As one of the very few direct sequels in The Legend of Zelda series, Tears of the Kingdom has a lot to live up to. Breath of The Wild was a giant step forward for the franchise propelling the experience into a massive open world while introducing countless new gameplay mechanics such as cooking, puzzles, Link’s powers and so much more. There’s no denying that Tears of The Kingdom feels familiar due to this but at the same time, the game feels wonderfully new too.
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This is thanks to a number of fantastic new introductions to not only the world around you but also the general gameplay. Hyrule is bigger and better in so many ways. The catastrophic event called the Upheaval has caused the land to rupture forming new locations and reworking many of the older ones too.
Then there’s the sky above Hyrule which is now its own open world littered with floating platforms each containing their own little area of mystery and excitement. Nintendo then took things further by creating an entire clone of Hyrule deep underground in the kingdom. This fully explorable area is shrouded in complete darkness and for the most part, is a one-to-one map replica of the land above.
So Tears of the Kingdom has three sprawling areas to bask in. Each of them delivers an unrivalled sense of exploration which you struggle to find in gaming. In all honesty, I haven’t been captivated by an open world so brilliantly designed as this since Elden Ring. To make things better, it far surpasses Breath of the Wild too thanks to its newly reworked areas of Hyrule, the sky kingdom and of course, the eerie world that awaits below.
I am not kidding around when I say I literally got lost for hours on end exploring the dark chasms of the underground. It is immaculately detailed with abandoned mines scattered around each hill, enemy fortresses to fight through, secrets to uncover and so much more. Nintendo also encouraged me to explore this dark underworld by delivering some of the game’s best creation tools which can only be obtained by looking around in the area.
The underworld also delivers an incredible sense of mystery thanks to its pitch-black landscape. No joke here. The land is completely dark and you can’t see anything but a few enemy bonfires, Poes lit up in the distance and the red substance which has infected the land called Gloom. I was forced to either attach Brightgloom Seeds to my arrows to light up the distance or stand around and throw them ahead of me to help guide my way.
Every now and then I would spot a Lightroot in the distance which are giant bulb-like trees that act as the fast travel spots and lanterns which light up the area. However, these only light up the area to a certain degree so once I walked a bit further, I would have to rinse and repeat the process. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience to explore and the sheer sense of danger makes it a triumph in world design.
Of course, the Gloom is also deadly. It ate away at Link’s hearts blocking healing until I either returned to the surface or healed them at a Lightroot. Gloom-infected enemies would also disable these hearts forcing me to take an entirely different approach to combat. It also then adds new Gloom-resistant gear to the game and new recipes I could cook up to heal it. As a result, the entire of the Depths and everything it brings to the game felt so refreshing. It also merges into the story and quests brilliantly.
In every location I visited, I could not help but wonder what the depths might look like in the area down below. Every time I spotted a chasm, which is a giant gaping hole in the ground leading downwards, I wouldn’t think twice about jumping down. As a result, I got lost down there for countless hours.
Tears of The Kingdom also relies heavily on a sandbox feature that sees Link craft and create things. Now when I use the word “create” I really mean that the possibilities are as limited as your imagination. I could pick virtually anything up with Link’s phantom arm, drag it around and attach it to another object. This goes for everyday items such as blocks, rocks, wooden logs, barrels and other assets.
However, the real fun is using what the game calls are Zonai Devices to craft stuff. These objects are functional assets that come in many forms. Countless forms if anything and I was only as good as my current creation. Taking a fan and slapping it onto a set of wooden logs made a boat. The fan would propel me across the lake.
I could then take things a step further and combine a rocket with three fans and a bird-like plane object together. I then attached a control stick and I had myself a literal jet plane which soared through the air. These creations are not vital to getting around but also incredibly fun to make and experiment with.
The Zonai rocket was definitely my favourite to use. While its life is short, it helped me boost things across the sky, land and lakes. I made it a thing of mine to put a rocket onto everything. This creation system not only makes exploration fun but at times, I used the objects in combat too. I often dropped down a Zonai Spring when fighting a Flux Golem who decided to float in the air above me. That way, I could quickly shoot into the air and glide down onto the enemy to deal damage.
