It was worthwhile to wait six years for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. By the second hour, I was aware that the tense story of gaming’s most anticipated sequel in years was going to have a happy ending after all. A slow, steady sense of relief swept over me. A sense of comfort quickly gave way to the sheer, exuberant excitement of knowing that I would have a really large, really fantastic game to enjoy in the coming weeks.
Let’s start by exploring Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s depths because you’ve undoubtedly seen and read a lot about the game’s heights. Water wells, of which there are around 50 in total, are the easiest to reach. Most of them are near stables and villages, however, others are hidden inside long-forgotten ruinous structures. You might occasionally just discover puddles and moss, a few lizards you can use to make a potion, and the remnants of a narrative if you drop in. A hydroponics garden with melons that were swollen in the light of bioluminescent plants was located beneath one of the wells I saw. One of the many endearingly written vagabond geeks you’ll encounter in Tears of the Kingdom’s vertically extended Hyrule lived in another and gave me a sidequest to find — you got it — all the other wells.
Although The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is currently the highest-rated game of the year on Metacritic and the highest-rated game of all time on OpenCritic, industry analysts believe Nintendo’s brand-new adventure is going to affect the charts not just for the next few months, but “years,” some fans are expressing their disappointment more than clearly, and while the critic score sits at a lofty 96, the user score compiled from over 1600 reviewers is only 8.5.
Despite several positive reviews, one player wrote, “I found Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to be a disappointing experience.” The game’s tempo seemed uneven, with some chapters dragging on and others moving too quickly. Despite being huge and physically spectacular, the environment lacked the depth and immersion I had hoped for. Even if the plot and fighting were meant to be better than in Breath of the Wild, there was still considerable room for improvement. Overall, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom disappointed me and didn’t live up to the anticipation.
The story begins some unspecified time after Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as Hyrule is slowly rebuilt under Zelda’s authority. Unfortunately, an exploration beneath the castle’s ruins leads to the discovery of a familiar redhead mummy with a terrible attitude, and things quickly go awry from there. After touching one of Hyrule’s numerous MacGuffins, Zelda vanishes, Link loses his right arm, and Master Sword is split into pieces. Is this truly a kingdom that can function well for 10 minutes?
Things have altered dramatically by the time Link regains consciousness. No one realizes where Zelda is, Ganondorf has disappeared, and Link’s mangled limb has been substituted with a new prosthetic, courtesy of some old robots that are now unexpectedly appearing on the floating islands showing above Hyrule – remains of the Zonai civilization which helped establish the land in the first place.
Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has a little more intricate storyline and structure than Breath of the Wild. Because no one knows where Ganondorf is or where Zelda is, you can’t immediately go there or save her; instead, what happens next is more of a mystery story in which you follow the characters’ travels in order to locate the climactic battle.
Without giving anything away, the eventual reveal of Zelda’s location hooked me nicely, and the whole thing occasionally reminds me of the best Studio Ghibli films, evoking tales like Princess Mononoke and Spiri. However, Nintendo’s desperate attempt to keep things kid-compatible does result in a lot of elements that get over-explained, with a fair few story beats that get repeated multiple times for those in the cheap seats.
However, I did discover that the voice acting didn’t really enhance the journey. I enjoy seeing all of the performers involved and have seen them perform excellent work in the past, but the voices of the characters seem a little disjointed from their surroundings. With lengthy pauses between each line and a stilted, forced quality that frequently distracted me from otherwise impactful scenes in Tears of the Kingdom, it can appear as though the actors didn’t fully understand the context of what they were saying.
Fundamentally speaking, Breath of the Wild and Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom are quite similar mechanically and experientially. That’s not a weakness; it’s distinct enough to stand on its own; nonetheless, it implies that a large part of your comprehension of what this game is may be deduced by studying its history. In order to feel prepared to tackle the primary threats, you must first explore the larger Hyrulean environment utilizing weapons put together with school paste and a variety of system-twisting superpowers. This involves engaging in Shrines, side quests, exploration, and more. Let’s discuss the differences now that we’ve established the shared characteristics.
The main tools you have to play with now are Recall, which lets you rewind objects back along their former trajectories; Ultrahand, which combines telekinesis and superglue for assembling devices and vehicles; Fuse, which lets you stick stuff on your gear; and Ascend, which enables you to fly up and phase through any surface that is immediately above you.
With a few exceptions, they are all used in the gameplay pretty darn effectively. Recall was the one I found most enjoyable when used skillfully, but Ultrahand is the highlight and the one you’ll use most frequently when gluing composite components to create a flying automobile or attaching trees together to form a bridge. I smacked a huge boulder that several haughty Moblins threw at me with the Recall button on my bionic arm, and I saw it fly back up the ramp and roll over them in a magnificent way. Coyote, Wile E.
