**Disclaimer: This article talks about the 2017 game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in depth, which means spoilers for the game, beginning, middle, and end. This article also discusses the 2023 game The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. This review is mostly spoiler-free, briefly discussing major locations and some of Link’s abilities and obtainable items.**
It’s been six years since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW), an extremely influential open-world game that earned a 97 out of 100 on Metacritic, with high marks across the board. Breath of the Wild allows you to freely roam the vast land of Hyrule, activating Sheikah towers and shrines to unlock your map and fast travel points. You needed to complete the shrines to obtain Spirit Orbs that you could exchange for extra stamina and hearts. You could glide about on your paraglider, defeat enemies for better weapons, and complete loads of side quests. A host of characters cheered you on as you grew powerful, ready to face the biggest threat that Hyrule has seen yet: Calamity Ganon.
Before facing him, though, you had to visit four locations: Rito Village, Zora’s Domain, Gerudo City, and Goron City. There you had to solve dungeons in Divine Beasts, which at the end would mean a challenge from Windblight, Waterblight, Thunderblight, and Fireblight Ganon respectively. These were minibosses that once defeated would free the souls of the Champions you fought against 100 years ago. The Champions gave you powers to aid you on your journey. You would be saved from death by Mipha’s Grace or fly high using Revali’s Gale.
There was so much to unpack in this game that you could sink hundreds or even thousands of hours into it, but at some point you’d need to challenge Calamity himself. Making the treacherous journey through Hyrule Castle was dangerous enough, but then you finally found him in the Sanctum. He would be let free from his pod and you both fell into a pit where you fought this bizarre boss. Kudos to the developers for creating such a unique creature (I still can’t figure out if he’s a spider or what), but this is where you start to notice the cracks in the otherwise amazing game. The attacks from Ganon are interesting, but he’s really just an amalgamation of the four blights you fought prior. And he’s an easy boss if you use powerful weapons and smart strategies.
Then, he enters his second (third, really) phase. He becomes Dark Beast Ganon, a combination of his dark soul filled with pure hatred and malice, the viscous goop that he unleashed from the castle. For this fight, you have to use the Bow of Light to hit him on horseback when Zelda opens up his weak points. But this section is as leisurely as playing target practice at the Mounted Archery Camp.
Afterwards, you get some cutscenes and credits roll, before you reenter the game. What’s next, you ask? You boot up your save file, which now has a star near it, indicating you beat the game. But when the save loads, you’re right outside the sanctum, before you even beat Ganon.
That’s right. You have no post-game, only a star to show you beat the game. This was a point of frustration for many fans, myself included. Beating the Ganon wasn’t very rewarding. You can still find the hundreds of koroks, shrines, and loot hidden, complete side quests, and explore every inch of the map, eradicating all the enemies, only for them to respawn during a Blood Moon. Then you can do it all over again, and the game could still feel fresh. But there were no other changes to the game. Zip. Nada.
Breath of the Wild was a near-perfect game, no doubt, I’m only pointing out some of the flaws so we can really approach what awaited fans. The game that people waited for after vague comments, trailers, constant delays, and a world shrouded in mystery. In preparation for this game, a remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, an original combat strategy game in an alternate timeline from Breath of the Wild that dove into time travel and featured an egg with legs as Link’s companion by the name of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and an HD remaster of the first game in the Zelda story timeline, Skyward Sword, have all released to satiate our taste for more content. But finally, two weeks ago, it was released. The game is called The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (TotK).
This game starts in the sky, where you have a tutorial area similar to that of the Great Plateau in BotW. You eventually gain access to the land, AKA the Kingdom of Hyrule. Underneath this familiar land is a dark and unfamiliar land called the Depths. This region spans the entire map, effectively doubling the size of the map. You can go to the Sky Islands or Depths whenever you want, as long as you have a means of getting there. There are no loading screens or anything, a huge advancement from Skyward Sword. A minor let-down was the realization that the Sky Islands made up only a small percentage of the world. The Great Sky Island is at least three times bigger than any other island anywhere. But the sky offers fun puzzles, good loot, and a few dozen shrines. They are also hosts for new enemies and bosses (and Koroks).
