The first Legend of Zelda was inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s childhood expeditions through woods and caves. And when testers came forth saying the game was too hard, Miyamoto-san took the sword away and made them go find it. Now that Tears of the Kingdom is here, and we all have had time to play / watch / read about it, let’s see what the collective thoughts of Geek Under Grace had to say.
Tears of the Kingdom is “Breath of the Wild, but more of it, and better,” and that is a very good thing. Nintendo took a formula that was arguably one of the best in gaming history, and they somehow improved on it: fixing problems, adding polish, and giving it much more depth. If you liked a certain aspect of BotW, I guarantee you’ll like that aspect of TotK even more, and if you didn’t like certain aspects of BotW, TotK might surprise you. Tears of the Kingdom has an actual story, unlike Breath of the Wild, and I found the story thoroughly gripping and fascinating. Weapon durability isn’t terrible anymore, because each new weapon can be even better than the last, if you’re willing to experiment with the new Fuse mechanic. Or if you just dupe glitch a bunch of diamonds like me. Exploration is still extremely rewarding, and there’s a lot more of Hyrule to explore than in BotW. The Temples can be a challenge to get to and a challenge to solve, and the boss fights are more creative than those in BotW. If you’re a completionist, Tears of the Kingdom has much more side content, and a much better variety. Tears of the Kingdom is the pinnacle of open-world games, and I truly don’t see how the Zelda team could possibly best themselves with whatever they release next. In the meantime, Tears of the Kingdom will keep me happy and busy for a very long time.
I once saw a tweet that Final Fantasy VII Remake was the best 8/10 game ever made, and I audibly laughed because that sentiment completely clicked with me. I will likewise say that Tears of the Kingdom is the worst 10/10 game ever made. There are two ways to get an A+ in a class: one way is to get everything right and nothing wrong; another way is to botch several things but do lots and lots of extra credit. Tears of the Kingdom is the latter.
I have many gripes with this game, but I could not stop playing it. There was actually a very minimal feedback / reward loop, despite Monolith Soft working on the game; quest rewards were almost nothing, a long way away from getting XP just for finding locations or meeting people in Xenoblade Chronicles. “Progress” on Link’s abilities was incredibly slow, but somehow, the game was just addictive. Being able to climb on almost anything, paragliding across the sky, the thematic motifs of the story (if you turned your brain off) all kept me glued to the screen in a way I haven’t been for a while.
Although my complaints are many, my big issue is philosophical. Nintendo clearly wants Zelda to become a “lifestyle” game that you play, and play, and play, for hundreds of hours. In some sense, it’s fantastic to get so much content without ongoing payments or season passes. But for me, it’s kind of overwhelming. Combined with Nintendo’s lack of trophies or any kind of external carrot, I’m not motivated to do everything, even though it has become my thing to Platinum/100% as many games that I play as possible. This philosophy carries to everything, though: the puzzling is now more open-ended, and the game is severely lacking in quest guidance and accessibility options. It’s like they want Zelda to be an “Elden Ring lite,” and that’s not for me. I had much more fun when I started playing the game with a pile of internet guides beside me, and dupe glitches galore. To use an analogy I give in class, this is very much Play-Doh, when I want Legos, like it used to be.
The game is super fun and the content alone puts it far above Breath of the Wild. They really want you to feel like you have a ton of freedom – freedom to solve things the way you want, solve things in the order you want, etc. And most of the time that makes the game awesome! But there are major holes in that freedom and they become glaringly obvious and frustrating when you run into them, like exploring and running into a cool thing but then learning you can’t interact with it because you don’t have a quest for it, or not being able to ascend even though the platform above you feels like it should be close enough, or you try a solution to a puzzle but because the execution isn’t perfect, it doesn’t work. Overall, the game is good but man do I get mad at it sometimes.
I’m not sure any video game franchise has had the impact on me that The Legend of Zelda has. A few come close, namely Metroid and Final Fantasy (specifically Final Fantasy VII), but still aren’t on the same level. The first time playing a new Zelda game is always something special, and Tears of the Kingdom is no exception.
