The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a 2024 exclusive

If you look at Tears of the Kingdom from the outside, the new Nintendo exclusive seems empty and boring. But it is worth launching the game on your own. It seems like an almost impossible task to understand it completely. Under every stone and bush, something is happening, a new adventure is at every step. And you won’t find such a spirit of freedom in any game today!

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Official Trailer

After completing the first part of the dilogy, I was pretty sure that Tears of the Kingdom was a “$70 add-on” – the five-hour introduction introduces some of the new mechanics, but the player constantly sees familiar techniques. Again, four villages and the forces of four nations, again the same characters. For a long time, I thought I would be the main opponent of the popularity and hype of the new part of Zelda. And then the introduction was over, I was released into the open world and I’ve been lost in it to this day.

Like Majora’s Mask, but for Breath of the Wild

I am glad that Nintendo listened to the criticism of the first part and paid more attention to the story and characters. There are more cutscenes, the characters of the previous part have been developed, and the plot is intriguing. Going down to the king’s castle, Link and Zelda awaken the imprisoned Ganon, who had been there all along. Link loses his right arm, Zelda falls into the abyss and disappears, and Ganon transforms the world of Hyrule.Some of the plot moves of the previous part become immediately clear. But don’t worry: even if you haven’t played Breath of the Wild, you can safely start with Tears of the Kingdom – the story is self-contained and connected to the previous part only by trifles and details.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom 

At the same time, the developers did not forget about the essence of the first part of the dilogy. “Tears of the Kingdom is still about the player’s freedom during the game. This is also reflected in the plot – it is allowed to learn the vicissitudes of the story, in the segment “after the introduction” and “before the finale”, in any order. The open world of Hyrule, which has changed, only encourages this. The game has also introduced side storylines. “Episodic quests” tell a coherent story that will continue in the next game after the completion of one episode. One of these tasks, which touched my soul, tells the story of a girl who leaves home. She had to go to the Gerudo desert to come of age there. And within an hour of playing time, the player becomes attached to all the characters of this action and empathises with them. It’s impossible to watch the touching ending of the quest without crying – Nintendo knows how to touch grown men with poignant stories!

Unique Worlds in Zelda: A journey through a world that has already been seen

In 50 hours, I saw three full-fledged worlds: the skies above Khairul with flying islands; Khairul transformed after the Cataclysm, where parts of ancient buildings have fallen and continue to fall, flying in the sky; and the underground world of Caverns with its endless caves and pitch blackness. And all three worlds are so full of content that at the time of writing, I’ve seen maybe only a third of it! I won’t spoil the content from Caverns out of principle – you need to see it for yourself.

The middle world, that is, Hyrule, is not only littered with the remains of ancient buildings, but has also expanded into the depths – full-fledged caves have appeared, where new enemies live. Sometimes treasures or resources are guarded there, and less often you will have to go down into the caves to solve puzzles on the surface. Because of this, there is no feeling that the player has been presented with the same game in a new wrapper – only sometimes you meet iconic places from the first part and your heart is filled with nostalgia. Horror goblins from the caves are not the only newcomers. Zonaia golems have also appeared – mechanisms of varying degrees of complexity that attack Link as soon as they see him. The enemies known from the first part of the game have more abilities. For example, goblins have grown horns and will not hesitate to use them to kick the protagonist in battle. These small and not-so-small bastards have also begun to obey the big and fat Boss – he sends them into battle or calls them back to him during a fight. And only when the little things die, he will attack Link himself.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Mr. Aonuma Gameplay Demonstration

Organs and spare parts from enemies dismantled in battle can still be used to strengthen Link. If in Breath of the Wild they were needed to brew potions, now you will have to use the horns and hooves of your enemies to improve your own arsenal. Due to the Cataclysm, weapons were destroyed by miasma and lost their full power. New abilities of the protagonist come to the rescue.

Beyond Sword and Magic: Link with a New Prosthesis and Abilities

Having lost his arm, Link did not remain crippled – the guy was fitted with a better, more sophisticated prosthesis! It will also give the protagonist new abilities. After completing the introduction, the protagonist will learn how to: assemble objects into mechanisms using Combikinéz; glue finds to weapons and make them better using Magic Assembly; leak through ceilings or mountains using the Magic Portal; and turn objects back in time using Auto Reverse. Each of these abilities is used everywhere – the game’s gameplay design is tailored to the player’s experiments.The jumpsuit is needed to solve puzzles in sanctuaries and create crazy mechanisms – there are hundreds of videos on the web from users where they collect aircraft, combat vehicles and fool around with Koroks. It’s not boring to assemble mechanisms over and over again, nor is it boring to use them to overcome obstacles: assemble a catapult to launch over a long distance; create a fan-powered sled that glides across grass or miasmas; get into a plane with a bunch of fans and batteries to climb to the top of an above-ground island and find challenges there. The possibilities are endless.

