The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Kingdom in ruins

After it was revealed that Nintendo was planning to reuse Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule map for Tears of the Kingdom, players expressed concern over how justified such a decision was for a game built around the exploration of the game’s world. Well, after hundred-plus hours spent in Tears of the Kingdom, I can safely say that those fears were in vain: the secondary, somehow miraculously, now looks exactly like Breath of the Wild.

Game The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Genre Action-adventure
Platform Nintendo Switch
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Link Official website

Moreover, it cannot be said that Tears of the Kingdom is radically different from its predecessor: it is still a sandbox full of secrets in an open world with an arbitrary order of tasks, which skillfully captures the attention and all the free time of the player with the help of dozens, if not hundreds, of curiosities, secrets, caves, ruins and settlements that are simply impossible to bypass – it just gives the impression that the game has become better in literally everything.

Tears of the Kingdom is bigger, more varied, livelier, more action-packed, and banally more user-friendly than its predecessor, thanks to a host of innovations big and small: from a redesigned and at least twice as large Hyrule map, a large number of dungeons and side quests that were previously missing, and fantastic flexible item creation system, to such a trifle as the appearance of recipes for dishes. In short, if for some reason you haven’t played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’d recommend playing it before Tears of the Kingdom, and not just because it’s a direct sequel, but due to the fact that playing these games in reverse order can be a bit uncomfortable.

The events of the game take place several years after the finale of the previous part, after the victory over Ganondorf comes the period of reconstruction of Hyrule, but this idyll does not last long: very soon an unknown harmful substance begins to spread from the basement of the castle, and Link and Princess Zelda descend into the dungeons, hoping to find there is the source of the problems. In general, they succeed, but the result of these searches turns out to be devastating – Zelda disappears, Link is seriously injured, Master Sword is destroyed, and the kingdom experiences a terrible disaster. The royal castle hangs in the air, and with it – and an entire archipelago of sky islands, chasms appear all over the map, leading to the sunless depths – a deadly dangerous underground world the size of Hyrule itself. Link goes in search of Zelda, who is seen in different parts of the kingdom while recovering his lost strength, enlisting the support of allies, and learning new skills that will help in the final battle with evil.

And if in 2017 the game was quite slow to gain momentum, then this time the momentum has noticeably increased: the prologue location throws at the player so many mechanics, tasks, secrets, and serious challenges that I was very surprised when the opening credits finally appeared because I had a strong feeling that I had gone through a good fifth part of the game.

Leaving the starting sky island, I found myself in the center of Hyrule with four main quest markers, a basic set of magical skills, including the ability to move upwards through rocks, turn objects back through space and time, and attach almost anything to almost anything, which is used both to build various mechanisms and to create weapons, after which the game designers wished me luck and left me alone, for which I am extremely grateful. After all, I got the opportunity to independently choose what, how, and at what pace I want to do, without being distracted by dozens of colorful markers on the map, which must be applied here on my own. Tears of the Kingdom does a great job of informing the player about an interesting place through other, more natural means, mostly, you wouldn’t believe it, visually, and let them decide how much they want to switch their attention from their current affairs to something new. I really like the ability to mark for myself side activities that I would like to return to in the future, and not see those activities on the map at all things that don’t interest me.

And to occupy here, in addition to the story and side tasks, with your head: the sanctuary trials, for the completion of which you receive tokens, which are then exchanged for increasing the level of health and stamina, searching for and helping the kulaks, small forest spirits that reward Link with currency for buying additional slots in the inventory, going through dungeons and searching for treasures, collecting ingredients for cooking and materials for improving armor (this option, by the way, also requires the completion of several quest chains), car racing, boss fights in the open world, building your own house … and here you can’t even watch most of the cut-scenes just like that – you’ll have to fly around looking for a special element in the geoglyphs scattered across Hyrule.

And, of course, the already mentioned depths: entertainment for those who want the maximum challenge. This is a huge network of completely dark caves that stretches under all of Hyrule. And when I say completely dark, I mean a black screen, think for yourself how to fight this trouble – scatter the seeds of plants that emit light, carry torches with you, build the car with lights, eat luminescent mushrooms and dishes from them or invent something. Another “nice” feature – any damage done to Link in the depths not only takes away hearts, but also blocks the possibility of their recovery until the moment the hero finds himself on the surface, eats food that can heal this state, or will not find a light root, which, when activated, illuminates a significant part of the depths around it and serves as a point of rapid movement.