Link can also attach these objects to his weapons and shields. A rocket on a shield would act as a boost into the air. A Fire Breathing Zonai device on a sword would spit out flames when I slashed enemies. If anything, Tears of the Kingdom is a playground and these features make it pure joy to mess around in. From attaching Flower Bombs to arrows or building a mini army of tanks, there’s no limit to where I took the game and it is a simple set of features that elevates the game to a remarkable level.
All of this also works hand in hand with the exploration of the Depth and the Sky Kingdom too. I often created a plane with a few lights on it to soar through the darkness down below. I would use floating platforms and rockets to push myself higher and higher into the sky above.
The sky kingdom isn’t as vast as the Depths but it is also an entirely unique experience too. Thanks to these floating islands, I was forced to explore the lands whenever I found myself shot into the air. I could also decide to go there at any moment by constructing a vehicle to do so.
These floating areas come with their own challenges. Firstly, they are obviously floating in the air so getting around is always nerve-wracking. Most of the time, I was given tools to get around but nothing was stopping me from creating a plane, balloon or a rocket-powered floating platform (you can tell how much I loved the rockets).
The floating islands offer the same unrivalled freedom as Hyrule and the Depths. Every new floating rock I encountered had to be explored. Every shrine had to be conquered. Every treasure chest had to be unlocked. It is just a constant feed of fun in Tears of the Kingdom.
Hyrule is just as breathtaking. With towns scattered across the land and people to meet, it was difficult to decide where I would spend my time. I made an effort to spark a conversation with every person. Even if they didn’t have any quests to take on, their dialogue would offer insight into something in the area worth investigating.
Of course, the game doesn’t track this so I had to constantly take screenshots and type down notes of these tidbits of information in order to take on my own personal quests. The sheer sense of adventure here is so incredibly addictive that I would phase out and disappear on my own journey in Tears of the Kingdom. Hours later, I would be far from my actual objective but oozing with joy.
Many of the iconic features from Breath of the Wild have also returned in Tears of the Kingdom. Everything can be cooked and Link can’t withstand certain climates without the correct gear and items. Of course, the game didn’t hold my hand here either. I had to venture out to find ingredients to heal a person infected with gloom or find a store to buy cold-resistant gear. Until such a time, I couldn’t proceed further in that area.
In many ways, the game made me responsible for how effective my trips through the world were. I had to problem-solve obstacles in my way, cook food to prepare for a tough journey, craft vehicles to get around and read dialogue to uncover my next goal. Even though the missions would list objectives, the game forcefully leaves out vital parts of a quest such as locations and items. Only chatting with certain people would detail this important information.
Link also takes on some wonderful main quests in the game. I won’t discuss them here to avoid spoiling them but companions also joined my quest and came with their own unique abilities I could use throughout the game. They also directly fight alongside Link which is great for large-scale battles.
Of course, I have to discuss the performance of the game a bit here too because it is a hot topic. Tears of the Kingdom does have moments where the frame rate was all over the place. Often, when building vehicles and moving large objects around the world, this would pop up. More so during combat with multiple enemies on the screen at the same time. Fire in the grass would kick up wind and cause this too.
But with that being said, is it broken and unplayable? Not in the slightest. At times I wondered how Nintendo actually pulled this game off with 4GBs of RAM. Sure, things aren’t as crisp and detailed in the distance as you would see on other platforms but the world is impressive at every angle. Smoke and mirrors have been used to hide some of the rough parts of the game. But Tears of the Kingdom still looks phenomenal and is a dream to play even with the odd frame rate drop here. If you lived with Breath of the Wild’s odd frame rate issue, you’ll be fine here too.
But it is the combination of everything I have discussed that makes Tears of The Kingdom a masterpiece. The fleshed-out world is both magical and daunting at the same time. The sense of exploration combined with the playground mechanics creates this awe-inspiring sense of freedom. Where Breath of The Wild struck gold, Tears of the Kingdom has hit diamonds. It is majestic. It is the ceremonious journey of the decade. That powerful feeling I had as I leapt off a rock in the sky only to gasp in joy at the world below me doesn’t happen every day. It truly brought light into my life for the past few weeks and made the bad days better. That is the magic in Tears of The Kingdom and I loved every second of it.
This The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom review is based on a code provided to us by Nintendo. The game is available on 12 May starting at R1,349 exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom Review
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the ceremonious journey of the decade. Its awe-inspiring open world doubles up as a playground of fun thanks to a unique building system that brilliantly ties into every aspect of the game. There’s magic here – it is an unforgettable tale.