Enchantment is Nintendo’s elegant way out of a situation where it needs to give the player more variety without taking away the old options. In fact, Tears of the Kingdom uses old weapons, but since they are ineffective due to miasma damage, you have to get out of the way. After knocking out the horns of a bokoblin or goblin boss, they can be attached to the weapon to increase the attack power. It works with any object – even mushrooms on a stick. Or attach an explosive barrel to the shield, jump on top of a crowd of enemies, slide the shield under Link’s feet and blow them up! Or pick up a fallen star, attach it to an inactive wand and create a staff of light to explore the Caverns. Auto-reverse objects in time is used to solve puzzles or fly to heavenly islands – stand on a piece of the ancient structure that has fallen, start the time reversal and wait for the newly-made elevator to take Link to his destination. But the ability also has a lot of potential in battle. Was a stone thrown at the hero? Send the gift back! Did the boss split into a bunch of pieces? Climb on one of them and use Auto Reverse to pull yourself to the vulnerable point that has opened up!

Possibility of Experiments in the game

Unlike Elden Ring, which deliberately puts a spoke in the player’s wheel, the new Zelda gives tools and allows you to experiment with everything you see on the screen. This is not to say that Tears of the Kingdom is an easy game – the enemies here are merciless, and in some areas they kill with several blows, if not with one! But the player always has a choice of how to act in a given situation – they are not forced to run around and farm experience points, level up their characteristics and stab everyone they meet with a levelling stick. The player’s head and brain are pumped: “How can I use all the means available to me to emerge victorious from this fight?” – and the solution is always at hand, as if the developers have clearly calculated every battle in this vast world!

During the story mission in the village of the water people Zora, which was flooded with mud, I couldn’t open the entrance to the tower – it was covered with mud. AAA releases filled with scripts taught me to leave such things for later – most likely, they will give an ability or the mud will come off by itself in the story. Until I realised that the dirt could be washed off by attaching a water fruit to the arrow. And it worked! I felt like a genius and a fool at the same time – this delight in solving a riddle and shame at my own stupidity cannot be explained. You just have to feel it. In battle, the player can also experiment: attach a confusion flower to an arrow and lure some of the enemies to their side for a while; throw a smoke mushroom under the feet of a crowd of enemies and kill each of them from behind; use elemental chuchu jelly or fruit to impose effects on enemies. It all depends on the player’s willingness to try to solve these mini-problems. Sanctuaries are testing grounds for creating mechanisms and solving puzzles with their help. At first, you don’t realise how well the developers think you’ve solved the local puzzles. But it seems that there is no “right solution” – everything that the player can implement works. And this is intoxicating, forcing you to go against far-fetched rules more and more often – after all, these are just restrictions in your head, not the framework set by the developer.

Switch and its shortcomings that affect the game

The only and main drawback of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is its release on Nintendo Switch. The soapy picture and low frame rate are not the kind of game you want to see in such a technical state. Yes, you can forgive it – you don’t have time to count the frame rate during gameplay – but you want to see the picture in all its glory. And this is where emulators come in. Gorgeous graphics in 1080p, 2K or 4K and 30/60 frames per second – it all depends on the hardware. This is how I’ve been playing the new Zelda and I don’t feel any pangs of conscience about it – even though I have a Switch and I’m a big collector of physical copies of Nintendo games. At the time of writing, the Yuzu emulator plays Tears of the Kingdom without any problems, and the performance is only getting better every day! Not to mention the community mods, which increased the drawing range, shadow quality, and removed the dynamic change in picture resolution.

Conclusion

To sum up after 50 hours of gameplay, Tears of the Kingdom is a phenomenon. You won’t see this kind of freedom in any major AAA release from big publishers today – they try to follow the points of interest, point out a smelly pile of content in the form of questions and please a dissatisfied customer. As long as they don’t get bored and bring money to the cash register!

The new Zelda makes you take a fresh look at video games. You want to live in it, spend your free time and constantly experiment, testing the local mechanics for strength. And Tears of the Kingdom doesn’t let you down – it surprises and delights you constantly, fogging your mind with freedom and making you try to play in different ways.

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