After the teaser trailer for a sequel to Breath of the Wild was shown, fans were worried that this new game couldn’t possibly live up to expectations. After 100+ hours of playing by the time of writing, I can tell you that all my expectations have been exceeded. Here is my The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review.
The Story (SPOILERS!)
The game immediately drops you into exploring a cave system underneath Hyrule Castle with Zelda. After finding several statues that the long-extinct Zonai people built, we get introduced to the Imprisoning War through a tapestry. Further into the cave, we see a green arm attached to the corpse. Getting closer activates something, and the corpse comes back to life, radiating energy that ends up breaking the Master Sword.
Zelda gets knocked off a ledge in the ensuing blast, and Link jumps after her. Failing in his attempt, Zelda is suddenly engulfed with light and disappears. Link keeps falling until he suddenly wakes up and discovers he’s on a floating island. He is then tasked with visiting four shrines in order to open the Temple of Time, where Zelda is located.
In doing so, Link gains three new abilities that he will use throughout his adventure. Upon completing the task, it is discovered that Zelda is actually in the past! You have been talking to the first king of Hyrule, Rauru, who also founded the land of Hyrule. Link is then sent to the mainland to search for clues to Zelda’s location and to stop the Demon King from fully resurrecting.
Reaching Hyrule proper, Link sees the Upheaval has created chasms all over the land. He is also told that the four main locations have been hit with strange occurrences and must fix everyone’s problems. At each location is a sage that Link must awaken to help in the fight against Ganondorf.
There is also a hidden story about Zelda that is told only in the geoglyphs found throughout Hyrule. Link must search for pools of water in order to see what happened to Zelda after she fell into the abyss and disappeared. These visions are of the princess in the past and the rise of Ganondorf into the Demon King. Just like in Breath of the Wild, this part of the story is missable, and yet it adds more depth to an already deep story.
Tears of the Kingdom could have just kept the abilities from Breath of the Wild and called it a day. Instead, we get four new abilities (along with a fifth, secret, mousekatool that will be helpful later on) in which to tackle all incoming puzzles and problems. These abilities can completely change the way you look at a problem, or they can create a whole new one you aren’t prepared for.
The first new ability you get is called Ultrahand, and it helps you build anything you can stick together. Just a quick search on the internet will show bombers, tanks, mechs, and various things that people have made to get around actually fighting. I haven’t gotten too creative in my building yet, but I have made several extremely long bridges that have been useful.
The second ability is Fuse, and it does what it says, merge an item with your weapon, shield, or arrow to give it better stats. The amount of variety you can do with this is astounding. You can take a stick, fuse a sword to the end, and get an extra long pointy stick. My bit of advice is to merge a minecart to a shield as soon as possible. This makes getting around much faster.
Ability number three is Ascend, which helps you get to the top of things much faster. If the ability can reach a flat ceiling, you can use it to reach the top of that structure. It doesn’t matter the distance between the ceiling and the top at all. You could find a cave, use ascend, and now you are on top of the tallest mountain in Hyrule.
Number four is Recall, which lets you return whatever item has recently moved to its previous position. You can send a rock back up into the sky to get to one of the floating islands, or you can send a Talos’ arm back at it to deal damage. Try spinning a weapon in the air for a few seconds, recall it, and watch it spin in the air and damage any enemy that comes close.
Several NPCs from the previous game have made their return, though none have been thirsted after more than Purah. She and Robbie are working together to understand the depths and hopefully uncover the lost history of the people that lived there.
You are also given some help in terms of battling and exploring with your sages. Tulin, Riju, Sidon, Yunobo, and Mineru all grant you their spirit that can be summoned to hang around you and help fight. They also each have a special ability that is very useful. Tulin can create gusts of wind to make gliding better.
The secret ability is called Autobuild, and it lets you build vehicles instantly as long as you have the schematic and items. Don’t worry if you can’t find every item you need for it. It can convert special stones to replace what you need. So make sure to explore everywhere so you can always build that tank you need to destroy your foes.
There are also Gatcha machines that can hold up to four different Zonai instruments that you can collect. You need to give it charges or construct items in order to activate it. Make sure you input a maximum of five at a time so you can get the most out of this system. They will definitely come in handy when you need them.
Bringing a Tank to a Dragon Fight
As stated earlier, Ultrahand lets you create whatever you can imagine. Farming the Gatcha machines allows you to acquire the special materials you need to unleash Hylia’s wrath! Most of these machines are on sky islands, so try to find as many different kinds as possible. If you find one that dispenses cannons, definitely stay there to get multiples.
Then it’s a matter of merging the right items together to make what you want. I created a winged bomber with a glider, two fans, three cannons, two batteries, and a control stick. The cannons automatically target enemies and send justice straight to their faces!
Can’t Save the World Without Side Quests
There are a variety of quests to complete before Hyrule can be saved. Did you really defeat evil if that poor researcher you met didn’t get the honey they requested? Most of these quests are designed to add to your inventory in numerous ways. You may get some food, elixirs, or possibly those sweet, sweet rupees.
I never found these quests to be arduous or something I didn’t want to do. Most of the time, I had already explored enough and picked up what was asked. I was delighted whenever that did occur, as it made me feel validated for my exploration.
The Korok side quest has returned; there are 1000 to collect this time. These are the only way to upgrade your stash to carry more crazy weapons, shields, and bows. I know the previous reward was abysmal, but I’m too far gone to ignore them all.
As Above, So Below
The Sky Islands and Hyrule have been shown off, but one more location remains hidden. When you fall into one of the chasms littered across Hyrule, you will end up in a new area. This underground area is completely void of light until you activate Lightroots, which helps brighten the area. Make sure you bring glowing bulbs with you to light your way, or you will get lost.
