By: Jordan Chan
(Spoiler Warning: This article contains minor early-game spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.) I firmly believe I will never undergo a gaming experience that comes close to the first time I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW). BOTW is, dare I say, a near-perfect game. In 2017, it revolutionized the open-world genre with breathtaking visuals, incredible attention to detail, and infinite opportunities for exploration within its expansive plot. Thus, it’s no surprise that when Nintendo announced BOTW’s sequel, Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK), last September, I — along with most of my friends — freaked out. We started a countdown, talked animatedly about the trailers, and pre-ordered our copies of the game. On May 11, when TOTK finally launched, we cut ourselves off from the outside world as Link and the Kingdom of Hyrule enraptured us once more.
Any fears I had that TOTK wouldn’t live up to its predecessor were quickly assuaged. The content is endless. TOTK brings back beloved aspects of BOTW, like Koroks, quests, shrines, and combat, while incorporating countless new features — items, enemies, and abilities — that transform how you approach the game itself, especially the puzzles. Furthermore, though the game’s setting is still Hyrule, the landscape has changed completely in the two or three years that Link and Zelda have been missing. After a brief sequence in which Zelda disappears again (no surprises there) and Hyrule Castle propels toward the sky, you start gameplay on a floating island, from which you can literally (sky)dive into the unknown before you make your way back to the surface. Once on the surface, you can explore eerie chasms underground.
Although TOTK still explores the idea of storytelling through fragmented memories, recovering Link’s lost memories is no longer a main objective, as it was in BOTW. Instead, every character you encounter — each complete with their own set of well-developed, complex dialogue — and every discovery you make contextualizes the mystery unfolding around you. During interactions with previous allies, you learn more about the new Hyrule — plagued by evil gloom and covered in ancient ruins and sky islands.
One of the essential new game mechanics of TOTK is “Ultrahand,” which grants the ability to fuse objects together. Not only can you manipulate your environment, but you can also create. You can cobble together carts, structures, even hot air balloons: the possibilities are limitless. With the addition of “Zonai devices,” it’s easy to power moving objects as you please.
Ultrahand is also integral to shrine completion. As you solve puzzles, whether you think them out logically or undergo painstaking yet rewarding trial and error (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…), you better understand physics concepts such as momentum, forces, and levers. The entire problem-solving process provides players with a sense of immense pride and accomplishment. Furthermore, the game is satisfying because there isn’t just one solution to every problem. TOTK rarely encourages you to use formulas; rather, it is an enormous playground of curiosity.
In its first three days of release, TOTK sold a whopping ten million copies, and its popularity only continues to grow. Due to the sheer size of the game, I still have plenty left to uncover. However, based on what I know so far, TOTK will go down as one of the most rewarding games I have ever played, and I highly recommend it to experienced gamers and newbies alike.