(available for Nintendo Switch only)
After a long development cycle, the Zelda team returns with the highly anticipated Tears of the Kingdom, the direct sequel to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Now I really like Breath of the Wild and I was so happy when the sequel was announced in E3 of 2019. I think that all of our expectations were raised when we saw how long the development for this game was, especially considering that we knew that the team would be reusing assets from the first game. With every single trailer we got, anticipation rose more.
If I can cut straight to the chase after a playthrough that lasted more than 135 hours, I can say that I am completely in agreement with the consensus- Tears of the Kingdom is not only amazing, but it’s now my new favourite Legend of Zelda game.
I am going to have to talk a little bit about the game, so if you want to go in blind, cut straight to the score and then go and play it for yourself. This will be a spoiler-free review for the most part, I’m only going to be quite coy about many things. I will, however, talk about things that have been shown in the trailers and in gameplay demonstrations that we saw prior to the release.
With that all in mind, the big playthrough this time obviously involves the fact that we now have the Sky Islands as a big factor in the world’s design. The game does offer something else that was hinted at in the trailers- the depths. The map size has essentially been tripled, and that’s not all. You’re giving up your entire ability set from Breath of the Wild, but in their place, you have a bunch of new abilities. I’ll discuss how each of them works later on. I’ll say that a lot of people who didn’t like Breath of the Wild should give this one a go. It certainly feels like the team looked at the complaints from the previous game and went back and tweaked and improved parts to make up for any issues.
I said before that the world size has tripled, and that’s not exactly the case… There are a lot of islands in the sky, and if you fill in the map (which I recommend you do early on since it really benefits you to have a completed map) it does really feel like there is a lot going on up there, and it’s not so easy getting from one island to another. I managed to get to all but a few of the islands in my playthrough mostly using some of the vehicles you get from the gacha machines littered through the sky islands. A few of them were quite difficult to reach, despite how much you can upgrade your battery charge for using vehicles, the vehicles all come with a limited time usage, eventually, the hot air balloon will disintegrate. The game does offer you several other ways for getting to the sky islands, for example, you can find falling rocks from the sky and use your reverse time ability to send them back to the sky and hope that you can jump off them and glide using the parasail to the islands.
The sky was honestly one of the best new features of the game, and I found it amazing how much fun it was to explore and reach new parts. Even though some of them were quite easy, they still all felt like an achievement. You can get to them using the new towers which thankfully this time does not involve massive climbing exercises and instead will just shoot you into the sky to survey and create the new map. From there, you can glide off or dive towards the surface – just make sure to land in water or glide before the surface since you’re not invincible to falling damage.
As for the Depths, while they are a bit difficult to traverse since you need to light them up using the new fast travel points (which directly tie to shrines) you can also get certain items and food in order to make the environment brighter. I would recommend doing so since the new Gloom feature is down there and that’s something you don’t want to damage you since you can’t heal hearts that have been damaged by Gloom using conventional food. You will get those hearts back when you reach a new fast travel point in the underground or you return to the surface.
As for the surface itself, well that’s actually been significantly improved. It’s the exact same map as the previous game, but it feels way more alive since it shows you the Hyrule that has since recovered from the events of the calamity. Not only is there a lot more to do, including 152 shrines which I did do for this playthrough, but I also have to talk about the returning dungeons, which aren’t as good as people were hoping since they’re only a slight step up from the ones of Breath of the Wild. They’re still a significant improvement and I would say that the boss fights have improved as well, even if in just design.
There are also a lot of surprised around each corner, there are things you’ll find that will make you say, ‘Hang on, that wasn’t like that before!’.
I also like the fact that the world is littered with extra puzzles. Not only do you have extra puzzles that will help you get the Korok seeds (which thankfully give you a better reward for getting all of them than in the previous game) but you also have puzzles to get some of the towers working for fast travel and some of the shrines will immediately give you your reward. You’ll still have to collect four of the new light orbs in order to gain an upgrade to your health or stamina.
I would actually say that I think that the puzzles are a lot better this time. Once I got the hang of my abilities, I rarely had to consult a guide. The puzzles this time feel like, with a few exceptions, you can actually tackle them in multiple ways. There are a bunch of times when I felt like I cheated on the game design. As a result, shrines are way better this time. Some of them are a bit difficult to locate, especially if you’re like me and you get distracted and didn’t complete the side quest to get the shrine sensor, so you spent a large chunk of your playtime without it.
The world design is epic, and once again, it’s very suited to the player making their own individual adventure. Everyone’s adventure is going to feel very different.
You get your new abilities pretty much entirely at the start of the game. The first island you visit acts as a tutorial, and you get the Ultra Hand, the Ascension, the Fuse, and the Rewind. The rewind lets you rewind objects and can be of great use in many of the puzzles. With Ascension, you can go through certain roofs, ceilings, or cave tops to reach the level above. There were a few times when I forgot I was holding it and tried to solve puzzles like I was in Breath of the Wild.
