The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom is the sequel Breath of the Wild fans had been waiting for, and it sure doesn’t disappoint. Since its launch, it’s the game I’ve played the most, and it’s been a blast to simply explore the land of Hyrule. It’s a world I already thought I knew, but Tears of the Kingdom is so much more vast. It’s a massive world, from Sky Islands to the underworld, but somehow I don’t feel overwhelmed. One problem I had with the previous entry was simply how much there was in the game.
Open-world titles aren’t usually my cup of tea. However, the various methods of travel and vehicle crafting in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom make it feel way less stressful. I can fast travel to Shrines and Skyview Towers, regardless of what part of this vast world I’m in. While it is not the perfect experience, I haven’t been this elated to play a Zelda game in years.
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom builds perfectly upon Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom takes place a few years after the original game. Link and Princess Zelda are in the midst of exploring the tunnels beneath the castle when tragedy strikes. After coming upon a mummy that has very familiar red hair, a cataclysm triggers. Hyrule Castle flies into the sky, Link loses his powers, and Zelda disappears.
Now Link possesses a new arm since his was maimed by the grasp of this mummy. Waves of gloom and evil are erupting around Hyrule, and it's going to be up to Link to unravel these mysteries and set things right once again. He will travel across sky islands, the underground of Hyrule, and of course, the vast overworld.
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom takes everything that made its predecessor great and builds upon them without feeling repetitive or tedious. With as many years as it took to see the sequel come to life, there was a worry that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. Thankfully, it’s exactly what I hoped it would be.
The opening of the game adequately explains how Link goes from being the powerful Hero of Time to just a regular swordsman again easily enough. You don’t have to beat Breath of the Wild either to enjoy the experience, which is also a boon.
Link’s first few hours in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom are a solid tutorial, and you receive instructions on old skills, as well as on new powers in a way that doesn’t break immersion. The various shrines that dot the Hyrule landscape are often a test of skill or a puzzle to solve, and that remains the same. Some teach you how to parry attacks, while others introduce new skills.
I loved these new abilities, and they really offer countless ways to explore the vast land of Hyrule. While all of them are useful, the most powerful ones are easily Ultrahand and Fuse.
Ultrahand lets you build anything. Whatever bonkers thing you dream up, provided you have the materials, you can make it happen. There are a wealth of interesting Zonai artifacts you can use - wings, fans, control sticks, energy cells, flamethrowers, and so much more.
People have made everything from actual mecha to the Trojan Horse in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom. You can use these created inventions to fight or simply to travel safely across the land.
Ultrahand is even powerful in boss fights, as it’s required to defeat one of the bosses, Flux Construct I. I love these powers, though. Rewinding time, or flying out of a cave via Ascend, it all feels fluid and fun to do. None of it feels like a chore. However, one of the new abilities leads to an important topic of discussion - Fuse and weapon durability.
Weapon durability still exists in Tears of the Kingdom
Fuse is connected to my least favorite part of The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom - weapon durability. I stand firmly in the camp that this is a frustrating game design. I understand why they did it, and that they want you to use Fuse to often create new weapons.
Every enemy that has a weapon drops it when they die also, so you never really run out of them. It’s just infuriating to me when I make something wildly powerful. Now, I’m going to be stressed about using it, because it might break.
When I fought my first Hinox mini-boss, I went through four bows - all the ones I had on my person at the time. This is because the motion controls were still active, and they were trying to “help” me aim at the creature’s eye.
At least the weapon durability and weapon breaking is less frustrating in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom. This is thanks to the many rusty swords, sticks, and polearms that you can scoop up and attach something to.
I’ve connected everything from fire hydrants to flamethrowers to my weapons, and the results have been spectacular. I just wish I could keep these and repair them, instead of worrying that each swing of my sword is going to be the last one.
From bouncy mushrooms on the end of a stick, to simply combining a sword with a huge rock, combat has been fantastic with these makeshift weapons. On that note, I’ve enjoyed it other than having fights where I lose three or four weapons in one encounter.
While I’m not crazy about weapon durability in the game, I understand that not everyone feels the same way I do about it. I’ve warned up to the concept, mostly thanks to ridiculous combos like Beam Emitter + Boomerang, which spirals wildly and shoots lasers at everything.
Tears of the Kingdom offers so much to do
I appreciate that The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom got away from the Divine Beasts as a primary “dungeon” objective. Instead, you have four main dungeons, known as Temples. Having these present feels more like a traditional Zelda game compared to hunting down the Divine Beast fights in Breath of the Wild.
In addition, you can spend time cooking (which is both simple and incredibly important), reveal more of the map with Skyview Towers, or go through any of the dozens of Shrines. The Shrines felt less tedious in Tears of the Kingdom, compared to what you had to do in some in Breath of the Wild. Of course, I haven’t found them all yet, so there are surely some truly challenging that wait in the shadows of Hyrule.
No matter where you are on the map, there’s something available to unlock, uncover, or explore. You can go through caves, soar through the skies, or complete a variety of side quests. Hyrule has never felt so full, and so alive.
Tears of the Kingdom is pretty, but does experience slowdown
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom is a beautiful game for the Nintendo Switch, that’s for sure. It has gorgeous music, and the sound effects are delightful. The character designs are exceptional, from Purah to Ganon.
However, the more that you have on the screen, the greater the potential slowdown can occur. For me, it was the worst in snowy areas. I did see some lag when snow was falling and combat was taking place. Some people are upset that the game is a 30 FPS experience, but consider the following.
So many games lately have struggled, or even failed, because the 4K 60FPS experience was terrible. This is the Nintendo Switch, essentially last-generation hardware. 30 FPS was the right call in the case of The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom. It runs fine, with only the rare slowdown.
The Zelda franchise helped usher in the action-adventure genre on its own. The very first game in the series was a cultural touchstone or icon in many ways. It was unique, fresh. With each installment in the franchise, Nintendo takes the series in a fresh direction or introduces new concepts. This is done without compromising the integrity of the series’ storyline.
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom does this in so many ways. Combat is similar to Breath of the Wild, but the ridiculous, over-the-top combinations you can use with your weapons means you always have something fresh to do. You can travel the land in so many ways - make a jet and soar through the sky, or stack springs and go rocketing off into the distance, or paraglide to the next target.
While I do still get a bit overwhelmed with how much stuff there is to do in The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom, it’s not as frustrating as it was in the previous game. I feel more like I can just take my time, and explore at my pace, and do it my way. The latest Zelda game is an absolute must-play.
The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch (Code provided by Nintendo)
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: May 12, 2023