Tears of the Kingdom Review – Masterpiece.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is set once again in the version of Hyrule we saw in Breath of the Wild, yet it is a completely different game. The freedom that the game offers to players goes much further than in its predecessor, whereas in it almost anything you could imagine was already possible. Hyrule may seem to have undergone few changes at first glance, but after putting more than 55 hours into the game, I know that just the opposite is true.

Love-hate relationship

Fair is fair, I’ve always had a special relationship with the Zelda franchise. After all, in theory, predecessor The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild should be the perfect game for me, something it was for many fans. Still, I belonged to the camp that couldn’t get over the fact that weapons could break so quickly. Thankfully, Tears of the Kingdom has come up with a solution – more on that later. Something else that some fans found unfortunate was the lack of the traditional dungeons we know from the series. This too has been thought of in Tears of the Kingdom.

Build your own vehicles as if they were Minecraft.

The introduction of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom immediately reminds you much more of traditional Zelda adventures. The game takes you by the hand more than Breath of the Wild did, where protagonist Link was actually thrown straight into the depths of the Great Plateau. With Tears of the Kingdom, as mentioned, that is different; the game takes you by the hand much more at the beginning. Giving the player a little less freedom only in the early stages makes you a lot more invested in the story. This is mainly because several cutscenes are immediately shown that grab the player’s attention. The player thus gets the feeling that there is actually something at stake. This is also true because it is a sequel. In Breath of the Wild, an entirely new world had to be built. The freedom we know from Breath of the Wild is certainly in Tears of the Kingdom, but it is not given to the player until later.

A tribute to Studio Ghibli

Nintendo is not treating players of Tears of the Kingdom as ignorant, but rather taking them by the hand to show them what’s possible in the new game. As a result, fans get what they want: a combination between everything that was fantastic in Breath of the Wild and a somewhat more traditional Zelda adventure. In addition to explaining the story, the tutorial also introduces the player for the first time to Tears of the Kingdom’s new mechanics: Recall, Fuse, Ultrahand and Ascend. Despite the fact that the first few hours of the game are indeed a tutorial, they don’t feel that way, which is indicative of the game. You begin in Tears of the Kingdom in the sky and eventually descend into Hyrule. Because of the mystique that reigns in the sky realm and the sensitive soundtrack, Tears of the Kingdom quickly brings to mind a Ghibli film, particularly Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky. The Zonai, an ancient civilization already hinted at in Breath of the Wild, play an important role in the story of Tears of the Kingdom. This people, like the floating islands in the sky, seem like an outright reference to the lost civilization from Castle in the Sky.

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The Celestial Kingdom of Tears of the Kingdom.

Studio Ghibli films are of course known for an exceptional visual style, and Tears of the Kingdom certainly rivals that. For a game running on a now obsolete system like the Switch, what the sequel makes possible is almost unreal. This is mainly due to the graphical style, which has small but obvious improvements over its predecessor. In that regard, it is good to see that Breath of the Wild was initially made for the Wii U only to be eventually ported to the Nintendo Switch as well and released on both platforms at the same time. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to see Tears of the Kingdom again in the future in an even slicker graphical version. For now, Nintendo is getting everything out of it and, by the looks of it, it’s one of the nicest games I’ve had the pleasure of playing on the Switch in the past six years, though that’s mainly because of the game’s painted style.

Enhanced skills

Let’s talk briefly about the new skills that Link is given in Tears of the Kingdom: Recall, Fuse, Ultrahand and Ascend. These are supposed to be the replacements for Magnesis, Remote Bomb, Stasis and Cryonis. Indeed, Link does not get his old abilities back, and I don’t actually miss that at any point. In fact, the new abilities are an extension of the freedom the game gives the player. The possibilities are literally endless. Therefore, I am sure that everyone, from the casual player who has never touched a Zelda game to the professional speedrunner, is going to enjoy this immensely. Beforehand, I was a bit skeptical about building vehicles, because: might this get boring? This is actually not the case at all, mainly due to support for the Blueprint feature (autobuild), which means you don’t have to endlessly reassemble things you’ve built before.

Link uses Ultrahand in Tears of the Kingdom.

Tears of the Kingdom solves with these abilities, in addition to endless possibilities, something that was a problem for me in Breath of the Wild, weapon durability. With Fuse, items can be attached to swords, arrows and shields. This makes arrows more powerful, shields more functional, but most importantly, it makes weapons less likely to break. This completely removes the major obstacle of the predecessor. At no point until the end does it occur that I run out of weapons, or even powerful weapons. Everywhere I can find something I can attach to my weapon to make it a little stronger, without taking away from the challenge.