The two abilities that really strengthen the game are the fuse and the ultra hand. The fuse lets you add certain items to your weapons or shields and allows for a ton of customisation- think hard about what you want to attach to what, you’ll want to experiment quite a bit. Once I managed to harvest them, I applied a puffer-shroom to a shield, that way when enemies hit the shield, I managed to create a mist in combat and managed to get a few stealth kills.
The ultra hand allows for vehicle customisation, allowing you to stick various items together. I had my doubts about the vehicle customisation, but it adds so much more enjoyment to traversal, and it made me want to upgrade my battery pack so that I had longer times to use my vehicles. If you want to upgrade that, I recommend exploring more of the depths, since not only do you get the necessary materials for those upgrades, but you can also find the locations where those upgrades can be performed, though there are a few upgrade locations on the surface as well.
The new abilities are fantastic and it really made my time with the game very enjoyable, particularly using the ultra hand. I’ve seen a lot of people using it on TikTok and Twitter to make some really absurd creations.
If Breath of the Wild had a weakness, it was that the story was just kind of there. While you did unlock some more bits of the story through memories, it didn’t feel like the story was completely thought out. There were certainly some great moments from the side cast, but I personally found the story to be a bit of a mixed bag.
In Tears of the Kingdom, it’s really improved. You do unlock a lot of the story through the same methods as Breath of the Wild, which does lead to some criticisms that it’s repeating a lot of Breath of the Wild initially- but it shakes that off pretty quickly.
The story this time really revolves around Link and Zelda exploring the depths when Zelda disappears after they accidentally revive Ganondorf and Link goes looking for her. The memories actually answer a lot of the questions about what‘s going on, but in order to find all of them you are going to have to do a main story quest that you unlock later on down the line.
I thought that the story was great. It revolves around two new characters, the first of which you’re introduced to at the beginning of the game. The new arm that gives Link his powers is courtesy of the spirit of former Hyrule king Rauru. That’s all I’m going to say about it.
I found the story really engaging on the surface level. The side characters that Link meets actually get some really good character arcs. I was particularly happy to see returning character Sidon (that’s not a spoiler! He was in one of the trailers) who gets probably some of my favourite moments considering how much he has grown as a character since the previous game. It made me glad that I tackled the story in the way that I did. I would recommend doing all of the story missions, while you don’t need to do so to finish the game, it will really benefit you to do so.
There are tons littered around the world of Hyrule, and while a few of them are kind of duds, there are still a bunch of really good ones too. It led to a lot of distractions for me since I wasn’t really getting along with the main story I spent a lot of my time exploring the world and doing side quests. There are a few of them that relate to shrines but also some that relate to certain characters wants and needs, and even give you some of the unlocks which you’ll need to improve your character. As a result, it really does help Hyrule feel alive this time around. It can be a bit overwhelming but I would recommend trying out most of them.
If I had one criticism, some of them are a bit cryptic about what you’re actually meant to do, and I didn’t appreciate the ones that rely on it being a certain time of day, since I found that it would mess with my plans.
Nintendo did release an Amiibo to coincide with the release of this game, and while you do get some good stuff for it, in the press release I was growing concerned that Amiibo would be an afterthought and that the functionality from Breath of the Wild would be lost. I thankfully can say that most of the Amiibo functionality is back. It’s a bit random over whether you’ll get what you want, and believe me, I had to do a lot of scanning to get items that I wanted and loading previous save data so that I didn’t have to wait 24 hours in between uses. But you can get a bunch of legacy items from previous Zelda games for your character.
Don’t worry if you haven’t collected a bunch of Zelda Amiibos; they all appear in the world to find. The only exception is the legendary horse Epona, though as a plus side, you’re guaranteed to get her if you scan either the Super Smash Brothers Link Amiibo or the Twilight Princess Amiibo on your first time.
I felt like it rewarded me for collecting the Amiibo, but it did it in a way that felt like it wasn’t punishing people who didn’t collect either.
You’ll have to reload previous save files until you get what you want since getting a specific item can be really finicky but it’s worth it. One downside is that the Wolf Link Amiibo doesn’t give you the wolf companion anymore, and that sucks. There’s something that you unlock later on that makes up for it, but I really miss the Wolf Link.
I’m putting it in the Mixed section because if you didn’t like the breakable weapons in Breath of the Wild, it isn’t improved in this game. They’re just as breakable as before and the fuse ability doesn’t help things. I tried to fuse a new weapon to one that was about to break, and it still broke. The good news is that I do think that it’s improved slightly. I felt like the weapons didn’t break as quickly as in the previous game, but I know that people felt like they broke at the same rate as before.
I can’t put this in the Cons section since I personally don’t mind the breakable weapons since I feel like it forces you to try new weapons, though I will stress that I’m the outlier on this one. I must be honest, I was reluctant to use some of the best weapons that I had on the basis that I knew that it would break pretty quickly and I would be pretty pissed off if I lost it.
