Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

I have been very busy these day. The move to the new house is approaching, and then I finally got Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in the mail, some days after release. On the positive side, I preordered the game at $70, and ended getting it for $60, due to Amazon's pre-order price guarantee. So now I have been playing TotK for several days. It is a great game, and very much a sequel to Breath of the Wild. But let's have a look at it in more detail.

The game starts with you and Princess Zelda triggering a cataclysm by venturing into the caves below Hyrule castle, in spite of family traditions specifically warning you against that. In that even you, as Link, lose Zelda, and most of your power, and you must spend the rest of the game to get your power and princess back. So far, so Legend of Zelda usual.

The actual gameplay starts on a tutorial island in the sky, where a mysterious ghostly being, who turns out to be an old king of Hyrule, guides you through the steps necessary. That involves exploring several shrines, in each of which you gain a power. All that is very similar to Breath of the Wild, but the powers have changed. While in Breath of the Wild you had a Magnesis power that allowed you to lift metal objects in the air, you now have a far more powerful Ultrahand ability; it also works on non-metallic movable objects, and you can rotate those objects and attach them to each other. Which means that you can now build stuff. And because in the game there are devices like fans or flamethrowers, you can build functional stuff: A fan-powered raft, a cart that carries a time bomb into an enemy den, even a plane. In shrines you can 't use the devices from your inventory, so there are tons of puzzles to solve with whatever materials you are given. Other new abilities are the ability to fuse your weapon or shield with some material, producing for example a hammer out of a stick and a rock, or attaching a flame-thrower to your shield. And you get an ability to "dive" upwards through rock, which is very helpful for leaving a cave, or reaching high-up places with a ledge. Having said that, the basic principle of using your abilities to explore the world and solve shrine puzzles is still very recognizable Breath of the Wild.

Following the main quest a bit after the tutorial you get back to the ground of Hyrule, and get your paraglider back as well. Personally I find the "new" Hyrule a bit confusing, lore-wise. I imagine that we are in the timeline after having won Breath of the Wild, and some changes can be explained by the cataclysm (been there, done that, in World of Warcraft). But there are a lot of references to history, and all traces of the history presented in Breath of the Wild have been deleted. There are no more guardians, your Sheikah Slate is now a Purah Pad, with more or less the same functions, and people still refer to Zelda as "princess", not "queen". At least this time you have been gone for only a short while, and haven't suffered memory loss. So now there is a brand-new story, with a brand-new ancient powerful race, and a brand-new evil Ganon archvillain.

On the gameplay side, the biggest change is that Hyrule now has three layers: The regular surface layer, in which you can visit places you know from the previous game, an underground layer that is as big as the surface, and a sky layer, which is a lot smaller, because it consists of some sky islands and a lot of air between them. So Tears of the Kingdom is more of the same of Breath of the Wild, and bigger. Which is probably what most player wanted.

For anybody who hasn't played Breath of the Wild yet, I would recommend playing that first. I am actually very happy that I played BotW again this year for a while, to get back into the game. Tears of the Kingdom has both a lot of game mechanics that are the same as BotW, and a lot of new stuff. Overall that is a *lot*, it doesn't feel as tight in design as BotW, and the overall effect is a bit overwhelming. More so than BotW the "open world" aspect can leave you a bit lost as to what to do next, because there is simply so much, and you have trouble deciding where to start. My recommendation would be to not worry, and just run after whatever looks interesting right now. If you are a completionist, Tears of the Kingdom is a nightmare, there is just no end to it. If you just want to explore a new world and have fun, Tears of the Kingdom is a great game.

It's interesting because with Tears we've now gone through a full cycle where BOTW inspired From Software and TOTK has taken notes from Eldenring.

With how difficult these huge dense open world games are I still don't think we will see a huge influx of them but with the Zelda director director, Eiji Aonuma, stating this is the template going forward and From Softwares Miyazaki promising more like Eldenring I wouldn't be surprised if we see a couple games coming out from the large publishers in a few years drawing from these 3 games.

I haven't been able to play TOTK yet because I've been moving but once I am settled I will definitely be digging into it.
I feel like I am out of the loop because I've never played a Zelda game. Yet I know a lot about them. I suppose people who are more console-oriented feel the same when others talk about DOOM or Half-Life.
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