Nintendo has managed to do what few could. Despite reusing Breath of the Wild’s map, exploring Hyrule feels totally new. It’s like returning to your hometown after being away for years; most things have changed, but just enough remains that you can’t deny it’s the same home. Added to the mix are the new powers that, in my opinion, are much more fun than Breath of the Wild’s. The best way I can sum up Tears of the Kingdom is: it’s Breath of the Wild, but better.
Of course, the game isn’t perfect. The complaints I had with Breath of the Wild are still here. I’m not a fan of my weapons breaking, and the combat is not as good as it used to be. I miss moving forward with my attacks, as it was from Ocarina of Time to Twilight Princess. Staying stationary when you swing gets annoying when you miss because the enemy stepped backward. That said, I can live with these complaints because the rest of the game more than makes up for them.
There’s something special about playing a game on the first day you can. Just like opening night for a play or film, there’s a thrill involved with being one of the first to lay eyes on a piece of entertainment. And with video games, occasionally you get rewarded with odd unforeseen issues, like when players in The Division had to physically queue up their characters to pass a starter mission, or in the case of Tears of the Kingdom, the multiple duplication glitches that were only just recently patched out of the game.
I’ve been loving my time in Tears of the Kingdom, seeing how it has taken the Breath of the Wild formula and added both Sky Islands and the dark Depths below to explore, along with the new abilities and building mechanics. Oh, and anyone who thinks it’s just Zelda + Minecraft really needs to check out Besiege, a siege-engine builder that challenges players to build different mechanisms to pass each level. Having the ability to make whatever weird contraption I can think up (even if I usually just need a skycycle) is amazing, and I’ve loved getting to fly/slide/roll across the map, even when it ends with me crash-landing or bailing into my glider.
In terms of gameplay, Tears of the Kingdom feels even more welcoming of a game world than Breath of the Wild, even with the additional building mechanics. Tears of the Kingdom actually has a proper tutorial with the first set of sky islands, whereas Breath of the Wild set you free and nudged you into finishing a few shrines to get the glider and be able to leave the Great Plateau. Also – slight spoilers – I’m glad I haven’t run into any Guardians yet. Those filthy machines still sent me into a panic in the last game when they started targeting me, even after I got the Master Sword and some decent shields.
Some people have complained about graphics, or lack of direction in the gameplay, or how it just takes the same map and makes you play it again, and…just, no. Graphics might not be Ultra Plus settings, but I’ve stopped in awe of more than one Sunset or amazing vista, even after beating Breath of the Wild and running all over the map. It’s completely different with the subterranean Depths and floating islands in the sky. You do need to be somewhat self-motivated at times if you want to get the most out of the game – for instance, right now I’m focusing on farming the Depths so I can upgrade Link’s battery, which powers his built devices.
Tears of the Kingdom is a 9.9/10 game for me, and while I can see why some might not love it I also am not surprised that it sold over 10 million copies in the first few days. The only gripe that I would agree with is Nintendo needs to either make a sandbox mode where you can build whatever weird contraption you can think up, tinker with it, and perfect it without worrying about using up materials or devices…or just let us have the duplication glitches back. Either way, I’m going to be playing this for the next few months/years to come.
Nintendo really had their work cut out for them when they decided to make a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild. While the game was…controversial, to put it lightly, it’s no stretch to say that it was the biggest evolution of the Legend of Zelda formula in the series’ history, echoing Ocarina of Time’s similar giant leap from 2D to 3D. Ocarina’s sequel, Majora’s Mask, ran on the same engine as the first game, and in another echo, we have Tears of the Kingdom running on its predecessor’s engine. And the Majora comparison runs beyond just the engine. From Tears of the Kingdom’s very first cutscene, the tone is immediately established to be far darker than even Breath of the Wild’s most intense moments. The story is much more involved, with plentiful cutscenes discovered throughout the overworld and tons of NPCs to talk to as you explore. Everyone has a bit of the picture of the Upheaval and the subsequent rise of monsters and the Gloom that’s overtaking the land.