I will stress that Tears of the Kingdom did an amazing job going from the sky to the surface, to the depths. I have done the entire thing in one go on several instances and the loading was seamless. The world does function beautifully. However, when a few things were happening on screen, I did notice that the framerate dropped a little bit. It wasn’t anything major, but it was noticeable at times That being said, I did notice that draw distancing and popping had improved significantly from Breath of the Wild even if I spotted a few of weaker instances.
The performance issues in this game are still way better than the ones that Breath of the Wild had at launch, and you’re not getting a broken game- please don’t be put off by this segment of the review.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is PHENOMENAL. It is practically a masterpiece, and I don’t use that word lightly. It took everything great about Breath of the Wild and turned it up completely. The world is amazing to explore, this is the best open-world game I’ve ever played. The combat is still pretty good, the story and soundtrack are excellent, I still loved exploring the world, and everything feels like a drastic improvement.
This is my brand new favourite Legend of Zelda game, and I don’t know how the team will top this when a new game comes out. If new hardware is coming next year (and I think that is likely), then while this isn’t the end of Nintendo Switch, but is the beginning of the last big moments of the console, then this is a great game to come out when it has. I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend it enough. This is a frontrunner for my game of the year.
FINAL SCORE: 9.8/10
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.
And now Reece’s review
Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK) is a direct sequel to the award winning Breath of the Wild which was on Wii U and Switch.
It is an action adventure game developed by Nintendo with support from Monolith Soft (The developers behind the Xenoblade franchise) but now is only available on Switch with my playtime being on the latest OLED Switch model.
New building mechanic.
The new gimmick exclusive to this game that radically changed how players interact with the game is the new physics based building mechanic.
Through the use of Ultrahand (An improved version of Magnesis) allows players to fuse 21 objects together from most materials you can find in the world to Zonai devices. The sheer level of customisation this allows is incredible from making simple hot air balloons to ascend vertical distances to people recreating famous mecha with Metal Gear Rex and the RX-78GP03 Gundam “Dendrobium” from Mobile Suit Gundam Stardust Memory.
Through the use of this new physics based ability players can make their own play through completely unique inventions that has versatility from the start of the game all the way to the end of the game. Using the auto build ability you unlock when the player reaches the surface through a quick detour into the Depths allows players to recreate their builds at any time as long as they have enough Zonite which is plentiful on sky islands and mining points in the Depths.
A major issue I had with Breath of the Wild was it’s weak narrative and storyline when characters didn’t really have an arc and the main storyline was barely there.
This has been changed in TOTK as now there are a lot more core cutscenes to the story with them have more voice lines, even the memories have been expanded upon in this game expanding new characters so they feel less one note with the new Dragon Tears.
Quality of life improvements.
The player can now sort their items in the various lists to sort by most frequently used making pulling out Bomb flowers quickly to throw or sort fuse material by the attack power they would give to weapons.
My personal favourite quality of life improvement has to be the recipe cookbook for cooking as now you don’t need to memorise every recipe that make the best meals as now the game saves the ingredients needed to produce the same meal and show the benefits that it gives the player.
Along with the new Zonai devices includes the new one use cooking pot that allows the player to cook on the go, so these are very useful before you encounter a tough boss as now you can be at peak performance.
The game features a lot more new side quests that are also more varied than in the original game with a greater focus on side quests that expand the lore of Hyrule.
While the rewards aren’t always worth it, the changes they make to the world but also Link’s abilities with one of the most important and useful one being the side quest that unlocks being able to place certain markings on the floor that allow the player to fast travel to a previously visited location. This is useful to place at areas with rare weapon or resource spawns to save on randomly exploring the map hoping to stumble upon them.
My personal favourite allows the player to build their own personal home near Tarry Town after a sequence of side quests, so you can make your own home completely unique from other players that has everything from weapon displays to pools.
Expanded open world.
Compared with the original game only had the surface world of Hyrule, tears of the kingdom has 2 new planes to explore with the new sky islands above the cloud barrier but also the Depths.
The Depths is the more expansive new environment that rewards players for exploring it since it contains the resources needed to upgrade the player’s battery but also has untarnished weapons that have a lot more durability than those found on the surface. Then later the bosses from the various temples spawn in the Depths allowing rematches along with more great material drops and battery rewards.
The new sky islands contain more puzzles and side quest with even one of the most useful armour sets that players can find, so I recommend players look for these sky dive challenge islands early on since the armour they give are very useful for exploring the rest of the sky island and more so when levelled up.
The temples in this game are a massive upgrade over the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild due to more unique and varied designs.
The ones that stand out the most were the Air temple and Water temple with the being the highlight with its innovative spin on the Water temples of prior games and makes traversal a lot more fun.
