Tears of the Kingdom Review in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Familiar

If you’ve heard this one before, stop me: A scantily dressed Link wanders out of a dark tunnel and emerges in a sun-drenched scene that serves as his and, by extension, our debut to the country of Hyrule after being awakened from a protracted sleep caused by the Great King of Evil, Ganondorf. Then, Link takes a leap of faith off a ledge into the wild blue yonder and lands right in the middle of an even bigger sandbox. This self-contained sandbox serves as a testing ground for the game’s core mechanics. Link explores it and gathers some essential items for survival.

You’d be right to assume that the general storyline is simply a summary of the first hour or so of gameplay in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, these are, more or less, the same beats that the game’s direct sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, follows as well, with the exception of one small tweak added to the beginning for consistency’s sake—mostly to help explain away how Link has lost the majority of his stamina vessels during his slumber.

Fair enough, the beginning sequences of the two games do differ in one significant and obvious way: This time, you get a taste of the mechanics on Great Sky Island, a massive floating island that is several hundred feet above Hyrule, thus Link’s initial plummet is from a much greater elevation than it was in the previous game’s Great Plateau. This provocative performance is a great allegory for Tears of the Kingdom, which promises so much more than it actually delivers by stating that the more extravagant the display, the more gratifying it would be.

The dominant philosophy of today’s triple AAA sequels is that larger is always better, yet bigger typically equates to items of the « more » sort. In the case of Tears of the Kingdom, it entails a lot more forgettable fetch quests from bland NPCs, more uninteresting ruins to explore with little to show for it, and more copy-pasted terrain to travel over in between objectives. It is, in other words, a hearty dish of more of the same exact item that has already been presented.

Tears of the Kingdom is the only game in the Legend of Zelda series to have so precisely copied previous games’ actions, despite the fact that each game may appear to be merely employing a different iteration of the same premise. Along with some fundamental background, the three primary characters are pretty much consistent across all of the games, although the journey via them is virtually always given a significant overhaul. If anything, the direct sequels are the ones that have surprised players the most since they gave them the most leeway to experiment and traverse uncharted territory (as the sparse Majora’s Mask most resoundingly did).

While Tears of the Kingdom isn’t even close to being the most disappointing game to bear the Legend of Zelda moniker, it frequently feels the safest and least adventurous. The more mundane question at hand is: How does it build on Breath of the Wild, rather than how the game advances and adds to the series or gaming in general.

It turns out that the game frequently feels like a glorified DLC, except from a few nice new bells and whistles. With the exception of Teba’s brat son Tulin, the side characters you deal with in Tears of the Kingdom are mostly the same ones you dealt with in Breath of the Wild. More spaces for rusty swords and shields that will keep breaking after what feels like five or hits are still available in the Korok seed collectathon. And sure, you can bypass all the fuss of slaying dungeon enemies and accumulating heart containers and go right to the boss battle if you’d like.

Furthermore, there is still a good chance that you will lose quickly; it will only take, say, ten seconds for a fly to be defeated by a fly swatter.

How is Breath of the Wild different from Tears of the Kingdom?

For starters, Link no longer collapses nearly immediately after reaching anything higher than a one-bedroom cabin thanks to the thankfully updated climbing mechanism. And what’s even amazing is how Tears of the Kingdom increases Breath of the Wild’s geography vertically by including dizzying islands that dot the skies above Hyrule and a huge network of underground caves below.

The first time you find yourself in The Depths, possibly after leaping through a chance well or a sizable, gloom-engulfed hole in the earth, it is a really eerie sight. Unless you come upon the perfect side objective, this completely dark region doesn’t receive a good introduction, and it immediately gives out a deadly charge. Until you use your first Lightroot, which helps illuminate a tiny piece of the black region, powerful foes might seem to appear out of nowhere, and you can run into an unseen wall or become stuck in an unrecognisable rut. Following this, you’ll be able to dodge potentially dangerous situations with relative ease and move through as if you were on the surface above.

The second notable change to the gameplay in Tears of the Kingdom is the addition of five new Link power-ups, which are MineCraft-like construction components. Although some of these have real untapped potential, such as a Fusing ability for weapons that essentially involves glueing one long object to another to increase its attack power, Ultrahand, the mechanic that has been given the most attention out of the five, will probably be the one that is utilized the most frequently. With it, you’ll be supergluing leftover Zonai items together to create flying or land-moving contraptions that, by themselves, make Hyrule’s horse stable industry obsolete. These leftover Zonai tools come in the shape of leftover fans, large wheels, hot air balloons, and more.


There’s something to be said about a game that drops you off in a wide-open space, assigns you a task that must be completed by whatever means, and instructs you to go there via many different land masses. Tears of the Kingdom has a certain amount of independence that might appear novel in this regard. However, the game as a whole is too clumsily kissing the ring of its predecessor to ever stand on its own two feet as a unique entry in a cutting-edge action-adventure franchise.

It’s natural to speculate whether this game’s sequel will be even more extravagant, if it would send Link on a cosmic journey similar to that of Nintendo’s plumber icon Mario and land him in space. Maybe we’ll get to witness him leap from the moon before he slowly approaches Hyrule once more. If this is the case, one can only hope that more than just the route back to Zelda’s kingdom will be paved with really original, risk-taking creative highs, similar to those that Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, as well as earlier Legend of Zelda games, rode.

Because maintaining a healthy balance between tradition and innovation won’t help a game like Tears of the Kingdom—or any other—succeed if its choice to rely on someone else’s coattails is its most obvious flaw.

On May 12, a code from Golin was used to review this game.

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