Tears of the Kingdom once again pushes the boundaries of what is possible.

The other abilities are fantastic as well. As I mentioned a while back, building does not get boring, and Recall is a feature that provides hilarious moments in the game’s battles. For example, you can have an explosive barrel fired at you return to the thrower at the touch of a button, so it blows up in your face. That makes for a great feeling, I can tell you. In this way, Tears of the Kingdom once again pushes the boundaries of what is possible in an open-world game, something that many other games can learn a thing or two from and presumably will learn in the time to come. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom sets an example for others, as Elden Ring did last year.

And the idea was inspired by a rather unusual Wii game.

A whole new world

So although Tears of the Kingdom is also set in Hyrule, it still seems as if we have entered a completely different world. Certain parts of the game are still recognizable, but for the most part, the map of the new Zelda game has been revamped. This doesn’t just manifest itself on the surface. In Tears of the Kingdom, there is actually not one world, but with the Sky and the Depths, two more landscapes are added.

That it is great to explore the world of the BOTW sequel is indisputable. It is one of the best open worlds you can currently wander in, precisely because the player is not forced in any direction. Sure, it’s smarter to do what the game suggests first, but it doesn’t matter if you choose not to. In doing so, there is something going on in every corner of the game, giving Hyrule an immense amount of personality. You quickly build a bond with the characters you meet on Link’s journey through Hyrule, and this happens very naturally. Link is connected to the world and its inhabitants and this enriches the game immensely.

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For example, fairly early in the game there is the character Tulin, a small bird of the Rito tribe. Tulin indicates that he would like to be treated as an adult, but this is not the case. At that point you don’t know why this is so, but at a later point you encounter Tulin in a mission and it turns out that his bow has been taken away by some evildoers. Continually the game keeps feeding you details like this, creating an idea that Hyrule is a world where there is always something to do.

One small step for Link…

Tears of the Kingdom is an improvement on Breath of the Wild in almost every way, as far as it could actually be. With Breath of the Wild, many critics thought they had already found a game that approached perfection, yet every now and then you would hear some murmurs about what could be improved.

Fortunately, Nintendo took those cues as well and treated Breath of the Wild’s qualities with respect. It’s a bold move to completely take the abilities from its predecessor away from Link, but in the end, with Tears of the Kingdom, it does result in abilities that are even more expansive. Also, the Fuse ability solves the problem of weapons that would break too quickly. While this may not have been an immediate problem for everyone, I really think the new system works a lot better. It is also cool that some weapons have certain properties that other weapons do not. For example, the description of a weapon might say that it has more durability, works even better with a special item attached, or perhaps is stronger in a thunderstorm. Again, it adds another layer, even though the game is already quite layered.

Link’s weapons become stronger and gain more durability by attaching items.

We should also briefly mention the Divine Beasts, which in turn have been replaced by temples. In its own way, the developers deliberately do not call it dungeons, but in practice they are the dungeons we know from yesteryear. In terms of level design, these are the absolute highlights. The Wind Temple and the Lightning Temple in particular impressed me tremendously. I won’t give too much away here, because it is special to discover them all by yourself.

Finally played out, or not

As a matter of fact, the moment we finally finish the game after more than fifty hours, after an impressive final battle, shows that. The story of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is officially concluded at that moment, giving me huge goosebumps – and maybe even a small tear in the corner of my eye. Defeating the final boss does not feel like the end, especially considering the list of missions left and pieces of the world to explore.

Link once again takes on familiar and unknown dangers in Tears of the Kingdom.

There are still dozens if not hundreds of hours of fun to be had even after completing the story, and that’s pretty special for a single-player game. Countless outfits we still miss, temples we still need to discover or even bosses that were too impressive to defeat before the end of the story. You can’t think of it as crazy or it’s still doable in Tears of the Kingdom. Even if almost all evil seems to have been driven out of Hyrule, there is still an inhabitant somewhere who could use your help.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trades Link’s abilities from Breath of the Wild for perhaps the best abilities we’ve ever seen in a Zelda game. These abilities make the sequel even better, by simultaneously being a solution to Breath of the Wild’s sparse problems. Players can completely unleash their creativity in this new game, which is actually still not boring after more than 50 hours in this world. Hyrule is still the same in theory, but in practice, the landscape has been completely revamped making there more to explore than ever. The journey Link takes in Tears of the Kingdom, assisted by a truly fantastic soundtrack and characters, is unforgettable as a result.

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