Using the new fuse mechanic to make all sort of machines allows players to potentially skip a large chunk of the temples as long as they have the resources to but they aren’t rewarded by skipping content so it’s just a time saving feature.
Considering the age of the hardware that TOTK is running on it still performs decently with the expanded overworld as the game is much bigger than BOTW with its new 3 layers of the world.
The game really struggled when there were too many objects on screen or especially explosions and using Ultrahand would tank the framerate making the visuals quite choppy until the area was left or Ultrahand was turned off.
A minor but persistent problem was that whenever Fuse materials for the current arrows that each material needs to be selected after every shot making bow combat sluggish.
There should have been an option to keep using a selected material until the player ran out of said material to keep up the pace of combat as for example this made the boss of the Water Temple take a lot longer than they should have just because of the user interface.
Instead of the Champion abilities from the previous game we have new Sage abilities but instead of being very easy to use now has the player have to go up to the Sage in particular and press the button prompt.
This is a bad feature as it involves you of breaking off combat to give chase to the Sage as the majority of the time the Sage will deliberately run away from the player essentially making it into a game of tag whenever you want to use their abilities.
An easy solution would of been to add it to Link’s ability wheel or make it a button combination so that you can stay in the fight and not get attacked in the back as the camera is moved to face the Sage instead of the enemy.
The game still does not allow players to fully rebind their controls with the only option being to swap the jump button between two different options.
This makes using abilities in battle such as Fuse or Ultrahand a lot more cumbersome since they require multiple button presses in a short timeframe, so being able to rebind the controls to those that players prefer would help alleviate this frustration.
This is a personal issue for me, but weapons still break a bit too quickly for my preference even with the new Fuse mechanic and players have lost access to the old bomb rune for free damage.
So as the player’s invisible level rises with more experience points earned from beating stronger monsters and they go from basic forms to new colours to symbolise their higher levels and damage such as Black or Silver enemies.
This leads to enemies dealing more damage and having more health points making dealing with these stronger enemies take much longer when your weapons keep breaking and you are forced to rely on weak weapons you find or fuse on the floor making the fights take even longer.
This was to be expected since it’s running on 6 year old hardware at this point and pushing the Switch to its limits but the battery on my Switch OLED would need charging after 3 hours.
So I would recommend players play this game via the dock or near a charger so as not to lose progress even with the generous auto save mechanic.
Reuse of assets.
This is only a minor “problem” and is more of a nit-pick, but the game does reuse a lot of the assets from the prior game from the majority of environments with the surface to Hyrule to the character and weapon models from the original game mostly returning.
This would of been alleviated by changing more of the surface map and make the experience more fresh for players who played the original, but enough has changed to make this less of an issue as weapons are now more unique with the new Fuse mechanic.
A fantastic follow up to one of the best games of all time that only expands upon what made Breath of the Wild so great.
This game should be an instant purchase for Switch owner or Zelda fan as it certainly lives up to the legacy of prior Zelda games even though it’s running on 6 year old hardware.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
And finally Elliot’s review
This review will contain minor spoilers for the story of Tears of the Kingdom and Breath of the Wild, they won’t ruin the game for you, but if you want to go into the game as blind as possible YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is without a doubt one of the most beloved and highly praised games that Nintendo has ever released. From day one to this very day, people have been talking about it and praising it like it’s still new. Not only is it the reason that many bought a Nintendo Switch in the first place, but it’s also near impossible for you to think about the console without it being one of the first things that comes to mind. This led to a ton of hype when we got the announcement that a sequel to the game was in development in 2019. The next few years were agonising as we got little information about the game, hell we didn’t even get its name till 2022. Now the game is finally out and pretty much everyone with a Switch has given it a go, so now we ask, was the wait worth it? And how does it compare to Breath of the Wild?
The story of this game takes place a few years after the events of Breath of the Wild. The game starts off with Link and Zelda traversing through a cavern beneath Hyrule Castle. While exploring they stumble upon a series of ruins left behind by an ancient race called the Zonai, depicting a great battle against a being called the Demon King that took place thousands of years ago. After delving deeper into the cavern they stumble upon the mummified body of said Demon King, Ganondorf, being held in place by a disembodied arm. Ganondorf manages to break from his confinement, sending an attack that Link manages to block, though not without sacrificing his arm and the Master Sword in the process. Hyrule Castle starts to ascend into the sky, and the floor beneath our heroes collapses. Zelda vanishes within a mysterious light, meanwhile Link is saved from certain doom by the arm that was holding Ganondorf in place. He awakens on an island in the sky and is met by the spirit of Rauru, one of the ancient race of Zonai and the first king of Hyrule, who informs Link that he has been given the Zonai’s right arm to replace his old corrupted one and helps him through the island. Eventually Link returns to the plains of Hyrule and learns of the event called the Upheaval, which has caused great chaos within the land, as well as apparent sightings of Princess Zelda throughout the kingdom. It is now up to Link to traverse the land of Hyrule, helping those within the realm and, of course, once again find Princess Zelda.
