Archives by Day

March 2024

The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: May 12, 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 19, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

In addition to the vast lands of Hyrule, The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom will take you up into the skies and an expanded world that goes beyond that!

Buy The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

I loved the older Zelda games. I loved the dungeons, the small-but-focused worlds, the somewhat repetitive plots — I loved all of it. Despite that, the newness of Breath of the Wild was a pure delight, and I adored the game. I'll admit that I was hesitant about another trip back to the world. Could Nintendo pull something fresh and genre-defining out of its hat a second time? It turns out that yes, it can. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom doesn't just match its predecessor; it eclipses it. The game might not hew to the classic Zelda formula, but it's almost the ideal Zelda experience.

Tears of the Kingdom starts a few years after the events of Breath of the Wild. A gloom that's seeping from beneath Hyrule Castle has started making people sick, so Zelda and Link head down to investigate. Below the castle, they find a desiccated mummy impaled with a mysterious hand. Of course, the mummy awakens and begins wrecking everything. He pulls Hyrule Castle from the ground and shatters Link's Master Sword, almost killing him. Amidst the chaos, Zelda falls into the depths and vanishes. Link awakens in a set of mysterious sky islands. His arm was lost to the mummy's attack and replaced with the hand he had seen earlier, and it comes with its own unearthly set of powers. Link must regain his strength and use these new powers to find the lost Zelda and save Hyrule — again.

The story is probably the weakest part of Tears of the Kingdom. The world exists in a weird state where Breath of the Wild happened, but events from it are barely mentioned, and characters frequently respond to Link as if they're meeting him for the first time. Several important elements from the first game are barely remarked upon. Likewise, it retreads the "Zelda is doing everything offscreen/needs to be rescued" part from the first game, which is a lot less satisfying the second time around. At its worst, it's another Zelda story, but Nintendo missed the chance to take advantage of this being one of the extremely rare direct sequels in the franchise.

The criticism about the story is about the only genuine criticism I have about TotK. It's a masterclass in taking the mechanics and world of a game and building upon them for a sequel in clever and creative ways. There was some concern about the game being "glorified DLC" before it came out, but nothing could be further from the truth. TotK is basically Breath of the Wild perfected. If you liked that game, you'll love this one, and there should be no concern about having "seen it before," as it takes the same basic gameplay and makes it fresh and new.

On the surface, TotK looks like a revisit to the same world as BotW. That is technically true in the broadest strokes, but it feels like a brand-new place. Almost every area has seen fallout from the Upheaval, and there are new ruins, paths, and changes from the Calamity-ravaged land of the previous game. Things feel more alive, despite the new disaster. There are a lot more people, and the world feels fuller and with a lot more secrets to find.

The map is deceptively larger than the original game. Not only does it contain all of the original BotW map, but you now have access to both Sky Islands and The Depths. The Sky Islands are loosely interconnected ruins that, unsurprisingly, float in the sky and require you to figure out ways to traverse them. The Depths is a huge underground area that exists in pitch darkness and is filled with a deadly murky gloom that can sap the life from anything it touches. These two additional layers to the map mean there is much more to explore, and while neither thrives as much as the main layer, they still have a ridiculous number of secrets to discover. The Depths is an incredibly cool place to explore, filled with great dangers and greater rewards, and it's shocking that the developers didn't show it off before the game came out!

The world in TotK is so much busier than the one in BotW. You can't go very far without finding something: an underground cave, a hidden passage, a side-quest, etc. One time, I was climbing a pillar in a completely unremarkable area and found a pressure-sensitive switch that opened a hidden passage where I found a cool piece of armor. There's just so much populating the world in addition to everything that was there in BotW, including a batch of new shrines and, of course, Koroks. Every so often, I would find a new collectible, mechanic or secret and realize that despite playing for countless hours, I still had barely scratched the surface.

While the game doesn't return to the full-fledged dungeons of the older Zelda games, it comes darn close, with the Divine Beasts replaced by elemental Temples that are full of puzzles, gimmicks, and cool bosses. They're shorter and more basic than old-school Zelda, but they still do a really good job of scratching the dungeon itch, especially since each one feels distinct. There are also more mini-dungeons to explore. At one point, I went into a small hole in a wall and ended up exploring a huge dungeon for over an hour.

TotK does away with the Slate powers from the original BotW. While the powers are gone, most of them survive in new or upgraded ways. Cryonesis and Bomb are now easily replicated with items, while Magnesis and Stasis have similar but different counterparts. Instead, they are replaced by a batch of new powers that are a huge step up in power and flexibility.

Perhaps the signature ability of TotK is Ultrahand, which is both deceptively simple and incredibly detailed. It lets you pick up an object and glue it to another object. You can keep adding more objects or pull off something that you've already attached. Ultrahand can be used on almost everything, except living beings and specific surfaces. At first, you'll create simple items, but as the game progresses, you'll be able to make more complex items. Early on, you might create a hot air balloon to gain a few extra feet to make a jump. Later on, you can make a fully functional flying machine armed with auto-targeting laser beams. You eventually unlock the ability to have "Autobuild" create items that you've created before (or from schematics) for those who are less creatively inclined.

