REVIEW

REVIEW

The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom

May 29, 2023

GOOD

  • Technical masterpiece
  • Beautifully animated world
  • Objectively unique experience

BAD

  • Difficult
  • Frustratingly aimless
  • Definitely not “Old-school” Zelda

OKAY

OKAY

Hello, my best Nintendo Gamers and Friends! 

I am going to break the news early and then you all will know that this is as unbiased as I can be. I have loved and supported Nintendo since I can remember. Nintendo franchises like Pokemon, Super Mario, Yoshi and of course, Zelda hold such special gaming memories for me. I do, however, prefer the top-down approach to the Zelda games, with my most favourite being Link’s Awakening. And so, it is with much trepidation, that I admit that, unlike the 10 million other people in the world, I did not enjoy my time in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I didn’t play much BOTW to be fair, and I know the two work with and build on each other, but much like the first one, TOTK just didn’t ‘click’ for me. Now, before we get into exactly why I felt the way I did I thought I’d throw that info out first so that you know my review comes from a place of love and hopefully with some personal context helps you make a decision about whether or not the game will be for you.

My Tears in the Kingdom

Some of my gaming friends never want to hear from me again. My wife has had to help with putting up signs for the president of a construction company to get me any form of money to buy anything. And the number of times I have seen the Game Over screen might rival my time in Elden Ring…

My switch might be slightly bent. We got a noise complaint because I kept screaming at Link. 

Yup, I did not like this game. However, I believe that having spent many (many) hours in the lands and skies of Hyrule I have more than enough insight to explain why I didn’t have a good time with TOTK and perhaps why you still might (even if I never pick it up again).

First and foremost – I found TOTK to be oblique and obtuse. I will be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of open-world games and that is definitely part of the problem. However, while I’m not the biggest proponent of hand-holding – TOTK felt like it relied too heavily on an engineering-type player. I spent countless hours on the tutorial section alone – trying to figure out how to get down. Now, I can already hear people screaming “Get Gud”… However, I’m a pretty experienced player of video games – I’ve been doing this for most of my life and if I found the game tough to get into – this definitely should raise some red flags about difficulty. And maybe ‘difficulty’ isn’t the right word… it’s more like the game makes certain assumptions about what the player will know (and be able to do) coming in and if you fit that mould – you’ll probably love it from the get-go. However, for those of us with different play styles – the lack of accessibility immediately puts you off. It all becomes a frustrating slog. And for a first-time player… it will just feel impossible and most importantly not fun.

…the lack of accessibility immediately puts you off. It all becomes a frustrating slog.

Then, one of the other elephants in the room… yes, the weapons still break. And yes, It still irritated me to no end. You may go through a really intense section of the game that involves timing, platforming and some intense puzzle-solving and be rewarded with a super great sword… only to have it break five minutes later. It’s really demotivating. Yes, the new fuse abilities help this a little and weapon durability will always be a contentious issue – however, for me, it still just makes the game less enjoyable. I also struggled with the economy of the game. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places (and I didn’t use the duplication glitch). However, I found myself constantly struggling to find enough rupees – and so while I wanted to deck Link out in the latest and greatest clothes I could never afford what I wanted. In short, while Zelda has always been about puzzles and challenge – I’ve never felt the game was actively trying to suck the joy out of the game for a puzzle’s sake and sadly this is how much of my time felt in TOTK. And after suffering through all the different biomes, visiting and exploring all three levels of the map I finally arrived in an area where I just kept getting murdered… and murdered… and murdered. And that’s the point that I knew it was just never going to be the game for me.

Flying High, Drowning in Details

However, besides the fact that I did not like it, I can also look further than my own frustrations and expectations and confirm that TOTK is a technical masterpiece and is very likely to be many people’s Game of The YearIt is astonishing how the developers manage to run such an elaborate game (on the Switch no less), with a variety of complex and interconnected mechanics that ALL work how they should, and there’s not a bug to be seen! As Link falls, his animation will morph into exactly what it should be – be it rolling down a mountain or spread eagle dropping from a great height; Shoot some arrows – you can go collect them; Count the number of acorns from a tree and after a bit of work that exact number will drop to be collected. The details are incredible and it all just works. The developers at Nintendo have pulled of something truly incredible here – it’s that special.