While the story has more stage presence than it did in Breath of the Wild, it’s still not at the forefront of the game as the main focus is on the world itself. What’s there is good and does feel more like a traditional Legend of Zelda story than the last game, but it’s still not quite at the same level as that. That being said though, this game does take a number of elements that were in Breath of the Wild’s and, personally, I think they were done better in that game. In Breath of the Wild the misfortunes that affect the realms of the kingdom felt like they were more connected as they were caused by the Calamity, meanwhile in this game it feels more like a problem that the realms and characters are going through rather than being the cause of the main threat. There’s also a lot of repeated information, the perfect example of this is after every dungeon, where you meet with one of the Sages from the past, and you’re told about the battle against the Demon King and how they failed in their task and then the Guardians who accompanied you are given the powers of a Sage. This happens after every dungeon with little variety, once you’ve seen the first of those cutscenes, you’ve essentially seen them all. Honestly I just zoned out or just read manga during those scenes, which is the last thing I want to say about them.
If you’re expecting this game to look better than Breath of the Wild, then be prepared to be disappointed. Tears of the Kingdom doesn’t have any graphical enhancements when compared to the previous game, it still retains the colourful and somewhat cartoony look as it did before. Don’t think that’s me complaining however, personally I don’t think there really was anything to improve with the graphics, the game still looks gorgeous and vibrant and still makes you want to search every inch of it. Unfortunately, one downgrade is the frame rate, the frame rate does tank at times, it doesn’t happen so often that it ruins the game, and even when it does happens it’s not horrible, but it’s still less than ideal, though considering how much bigger the game is, it’s unfortunately to be expected. Like with Breath of the Wild, this game is the second Zelda game (well technically fifth, but let’s just pretend that the CDI games don’t exist and we’ll all be happier for it) with voice acting. Many of the previous game’s voice actors return to this one and are just as good as before, the newcomers also do an amazing job as their characters as well. The standout in my opinion is Matt Mercer as Ganondorf, he does a great job at matching the menacing voice we all imagined the Demon King to have. The soundtrack to this game is very good. There is a lot of variety with these tracks, from the upbeat and playful, to calm and serene, and some that are sinister and really hit you. There are even some tracks that feel like they were taken straight out of sections of Twilight Princess, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Personally, I think it’s a great improvement to Breath of the Wild’s ost.
This world is split into three different sections (each of which will be talked about separately), and greatly expands the already gargantuan world that the previous game had. The main land of Hyrule, which is referred to as the surface world in this game, is essentially the same as it was in Breath of the Wild. There aren’t any significant changes to place, characters and locations are pretty much the same as before with little to no alteration, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any changes. There are now more settlements than there were prior to this game, the most notable one being Lookout Landing, placed right outside of Hyrule Castle. A number of things have taken on a new look, Shrines and Towers have forsaken the Sheikah aesthetic, giving them a look that matches the changes of the world since the last game, like the Shrines looking like Zonai creations for example. Old paths have closed with new ones taking their place, and a large number of caves have become available to explore. As said nothing truly significant has happened to the world, but that hasn’t made exploring it any less enjoyable and wondrous, it’s still sensational to explore and still feels like any corner will reveal something new for you to discover, fight and/or marvel at.
The Sky Islands
The Sky Islands were one of the main selling points of the game in its advertisements. These sections are split apart from one another, so you won’t be able to just hop from one to another and will require a variety of methods to access. Some will be tiny platforms that you can barely even stand upon, while others will be large enough to act as dungeons. Traversal will require a bit of creativity and at times complete mastery of Link abilities, as just gliding won’t always work when trying to reach another island, even if that island is directly next to you. You can expect to find pretty much anything that you can find on the Surface on these, including large portions of enemies, mostly Zonai constructions, Shrines and even a number of Korok. You’ll also run into a decent number of puzzles while exploring these islands, though most of them will just focus on reaching Shrines. These sections greatly expand the exploration options with this game, and feel like a much better version of the sky islands in Skyward Sword. If I had any problems with it, it would probably be that trying to get to some of these islands can be a complete pain, either having the way to get to them taking forever to figure out or you having to go through hoops and hurdles just to reach the one you want. Another issue is if you fall off, unless you’re completely incompetent and forget to pull out your glider, you likely won’t die but if you do fall you have to go through the lengthy process of climbing back up. Yes, you can just reload a previous autosave, but sometimes your previous save will be miles away from where you last were. My advice, save as often as you can during these sections (you’ll thank me later).
