Acting as a swan song for open-world games spawning a multitude of inspirations for multiple titles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hit the world by storm following the release of Nintendo Switch. It was as if Nintendo has found the secret formula that thrusts open-world games as a genre people couldn’t get enough of.
It was well understood why fans were super excited for its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which finally gets its release last week. After earning even the Most Anticipated Game at the Game Awards 2022, does the title really live up to its name and meet the mark of worldwide fans?
▍ A Sequel Story After Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom takes place shortly after the end of Breath of the Wild, where Link’s victory on Calamity Ganon has allowed Hyrule’s residents to restore it to its former glory. The mysterious red haze seeping below Hyrule Castle urges Link and Princess Zelda to find the potential cause. There, they find mysterious ruins that are believed to belong to the Zonaite people, an ancient civilization that has been around since Hyrule’s founding.
As they dig deeper into the ruins, Link and Zelda accidentally awaken a mummy, whose mighty power heavily damages Link and destroys his Master Sword. Not too long after that, Hyrule suffers from a mysterious phenomenon known as the Upheaval, where strange structures suddenly appear in the sky, and mountains start to rise. While Zelda went missing during the incidents, the seriously-injured Link wakes to find that someone has performed some ramshackle surgery, replacing his hand with a black claw and that he is way high up, among stone islands speckling the sky.
▍ A Vast, Open World at your Fingertips
Whereas Breath of the Wild offers players the surface of the world to play in, Tears of the Kingdom adds the sky. During the first few hours, you’ll be primarily confined to the Sky Islands, as you try to clear the four Shrines and open the doors to the Temple of Time.
Like its previous entry, there’s a staggering amount of stuff to do in Tears of the Kingdom, in addition to the sacred mission to find where Princess Zelda is! You can easily spend 100 hours playing this game due to the sheer amount of main and side content that it sports, from exploring the dark Depths of Hyrule to the islands in the Sky, and even finding all sorts of landmarks in the Surface.
▍ Your Imagination is the Limit
Instead of the Runes and Champion Abilities, Link this time has a brand new right arm, which is capable of doing many cool things, like the Ultrahand, which allows you to grab many objects and attach them together. We also have the Ascend ability, so that you can go from underneath a mountain to the top, and the Recall ability to grab objects while rewinding time.
Completing the main story quest also gives you the power of Sages, which are direct references to Ocarina of Time. After clearing Sage’s respective temple, they’ll give you an Oath, which you use to summon their avatar and take advantage of their abilities.
As an example, the Sage of Wind, Tulin, gives you the power to create a gust of wind to move you slightly forward, so that you can glide farther without losing altitude. Personally speaking, the system appears deficient compared to the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild, but the low cooldown is an advantage that you’ll desire in boss battles.
▍ Dungeons Are Back…Kinda!
One of the main highlights touted in Tears of the Kingdom’s marketing was the return of Dungeons, a staple element you may recognize in the Legend of Zelda series. Although the Divine Beasts of Breath of the Wild could be considered “dungeons”, they were incredibly short.
That being said, the so-called Dungeons in Tears of the Kingdom are nothing more than Temples, and they all follow the same objective, so to speak. You enter them with a partner and use their unique ability to solve puzzles and get to the designated spots on your map in order to disengage the lock to the final boss. Though their designs and puzzles slightly differ, the objective is largely unchanged.
▍ The Experience of Breath of the Wild Remains Intact
Ultimately, the major gripe I had with Tears of the Kingdom is how the world is practically unchanged from Breath of the Wild. While certain shrines and towers have slightly changed their locations, by large, they’re still in the same places as the Sheikah Shrines were in Breath of the Wild.
The weapon durability system was also not improved, and in fact, I think weapons got even more fragile, and you’re practically required to grind for materials to fuse weapons together for a decent arsenal.
The new Ultrahand is extremely finicky to use. You hold the R Button to change the direction the item is facing, and that can be extremely hard to get right, and a wrong direction can cause the physics to not work as they should. There’s also the fact that the narrative, due to this being an open-world game, is often treated as a second wheel, and it’s clear that you’re more meant to immerse yourself in the gameplay, not the story.
▍ Running A Bit Poorly on the Switch
Tears of the Kingdom also suffers from severe framerate issues. Despite running at 30 frames per second both docked and in Handheld Mode, you can definitely see some times where it drops to the twenties, especially when it rains or you’re in a particular area with lots of monsters, and especially when you have a complex contraption with the Ultrahand in motion.
The stuttering doesn’t make it utterly unplayable of course, and I’m sure Nintendo did what they could with the Switch’s capabilities. After playing the game for a couple of hours while docked, I couldn’t help but notice that my console was a bit hot to the touch. The poor Tegra X1 inside of it must be working to the brink.
▍ Amiibo Support Returns!
Just like Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom offers amiibo compatibility, and it’s a really good way to get yourself some resources by scanning them once a day. All of the amiibo are compatible, but there is a small chance to get special rewards if you scan a Legend of Zelda amiibo specifically. For example, scanning the Ocarina of Time Link has a chance of dropping the Tunic of Time, as seen below:
This time, however, there’s a new type of item added to the mix: Paraglider Fabric! Now, you can normally get some designs through some side quests, but the majority of designs are locked behind a certain amiibo figure. To change your Paraglider’s fabric, you must head to Hateno Village and pay 20 rupees to customize to whichever design you want.
Though this amiibo feature is purely cosmetic, the resources obtained by scanning once a day are definitely something that you’ll find hard to resist, especially at the beginning, when you’re practically devoid of resources.
▍ Does Tears of the Kingdom Live Up to the Hype?
Stepping foot again into the open world of Hyrule is always a joyful experience, and the new mechanics of Tears of the Kingdom heightens things with infinite possibilities. Amazing exploration, fun puzzles, a true sense of freedom, and immense creativity are only a few factors that suggest why you should play the game.
Tears of the Kingdom is certainly a worthy sequel, but it can’t really earn full marks for me. For one, it’s Breath of the Wild, all over again, so if you already hated the original, then this is definitely not going to change your mind. And if you were looking for an engaging narrative to hook you up, you’re going to be a little disappointed, a feeling I also felt with Breath of the Wild.