The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild holds a very special place in my heart, as while I was never the biggest Zelda fan, I’ve enjoyed most of the mainline games and think it’s an overall fantastic series. But Breath Of The Wild finally broke the Zelda mold away from 3D action adventure, going around a map, getting the same power ups and entering the same type of dungeons and fighting the same enemies. Nearly 2 decades worth of the same game formula, it got stale, and then Breath of the Wild came along and blew everything we knew about Zelda into a totally different direction.
So, since Tears Of The Kingdom was finally out in public, here are my initial thoughts on the game after the first couple hours. I’ll stay fairly spoiler light, since I still don’t know what’s really going on, but I want to talk about my experience thus far in detail.
It’s clear from the outset that this is a sequel to Breath Of The Wild, not only in character and setting, but also in the game’s engine and general setup. If you played Breath of the Wild, you know exactly how this game is going to play. Some might see that as a bad thing, but while we only got a couple of very light teaser trailers to go off of leading up to the last couple of months before the game came out, I never thought it would be more than “Breath Of The Wild 2” in my mind.
Yes, it has the same menu layout, the same equipment loadout and gear and characters and voices and prompts and… well everything. But again, I never expected them to throw everything away they built with Breath Of The Wild and start from scratch. That would be a very unwise decision (one Nintendo often makes, but luckily they didn’t this time).
The game starts out at a snail's pace, with Link and Zelda traversing a cave and coming upon a decomposing corpse that suddenly comes alive. Shenanigans ensue and Link and Zelda are separated and Link wakes up alone in a floating temple and has to travel to four shrines to unlock both new powers and a door to get to Zelda. Player control doesn’t really happen for a good solid 20 minutes or so. This game is a traditional first player game with a story, as opposed to a more drop in and get right to the gameplay, which I’m sure will really upset some people.
This first area is basically an extremely large tutorial area with a very light amount of enemies and is more focused on learning the new power systems taking the place of the sheikah powers in Breath Of The Wild. It’s clear this is where a ton of the development time was placed, as the sheer amount of possibilities with the new powers seems immediately overwhelming. Ultrahand (an extremely odd, yet cool name for a power) is probably the one that most will find the most fun, as it allows the manipulation of objects and also being able to stick them together. Have a couple large logs lying around? Stick them together and make a platform. Find a sail, stick it to the platform and now you have a raft. Not happy with that? Unstick them and create something else!
Along with the creation of objects together, there are now battery powered devices like a fan that can also be attached to make a powered kart or boat. I feel like people are going to go wild creating weird flying hovercraft machines and vehicles in this game in a matter of days.
The other cool power is the ability to fuse weapons together. A sword and a rock, now becomes a sword with a big massive boulder attached to the tip. Have two clubs? They get attached together to make a long double club. It looks almost comically wrong, and something that you don’t expect to see in a polished first party Nintendo release, which makes it all the more satisfying to use.
Once I got to a very tall area, and was asked to make my way down and across the whole map. I was only able to see a large bird-like stone object with a large ramp off a cliff like an aircraft carrier’s takeoff. Using the stone object, I placed it on the runway and stood on it and it started to slide down. It picked up speed and it slid right off the end and then started to glide. Having Link walk forward to tip the nose down and have it start descending to the ground, or walking to the left or right wings and having it turn, make my eyes widen with the sheer creativity of what this game is already showing me in its opening moments.
Tears Of The Kingdom is extremely similar to Breath Of The Wild, it’s one of the rare true sequels of a Zelda game, And with that, the game is going to not be as innovative as Breath Of The Wild was, because of the fact it’s already laid the groundwork of being ground breaking. It’s like the Bioshock games. Bioshock, the first game was so creative and revolutionary in gaming, but when the unnecessary sequel Bioshock 2 came out, it was already fighting an uphill battle because going back to Rapture was not as interesting, because the player already was there in the first game. I believe others will think Tears Of The Kingdom isn’t good just for the fact it goes back to Hyrule and uses the same game engine with the same characters and models and sound effects and ideas.
The difference is that this isn’t just “more Breath Of The Wild” just like Bioshock 2 wasn’t just “more Bioshock”. It isn’t just “more of the same” because it’s a continuation. It’s telling another chapter in a story, and continuing on with the plot, while forming new ideas and worlds to explore. The new powers and items alone make this a game worth trying. But I’m not here to convince someone who’s already going to argue how weapon degradation is destroying the fun of the game. It’s just another mechanic that allows customization of how you approach certain puzzles or battles. It’s all about creating emergent gameplay and memories that aren’t just stock and linear gameplay.
So far, I’m blown away by how much bigger Tears Of The Kingdom is, and a departure from the extremely hand-holdy nature of the Zelda games. It does keep you locked in for a much longer time learning the starting area, traversing and getting the powers. But once that initial part is out of the way, and you are dropped into Hyrule proper… The game became that “look in a direction and start exploring” style that made me fall in love with Breath Of The Wild back in 2017. I can’t wait to dump dozens upon dozens of more hours into this game!