Review: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Offers a Lot

There are many concerns someone considering playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom could consider. It takes place right after Breath of the Wild, so will the gameplay, map, and story be compelling and fresh enough? Will it be inaccessible because it is a sequel? Does the added content even merit returning to the “same place” again? Will it be too similar to the last game? Fortunately, Tears of the Kingdom does stand on its own, with new Zonai elements that add an unexpected suite of creation options and physics sandbox elements, a story that doesn’t really require a person to play Breath of the Wild, and features that improve the quality of life, make things like weapon durability feel less limiting, and greatly enhance the world by allowing us to explore the land, the skies, and the depths below.

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All someone really needs to know going into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is that Zelda is the princess of Hyrule, Link is her knight, and the entire kingdom is in a place of rebuilding following the defeat of Calamity Ganon. The restoration is hampered by strange Gloom emanating from beneath Hyrule Castle and making people ill. Zelda and Link go to look firsthand see the resurrection of a mummified Ganondorf. The two are separated, with Link’s arm damaged, and he wakes in a cave on Great Sky Island guided by a mysterious figure. He then learns the events caused an Upheaval that sent Hyrule Castle into the sky, plagued realms of the Rito, Gerudo, Goron, and Zora, and resulted in him needing to step up and become the hero Hyrule needs yet again.

Impa

Screenshot by Siliconera

What follows is a slightly more linear take on an open world The Legend of Zelda. Obviously, Breath of the Wild’s influence is felt throughout Tears of the Kingdom. However, I’d say it almost feels like more of a traditional entry while still keeping the concepts of doing what you want, when you want and being able to explore anywhere and create unexpected things. It’s still a very personal experience, and I expect my time with the game would be different than others. But at the same time, the handling of the Great Sky Island tutorial and directive to visit various areas upon returning to Hyrule following the Upheaval. Rather than Divine Beasts to deal with, there are six Temples that act more like traditional dungeons, but also feel like they’re connected to and build on the idea of the Shrines with the sorts of challenges we see. Yet, while that structure is there, it isn’t terribly rigid and allows for some freedom for those who yearn for the opportunities from the previous game.

The execution also means critical elements from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild return in Tears of the Kingdom. Rather than using Sheikah Slate abilities, Link innately learns Zonai ones that allow him to Ascend through ceilings and platforms, Fuse items to your equipment to gain new abilities, combine elements with Ultrahand, Recall an item’s path to rewind its movement, and Autobuild to recreate a past Ultrahand creation. These can mean different means of traversal or capabilities to solve problems. Things like weapon durability, stamina wheels to determine gliding and climbing potential, and temperature susceptibility are also factors we see again. However, it also feels like each one features counters to make them easier to deal with, such as fusing equipment to make it stronger or more durable or a Portable Pot Zonai Device to allow you to make a necessary meal in a pinch.

Zonai Device

Screenshot by Siliconera

Speaking of which, the Zonai Devices are a godsend both for creativity and enhancing the problem-solving nature of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Things start out simply, with things like a Fan to act as an acceleration device, a Portable Pot for cooking, and a Wing to act as a glider. However, as you happen upon new locations, take on quests, or visit different Shrines, the available options expand. After meeting Impa to learn about the geoglyphs, you learn about the Balloon Zonai Device that can be used for hot air balloons. When I activated one Skyview Tower, I got to use a Rocket Zonai Device for the first time. A Shrine introduced the Hydrant, which can be used to create water. The versatility really enhances the experience and means you can do so much as you explore the world. It even means that between the Zonai Abilities and Devices, there can be multiple solutions for every fight or puzzle.

Speaking of solutions, I’d also say the inclusion of Sages in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom strengthens the experience. In Breath of the Wild, we hear about the importance of the Champions. We know how they assisted Link and Zelda. But with the way the Sage Companions work here, it’s like we’re getting to see our own Champions in action. It’s very satisfying, as well as a helpful boon if a player is looking for assistance to take on quests, handle Temples, explore areas that might be troublesome climbs, or could use some support during certain enemy encounters.

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Image via Nintendo

It’s also one of the elements that means that even if The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom isn’t “your” kind of game, the technical capabilities of it are a marvel. This is a game with no real loading between areas, unless you die. You can go from the mainland, ascend into the sky via a tower, then dive into the depths below the kingdom without any pauses. Transitions between gameplay and story segments are seamless. There’s no hesitation when Link is using his Zonai abilities, which is especially laudable when you consider how Rewind works to chart the path of whatever you highlight. This is a real feat, and it’s incredible to see how everything just works in action.

Especially since it works so well at launch. When you start an open world game immediately after its release, you expect some bugs or hiccups. I’m over 40 hours in and not a single issue’s arisen. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom just works and, given the state of many AAA games today, that in and of itself is worth acknowledging.

Sidon

Image via Nintendo

I also marvel at how this isn’t just a game for a certain audience or sort of player. I can imagine everyone finding something to appreciate about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I’m not so great at fighting! I can more than get by, of course, after so many years playing games for work. But I’m not the best and would probably prefer a turn-based RPG or strategic sim, but I’m relishing how well-thought out the shrines can be, especially when I happen upon one with multiple “stages” of puzzles before I reach the end. I also can’t believe how often I get the option to peacefully explore thanks to the new crafting components, as I can cobble together long bridges, log ladders, or vehicles to get around encounters and keep seeing the world.

At the same time, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom does feel like having Ganondorf and his new threat does escalate things. The Gloom and its associated enemies are threatening and persistent in a way the Guardians in Breath of the Wild weren’t. Likewise, the Depths of the world are inviting, due to knowing the sorts of rewards that look below, but also knowing that the corruption and darkness means every dive into them is a substantial risk. As for the sky islands, it’s so freeing, and wondering how to reach different ones feels like a new problem to solve. It’s more open, and I always felt anything could be possible.

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Screenshot by Siliconera

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is an absolutely massive adventure, just like its predecessor Breath of the Wild. However, it isn’t as though we’re retreading familiar paths or going through an expansion of the existing game. Rather, it does feel entirely new, with its new creative elements adding more freedom while still offering a bit more structure when it comes to visiting Temples and following its story. The technical elements and execution mean that it could be welcoming to all audiences and gameplay styles, and it’s a prime example of what sorts of heights the Nintendo Switch can hit.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available for the Nintendo Switch.

10
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

In this sequel to the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild game, you’ll decide your own path through the sprawling landscapes of Hyrule and the mysterious islands floating in the vast skies above. Can you harness the power of Link’s new abilities to fight back against the malevolent forces that threaten the kingdom?

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom offers something for every player, and does so while welcoming anyone with its accessible premise and world.

Food for Thought
  • It’s very easy to customize The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s difficulty by using Zonai Abilities, Zonai Devices, Sages, and even picking and choosing health, stamina, and equipment upgrades.
  • While it is a sequel, I’d say the execution means that it doesn’t really require knowledge of the previous game. The use of Ganondorf of an enemy and nature of the story means it works well as a standalone piece.
  • I’d recommend playing it in a leisurely fashion. There are so many side quests, puzzles, and fun things to happen upon while exploring, and it’s a good idea to have one run that takes advantage of that.
  • Backpack Korok is the best and most identifiable character of 2023.

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Author
Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.