The final section of the world is the Depths. The Depths takes place beneath the Kingdom of Hyrule, and is accessed via chasms spread throughout the world. The main things you’ll be looking for down here are Lightroots. The Depths are pitch black when you first enter them, making traversal difficult, Lightroots, once interacted with, will illuminate a small section around it, the more you activate the more of this abyss is visible; they even act as warp points if you don’t want to have to restart your exploring from the chasm entrance. A good indicator of where the Lightroots are is to look at the Shrines you’ve found, as the Lightroots are directly below any Shrine found in the world – of course this works the other way around as well. Down here you’ll run into a new threat called Gloom, which is goop spread across the floor and walls and even affects the enemies of the Depths. If you touch to the Gloom for too long or get hit by an enemy affected by it, not only will you take damage, but you also won’t be able to heal that damage as long as you remain in the Depths, the only way to restore your lost hearts is to return to the surface, stand beneath one of the Lightroots or consume food containing Sundelion. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I’m not a big fan of the Depths, they’re a pain to traverse and the effects of the gloom, while can be tense, feel like cheap difficulty at times. There’s one section in particular – I’m not saying which but if you know, you know – that would have been difficult on its own, but gloom being a big factor in it made it one of the most unfair sections in the entire series, possibly in any game I’ve ever played. Honestly, I only really delved into the depths to search for Lightroots to help with Shrine hunting.
Combat and Enemies
Combat essentially remains unchanged from Breath of the Wild. You have a variety of weapons for you to utilise. You have one-handed weapons, which is the middle range weapon type and lets you wield a shield while using it. There are the two handed weapons, which deal more damage though with the sacrifice of speed. And finally there are the spears which are the opposite of the two-handed weapons. Also you have your bow and arrows as well to defeat enemies at a range. Personally I prefer using one-handed weapons and spears as I like hitting enemies fast and being able to use a shield definitely helps with defence. You will be swapping between weapon types often as some weapons work better in certain situations, and because of the valiant return of weapon durability. This is pretty self-explanatory, use a weapon too much and it’ll break. One common criticism in Breath of the Wild was that weapons broke way too quickly and that there was no way to fix or recover any weapons that you liked, unfortunately that hasn’t changed in this game, weapons still break very quickly with no way to repair them. I understand that this is meant to be on the fly problem solving and whatnot, but it’s still frustrating to have your weapons break after very little use, and it makes me more reluctant to use my more powerful or better looking weapons specifically because of that, even if the enemy I’m facing is more powerful than most. One mechanic that I’m very happy is back is Flurry Rush. It works a lot like parrying (which yes is also in this game… I don’t need to tell you everything), if you dodge just as the enemy is about to hit you, you’ll be given the option to mash the attack button and do a series of attacks that will deal a lot of damage. As mentioned, I’m very happy that this mechanic is back, it promotes players to learn the enemies timings and will reward those that do.
A number of enemies from the previous game, from the basic Bokoblins to the terrifying Lynels, return for this one, which was to be expected, what I wasn’t expecting however was the amount of new foes for you to face. I’ve already mentioned the Zonai Constructs that are commonly found in all locations, but there are also a number of enemies from previous games that we haven’t seen in a long while, like Gibdo’s and Like Likes, as well as some very new enemies that are downright terrifying. Two in particular that I’ll touch on are the Gleeoks and the Gloom Hands. Gleeoks are multi-headed dragons that use fire, ice or lightning as a weapon, they are terrifying to fight as they deal a lot of damage and the only way to even be able to get a hit in is to deliver a headshot to each of their heads. In any other Zelda game these would be one of the main bosses so the fact that these are just mini-bosses is staggering. The Gloom Hands on the other hand are another beast entirely. Their main attack is to spread Gloom wherever they go and to try and grab you to slowly whittle down your health. Defeat all the hands and you’ll be greeted with a Phantom Ganon for you to defeat. Honestly I’m not a fan of these enemies, as said their one attack is to grab you and decrease your health that way, they’re more just annoying rather than anything else and I mostly just ran away from them for that reason.
Abilities and Sage Powers
Don’t think that that new arm you’ve acquired is just for looks, as with it you receive four new abilities to aid you in your quest and to help you explore. And I can happily confirm that these powers are much better than the ones in Breath of the Wild.
The first of these is the Ultrahand. On the surface the Ultrahand might just be an improved Magnesis, as it lets you pick up and move most objects, but it also lets you attach objects together and create a series of contraptions, from just using planks of wood to form a bridge, to creating a drivable vehicle to make traversal faster and easier. I cannot stress just how amazing this mechanic is, if you’ve been on the internet when this game first came out, you’ve likely seen the myriad of creative and absolutely insane creations that people have used this ability to create. From cars to fighter jets to bloody Gundams. Seriously, this ability will likely be the thing that makes you fall in love with this game.
