The Legend of Zelda has always been one of my favourite video game series. As a Zelda fan, I am sure that I have blind spots for certain aspects. However, I also try to be objective with each new game. I found it difficult to express my feelings about Breath of the wild (BOTW), and even more so when discussing Tears of the Kingdom. Both games are ambitious, amazing and yet disappointing. Nintendo must have sold a large number of BOTWs and TOTKs, so clearly something is working. Why not make more Zelda titles like this in the future? They’re selling like hotcakes. This is a good question, and I’m hoping to provide some clarity. Tears of the Kingdom may be an amazing game, but it is still disappointing to me. It is not always better to have more content.
The Legend of Zelda – Tears of the Kingdom follows a similar storyline to Breath of the wild. The player can choose to view or ignore the’memories” scattered around the world map. While this gives the player a great deal of freedom, a disjointed feel is created by the fact that they can be completed at any time. It’s not necessary for the player to be engaged with the story, and I found myself disconnected from it during most of my playthrough. The voice acting was okay, but I would have preferred it to be completely absent. The drama can be a little too much at times, and it takes me away from the scene rather than immersing me. It’s great to be able to find memories anywhere on the map, but I would prefer the cutscenes to be viewed in the correct order.
This type of story telling is not for me. While it’s great that Ganondorf is a part this game, he never feels like he actually “active” in the world. The majority of the cutscenes tell us about his past, while he is actually hidden underground in the present. The final battle begins when you find him. He doesn’t seem to have much of a presence in the game. He’s a bit one-dimensional in the entire game. In Breath of The Wild, Calamity Ganon seemed like a mindless creature. Ganondorf isn’t much more mysterious. There are certain things that motivate him now, but his motivations were so much deeper in Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. The story was as good, if not better than Breath Of The Wild. This isn’t the best story in the Zelda franchise, but it’s still a good one.
Tears of the Kingdom is a game with a lot of variety. No other game offers the same amount of gameplay options. Even if the new abilities can be a little confusing, it is still a great feat of engineering that all these gameplay systems are so seamlessly integrated. The Ultra Hand, a 3D building system that allows players to create things, is a real triumph. Combining all kinds of items from the world, you can create almost anything. The tool is a great one, but I didn’t really use it much over the course of the game. You will eventually be able to build faster, but I never really liked using it. Ascend has some interesting puzzle and combat implications. Fuse was a decent ability, but it often proved to be more of a nuisance than benevolent. The inability to separate fused objects was the biggest problem I had with this ability. In theory, Recall sounds great but I never needed it in the real world. It’s true that I could reverse enemy projectiles in battle, but why would I? It was faster and easier to use flurry-rush.
Justin, tell us what you feel! I know I’ve been down on the game, but let’s look at some of the things I enjoyed about Tears of the Kingdom, and how they improved Breath of the Wild. The boss battles are one of the most significant improvements for me. They are vastly improved from Breath of the Wild. Each boss is unique, with a variety of attack techniques and strategies to defeat them. Each boss felt more “puzzle-like” which is exactly what I wanted to see. The last boss battle in particular was epic. The new abilities are a lot of fun. The new abilities are fun, but I’m a little disappointed that they don’t improve on Breath of the Wild. They’re just replacements. Ultrahand and Ascend get a lot of use, while Recall and Fuse are rarely used. Fuse took more time than it was worth. It was a real chore to have to fuse every arrow that you shot. It was also tedious to scroll through the list of items that could be fused to arrows. This is supposed to list the pros, not more cons.
I’ll say that I liked the caves they added to the overworld. There are many different types of caves. You can find them in mountains or in wells. Each cave has a wide variety of items and fauna. These are some of the new biomes that have been added to the game. There are some cool things to find in the depths, a completely underground area that is about the same size as the main overworld. However, it’s dark and gloomy so I didn’t stay there for very long. Nintendo’s recent trailers have made the sky islands a main attraction, but I didn’t spend much time there. The sky islands are very similar in appearance and I used them mostly as launching pads and little else. The designs of the new enemies are excellent. The Gleeoks are back, and the frogs in the depths make for some fun new world bosses. There are also a lot of new outfits, such as a frog costume and a wingsuit. They will help you in some situations, but not as much as I’d like. The wingsuit doesn’t really give you more glide and the frog suits will help but not fully prevent sliding when climbing in rain.
The ‘dungeons,’ or as the game calls them, “temples”, are better than Breath of the Wild. However they are still a lot worse than the previous Zelda titles. You could easily “cheese” or find your own solutions to the dungeons. Others might feel smart for finding a solution, but it always made me feel like I was missing out on something. It was the closest to a traditional Zelda dungeon, but it fell short. Irony of ironies, Zelda’s Overworld is all about discovery, but these dungeons give you the map and locations of every’switch.’ This removes all mystery and sense of accomplishment from anything you do in the temple. I can beeline to the next “objective” because I always know where everything is. The open-world is a pathetic Ubisoft design, where you are given a bunch of icons and told to ‘go nuts.’ Nintendo should abandon these dungeons as soon as possible. These dungeons are not very good. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but they have few redeeming features. They finally returned to themed dungeons, which aren’t the same aesthetic, which is great, but it’s just the same experience you get in the overworld in a more enclosed space.
Tears of the Kingdom has the same exact combat as Tears of the Kingdom. The menus/UI and art style are also identical. Half of the overworld has a similar layout. Before Breath Of The Wild’s success, each Zelda game was completely unique. Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Ocarina of Time shared the same art, but everything else was different. Tears of the Kingdom and Breath of the Wild feel too similar. It’s good if you enjoyed Breath of the Wild but it’s not so great if you did not. This just prolongs the feeling of disappointment with the current state of Zelda. In Tears of the Kingdom I found that if I came across a location I’d visited in BOTW it didn’t really encourage me to go back and check it out. I thought, “oh, I have seen that. Moving on”. Another major criticism is that the rewards are not worth it. Treasure chests found in shrines and dungeons contain the simplest ‘treasures.’ You’re expecting a shield or weapon to be in the dungeon chest treasure? Here are some arrows. Most of the time, I found things I could have found while cutting grass in an earlier Zelda. I used to Zelda being a whole new world I explore, with new dungeons, puzzles, and bosses. Zelda seems to focus more on cooking, crafting and collecting. Tears of Kingdom is a game that has a lot of content, but I feel like it’s lacking substance.
Tears of the Kingdom is a must-have for those who enjoyed Breath of the wild. It honestly feels like a ‘fully-realized’ version of Breath Of The Wild. Breath of the Wild 3.0 or 2.0 is not an unfair description. Tears of the Kingdom may not be a ‘DLC,’ but the game feels so closely tied to the original game. This makes sense since the game was originally called “The Sequel of Breath of the Wild”. It feels like the most close-to-the-original sequel ever done in the Zelda franchise. If you liked BOTW then that is a positive, but I find it to be a negative.
I know I spent a lot time talking about my concerns with the new Zelda formula, but I still enjoyed myself. Do not misunderstand me, Tears of the Kingdom is a game that everyone should enjoy. The outfits you can find are varied and fun, the caves have a lot of interest and Ultrahand is a fun tool. This is a great achievement, but not what I want in Zelda. It’s a pity for those of us who want the classic elements to return. I don’t believe the Zelda “formulas” are mutually exclusive. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I believe they can achieve a better balance. I hope Nintendo will take into account the criticisms of these Zelda games, and look for ways to make them more enjoyable for all Zelda players.