. As the core features, the core gameplay is much the same. Hey, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it? It is somewhat odd from a story perspective that all the Shrines from Breath of the Wild have disappeared and the Zonai shrines have replaced them. Although, they’re not in the same locations as the previous games, so it begs the question, where did they go? The towers can be explained as if they’ve simply been modified to shoot Link up into the sky as a method to explore new sky islands. But as a lore nerd like myself, I find myself asking that question a lot. Not enough to dull my enjoyment however.
The freedom in this game is intoxicating. So many times I’d be experimenting with a bunch of items strewn across the floor wondering. “What happens if I do this?”. The game brings out the creativity in everyone who plays it, some results are cool and astounding. While others fail miserably and hilariously, so much I was left in stitches the first time I made a rocket propelled glider and promptly watched it detach itself when it ran out of juice and nearly killed me, when I came crashing down like a tonne of bricks.
I direct your eyes to the paragraph where I commented “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”. Because I honestly haven’t really noticed a change per se in the graphics. More like the performance has been improved. Areas that lagged a little on the big TV under saturation now play seamlessly. Link looked pretty smokin’ hot in the first game with his manly ponytail and sideburns, but now he’s got that Greek god look. Long lochs of flowing blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, the starting Archaic tunic just looks perfect for this aesthetic too. Gets the chef’s kiss from me as far as starting gear goes.
There’s a distinctly Autumn feeling catered to the the sky islands which gives them a unique feeling when compared to Hyrule proper. The pallet of orange sky and trees, coupled with ancient buildings and large ponds, really just pops with me. Autumn being my favourite season, where so much colour changes in the landscape and the air is often chilly in the morning. Allowing for the warmth of the sun to peer through the trees. It’s like this in game too, a lot of what was good in the previous installment, has simply been made better. Beams of sunlight shines between the branches and sway as the breeze catches the trees. Reflecting off pools of water, lakes and the ocean to create a mirror like surface atop the body of water.
The gloom in the underground sections, at least on my first couple of journey’s down into the depths. Succeeded very well in creating the desired atmosphere. I was forced to slow my otherwise, confident and brisk pace of the overworld. Needing to stop to plant light every few feet just to see where I was going. The nature of the darkness cut only by the puddles of gloom on the ground making you wonder if you were heading into a trap or an area you mightn’t be ready for. The only salvation being the tiny glow of the Lightroot off in the distance, your only method, outside of certain foods/elixirs, to regain lost HP. Granting you a small reprieve before you venture out into the darkness once more.
Similar to our visual friend up there, the audio is mostly unchanged too. Though there is one, giant addition I was incredibly pleased to hear. The moment a certain someone spoke words to link in the opening segment of the game. It sent chills down my spine to have Matthew Mercer’s voice cut through the quiet air as Link and Zelda ventured deep below Hyrule Castle to investigate the gloom. He’s such a talent and I’ve been privy to his work on many games throughout my years where he’s featured, even in the smallest of roles. His is a voice almost unmistakable to hear and his delivery is perfect. The opening moments of the game left such an impression on me that I cannot wait to hear more of his performance as I progress through the game more.
The updated score is brilliant, most music from the original makes its return. But there are some new notes to the score that I thoroughly enjoyed and want to hear more of. There’s just something about the rustle of trees as soft piano plays in the background this makes me enjoy this game so much. And when the combat music kicks in, you know it’s time to get serious.
Apart from that however, most of the game sounds having been brought over from Breath of the Wild and simply improved upon. The distinctly clunky sound as two objects merge together is oddly satisfying, almost as much as the hollow bonk of a wooden club on a Bokoblin’s head! Or the sound of the wind rushing by as Link plummets towards the ground after taking a dive off the sky islands. It all culminates together to create the perfect experience, though I might be talking through my fan bias there.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a masterpiece. Through and through, with only one or two tiny caveats that slightly dull the experience. I really can’t sing enough praises for this game, I think I said the same thing about Breath of the Wild too. Tears of the Kingdom though, makes its predecessor look like a child by comparison. Can the game be speedrun? Of course, there’s already videos out about that very feat. Are there hours of content? Hell yes. It’s the perfect game for adults with work schedules. Easy and relaxing enough to pick up after a busy or hard day’s work, difficult enough to challenge players who are looking for that extra spicy content. Shrines alone would take hours to complete, with some puzzles more complex than others. And with three vastly different zones to delve into and explore? It really feels like there’s an endless amount of things to do.
If you were to ask me how they could improve, I’d have one or two minor points at best. But the team have done an amazing job, easily worth the money for a game with this much content. Even for non-Zelda fans, if you just like big, open world games that emphasise exploration and creativity, this is a game for you. If it weren’t for my getting a review copy, I would have already invested in getting myself the game with the limited edition OLED console. Man, I’m still considering it even now.
Whatever they do from now, wherever the series goes from here. I can trust that the team know exactly what they’re doing. Am I a little biased? Maybe, but if I had one last thing I want to see in the game. Please let us pat the dogs!
Game Genre – Third Person, Action-Adventure
Developers – Nintendo EPD
Publisher – Nintendo
Rating – Mature
Year of Release – 2023
Platforms – Nintendo Switch
Mode(s) of Play – Single Player
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