The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review (Nintendo Switch)
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a thousand times more worthy of streams of accolades than any other game in recent memory. I mean, how do you follow up after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and still manage to captivate the masses in just a few hours of release? It was so hard to comprehend how Tears of the Kingdom would surpass Breath of the Wild. Perhaps fixing the minor issues raised in its predecessor? The dungeon scarcity, the weapon degradation problem, or the combat fiddleness. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if Tears of the Kingdom ironed these out and left it at that.
But for the five years The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has been in development, I was aptly anxious to see how Nintendo would step up their game from an already highly successful title. And now that I’ve sunk a few hours into Tears, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Tears of the Kingdom is utterly and outstandingly a diamond in disguise. For all purposes and intent, here’s a deep dive into our The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review, where we leave no stone unturned and fill every crevice with unbiased love.
More or Less, the Same
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was (and still is) a glorified peak for Zelda, Nintendo, and the gaming industry as a whole. It’s the kind of game you need to experience for yourself. To truly immerse yourself in the wonders and magic of Hyrule. To scale the farthest and highest peaks of this land, and explore every nook and cranny Breath of the Wild had to offer. In retrospect, it was truly like taking a breath in the wild, galloping in the greenery fields, and experiencing the natural wonder around you.
A common thread was that Breath of the Wild was, well, bare. And I think that was an intended feeling—that it induced a sort of therapeutic roaming about, fully taking in all there was to see and explore. Of course, these were filled with quite genuine moments of awe, whether as the story hit a point of no return or the world burst out with yet another bewildering sight to see. Having to cover extensive distances without much dense gameplay within them soon didn’t matter. This was a beautiful kingdom, and you were free to explore it however you’d like.
Enter The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, a follow-up to Breath of the Wild. To say the environments in the predecessor were a copy-paste into the follow-up wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. Except, within the familiarity, packs tons of still surprising elements to discover. Put simply, Breath of the Wild felt like an introduction to Hyrule. Tears of the Kingdom, however, feels more like a transition into what Hyrule is capable of.
At first, you do get a rather well-crafted tutorial area to familiarize yourself with Tears of the Kingdom’s mechanics. There are definitely new additions, which we’ll explore later. Once done, the world opens up and the adventure begins. It’s at this point that you may decide to stick to the main story. However, Tears don't mandate linearity at all.
In fact, you may wander away from the main area, exploring all Hyrule has to offer. There’s so much more to see here that you may easily lose complete track of time and have sunk way too deep to retrace your steps back to the main path. If you expect Tears to lend a helping hand, don’t. It’s this exact type of “lost at sea” vibe the game is going for, and it rules.
Sky Islands, Here I Come
In the skies, you’ll see floating islands. They're such tasteful additions that, in no time, you’ll find yourself wanting to get up there. But how do you reach the skies? Well, Tears of the Kingdom comes with interesting new abilities that allow you to creatively travel to previously inaccessible areas.
By “creatively”, I mean a no one size fits all solution that typically starts off thinking about a crazy idea, finding the crafting materials you may need, and making it happen.
To do this, Link has four main abilities: Recall, Fuse, Ascend, and Ultrahand. Recall allows him to rewind time for an object, Fuse allows him to merge weapons and gear with a limitless number of objects in the world; Ascend allows him to travel upward through solid objects, and Ultrahand allows him to lift large objects and merge them together to create all sorts of fun toys.
No One Size Fits All
At first glance, these abilities seem pretty grand to use for their sole purpose. But when manipulated and combined, they could create wonders. Say, Recall, for instance. On paper, it rewinds time for objects. That means being able to send an object back to where it came from. If large stones fell from the sky islands, you could jump on them and use Recall to take you back to where they came from. Easy.
Fuse needs no explanation given its application in a handful of games you may have played before. Essentially, combine a weapon with something that acts as a power-up, say a flamethrower, ice, or a massive boulder. You can create a massive hammer with the latter. The fact that nearly everything that doesn’t move or isn’t latched onto the ground can be used to fuse onto a weapon or gear just widens the possibilities to essentially, limitless.
With Ascend, you’ll need to get below a solid object that isn’t too high to pass upward through it. But even with that slight cap, I found multiple ways to create fun little shortcuts that felt like breaking the game to my advantage. I mean, you can use Ascend to skip challenges. Though, for reasons I can’t explain, Tears never stretched thin enough to actually break.
Ultrahand is something you’ll likely use more often. Especially when it allows you to craft subtle items like cooking appliances or more significant machines like flying airplanes. There’s simply no limit to what you can do in Tears, which brings us to the next point: replayability.
I Can’t Stop The Feeling
It’s so much fun when you conceive an idea and then watch it unfold. Like reaching the skies, there are myriad ways to do so. Once you get there, you’ll find shrines that host various puzzles. Because of the limitless possibilities for crafting and exploring, I can almost guarantee everyone will have a unique way of solving puzzles. If not, replaying the game will definitely lead you down a path you’ve likely never been on before.
That’s because Tears of the Kingdom is so expansive—much more than its predecessor. It’s bigger and busier, so while Breath of the Wild felt vast but empty, Tears of the Kingdom is indeed vast but filled with much more to do. It’s a dense place where pacing around almost always leads to something cool. You could wander away and run into a big, bad boss to fight. Or find some rare collectibles that update your stamina vessels. Or discover the great Depths underneath all of the surface world. Yes!
Underneath the Surface
The Depths is an open world almost as vast as the surface world. The only exception is it's gloomy and near pitch-dark. See, when exploring the surface world, you normally see something, deem it interesting, and then charge toward it to find out more. But in the Depths, you can’t see anything past your feet, which leaves a rather suffocating room of doubt and possible fright.
You could run into enemy chambers without any preparation for a fight. Or walk on hot coal that drastically drains your health. So, after every few steps, you may need to throw a bright bloom to light your path. The deeper you get, the more challenges and opportunities for leveling up you encounter. It’s a requirement to visit here, no matter how treacherous it can get, to complete the main story. But to truly explore the whole underground, I say, go for it. You can do it.
Dotting the I’s, Crossing the T’s
I would be remiss not to mention whether all of Breath of the Wild’s issues have been addressed. Tears of the Kingdom is more immersive, no question. But what of the combat? Is it better? Well, save for Link’s new abilities, combat is largely the same. Yes, weapons still degrade too fast, and switching from one weapon to the other, fusing with new objects, or cooking a meal remains as fiddly as ever. I wouldn’t focus too much on it, though, because everything else works spectacularly well.
There’s no question whether Tears of the Kingdom fulfills all it sets out to do. It’s a bigger, busier, and better sequel that re-emphasizes why Zelda rules. Spending the many hours The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom requires to complete the main story is as worthwhile as a main course meal, even if much of your time will be spent wandering away into the unknown anyway.
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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review (Nintendo Switch)
A Bigger, Better, and Busier Zelda to Date
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom feels like a moment of triumph for Zelda, Nintendo, and the gaming industry as a whole. It’s definitely time well spent exploring, crafting, and fighting your way to saving the princess and the world.