Tears of the Kingdom really doesn’t lean away from that darkness throughout. It’s like Breath of the Wild was a tutorial for how to survive in an open-world Zelda game, and Tears of the Kingdom is the final exam. Breath of the Wild gave us a vast overworld to explore, but Tears of the Kingdom opens up both the depths beneath Hyrule and the skies above it. This, combined with the game’s brand-new building mechanics, gives the entire experience a new depth that Breath of the Wild was completely lacking. There’s always something new to discover, and sometimes it’s not even the discovery itself, but the way you get there that’s the real reward.
While Breath of the Wild introduced a more open and traversable world, Tears of the Kingdom manages to combine that freedom with some more classic and restrictive Zelda puzzle-solving elements. It’s a weird blend of old and new, but it works. I’m able to explore and solve puzzles in my own way, but the game never lets me get too far off track and forces me to think within its constraints. I also love the new powers the game gives you. The runes from the first game were fun, but the Zonai abilities this time around are mind-bending in the best way. Ascend gives you infinite possibilities for traversal, and clever use of the Recall ability can completely change the way you see not just a puzzle, but even environments. They blend perfectly with the game’s emphasis on puzzles and travel over just combat and survival.
I understand the critiques of wanting something new after Breath of the Wild. I did as well. It’s a huge game, and to get another version of it so soon after the original took away a lot of the momentum a game like this could have had. And in some ways, Tears of the Kingdom still feels a little too much like the original. Much of the music and sound effects are exactly the same, and the locations themselves haven’t changed much from the original. But while the “newness” of the game might have taken a hit, I really don’t think it impacts just how much fun it is. I’ve had a blast exploring the depths and the skies of Hyrule, and I adore the more involved story. It really feels like I’m fighting for a kingdom, rather than just a bunch of ruins.
Still, with series director Eiji Aonuma’s recent comments about the future of the series, I will admit I’m a bit disappointed we might not get a more traditional game in the future. I’ve really enjoyed both of the latest games, but I’m not sure we need more. I’d welcome a more traditional entry in the future, but given recent trends in the industry, I’m not sure how likely that is. Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom were great evolutions of the franchise, but there’s no reason we can’t have a blend of both. I hope the developers don’t get too blinded by the success of these entries to think that this is all we ever need in the future. Still, regardless, I will continue to enjoy another tour through Hyrule for as long as it lasts.
Great games will always bring up the topic, “(insert memorable mechanic / graphic / innovation) is what makes games”, but few bring up the rare topic, “what is gaming?”. Nintendo has forced the latter with both of their latest Legend of Zelda games. If a game can make you feel like a kid again, then it has transcended a scaling grade, in my opinion. Like Anton Ego in Ratatouille, Tears of the Kingdom took me back to making my own adventure in the woods. If Death Stranding is the walking simulator of games, Tears of the Kingdom is the exploration simulator. My most memorable moments were finding everything out of order. The castle’s escape passage, finding the last Poe bargainer first, and the tiny glowing chamber with ‘shrooms are greater than any story beat.
The last time I played a sequel that was slightly changed was Jak 3, and just like then, I was really impressed with Nintendo making the same location feel new again. The return of the previous champions, as well as new characters, the dispersed Zonai, the Depths, and floating islands simply made it a delight to return.
The new abilities took some getting used to. The building has to be the most talked about element of the game. It feels like Nintendo saw everyone on TikTok making insane things in Breath of the Wild, and said, “What else can you make?”. I got better at it, and it even became fun, but the amount they made a requirement is arguable. Fusing, Auto-Build, and Ascend are the best abilities this time around, but Recall remains my least used skill.
I’m looking forward to finishing this game, and whatever DLC comes our way. But for now, I’m going back down into the Depths with my really cool god arm, my gloom costume, and my stick that looks like a sword.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Tears of the Kingdom was provided by Nintendo. But we paid for the other copies!