The surface, of course, is much safer, but here, too, the climatic features, which must be taken into account when exploring the surroundings, have not gone anywhere. In cold regions, Link freezes and needs warm clothes, warming dishes and elixirs, or building a fire, and sometimes all at once, in hot regions, on the contrary, you need to look for an opportunity to cool down: when caught in a thunderstorm, you should remove metal objects so as not to receive a lightning charge, and in rain, you will have to give up mountaineering, because the hero simply cannot climb wet rocks, and figure out how to start a fire if you suddenly decide to cook something, because raw wood does not burn.

In a word, Tears of the Kingdom constantly forces the player to solve big and not so big problems, and in general, it can be called a huge spatial puzzle in which you see a goal and choose how to get to it yourself, while the game only offers various tools, that will be useful. There are many possibilities here – from the banal running on foot, dealing with stray monsters along the way, to building an all-terrain vehicle that can overcome rather steep slopes, a robot that shoots lasers in all directions (yes!), flying on a glider or an aircraft with rockets engines. The list goes on and on, and most importantly, this approach doesn’t just work in the open world. In one of the four temples that replaced the divine beasts from the previous part, I got tired of playing with puzzles built around moving around on a trolley on rails and just attached a rocket to my shield, flew up, and glided to the right platform. In another episode, instead of going through dungeons the way the game designers most likely intended, I built a system of forests and platforms, put on a suit that allows me to move across slippery surfaces, climbed to the right height, made a makeshift elevator using the skill to return items to time and reached the right place. In general, during the game, situations in which you think that you outwitted the developers and found a more effective way to solve the problem than they anticipated, occur regularly, and it’s great – I can’t remember which other game caused similar emotions.

The combat system hasn’t changed at its core, but it feels completely different thanks to a crazy system that allows you to create weapons from virtually anything. It all starts pretty primitive – Link can block and parry blows with his shield, dodge enemy attacks and attack back, and depending on the type of weapon, you can deliver several quick strikes or build up strength for one powerful one. Weapons, as in the previous game, break during use, which some people like because it forces them to adapt, and others are annoyed, but this has already become a feature of the updated series, and there is one non-obvious way to repair your favorite sword. There is also, of course, a bow, throwing weapons, and various attack mechanisms such as a flamethrower or the previously mentioned laser. Unoriginal? I agree, but let’s take this stick and combine it with… for example… I don’t know, maybe with this mushroom? We have a spear that can be used to throw enemies very far, do you see where the bokoblin flew? I can’t see either, we are high in the mountains. Well, can you attach that stone to this sword? You can. And the flamethrower to the spear? You can. But what if you stick an explosive barrel to a claymore? Um… you can, but maybe it’s better not to? Well, what if you add another sword to the sword? No questions, you will have a long double sword, but better sharpen that sword with a Lynel horn or some precious stone, it will be more interesting.

The same goes for arrows: by attaching various berries, mushrooms, and monster parts to them, you can get incendiary, poisonous, explosive, homing, and many other types of arrows. I doubt I found even half of the possible combinations. Of course, the same applies to shields: after simple manipulations, they can burn the enemy with fire, knock them off their feet with a powerful jet of air or simply act as a skate, just fit a platform with wheels to the shield. And yes, you can do tricks while riding the rails.

However, despite all this diversity, killing monsters with weapons is for people who do not have the time and inspiration, because the real fans create death traps and mechanisms that crush, burn, cut with lasers, and blast with rockets and stone monsters. And this, it would seem, is a children’s game, if you look at the trailers.

And despite such an unprecedented scale and complexity, I still haven’t seen a single bug in the game. None. FPS slump? Yes, although they were more obvious in Breath of the Wild. Reduced range of vegetation drawing? Of course, the game is as tight as possible on the archaic hardware of the Nintendo Switch, and this is visible to the naked eye. Bad textures? From time to time, though, the stylization helps to hide this flaw a little. And yet you can still climb to the highest point of the sky islands, jump down, fly across half the map (if you have enough stamina), dive into the chasm that leads to the depths, reach the very bottom, and not see a single loading screen. I don’t know how it works, but it would be very interesting to see what the game would look like on a more powerful console.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is very likely a 2023 game, and a great sequel to one of the best games ever, with Nintendo showing that it can and does listen to its fans. If you once abandoned Breath of the Wild due to some shortcomings, try Tears of the Kingdom: they have likely been eliminated here. Well, I’ll go build a hydroplane with bombs and use it to try to kill that dragon without melee combat at all.

Huge game world; virtually unlimited opportunities for engineering experiments; emotional plot; a huge number of different activities for every taste
Intermittent performance issues
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a fantastic adventure and a reason to buy a Nintendo Switch even in 2023.
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