The game world is also huge! You can spend hours and hours just in the little corners of it. For those of you worrying that the game will be a little too similar to BOTW, the good news for you is that this time is that the world now consists of three layers. There are sky islands, the mainland of Hyrule, and then the ‘Depths’ below. Each world has its own feel, requires its own way of getting around, and has its own share of treasures and secrets to be found. The levels mirror each other as well, so should you find a shrine in Hyrule, directly below you in the Depths will be its counterpart. So, whether you encounter an interesting place down below which helps light up your adventures in the gloom or in the areas above – there’s always a ruin to explore. It’s a very clever way to pretty much triple the size of an already massive game while keeping everything on one map. 

The developers at Nintendo have pulled of something truly incredible here – it’s that special.

Every corner holds something. I did enjoy exploring, finding wells, ingredients, shrines, towns, caravans and ruins. Getting small jumpscares from enemies popping out of abandoned houses, and stalking horses so I could tame them. There are of course Koroks and searching through everything you see can sometimes lead to some lucky pickups. Another thing I really enjoyed was the cave system. You shouldn’t ignore them! 

Fusion and Fiction

The story is like any other Zelda game… Link must find and save the princess. However, this time just add in a large sprinkle of the Zonai, and their ancient kingdom’s ruins falling from the sky and you get the general picture of what you can expect. It’s touching and beautiful, all wrapped up in a frustrating but ultimately staggering technical marvel. And for those of you wondering you’ll have hours upon hours of gameplay waiting for you and hundreds of puzzles to boggle your brain over (don’t expect hand-holding at all) all while listening to a wonderfully crafted (if a little similar-sounding) OST. 

As in BOTW, Link has some awesome abilities to wield. Now, he can use some of these powers to move things around, attach them to each other, reverse time and even fuse things together to make weapons more powerful or to build some kind of insane contraption that thanks to the various Zonai technology around you, you can make move with fans, batteries, wheels, flames or even good ol’ elbow grease and just brute force. Interestingly, I did find that between the two sets of powers (BOTW vs TOTK) I preferred my time with BOTW’s offering – and perhaps that had something to do with my frustrations and the need for an engineering degree to build the good stuff this time around.

The sheer scale, technical expertise and staggering attention to detail will no doubt leave many contemplating whether this is not only the best game of the year but possibly the best game they’ve played.

This game is battery-heavy, and as expected, the game looks a little better and I could play for longer on my OLED vs on my Launch Switch. My Switch Lite held up nicely though, only suffering from a bit of battery drain. So there you have this massive game running on 3 different Switch models with barely a complaint on the technical front. Yes, it is that good! It really is mindblowing how much work was put in to make this game smooth like butter (which yes, you can fuse to Link’s sword). And there’s just so much to do. You can, for example. get on a piece of a ruin and reverse it all the way back up to the sky temple it fell from. Then there’ll be a puzzle to solve. Alternatively, you can wander until you find an enemy camp, die of cold or heat, or spend an hour or two cooking where Link will hum songs from other Zelda titles while his food boils – it’s both marvellous and overwhelming.

A to Z(elda)

It’s really hard to write about this game. As I’ve said for fans of Breath of the Wild and even for players that click with this game – the sheer scale, technical expertise and staggering attention to detail will no doubt leave them contemplating whether this is not only the best game of the year but possibly the best game ever made. However, as someone that just didn’t gel with the general mechanics and the lack of accessibility – it sadly felt like a frustrating slog for me personally. It’s a strange one… I believe Zelda fans, both old and newcomers alike will love something about this game and all it has to offer, and so I both offer my highest praise, while also sadly admitting that it just wasn’t for me.

Review code provided by: Nintendo

Written by Kelly Stretch

Luigi is better than Mario.
May 29, 2023

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