A big part of this is connected to Zonai machines, which are special artifacts that you can find throughout the world (or, inexplicably, purchase from a giant in-game gatcha machine so you can store them in your inventory). Zonai machines come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from flashlights and springs to the aforementioned laser beams and flame throwers. Most of these items require a power source to function. Link now has a battery pack from which all Zonai devices draw power once they're active. The more devices it is powering, the more quickly the battery will drain. You can upgrade the battery over the course of the game so complex machines can run longer. You can also find external batteries and other temporary power sources.

The ability to build tools isn't anything new, but Ultrahand stands out for the variety of choices and the ease of building. It's an incredibly simple and intuitive system that requires almost no effort to pick up and learn. It feels really natural to glue things together, slap an engine on, and see what comes out. It was rare that I'd have an idea that wouldn't pan out, with the game trending on the side of fun more than realism. The more tools you get, the more options you feel like you have. Two spikes and a piece of metal can create a platform, and having an on-demand platform goes a long way!

The companion power to Ultrahand is Fuse. As in the first game, you're not going to keep any weapons for long, as most have been made brittle and weak by Ganondorf's evil. Unlike the first game, though, it's far more valid to scavenge on the go. Fuse allows you to fuse any material or item to your shield, sword or arrows. Doing so enhances the durability and attack power of the item and often gives it new attributes. Strap a fire creature's horn onto your spear, and suddenly, it's a flame spear. Stick a mushroom on your shield, and enemies get hit by spores. Fuse a bomb flower with an arrow, and you've got a bomb arrow. The possibilities are endless.

The Fuse mechanic is a brilliant way to take BotW's controversial durability and turn it on its head. Yes, weapons still break, but instead of feeling like you're without a weapon, you can turn anything around you into a weapon. Monster materials can make very powerful weapons, so if you break your awesome sword on a moblin, you can use its horns to craft a strong new weapon. The scramble for new fusion items also rewards you for trying weird combinations. I once tossed a minecart onto my shield, and the result allowed me to skateboard on my shield like I was playing Tony Hawk. You can even fuse Zonai machines to your gear, allowing you to make a spear with an attached flamethrower or a shield attached to a rocket that launches you high into the sky.

Ascend is the next power, and it is a delight. Like the rest of the abilities, it sounds simple. At any time, you can activate ascend to "swim" through the ceiling or a platform above you. There's a height limit to activating it, but once you do, Link swims upward until he pops out at the other end. You're given the opportunity to descend to where you started or hop out, which closes the portal behind you. It's only upward, not downward, so you'll still need to find ways to go beneath your feet that don't involve magic powers.

Obviously, this is useful for leaving dungeons and underground caverns. Beyond a few areas, you're able to bail whenever you want, but it's also an incredibly fun tool for solving puzzles and in boss fights. All you need is a solid surface above you, and you can get some height. Maybe you use Ultrahand to build a platform and then Ascend to the platform. Or maybe you realize that there is a cave beneath the tall mountain that you need to climb, and going down into the cave and Ascending upward saves you 20 minutes of climbing. It's an incredibly powerful tool, but it's also easy to forget. I can't name how many times I spent time building a contraption to get a bit higher only to realize after I had reached the top that I could've just Ascended.

The last power, Rewind, is the one closest to the Slate powers from the original game. You can activate it to force any moving object to "rewind" to its previous location, no matter how much of a violation of physics it might be. You can make gears reverse, make falling platforms go upward, and make an enemy's cannonballs fly back in their faces. There's a limit to how far you can rewind, but it is surprisingly long. It's even possible to ascend to Sky Islands by finding something that recently fell off of them and hitching a ride as it heads back.

It's difficult to express how satisfying and versatile this power set is. Like the original game, it gives you some basic tools and rewards you for experimenting with them. It rewards you for thinking outside of the box, and it's a rare puzzle that can only be solved in a single way. It's unbelievably satisfying to see a seemingly insurmountable barrier and come up with a way past it using only the tools you have available. In many ways, TotK perfects that aspect of BotW by giving you more freedom and more tools.

It's shocking to me how well TotK runs on the Switch's aging hardware. It's far from perfect. Busy areas can slow down the system, and the frame rate isn't great even at the best of times. For the most part, it runs as well as BotW did, despite having a lot more happening at once. The game allows me to fly down from the sky on my magical glider into the dark underground depths with nary a hiccup. The only time I noticed any significant loading was if I went from the highest spot and dove directly into the Depths. Even then, it was only for a few moments. It'd be great if it ran smoother, but at the same time, it's remarkable how much better it runs on the Switch than much simpler games . The voice acting and music are also basically on par with BotW. Matt Mercer's Ganondorf is a slight miss; the character really seemed to need someone with a bigger and more booming voice, but he does a fine job in the role despite that.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is almost the raw ideal of video games. It's a giant exciting open world, and you're given a huge amount of tools and puzzles to use in that world. It takes everything that was great about Breath of the Wild and improves upon it. It even takes some of the previous negatives (like weapon durability) and turns them into new strengths. The only weak part in the game is that the story isn't any great shakes, but even that's more of a minor annoyance than a serious complaint. Tears of the Kingdom is destined to be a modern classic, and it's an absolute joy to play. Unless you disliked the Breath of the Wild formula, Tears of the Kingdom is a must-play for any Switch owner.

Score: 9.8/10

More articles about The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom
blog comments powered by Disqus