Monday, May 29

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review

I played on: Switch
I paid: £49.99
Available on: Switch
Notes: N/A

Tears of the Kingdom is the sequel to the incredible 2017 Zelda game Breath of the Wild. I would consider Breath of the Wild one of the best games on Switch and WiiU. Now for the somewhat lacking line-up on the WiiU, that’s not saying much. When it comes to the Switch, however, there is much competition. Yet Breath of the Wild stands above most of them, which is impressive. Does Tears of the Kingdom live up to those standards, or does it fall disappointingly short?

Tears of the Kingdom is an open-world adventure game that sparks the players’ sense of exploration and curiosity like almost no other game. After the roughly one-hour introduction, you are released into Hyrule Field and from here, you can do almost anything you wish. A lot of the DNA is shared between this game and its predecessor, Breath of the Wild. Both games have 120 bite-sized puzzle dungeons to do, known as Shrines. Both also have Towers scattered around the world that, when activated, will fill in your map. Both games also have 900 hidden Koroks to find. Tears of the Kingdom expands on almost all of these in some way. The Towers no longer require you to climb them to fill in the map. Now they remain useful after your map is completed, as they catapult you into the air allowing you to paraglide over to new locations, scout out unseen Shrines or places of interest or even reach the new floating sky islands. The Shrines now connect to the new underground “Depths” location as Lightroots. Some Koroks will need you to escort them safely to their friend. You very often need to use the new building mechanic to do this.

You begin the game by exploring the area underneath Hyrule Castle from the last game. Before long, you find a mummified Ganondorf held in stasis by a mysterious floating arm. Of course, Ganondorf breaks free, and Zelda vanishes before our eyes. We then wake up on a floating island with the strange arm from the tomb now attached to us. We learn that this arm once belonged to Rauru, the first king of Hyrule and a Zonni. The Zonni were referenced in Breath of the Wild but were yet to be seen. They are said to have come from the skies above Hyrule as direct descendants of the Gods. You learn more about the Zonni and Rauru as you play through the game. This sky island acts as the tutorial, and it’s here that we’re introduced to the new abilities. Ascend lets you swim through almost any surface directly above you. Rewind enables you to reverse the objects to their previous positions. Fuse lets you combine things with your shield, weapon or arrows. This is very useful for creating bomb arrows, fire swords and other tools on the fly. Lastly, you have Ultrahand that allows you to pick things up, rotate them and even stick them together. You can make unique things using this ability, along with Zonni devices such as wheels, hot air balloons, fans, etc. So far, my favourite creation is a fishing boat that electrifies the water in front of itself, allowing you to jump in after and pick up all the stunned fish. I’ve seen some other amazing things online that show how versatile this system is.

This is the same Hyrule map from Breath of the Wild, but it’s also much bigger. You have the floating Sky Islands above the land and the often-dangerous Depths underground. The Sky Islands are what remains of the Zonni species’ homeland. These technologically advanced islands are often small and offer more focused puzzle or combat areas to explore. Going into this game, I thought this was where I would spend most of my time, as they looked amazing and reminded me a lot of Skyward Sword.

After finishing the main game and spending 40 hours playing it, I can say that while I love the Sky Islands, the Depths have captured my attention the most. This area is pitch black, relying on you to light it up. You can do this by using Brightbloom seeds that, once planted, will sprout into light-emitting plants. These can be used by either dropping one at your feet and then whacking it with your weapon or by firing one attached to an arrow into the distance. You can also eat food, drink an elixir or wear an outfit that will make you glow, lighting up the area around you. The last and most effective way to light up the area is to activate Lightroots. This will not only shine bright enough to illuminate a massive area around you, but it will also fill in your map. The Depths are helpful if you want to find rare outfits and other unlockables. So far, I’ve found the classic Tunic from the Original NES Legend of Zelda, The tunic from Ocarina of Time and the tunic from Windwaker. That’s on top of an outfit covered in lights for mining and one that gives you resistance to the new Gloom that covers most of the underground and parts of the surface. You can also mine resources that are used in the new building mechanic.

Despite all the positives, Tears of the Kingdom does have its flaws. Some of these are repeats of the issues that Breath of the Wild had. This is a real shame as it shows that there aren’t improvements where there could and should have been. For starters, you can only have one save file per SD card, which means that, at best, it’s a pain in the butt to start a new game without deleting all your progress from the last one. While this isn’t so much of an issue now when the game is still new, I know from experience with Breath of the Wild that it will be in the future. When Tears of the Kingdom was announced three years ago, I decided it was the perfect time for a new run through the main story of Breath of the Wild. Yet, I could not start this new game because I only own one SD card for my Switch. I could have deleted my old game. The thing is, I didn’t want to. I’ve done all the main and side quests and found and completed all 150 Shrines. The only thing I have left to do in Breath of the Wild is to find the remaining Koroks. I don’t want to lose that file. It’s got a lot of progress and memories tied to it. Now Tears of the Kingdom is out, and I know that a few years down the line, I’m going to have this same problem, and it’s all because they only allow you to have one save file. The Link’s Awakening Remake on the Switch that was released between Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom allowed you to have up to 3 save games at a time, so why is the new game limited like this?

Then you have the weapon, bow, and shield durability. I don’t completely hate this system, but I don’t love it. The basic idea is that your weapons, shield and bow will break after a certain amount of use. How durable they are depends on the item itself, but eventually, everything will break. The only slight exception to this is the Master Sword. The Master Sword will break, but then after around ten minutes, it will recharge and be ready for you to use again. I get that this system is supposed to force you to adapt and improvise while using the new Ultrahands and fuse abilities. In reality, it makes you scared to use the most incredible and iconic weapons and gear in the game. I found the Hyliain shield within the ruins of Hyrule Castle, which is excellent. This is the iconic shield that Link is almost always seen with during promotional material, crossovers, and merchandise. Yet the game encourages me never to use it in combat in case it breaks, and I lose it. This goes for all the best weapons and gear, except for the Master Sword. I get having the wooden, rusty, and low-quality weapons breaking. I’d even say I like it, as it does force you to think outside the box during the early game. But it’s ridiculous that high-quality equipment such as the Hylian Shield, Sword of the Sky and especially the freaking Master Sword breaks after defeating little more than a single enemy. These weapons should be able to either not break at all or be repaired/maintained within your inventory or towns.

Despite this, like Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom is often hard to put down as there is always “just one more thing” to do. You will be trying to unlock one more battery for your crazy Ultrahand inventions, light up one more Lightroot, or finish one last Shrine when something else will undoubtedly catch your attention. Then you have the amazing attention to detail. Metal weapons and shields will attract lightning during thunderstorms. Traders will move from town to town, hoping to sell their valuables. People will work, play and relax outside when it’s sunny but then run for cover when it begins to rain. Every NPC will have a routine, working during the day and then going to bed in the evening. Outside of the modern Zelda games, I can only remember seeing this level of detail in certain newer Bethesda games. 

Tears of the Kingdom is a masterpiece, there is no doubt about that, but it is a flawed one. I wish my legendary sword didn’t break halfway through every fight. Even so, this is a world that I love existing in. There is so much to do and see. Don’t let minor problems turn you away; this is a game you should absolutely play.

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10.

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