Tears of the Kingdom has been out for a few months now and while there are a lot of reviews that come out within that time. I decided I would rather put a few hours (100 plus) into the game before giving my final thoughts. As with Breath of The Wild, you can only truly get to know and understand the game and the love that went into it once you have spent time with it to explore and appreciate the world that Nintendo has built.
When the game was first announced the hype train started rolling and by the time it came out it was going as fast as the future mag lift trains coming to Japan next year. People rushing out to play BotW again or in some cases for the first time so that they can jump right into TotK when it came out. Now that the hype has died down and after playing the game, I believed that while in some cases the game lived up to all the hype, in others it fell a bit flat.
The first area for me is was the sky areas or floating city that was shown in the trailers so much. These areas in actual fact are fairly small and besides from the first area not that fill fulling. While there are some interesting quests that, items, and enemies in these areas after the 3rd or 4th area they all started to feel and look the same. Losing the magic of exploring a floating island very quickly and in some cases a pain to even get to. While a challenge is always fun, being launched into the air or building complicated flying devices just to reach a small area with a flower on it can get very old very quickly.
The building and fusion mechanics are fun and an interesting addition to the game. Making the shrines more challenging and allowing you to think completely out of the box. With these new features, you can glue anything to anything and design and create to your heart’s content and completely up to your imagination. While, a lot of gamers make use of these to torture the poor Korok’s who just want to get back to their companions. I, truthfully found these two aspects useful but that they took away from the main game and story. While it is fun to solve puzzles, rebuild bridges to get to other areas and even build ladders to climb to higher platforms in areas with rain and ice. The building of flying machines, cars, murder machines, etc. broke the immersion of the game and Hyrule. They just don’t fit into the world and lore that Nintendo had built into the first game and carried onto this one. Just imagine, the rolling green hills of Hyrule, a stable in the distance with Beedle walking along and the soft composed music playing in the background. Only for Link to come barging past on a mismatched, giant rolling tower. The same with the weapons, while fusion has to be used to create stronger weapons, watching Link run around with a huge boulder glued to the flame sword looks ridiculous, adding that the larger weapons keep clipping into the ground as he runs along.
That being said those are the only faults in the game. Most of the mechanics from BotW were pulled through onto TotK making it easier to just jump right back into the game. Though this means there is not much to say about the actual gameplay, as it’s almost exactly the same as BotW. You need to complete shrines to get orbs to upgrade your hearts and stamina, weapons get damaged and break over time, you need special clothing and/or potions/food in areas that are hot or cold. Fighting is the same, down to how to dodge, parry, jump, etc. The cooking works exactly the same. And it goes on, there was little to no improvement or differences on any of these areas. Meaning the only new gameplay mechanics is the fusion, building, swimming through rock, and time control on some objects is different. The world is beautifully built, and it never feels empty. Even in areas where there are not a lot of towns or people. The animals, the plants, and the elements just make the whole world feel alive. The map is similar to BotW but with enough changes to make it feel fresh and new so that returning players do not get bored.
The difficulty of the shrines has been increased allowing for greater challenges and fun puzzles. SPOILER WARNING FOR THE REST OF THE PARAGRAPH. The area for me that was most interesting and surprising was the depths, which were never shown in trailers or gameplay leading up to the release of the game. This is found under Hyrule (and is the same size as the map above) and greatly expands on the lore. It is fun to explore and challenging with new mounts, enemies, and plants to discover. While there are not as many quests in this area as they could have added, it adds an interesting dynamic and play style to the game.
The story while following the same tired and tested formula of Zelda games, is interesting and engaging, if not predictable in some cases. The addition of new characters builds on the story in BotW but brings back fan favorites. A lot of the story, as with BotW is told through flashbacks and memories found across the map, which a lot are optional. While you can get the story and enjoy it just from the main beats, finding these additional cut scenes does flesh it out more. What made the story even more engaging for me was the fact that they carried over a lot of side quest storylines from the first game. If you, like me played BotW to death and did all the side missions and extra content. Seeing the growth of the Hudson’s Construction Company, that Tarrey Town has grown, and that a lot of the characters you encouraged to move there still live there, that Hudson’s family has grown. Link even still owns his house in Hateno Village that you can use (go out back to find a cute easter egg) and other things like these which make it feel like a sequel and that you really have returned to the Hyrule you shaped in BotW.
TotK is differently a must-play for all Zelda fans and for anyone who played and enjoyed BotW. Would I say that it’s the greatest Zelda game ever, nope. Will I say it’s the best-made game as many review sites did when the game came out (many of which I feel played for 5 hours and jumped on the hype train), nope. Yet, is it a fun and enjoyable game, with intricate world-building, characters you will love and want to protect at all costs, and challenges that can be one of the most relaxing and peaceful “cozy” games. BotW and TotK will always have a special place in my heart and you can see Nintendo and the team that worked on TotK put their all and love into the game. I just feel that with the need and pressure on them to outdo themselves with what they did in BotW, yet still keeping the game the same but different so as not to upset fans and critics they added in a few mechanics that really did not need to be there and turned the game into Zelda Lego, which subtracts from the rest of the game in a big way.