The Fuse ability is probably the one you’ll be using the most, outside of the Ultrahand. You see, the melee weapons in this game… aren’t that strong, they’re all either swords that have become rusted during the time after the Calamity or are just sticks or pieces of trees. Hence why this ability is essential to having a powerful arsenal. By using this ability you can merge the weapons that you carry with pretty much any item, from enemy parts to just random rocks found throughout the world. Depending on what item you choose to combine, your weapon will get an increase of damage and maybe even an added effect, like being able to deal fire or lightning damage. Your weapon will even get a new look to it depending on what item you use, sometimes the blade of said weapon will be replaced, other times the item will just be placed on the tip of the blade. I do like this ability, there’s a lot more strategy when thinking of what item and weapon to combine and will even have you waiting till you’ve found the right combination before fusing the two together.
Ascend is one that’s incredibly useful when exploring as it lets you reach higher sections that you might not have the stamina to climb or just may not be possible to climb to. If there’s a ceiling or a solid structure that’s directly above you, you’ll be able to use this ability to climb through said structure and reach the top with no effort. I like the idea of this ability, and when it works it’s an absolute joy, however it is somewhat finicky. You can’t use it if the ceiling you’re trying to use it on is too high for example, which is understandable, though the game also won’t let you use the ability if the surface is uneven, meaning that I’m either forced to spend time looking for a section of the ceiling that I can use it on or just give up and try climbing instead. It’s not that frustrating, but it is somewhat annoying when it happens.
The final ability is Recall and while it’s likely gonna be the one that you use the least, that doesn’t make it any less fun. Recall basically lets you target an object that is moving or has been moved and lets you reverse it back into its original place. For example, having a gear spin in the opposite direction or forcing a boulder that is rolling down a hill back up and into the enemies that sent it down towards you. As I said it’s a very fun ability as it leads to some very creative solutions to puzzles and it’s even essential to being able to reach some of the Sky Islands.
Finally I’d like to briefly touch upon the Sage Powers, which are unlocked after beating each dungeon just like they are in Breath of the Wild. Not only do you get a copy of the companion that fought in the dungeon with you, but you’re also able to use the ability that you were able to with them. I’m not going to go into detail to avoid spoilers, but I will admit that I do prefer the powers you unlocked in Breath of the Wild. The Sage Powers in this game – aside from one in particular – are very situational which led to me only really using them during certain situations or by complete accident most of the time. Meanwhile, the ones in the previous game had a much more general use and were helpful in pretty much any situation, so by comparison these ones were a bit of a let down.
Zonai Devices are a technology from ancient times in Hyrule. These devices are one of the key factors that enhances exploration and puzzle solving. There are an insane number of devices that can be found throughout the world or be collected like items from Treasure Chests or from the Device Dispensers of the Sky Islands. Some will help you traverse the Surface, some will let you fly high in the sky, there’s a large number that are required for solving puzzles in Shrines and Dungeons and a decent number will even aid you in battle. These devices are powered by Energy Cells that you carry with you throughout the game. Once activated the device will start draining your Energy Cells, the speed of which will depend on the device activated and the number of them, and will last until the Cells are empty at which point they will recharge on their own. You can increase the number of Energy Cells you carry by collecting Zonaite – an item that’s exclusively found in the depths – converting them into Crystalized Charges and then exchanging them for an Energy Cell. These devices are an amazing addition if you ask me, they greatly enhance gameplay and leads to a heavy level of creativity on the players part (well that and an increase of the number of ways you can torture Koroks… you monsters).
Honestly I was really nervous about the dungeons in this game as I really wasn’t a fan of them in Breath of the Wild. Thankfully, these dungeons are a big improvement from those ones. These dungeons have their own themes and ways to solve and get through them, meanwhile the ones in the last game just felt like clones of one another. That being said though, they’re still not as good as the ones from the rest of the series. They still rely on the “Activate five things to unlock the boss door” that was in the previous game, with the difficult part being trying to figure out where to go rather than having complex puzzles or dangerous encounters. I am glad that these were improved as they do feel more like the traditional dungeons from games past, but I’m still somewhat disappointed in them.
As is tradition, each dungeon ends with a boss and just like the dungeons, these are a great improvement to the last game. In Breath of the Wild each of the bosses were mostly clones of one another with little to differentiate one from the other, which you cannot say about these bosses as they work very differently from one another. They require you to utilise the abilities of your ally at the right time to make them vulnerable to attack. It feels like the traditional Zelda bosses that were missing from the previous game and I love it.
Labelling this section as “Side Content” is probably doing it a disservice because most of this game is basically side content. That’s not just another one of my unfunny jokes either, most of what you’ll be doing in this game will equate to you doing a variety of different side quests and activities that will ultimately benefit you in the story going forwards.
