The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom | Game Review | Flying High
Discover Zelda: TOTK, the darker and more mature sequel to BOTW. Follow Link as he wields a new divine right hand to perform powerful abilities and manipulate the environment!
Not too long ago, I covered the very first gameplay footage Nintendo released of their upcoming Zelda sequel. If you go back to that article, you’ll see that I was more than a little excited about the implications of what was shown, and now that I’ve had the game in my own hands for a little while, I am able to confirm…
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is awesome, and everything I wanted it to be.
In the coming weeks, there will surely be no shortage of glowing reviews and people giving the game high praise for this or that. And they’re well within their rights, because, again, the game is awesome. However, it’s definitely not perfect, and I’m going to do my best to evaluate this game with as much of a critical eye as possible even though I adore it.
So, without further delay, let’s dive into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom!
The Legend Continues…
Tears of the Kingdom picks up right after the events of Breath of the Wild, something that is more or less uncommon in a series that is devoid of direct sequels. Shockingly, you step into the armor of a fully-equipped Link, with maxed-out heart containers, all of the stamina wheels, and the Master Sword strapped to his back. This joy is obviously short-lived, as the hero is overcome by evil and brutalized in the first few minutes. Princess Zelda falls into a chasm as well, so kind of a rough day all around.
It’s an intro that’s much darker and more mature than Breath of the Wild, and probably exactly what the series needed to stay fresh. The events of the intro leave Link with a heavily damaged right arm, which is then removed and replaced with the right arm of one of the Seven Sages, named Rauru. This new arm plays into the shocking grittiness of the overall story I’ve experienced so far, as well as serving as the anchor for the game’s new core mechanics.
Give Me a Hand (Or an Arm)
This divine right hand gives Link the ability to harness powerful new abilities that are designed to function much in the same way that the Sheikah Slate powers did in Breath of the Wild. In fact, there is quite a bit that seems to have been reused or repurposed here, from the visuals and physics associated with a few powers, to how they are activated and used to manipulate things in the environment. This theme of reuse is carried out through most of the game, in fact.
It’s pretty easy to see how familiar these things are right away, but part of the magic of what Nintendo’s developers have done here is that even the things that have been reused manage to feel new in ways that make a difference, rather than being straight-up copy/pastes of what was available in the previous game.
Ultrahand: The Power to Create
In terms of the powers you actually get, the ones I’ve managed to obtain several hours into game time are Ultrahand, Fuse, and Recall. Ultrahand is the premiere ability and seems like it will be carrying most of the game on its back, allowing you to pick up, manipulate, and attach almost anything in the world however you want in order to create whatever your imagination can come up with.
Early on, I took stock of the area I was in, and where I needed to go. I could see a rather long, annoying path that I could follow to where I was going, but instead of following it, I just used Ultrahand to attach a fistful of logs together to create a makeshift ladder that got me to my target location much, much faster, skipping the rigamarole. This seems like where the magic of the game will be for the most part, and it’s going to be a speed runner’s delight after they’ve had enough time to experiment.
Remember using flaws in game mechanics to scale mountains without running out of stamina?
Well, throw that concept out the window, because Ultrahand gives you the power to build your own vehicles to get around. And not just four-wheeled vehicles either, but all kinds of flying and gliding machines that you can bend to your will to overcome any transportation-related obstacle. It’s literally a game-changer.
Where Breath of the Wild said “No.”, this sequel says, “Hell yes, absolutely. And throw a flamethrower on it for good measure.”
Fuse: The Power to Fortify
Next up was Fuse. My initial thought of Fuse was that it was just going to be a band-aid for the weapon durability woes that people had with the first game, but it’s much more than that in practice. Yes, you can fuse rocks to your sticks or shields to make them hit harder and last longer, but that’s not thinking with the full power of Fuse.
You can attach elemental properties to anything based on items you pick up (ChuChu Jellies, Fire Plants, etc.), and you can give yourself the upper hand in battles by attaching a Zonai flamethrower to your shield, among other things. Again, the way this game was designed seems to encourage even more experimentation and creativity than even the first game did, which will allow for some crazy interactions.
Ascend: The Power to Swim Through Solid Matter
After that, I gained the Ascend ability. This new move gives Link the power to rise up through most materials to reach higher elevations, as long as they’re within range. You won’t be using it to pop up on top of a Sky Island from the ground below, but it can definitely be used to facilitate surprise attacks in the elevated Bokoblin watch towers that dot the plains of Hyrule.