The underground is home to many enemies that have been infected by gloom. Every hit you take from one of them will decrease your total hearts until you can reach a root. This new area is as big as Hyrule, so there’s much to explore and discover.
While exploring, I discovered a hideout that belonged to the Yiga Clan. They moved down here after you defeated their master in the previous game. Once I cleared out the area, a chest became available with a new schematic inside. Perfect for creating a vehicle to roam this new world.
A few big bosses are present, so make sure you are careful where you wander. All four dungeon bosses do, in fact, make an appearance in the depths, so be careful. Fighting in mostly darkness is a lot more dangerous than up on land.
Many enemies from Breath of the Wild have made their return for the slaughter. This time, however, they have brought some backup. Gone are the Guardians that gave players nightmares, and instead, we get Constructs. These enemies are from long ago, and they pose a moderate challenge, though some can fuse weapons.
You get your variety of Bokoblins, Moblins, and Lizalfos that littered Breath of the Wild, but that’s just the beginning. Added to the ranks are Boss Bokoblins, a hulking enemy that is a lot harder to defeat. Gibdos and Like Likes have also made their return after a long absence, and they are terrifying. Horriblins are the newest enemy in the franchise and quite formidable.
As with Breath of the Wild, there are overworld bosses scattered around. Talus and Molduga are still here, causing issues for unprepared players. Gleeok makes his triumphant return after sixteen years on the sidelines. While Flux Constructs is a new foe consisting of only blocks, with one of them being the brain.
Taking on these enemies requires strategy and planning, or you could build a flying tank to destroy everything in your path. The choice is completely up to you; no one will judge you. You may get some side eyes from the Lionels, but they are always angry, so don’t take it personally.
Traversing the…… Oh! Something Shiny
After the first area where you get your abilities, the game completely opens up to you. You can go wherever you wish, even if it’s a bad idea. Hyrule gives you ample resources everywhere to build what you want. Depending on how you view it, that freedom will make it difficult for Hyrule to be saved. Something for future Ganons to consider just put collectables in the world, and Link will be too busy to save Zelda.
I can’t tell you how often I’m heading towards a tower to activate it, only to come across a cave. I know that caves have bulbs to help me see in the depths, so I need those. Wait…… what’s that? A Bubbulfrog? Let’s see what it drops….. a Bubbul Gem that tells me to collect more. Great, now I have to find another cave system, and what was I doing again?
Cave systems, wells, shrines, and random researchers are all over the land, and they have just one goal. Stop Link from doing what he was planning on doing. There are also more Koroks to find and even more seeds to collect. This time, you can throw Koroks around if you didn’t forget about the golden poop.
If you’ve played Breath of the Wild, then you should know what the graphics will be like. This time, everything is a little darker and grittier than the brightness we were used to. During my play, I didn’t witness graphical issues or lagging that would hinder what I was doing. For the most part, I was searching for the next shiny thing to pick up and collect.
When you are on one of the sky islands, you can see all of Hyrule. The land looked beautiful and abundant, and I couldn’t see any texture issues the further away I looked. You can see all the important points you need to go to, like towers or geoglyphs. Of course, there are some things that you need to get closer to in order for it to spawn in your view
What’s on the Menu?
The menu screen is very similar to Breath of the Wild, but there aren’t multiple sub-tabs for items this time. You also don’t have to search for items you use the most with a sort feature to put those items in front. If you do have that function on, items will be moved around depending on their use, so you don’t have to keep sorting.
The map is also very easy to navigate between the three separate areas. The marker for where you are located can also be seen on all three maps. You can tell where you are in accordance with each map, and that makes exploring much easier. It’s almost like Nintendo wants you to get out of the menu and back onto the mission.
The Zelda franchise has some of the most iconic music in gaming history. From the main theme to Saria’s Song, Zelda’s music is almost a character on its own. Tears of the Kingdom is no different. With the lofty music as you explore the land to the barely audible music as you delve into the depths.
As I was walking along a snowy path, I could hear the crunch of the snow with every step Link took. Walking along Lake Hylia, the music suddenly grew more ominous, and I discovered that an enemy had started attacking me. This music made the encounter that much better and more impactful.
Each location you visit has music that blends in perfectly with where you are. Each score has an ebb and flow that blends seamlessly into each other. There’s a reason people listen to Zelda music in order to relax.
Tears of the Kingdom is a master class in correctly doing a sequel. Taking a map that most of us spent dozens of hours on and adding more. More exploration, more enemies, more Koroks, and more wonderment. I can’t stress how much I just stopped to look at my surroundings while exploring.
Every aspect of this game is masterfully done. The seer joy of that first skydive to the final blow and the wonderment I felt playing this game brought me back to my childhood. The same feeling I got when I first pushed start on Ocarina of Time. I will admit that I got misty-eyed a few times during my play though.
The freedom that you are provided is something that I know other developers will definitely implement in future games. It’s rare in the modern gaming age that a game will do that. This game doesn’t tell you no, it does laugh in your face when you fail, but it doesn’t say no. Just please be a little nicer to the Koroks. They said they were sorry.
What did you think of Tears of the Kingdom? Did it meet your expectations, or did it leave you wanting? Let us know over on our Twitter and Instagram. While you are here, why not see what else is coming out this month.
Final ScoreFinal Score
Story100/100 PerfectionAfter accidentally setting Ganondorf free, Link and Zelda must work together from different times to put an end to the cycle once and for all.
Gameplay100/100 PerfectionGiving players the freedom to do whatever that want, even if it fails, makes this game very replayable.
Graphics95/100 PerfectionNintendo games aren’t known for realistic graphics, but for the style they used, this is near perfect.
Music & Audio100/100 PerfectionYou can’t think of video game music without the Zelda franchise being at the forefront, and this game is no different.
- 3 maps
- 1000 Korok seeds