The problem is that while if these skills let you come up with a lot of creative and original solutions, they can give the impression that you’re gaming the system. In addition, I managed to completely skip one temple challenge by using Ascend in the one skipped location that enabled me to phase up to the opposite side of a door, which was scarcely rewarding. As previously indicated, the very tedious process of gluing logs together will allow you to cross nearly any obstacle. I get that you don’t have to adopt specific strategies, but in an ideal world, players shouldn’t have to place limitations on themselves in order to enjoy themselves or avoid unintentionally missing portions of the game.
Hyrule from Breath of the Wild may be present in the world itself, although that is only the geography and general layout. Since then, a lot has changed in this globe, including new landmarks, altered communities, and fresh dangers. Pirates have besieged Lurelin, and Kakariko is covered in mysterious debris. Cosmic graffiti is appearing all over the place, and there are archipelagos of floating islands above cloud level to explore as well as The Depths, a vast subterranean realm the size of Hyrule beneath the surface of the world. There are still entire sections I haven’t even touched the surface of in Tears of the Kingdom, at least fifty hours after I began my journey there.
I wish there were more floating islands to explore since they provide some of the finest experiences in the game. You don’t spend a lot of time up there because they are irregular and infrequently required. On the other hand, the game continues to compel you to visit The Depths, which I always did reluctantly and with grim efficiency. The Depths are dark, difficult to travel, and boring. Although it’s not very bad, this is the part when Tears of the Kingdom tells you to eat your veggies.
Let’s go a bit more specific. In addition to being returned, weapon durability is more common than ever. While Breath of the Wild’s controversial use of this feature had you continually switch out your collection of amassed weapons in order to live, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom gives the system a fresh new look.
One NPC warns you early on that weapons are even more brittle than before, almost as if daring you to protest, but the answer is literally in your hands. Your motivation to keep customizing your weapons is always to put off the time when they shatter on a Gleeok’s nose because fusing them increases their ability to last depending on what you combine them with.
Speaking of breaking stuff, Tears of the Kingdom’s technical performance received a solid B grade overall, with the usual caveats and asterisks that accompany Switch software at this late stage of the generation cycle. It occasionally stumbled when there were too many NPCs nearby or when built vehicles became too complicated for the game to handle – after all, they are essentially a collection of unrelated systems rubbing up against one another – and switching between different areas frequently caused lag or choppy animation.
I wish Tears of the Kingdom had pushed the aforementioned vehicles a little bit more, but they were undoubtedly a high point. It’s not often something you really need to do, and the work to make them seldom equals their output, but when you battle a hydra on a biplane or build clattering death machines that rumble over the terrain, it’s one of the finest experiences. They often roll on for approximately forty feet before suddenly stopping and needing a rest, especially in the beginning as many of them rely on a small, slowly recharging battery.
Although the boss roster as a whole is a bit of a mixed bag, that hydra that was fighting the biplanes was one of the greatest. I found it utterly amazing to wrestle with a flying centipede over mountains, but later you’ll face off against a mech suit in a boxing ring, and it’s one of the most excruciating video game sessions I’ve had in a while. Perhaps it would have been better if the UI wasn’t a little bit difficult to use and painfully sluggish – Although it’s theoretically improved in Tears of the Kingdom compared to Breath of Wild, the issue is still not ideal. Let’s face it, it’s annoying to constantly stop a thrilling battle to eat a mushroom or select a one-use item.
There is a lot of intricacy involved with all this flexibility. There is some fiddliness here that I wouldn’t want to put up with if the rest of it weren’t so incredibly hilarious. Because you can combine any item in your inventory with another item, rotating and positioning objects is annoying and requires you to hold multiple buttons at once. As a result, you frequently scroll through pointless monster parts in the middle of a battle in search of the bomb flower that you want to fuse to your arrow. I’ve frequently aimed for a sticky glowing plant, but instead threw a pricey weapon against a cave wall. All of this may come naturally to people who have grown up with Fortnite and Minecraft, but Tears of the Kingdom’s amazing open-ended style comes at the expense of controls that never seem quite natural.
It’s also unexpectedly challenging, but sometimes I was the one making things challenging for myself since I couldn’t help but explore. Because I’d been too busy messing around to do all that typical video game stuff, like strengthening my armor or increasing Link’s life reserve of hearts, or playing through the story to unlock helpful new abilities, I was frequently killed in a few hits when I had to fight my way out of a situation. I had to make a course correction and spend some time following the route that was laid out in front of me after around 20 hours in order to avoid continuously dying in perilous areas of Hyrule. But it didn’t take long for me to feel sufficiently recovered and return to my diversions, letting the game lead the way.
I fear that I will never complete this game. It always discloses a fresh expanse just when I believe I’ve got a grasp on it. I still haven’t even mentioned the depths, the very hazardous pitch-black subterranean region that lies underneath Hyrule. I don’t like it down there, man. I’m pacing the floor of my home, examining every piece of junk and considering how I may combine it. We all scream as a terrifyingly quick gloop monster composed of clutching hands pursues me as I bring my kids onto the couch to see Link’s adventures.