The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the KingdomSwitch ¦ adventure
In 2017, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on both the Wii U and their new console, The Nintendo Switch.
It was hailed as not only the best entry in the long-running franchise, but one of the greatest games of all time. So perhaps it’s understandable it’s taken this long for a sequel to emerge considering that kind of pressure.
The game starts with our hero Link with Princess Zelda, exploring beneath the castle, in search of the cause of an unknown substance that has appeared all over the land. It’s not long before they encounter an old foe, which finds Link almost lifeless as he sees his Master sword shatter before him. He just manages to see the fate of Zelda, as she falls into a dark chasm below, before he passes out.
As he finally stirs awake, he suddenly finds himself up in the clouds, on a floating land, where he is aided by a spirit who explains what’s going on. And thus, the latest in a long line of adventures for Link begins.
Now when it comes to reviewing a game, most would want to finish the game before putting fingers to keyboard. Sometimes, due to time constraints, this just isn’t possible, so you try to complete as much of the game as you can.
At the time of writing, we reached a point where we felt we had the bare minimum to start with, after reaching a considerable playing time of 55 hours. That kind of time is enough to finish a couple of average titles, but not so Tears of the Kingdom; as far as our run through was concerned, it was only skimming the surface.
So yes, it’s a big game. Of course it’s probably enough time to complete the main story, if you know what you’re doing, but that’s not really the best approach for this game.
It’s also a the type of game that can be played so many different ways depending on your particular playing style. If you feel brave and confident, you can wield your weapon and just go heads on into battle. For others who are more peace orientated, many of the conflicts can be avoided, as you skirt around any minor skirmishes.
On top of that, due to the vastness of the map, each player can have a very different play through experience depending on how they approach it. It doesn’t help that the game is brimming with distractions. You may have it in your mind to follow one particular quest line, only to be sidetracked by a number of different side quests that can pop up along the way. Don’t get us started on Addison, a character for whom the act of holding up a sign is a constant struggle throughout the land.
To give you an indication of how your game can go, despite putting in a fair few hours, we have still yet to completely open up the map yet; this is due to the fact that for the land to appear on your Purah Pad, you have to physically visit towers that allow you to map the surrounding area out on your device. Often, as this is a Zelda game, you can’t just pop in, as there’s usually a puzzle element to it.
And on top of that, you have to prioritise what else would be helpful. For us, visiting shrines seemed to be the way to go; completing these – again, can often only be done so by completing a puzzle element – rewards you with a star, which can swapped out for extending your life hearts when you have enough of them. To date, we have completed 33 of them, out of a grand total of...152, so some way still to go.
Don’t be surprised then if you suffer from being a tad overwhelmed, as in Hyrule, it’s easily done. One piece of advice we picked up was to start the main story as soon as possible. It seems obvious enough, but trust us, with so many distractions, the main story could end up being the last thing on your mind.
It’s worth pursuing early on however, as it will give you access to a very useful bit of kit, the paraglider. This will certainly help getting around that little bit easier.
It’s fair to say that if you have played Breath of the Wild, you will be familiar with many of the general mechanics. One of which that has been carried over are breakable weapons. Now many players have simply adapted to this huge nuisance, but not us. It has to be one of the reasons why we jumped out of that game so early on, only 15 hours in, with no real desire to go back. And for us, it’s the biggest annoyance with this game too.
There’s nothing more infuriating than having your current weapon break in the middle of a fight. You then have to go to your sub menu and choose another weapon that hopefully you’re not too fond of, as it is more than likely going to break on you too. For us it spoils the fluidity and rhythm of a fight, as if there aren’t enough things going on during it as it is. And certainly if you’re an average gamer, it’s a complete nightmare. Add to the fact that the same happens to shields too and you’ve just got one frustrating mess.
This is none more so evident than during boss battles. You start off with a just a handful of slots for weapons and shields, so you could reach a point where if you encounter a boss early on, you could deplete all weapons before you get a chance to take it down. Can you think of anything less fun that attempting to take down a mighty beastie with nothing more than hand gestures?
It’s just one of the mechanics that makes this particular game less than appropriate for casual gamers. And there will be casual gamers swayed by the marketing and all the 10/10 reviews, who will end up being quite disappointed. As the previous game was the same, we tried to find data to discover the percentage of gamers who owned the game and had completed it, but it doesn’t exist. If we were to hazard a guess, we’d suggest around 20%, and wouldn’t be surprised if it was far less.
But the annoyance of breaking weapons aside, this entry has a few nice extras up its sleeve. This time around, Link is bestowed with special powers: ascend, fuse, ultrahand and recall. Ascend gives you the ability to travel through ceilings; fuse allows you to add all manner of extras to your weapons to give them more power; ultrahand gives you the power to pick objects up and create useful things such as various modes of transport; and recall gives you the opportunity to dabble with turning back time for a short period.
These are fantastic additions that really widen the scope of gameplay and problem solving. You could almost suggest that their introduction balances that of destructible weapons – almost.
And then you discover that blood moons return again and you start to think that Nintendo hates you. These arise every so often, that signal the fact that the enemies you spent so much time and energy on in defeating, can come back to stick their tongues out and cause chaos once again. Sigh.
It is a more layered affair this time around – literally. You have of course the familiar surroundings of the land of Hyrule, but now you also have the sky islands, plus the addition of the depths, a huge cavernous space that can be explored too. This certainly gives those who played the last title something they haven’t seen before at least, but there is an argument for it being more of the same with what would be tantamount to extensive DLC to the already familiar Hyrule layout.
That’s not to take anything away from the minds behind this game, who are undoubtedly geniuses. The story is compelling, and the worlds they have created are stunning, with nearly every corner you turn a new adventure.
It also features an absolutely sublime soundtrack; wherever you venture throughout the land, you will be accompanied by the most perfectly themed music, which enhances your adventure like no other, helping to develop the rich atmospherics no end.
If you have played through Breath of the Wild and loved it, then this is a no brainer. And with the extra hours we’ve put into this game, we certainly prefer it, with its originality winner over its similarities.
Technically, this is a superb game, no question. The developers have performed nothing short of gaming miracles throughout, especially when you consider that that the size of the game is around 16 GB, which wouldn’t even be enough for a demo of a lot of the AAA titles. It’s a dark magic that Nintendo have, and what they've managed to created is astonishing.
It’s a challenging game however, on all fronts. It will certainly eat up much of your time, as well as your patience, because there will be many casual gamers who will be frustrated by it, especially with some of the puzzles. We certainly were, on many an occasion. And although it all takes place in a colourful cutesy world, don’t be fooled, as playing Link in a Zelda game is no pushover. And nor should it be, to its credit.
But, if you’re prepared to stick with it, tolerate its annoyances, there is an unparalleled gaming experience to be had, that truly is legendary.