The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the long-awaited follow-up to BOTW that felt like it was always a few more years away. Now, Breath of the Wild ‘2’ is here, and it more than lived up to expectations.
Tears of the Kingdom has now been out for over a month, and in the dozens of hours we’ve spent with the game, one thing has become clear: This new style of Zelda game must stick around.
6 years ago, Breath of the Wild changed the genre, introducing an open-world sandbox the likes of which the franchise had never experienced. Now, TOTK near-perfects that sandbox, improving on the Switch launch title in practically every way.
There are still some imperfections to iron out, some key aspects of the game we’d like to see improve – but Tears of the Kingdom will certainly go down in history as the best Zelda title of the generation.
Kicking things off with the story, Tears of the Kingdom’s narrative is immediately engaging while still kicking Link into the open world with barely any delay.
Like in BOTW, there’s a mystery to uncover here, but one that Link is more directly engaged in right from the get-go.
Overall, the story was far more interesting to me than in the previous game. It had some excellent twists and turns, though it’s disappointing that most of the key events take place, once again, in the past.
What’s more, finding out the core story is optional, and requires players to seek out Dragon’s Tears just to get another glimpse at the events that took place. What is there is still a lot of fun, though I’d hope that TOTK’s successor leans into the story in a bigger way, and lets the player actually experience it through Link’s journey.
Gameplay-wise, Tears of the Kingdom feels identical to its predecessor. Anyone who played the last installment will feel immediately at home with the game.
There are, of course, new mechanics to experience, thanks to Link’s new abilities: Recall, Ultrahand, Ascend, and Fuse. Largely, I found that each one was an excellent addition and a lot of fun to use.
Certainly, the sandbox potential with this line-up is unthinkable. I’m sure that hardcore Zelda fans will be finding new tricks to exploit TOTK’s offerings for many years to come.
But these mechanics don’t come without their issues, and any player who isn’t a fan of these core abilities – particularly Ultrahand – may find that they don’t really gel with the game as a whole.
After all, the majority of TOTK’s puzzles require players to use Ultrahand to fuse together objects in order to create solutions. You’ll be building bridges, putting together custom vehicles, and generally sticking together any objects you can find in a desperate attempt to solve the trickier shine puzzles.
You’ll likely find yourself cheesing your way through several shrines with what can almost certainly be called an unintended solution – and even when you do complete a puzzle, who can be sure if that was the way the developers actually intended?
Yet despite so much of the game calling for Ultrahand, the actual controls for the ability are far too fiddly for such a core mechanic.
Yes, it’s possible to take that pile of building material and create a huge rideable death machine capable of soaring into the skies – but you’ll spend half an hour trying to get your pieces to rotate the right way first!
Temples Are Back
The Temples in Tears of the Kingdom are an excellent step in the right direction.
No more exploring samey Divine Beasts, instead each dungeon Link fights through takes place in a unique setting, with new mechanics to explore.
Link’s companions, allies first introduced in BOTW, make a welcome return – each having matured significantly in the time between games.
These companions are welcome additions, feeling more fleshed out this time around, and even fighting alongside Link in certain instances or aiding him in dungeon puzzles.
Although not every Temple was my cup of tea, it has to be said that Nintendo did an excellent job incorporating TOTK’s mechanics into many of the puzzles.
Despite each Temple having the exact same premise, requiring Link to unlock X amount of locks in order to progress to the boss fight, the challenges were still both enjoyable and memorable in their own ways.
Hyrule’s Open World
Hyrule itself has seen some changes since we last explored it. Yes, the map is largely the same, but some major events have caused the land to change in a number of ways.
Now, sky islands soar in the air above the clouds, and this is where Link will begin his adventure. Leaping from your first sky island down to the lands below really puts into perspective how far we’ve come from stepping off the Great Plateau at the end of BOTW’s tutorial section.
And it’s not just a whole new region in the sky that players have to explore either. The Depths, a pitch-black underground area that spans all of Hyrule, effectively doubles the map size – if you dare to venture into the darkness.
Even the towns and villages we’re familiar with have seen some changes, as time has progressed since our first visit. So although players may be unhappy to see Hyrule looking similar in places, there’s a certain charm to revisiting familiar landmarks and seeing what’s gone down since Link was last there.
The ability to travel easily between sky, land, and the underground seamlessly, without so much as a loading screen, is absolutely incredible. And this freedom ensures that, even with the power to craft flying machines at your fingertips, Hyrule still feels absolutely enormous.
All things considered, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a game that will keep you playing for countless hours, whether you’re an exploration fan or simply making a beeline for the main story quests.
The world is so full of life that it puts BOTW to shame, and the freedom players have to explore is matched only by the likes of Elden Ring.
Despite one or two gripes, we’re sure we’ll be playing Tears of the Kingdom for many years to come. And when the day finally arrives that this title gets its own sequel, it’ll be a tough game to surpass.