The main piece of side content you’ll find yourself hunting down relentlessly are the previously mentioned Shrines. There are 152 Shrines scattered all over the Surface and the Sky Islands and are basically the same as in Breath of the Wild, a series of puzzles and encounters for you to complete. Sometimes the puzzle’s not even found within the Shrine, but instead trying to find the Shrine itself, as you’ll be required to complete a puzzle for a Shrine to manifest or you’ll have to go through hoops and hurdles just to find it. One thing that makes these Shrines a lot of fun is the various ways in which they can be solved. Yes there is a definitive way for you to complete each one that the designers intended, but it doesn’t feel that way. There are numerous puzzles that feel as if they have multiple solutions to complete, and I’m certain that we’ve all got to the end of one just by happenstance or by using methods or materials in ways that weren’t intended. Just like the last game, completing these Shrines will reward you with a Light of Blessing – collecting 4 of these will reward you with either a heart container or an increase to your stamina wheel – and a new warp point.
Likely to the annoyance of everyone, another side quest that has returned is Korok hunting. Koroks are a race of basically little tree people that can be found throughout the world. Finding these will sometimes require you solving a small puzzle, interacting with a tree stump, some of them will just be found on the side of the road and will ask you for help reaching their friend. Like in the previous game, there are a lot of these little guys spread throughout the world waiting for you to find them, hell there’s even more this time than last time. Each time you find one they will reward you with a Korok Seed that can be exchanged with Hetsu, a much bigger Korok that’s always carrying maracas, who will increase your weapon, shield and bow carrying capacity for a certain amount. Personally, I didn’t actively take part in this quest, the ones I found were just ones I encountered while on my way to another area.
Another side quest that returns (for reasons that I’m not sure about) are the Memories. The memories are basically cutscenes of events that occurred in the past, some of which can be found as you progress through the story while others you’ll have to go out of your way to find. Something that wasn’t in the world previously is a series of Geoglyphs that adorns the fields of Hyrule, found within each of these eleven Glyphs is a Dragon Tear. finding and interacting with these will reveal a new memory that can be added to your catalogue. While these memories are interesting and add to the lore of Hyrule, I can’t help but feel that they’re a bit forced, almost as if they’ve been added just because Breath of the Wild had them (more on that later).
The last thing I’ll mention here is the vast amount of Side Quests and Adventures. Denizens of Hyrule will often have a problem that they’ll ask you to solve. Some of these Side Quests will be linked to one another, like the Great Fairy quest line or the Bring Peace! series, while others will just be your usual one and done. These will require things like defeating enemies, finding certain individuals or items or sometimes just talking to a character is enough to finish it. Completing these quests will net you with a variety of rewards, from some as simple as recipe ingredients and Rupees, to some more extravagant like new armour sets or weapons, one even rewards you with a damn horse.
Too Much Like Breath Of The Wild?
There’s one more thing that I feel the need to mention (I know this review is too long already, just bear with me a bit longer) and that’s one flaw in particular. To some this might not even be a flaw, they might even see it as praise, but I feel like it’s worth mentioning anyway. This game borrows a lot from Breath of the Wild and that’s to be expected, but it feels like, at times, it takes too much from that game. Don’t get me wrong, Tears of the Kingdom greatly improves on many factors and expands a lot to an already great game, but I can’t help but feel like a lot of the things in this game were added just because they were also in Breath of the Wild and because of that they feel less suited to this game, sometimes to the point of being forced. The memories are one of my go to examples of this, they not only feel less significant than they did in the previous game, but they don’t really enhance much, in all honesty they feel like things that could have been added to the main story if it had been expanded on just a little. That goes for story elements as well, I’ve already mentioned your encounters with the Sages at the end of every dungeon and the conversation you have with them. Well, something like this happens at the end of every dungeon in Breath of the Wild, but there it makes sense as the characters are people that Link knew in the past, thus it fits better with the story and the world, which it doesn’t really here as the characters had no prior history with these Sages. With those factors, on top of others, it makes this game lack its own identity outside of being a sequel to Breath of the Wild which is something that every Legend of Zelda game, even direct sequels like Majora’s Mask or A Link Between Worlds, has.
Another reason why I feel like these games being this similar to one another is a bad thing is because it means that while Tears of the Kingdom enhances and expands on the gameplay and world of Breath of the Wild, it doesn’t fix a lot of the problems that that game has. I still started to feel somewhat burned out with the game after a while, getting tired of looking for Shrines and exploring the world, it all started to feel somewhat repetitive after a while, which is a feeling that I encountered while playing Breath of the Wild as well. This also means that people who didn’t like or were even lukewarm on Breath of the Wild, will likely have the same thoughts with this game. As I said, to many this probably won’t be a bad thing, there are plenty of Breath of the Wild superfans out there who would love the fact that this game does a lot similar to that one, but I still feel it’s worth mentioning.
Breath of the Wild is a tough game to surpass for a lot of people, to many it’s one of the best games ever made and is the pinnacle of the Open World genre, therefore this game had a lot of expectations. Personally, I think this game has met them. This game is a great expansion to the new formula for The Legend of Zelda and is a great improvement to the previous game. If you’re one of the very few Switch owners who hasn’t picked up this game yet then I highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of Open World games then this is a must play for you.
And thus concludes what is by far my longest review to date (I need a lie down).
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant