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GAME REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – the rightful sequel, or just an expensive DLC?

Alan Blade reviews Tears of the Kingdom and gives it top marks

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The mysterious sequel to Breath of the Wild which left fans waiting six years to finally get their hands on was finally released back in May.

Since then we have been constantly playing and testing the sheer limits of what’s possible within The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (TotK). As the trailers show the sky is literally the limit, and yet there is so much more below the fabled Kingdom of Hyrule than fans were left to believe.

Whether it’s traversing a familiar yet unknown map, battling new foes or flying around on your own whacky creations there is almost no end to the fun adventures you can encounter playing through Tears of the Kingdom.

The Beginning

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Just like its predecessor, Link is thrown onto a tutorial area to learn the basics all over again, however this time we’re in the sky! The equivalent to the Great Plateau is instead the Great Skylands, in which a spirit, Rauru, of a lost species called Zonai is there to guide you through.

A significant change in TotK is the freedom within the game, as while you can’t quite escape the Sky Islands early, you can travel wherever you want to collect the new abilities to replace the old runes.

To start with, Link can obtain four new abilities: Ultra Hand, Fuse, Recall and Ascend with a few old and new runes to obtain later in the game. These four abilities are the core to your playstyle, giving Link absolute freedom and allowing you to solve dungeons however you want.

Every player will experience that “wait…that actually worked!” moment and it’ll feel amazing.

From the islands you jump down to Hyrule below to start your journey and play however you want.

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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Official Trailer #3 (YOUTUBE)

Gameplay and Mechanics

As mentioned earlier, there are the four core mechanics which pave the way that you’ll play TotK. The most notable is Ultra Hand: functioning similar to Magnesis from Breath of the Wild this ability will let you grab anything metal; but also, pretty much anything at all so long as it isn’t an enemy or glued to the ground!

It also arrives with a new mechanic to stick objects together and build vast vehicles, or just to build a very, very long bridge. This is the clutch which gives the player the chance to do whatever they want, however they want.

Our personal favourite use was to build the famous Hoverbike. This small build consisting of 2 fans and a steering stick gives full freedom to fly around the Kingdom’s sky and depths without worrying about stamina or time. However, players still need to be aware of their battery as if you run out, you’ll find yourself tumbling towards the ground.

Continuing on to the second main ability, Fuse – This craft ability will let you connect any item on the floor or in your inventory to your sword, shield or even arrows.

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In some ways this replaces the elemental swords and arrows from Breath of the Wild, but mainly it allows the players to create whatever weaponry they want, out of pretty much whatever they want. We recommend utilising some of the new Light Dragon’s scales or horns by attaching some of them onto your weapons as they’ll heal you for a quarter of your life every time you hit an enemy. Or, in turn you could fuse a Zonai device such as a cannon to your spear and build a make-shift musket!

There is also Recall, this builds on the foundation of Stasis from Breath of the Wild allowing you to bring objects to a halt and then return them to their original position. This can be used as one of the many ways to reach the Sky Islands, just hop on some fallen debris and send it flying back up. Our personal favourite use of this was to catch ourselves following a misplay, such as dropping our Hoverbike off a cliff, which Recall would give us the opportunity to gather it right back.

Lastly, the fourth main ability that you also start with is Ascend from the four shrines on the Great Sky Islands. This might be forgettable at first – especially considering it was only meant for play testing to cheat your way out of caves before the developers realised how useful it could be as a game mechanic – but this ability can save the player so much time as it allows them to fly right into any surface above them so long as you can see the other side. With the expansion of caves, this ability has been so helpful in exploration.  

These four abilities aren’t the only ones, and as said before you’ll reunite with some old favourites while also seeing new mechanics!

And for those collectors you’ll be happy to know that the Amiibo unlocks have returned too, but for those who distain them then you’ll also be glad to know they can now be found in the base-game.

The Amiibo unlocks are now fully open, but don’t expect them to be easy to obtain, with the only exclusive items still locked behind amiibo are the new paraglider skins for dedicated collectors.

Unfortunately, the Wolf Link companion has been cut, only giving meat when summoned.

The Story

Before you even arrive at the sky islands, you’ll find your self deep down underground with Princess Zelda exploring strange occurrences coming from there.

Zelda will talk about a mysterious race of dragon-like people called the Zonai which is one of the key focuses of this game. You will find some hieroglyphics depicting a war in Hyrule’s past, however the ending is seemingly obscured by boulders before you and Zelda come across a corpse who we now know to be Ganondorf.

From there the story will lead you to the start of the game.

We won’t get too deep into the story, but from the start, after diving down from the islands, you’ll have two primary objectives; find Zelda and regional phenomenon.

The former will be your primary goal, inevitably leading you to fight Ganondorf while the latter will focus on various regional events replacing the Champions and the Divine Beasts. Though neither are required to finish the game.

You’ll also unlock a quest to find various Geo-glyphs which show new cutscenes and some familiar imagery showing the true story of Hyrule.

When found, you will get awesome cutscenes of the past leading up to this very moment, and the present all up until you find the Master Sword.

Outside of those quests, there are also a lot of side quests and familiar faces to help rebuild Hyrule, including even building your own house!

Each quest will result in a unique reward as well, with them primarily being the four champion abilities replacing some of the most loved mechanics of Breath of the Wild.

Personally, while the dungeons all have a new feel these champion abilities will fall short of what they used to be and they cannot do much when compared to our current runes and Zonai devices.

You will have no rush or true requirement to really do any of the main storylines, even getting the paraglider is potentially optional.

There is really no way for it to be more of an Open-world game, we have played it for hours at a time and haven’t progressed in the story, and yet have never had a second of boredom.

Courtesy of Nintendo

The Switch

The biggest issue I found with Breath of the Wild was the hardware limitations – and they’re still there in TotK.

Visually the game looks fantastic, the cutscenes are all perfectly seamless with great voice acting. However, we have had some technical difficulties where the game has taken several minutes to load even on the inventory page.

It also feels like the game wants you to cheat, with several duplication methods found in the first few weeks. Some are even easily obtainable by just playing regularly so the average player might accidentally come across them.

Comparison with its predecessor: Breath of the Wild

Compared to Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom is a direct upgrade with improvements to every issue with its predecessor. The players want dungeons? They have dungeons. The players want to explore the sky? Go build a plane! There is little that you cannot do in this game!

The story is fantastic and extremely emotional at parts thanks to the pace of the game, the brilliantly put together cutscenes and the use of time. With the gloom being a direct upgrade to the Malice from Breath of the Wild, adding further horror to Ganondorf’s reign.

Our personal favourite improvement are the boss fights. In Breath of the Wild the divine beast fights were all visually the same and appeared cluttered up, even Ganon looked slightly unremarkable.

However, in TotK they’re all very unique from a shark to a giant flying goliath called Colgera. This beast was fought miles into the sky, and while the fight wasn’t the hardest it sure was a spectacle to watch.

For a more traditional boss fight we still have all the mini-bosses and of course Ganondorf to fight.

However, the Guardians that appeared in Breath of the Wild are seemingly all gone. The games time skip is unknown between both games, but pretty much all the Sheikah technology is nowhere to be seen, and as such the terrifying robotic spiders are gone too. But fear not, they have been replaced by an even more terrifying jump scare. You’ll find them scatted, but our first interaction was through getting the Hylian Shield again – at first it seems almost identical to Breath of the Wild, but it is not.

While we believe the dungeons are a direct upgrade to the Divine Beasts, and that the champions are great, especially how they can travel with you, their abilities are much weaker.

Ravali’s replacement Tulin continues with the best ability – instead of an updraft Tulin summons a horizontal gust in the air sending you flying which is a much more useful ability for the landscape of TotK.

Arguably, the other champion abilities are much less useful and in our opinion, their biggest flaw is the fact you must interact with their spirit over just using controls, half of the time this resulted in them fleeing from us causing us to die as a result. Whistling isn’t consistent for it either.

Lastly, there is an extra champions ability which is hidden throughout the game. This isn’t all that useful typically but can help with resource gathering – We love this one as its associated boss fight was very reminiscent of a Transformers battle or a modern day Skylanders Giants Arkeyan robot’s fight.

Pictured: Ganondorf (Courtesy of Nintendo)

Conclusion

Overall, this game has some short comings from continuity between the two games or the champion abilities but generally it’s a near one-to-one upgrade from Breath of the Wild.

The fights are awesome, the map is so much larger with having not only the sky but also all the depths underground to explore – the horror of Subnautica’s Void all over again.

The dungeons and story are brilliant, with its musical score also phenomenal too. If you like open-world games this must be number one on your list to try out, even if you didn’t play the first game or aren’t a Zelda fan.

For those fans who are not too big on open worlds, then there is still a place for them here, but the primary focus will be on the ever-expanding horizon, and the freedom of the players.

In conclusion, there is a lot we have left out, including parts of the story and abilities, all the way through to the new collectables such as armour that can negate fall damage.

Even original Zelda references and enemies such as Gleeocks are back.

Pretty much all of Breath of the Wild’s content is back too, but this review has covered the starting basics needed for anyone to understand this unparalleled game.

Even though Hyrule is the same, it felt completely different – for those who worry that it is a £60 DLC then there is no need. Tears of the Kingdom is the sequel that Breath of the Wild deserved, and it has done it justice. We could not ask for more!

OUR SCORE: 10/10 – We do not give that score out lightly.

The shortcomings are all minor, or realistic for the change in how the gameplay is done. It made sense for changes to happen as they are no longer needed now. But when we can make full on logic gates in a game, we can forgive them for Tears of the Kingdom being ran on our several year-old Nintendo Switch.

The improvements are all just straight up improvements. The freedom is brilliant, and we typically do not play open worlds with these substantial possibilities. We do miss Wolf-Link, but the champions partly replace them and the final cutscenes are all great. While the last one will surely bring tears to many fans’ eyes, our personal favourite is the final one depicting the end of the war especially when the iconic theme kicks in. This game is easily worth buying a switch for.

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