Overall, this one seems to be the least useful of the abilities so far, or maybe I just haven’t played with it enough yet. It’s definitely not as fun or useful as Ultrahand or Fuse, or as cool as the final ability.
Recall: The Power to Rewind Time
And finally, there is Recall. Recall is the final ability you get before you can jump off of The Great Sky Island (the equivalent of Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau), and it definitely makes use of the first game’s Stasis format. With Recall, you select an object, and by activating the power you can rewind the course or path that object has taken in a limited amount of time. That early gameplay showed it being used to ride a chunk of sky island back up into the sky, but it’s less clear what the extent of usefulness this particular ability will have.
Separately, these powers could have probably carried their own games. Having them all in the same game, running on the same six-year-old hardware with any kind of success is damn-near incredible.
Looking to the Sky and Down Below
While Breath of the Wild had a massive open world that millions of players enjoyed for hundreds of hours, Tears of the Kingdom goes even bigger. It has almost that same massive map, and then two more that are almost as vast and detailed. In addition to Terra Firma, you have the many Sky Islands that are free to explore, as well as something incredibly surprising that wasn’t included in any of the marketing: a massive world beneath the surface of Hyrule. The Underworld is full of hidden treasures and all manner of creatures, as well as new gameplay mechanics that are worth discovering for yourself.
This massive explosion in explorable area feels like the solution to a problem no one had with Breath of the Wild. Like, “Oh yeah? There wasn’t enough in that game? Well, check this out!”
At any rate, the sheer amount of places to see and things to do alone will solidify this game as another win for the series despite some issues relating to performance limitations.
Push It to the Limit
At this point in the Switch’s lifecycle, I’m shocked at what has been achieved on Nintendo’s little hybrid that could. Breath of the Wild set the standard pretty high right out the gate, but the work of Panic Button and other developers in bringing full-fat console games to the handheld-first format has been extremely impressive.
However, it’s clear that the time for something more powerful has long since passed.
Sure, most of the game runs shockingly well, with what seems to be a stable thirty frames being hit most of the time. But, when things get hectic (exactly when you would want the smoothest performance possible), the performance hitches and stutters just like the first game did. It’s not surprising considering what has been achieved in excess of the previous game’s achievements, but a game this good deserves to be presented in the highest quality possible, and the Switch’s eight-year-old Tegra X1 just can’t keep up. Especially with the limitations that have been imposed on it to ensure decent battery life and a consistent experience across docked and handheld modes.
Consider this my own personal plea to Nintendo. Please, give us a Switch Pro or a Switch 2, or something that can run Tears of the Kingdom with better, more reliable performance. It really deserves it.
Journeying into the Unknown
I haven’t finished Tears of the Kingdom yet. Just from the amount of things I have seen, and what I’ve spoken about with others, there could be hundreds of hours of gameplay on your plate once you start this game, especially counting all of the time you’ll spend getting distracted and exploring off of the beaten path.
I can’t wait to get in and explore more, and if you have a Nintendo Switch, you owe it to yourself to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom for yourself.
Total Score: 9/10
Is Tears of the Kingdom a sequel to Breath of the Wild?+
Yes, the game picks up after the events of Breath of the Wild, providing a direct continuation of the storyline.
What's unique about Tears of the Kingdom's gameplay?+
The game introduces new mechanics, including a powerful divine right hand that grants abilities similar to the Sheikah Slate from Breath of the Wild.
What are some of the new abilities in TOTK?+
Abilities like Ultrahand allow you to manipulate and create objects in the environment. Fuse lets you enhance items with elemental properties, and Ascend allows you to rise through certain materials. Recall allows you to rewind the path of objects.
How does the TOTK world compare to BOTW?+
Tears of the Kingdom expands the world significantly with additional maps, including Sky Islands and a hidden Underworld beneath Hyrule, offering more places to explore.
How is Tears of the Kingdom's game performance on the Nintendo Switch?+
The game generally runs well, but during intense moments, performance issues can arise, similar to its predecessor.
Do you need to have beaten Breath of the Wild to play Tears of the Kingdom?+
While the game builds upon the story of Breath of the Wild, newcomers can enjoy the gameplay and immerse themselves in the world without prior experience.
Is there a multiplayer mode in Tears of the Kingdom?+
No, there is no multiplayer aspects to the game. TOTK focuses on single-player gameplay, allowing players to fully immerse themselves in the narrative and world of Hyrule.