The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is huge. Not even that, she’s HUGE. And if I had accessed the game in advance and went through the main story to the end, the text would still convey exactly the first impressions. Even at the thirtieth hour of gameplay, my feeling of the game has not changed: traveling around Hyrule still makes me feel delighted.
- Developer: Nintendo
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release: May 12, 2023
Tears of the Kingdom does not seem so big because there are significant distances between plot points. Not because the world of the game is inhabited by different peoples living in their own biomes, with different weather and climate conditions. And it’s not that in this part of the series, the Nintendo writers provided the players with a voluminous plot and intelligible lore. The scale of the new Zelda is the merit of game designers, who, with all the heaps of content, have retained a sense of mystery waiting around the corner on a winding mountain road or behind a sand dune.
Only now, in the sequel to Breath of the Wild, the sky islands of ancient civilizations and their own analogue of the Dark Limit from Skyrim have been added to the mountains and deserts. According to the story, after another kidnapping of Princess Zelda, the kingdom of Hyrule was literally torn apart. During the disaster, which in the game is called the Cataclysm, pieces of earth soared into the air, and in their place, gaps formed leading to a lost world. The cities of the Zonai kingdom soar above Hyrule, debris falling from the sky from time to time.
So Link is now not only the usual defender of the oppressed and the savior of the world. In Tears of the Kingdom, he will try his hand at archeology, expeditions to the center of the earth, and even journalism. All in order to find out what happened to the world of Hyrule and where Zelda disappeared to. Tears of the Kingdom, or Pieces of the Kingdom (the English title obviously includes a play on words referring to the plot) is a fantasy detective story with elements of steampunk in the spirit of Jules Verne novels. Most of the main quests in the game are devoted to finding clues leading to Zelda or explaining the circumstances of her disappearance. Passing them is optional, but damn interesting: Tears of the Kingdom invites players to fly in a balloon over Zonai geoglyphs, find a way to an ancient temple underground, and interview witnesses in the role of a local newspaper reporter. And all this is woven into the main story about a princess in trouble!
The gameplay formula of the game repeats much of Breath of the Wild and still borrows the mechanics of generic open worlds, but rethinks them structurally, story-wise and in terms of gameplay. It may sound funny, but the gameplay of the new Zelda is most similar to Elden Ring, and in some places even more hardcore soul-likes from From Software.
It’s funny that two games that began to be developed in 2017 and released with a difference of only a year are similar thematically and even in plot. For example, the Cataclysm from Zelda is literally the same as the Sundering from Elden Ring: the keeper of the world disappears, pieces of soil separate from each other and even soar into the air, evil forces from the underworld enter the outside world. The color schemes are also similar: both starting locations meet the player in a golden autumn, Caverns from Zelda are very similar to Siofra and Nokron in the Interearth. But even more games are similar in gameplay.
Tears of the Kingdom is a complex game that hides behind a fabulous setting. Fights are unforgiving, bosses require a non-trivial approach, and many of the monsters that you encounter at the beginning of the adventure easily one-shot Link. But much more reminiscent of the soul series is the concept of punishment for bad decisions: if you get stuck in a difficult battle or go the wrong way, you will have to pay with your time or resources. For example, eat all the stocks of warming food if you happen to be in a cold climate. “Zelda” in some places is even more hardcore than Elden Ring: there are much fewer points for fast movement, and no one offers a horse at the start. Often you have to stomp to safety on foot or take a long time to get to the right place from the teleportation point.
In difficult situations and fights with bosses, the phantoms of the characters that you met in the game come to the rescue. You can summon them from some point in the story by using an item in your inventory. Doesn’t it remind you of anything? But with all the similarities, of course, it cannot be said that the games are identical. Elden Ring is difficult because it has difficult fights. Tears of the Kingdom – because the developers force the player to look for ways to bypass the battle.
In most cases, the worst thing you can do is to get into a fight with a shield and a sword. The game design of even the most passing skirmishes is built in such a way that you always have a better alternative to hand-to-hand kneading. For example, in central Hyrule there is a cave in which bokoblins and their leader settled – too difficult an opponent to start the game. You can sweat and kill them by hand. Or you can use your wits and explore the arena. On the upper tier of the cave, the monsters have built a warehouse of barrels of gunpowder: if you use telekinesis, explosives can be moved directly into the fire, which has gathered bobblins.
Link’s other abilities also come into play: time control and the ability to move through ceilings. Most often you have to use them to solve puzzles, but you can not limit your imagination and, for example, raise a stone plate with telekinesis to the place where you want to climb, drop it, turn on the reverse, and while the platform that has returned in time is hanging in the air, teleport through it and jump to the desired ledge. In time, you can also return the shells that the enemies launched at you.
Separate fun is the collection of mechanisms using telekinesis. Developers at Nintendo have given players the ability to build propeller carts, balloon-inflating flamethrower aircraft, and rocket-powered gliders. But players would not be players: instead, they invent robots that shoot fire from wooden phalluses, self-propelled crosses, and wooden armored personnel carriers.
Another new addition to Link’s arsenal is charm montage. This is the ability to combine any weapon with items from the open world. Nintendo clearly listened to complaints about weapons breaking too quickly in Breath of the Wild. But she solved the problem in a different way: now the weapons break even faster, but the player is just waiting for him to finally finish the old toy and make a new one.
The flamethrower pike is replaced by a sword with sapphires, which turns enemies into motionless statues. Jump Spring Shield – A brand new bolt-on missile shield that can be used to take off or accelerate in glide mode. One of my favorite pastimes is to attach a board to a weapon: gusts of wind will throw opponents into abysses and pools in which most monsters drown. Another enchantment allows you to play a real Link-mage, staff modifications can freeze water for crossing, bring down a hail of fireballs and stun enemies with lightning bolts.
The new “Zelda” brings endless fun from the most trivial, familiar activities in open world, because its gameplay, plot and images are universal. When your whole family gathers at the screen and asks: “What will happen if you try to set fire to this grass?” “Can you get in there?” “And if you screw on the rockets, will it fly?” That’s a damn good sign. Yes, there is no claim to a deep drama, a revolution in the genre and an “adult message”. But there are mountains of fun and a miner’s car, glued to the shield, on which you can ride on the slopes. It is not at all scary when the game seems childish: it is better to feel like a happy child than a bored adult.
The very fact of the existence of Tears of the Kingdom in our world is a small miracle. Now that it’s customary to cover the story with ten layers of irony, mixing fantasy with horror and parody, the sequel to Breath of the Wild offers nothing but perfection. Until the moment when I play enough, there are still dozens of hours, but even now I am sure that my impressions of Tears of the Kingdom will remain “firsts”. Delight.
- Link’s new abilities
- Detective story
- Perfect Interface
- Control in battle