This is one of the absolute best improvements in the game. In BotW, you had a few core enemies: Bokoblins, Moblins, Keese, Chuchus, Octorocks, and Lizalfos. These could be found along with more powerful enemies, namely Wizzrobes, Taluses, Moldugas, Hinoxes, and Guardians. Ten enemies is a lot, but after a few dozen hours of playtime it becomes a bit redundant.
TotK fixes that by adding denizens to the caves, sky, and in the Depths. While I will refrain from naming them, I will say it adds a lot of unique encounters and makes the game feel new, as it should.
While we’re on the topic of combat, I want to briefly touch on the new Fuse ability. This allows you to fuse anything to a weapon, shield, or arrow. If you go foraging you can find many powerful items to fuse to your arrows, many of which have special effects. But one of the most enticing items to fuse are enemy’s horns. These drop from most foes and can boost the damage your arrows do. On top of that, they can be fused to any weapon to give you a boost in power, which is instrumental when your weapon doesn’t have a high base damage output.
On the topic of new abilities: Ultrahand (and no, not the 1966 toy). Ultrahand is the most familiar of the abilities. It acts like Magnesis from BotW, except now you can stick stuff together. This allows you to let your imagination run wild as you create anything you can think up.
But what use is a complex machine without the machinery? The answer is no use, in case you were wondering. This is why you need Zonai Devices. These include fans, wheels, rockets, and a menagerie of other toys to make travel faster and easier, or just to make weapons of mass destruction. While I want to keep this review spoiler-light, I will say you can make almost ANYTHING, from cars and motorbikes to mech suits to flying machines.
But enough about the gameplay. For a steep price point of $70 and a host of expectations to look up to, I think many people are wondering: is it really worth it? The developers needed to live up to the last game, and try to surpass that mark, but did they? When you look at it plainly, you are really paying $60 for Breath of the Wild’s map, beautiful art style, enemies, locations, loot, and characters, and $10 for an entire new map of the same size, Sky Islands and travel, and a lot of new runes and features.
I know many people are saying that it seems just like the last game, but bigger, but I see it as a reverse sandwich. Hold on, folks, this’ll be a bizarre metaphor that’ll stretch on far longer than you think.
In the middle, we have the bread, that soft, safe, layer that you know and love. It’s the ground layer, which feels unoriginal, but still has pockets filled with surprises. If this is all you had, you’d just have a bread sandwich. And that’s not fun. But under that layer of bread is your meat and sauce. You’ve equipped your bread with some roast beef. This is a delicious layer that you continuously want to come back to. The depths are familiar, yet not in the sense that the ground layer, the bread layer, is. It draws you in because you know what to expect, but every time, you get the taste of that beef and the tangy mustard atop it, which surprises and delights you. That’s the depths.
But on the very top of this inverted sandwich is the essential. Cheese. A nice slice of provolone. It brings the whole sandwich together, and makes the whole sandwich functional. It’s not the first thing you think about, but it’s essential. These are the Sky Islands. They aren’t expansive or revolutionary, but they help you get weapons and tools, and they help bring the whole of Hyrule together into a three-part world. Plus, they help you navigate the world from up high, and hold most of what helps you make your devices.
Overall, these ingredients make you a great sandwich, each part complementing each other in harmony. It all just works. Breath of the WIld will always be a great game in my mind, but I’d take the roast beef sandwich over the piece of toast every single time, so to speak. BotW was the breakfast, the appetizer, but now we’ve got lunch, the main course (Now I wonder when we get dinner).
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a game you should play and enjoy. You don’t need to do the story if you don’t want to, and you can speed through it if you so wish. This game doesn’t want to restrain you, whatever your playstyle is. It’s an incredibly well-rounded game, and I’d recommend it to anyone. If a numeric score is what you want, consider this game a perfect 98 out of 100 (Of what I have played, which is everything BUT the story) from me.
And look out later for Part II, where I discuss my detailed and spoiler-heavy thoughts and plans for the game, and look into what’s next. I’ll try to tell you about all the current tips and tricks, speedrunning strategies, and where to look for specific things. And feel free to leave me a comment on what tips or strategies you want me to discuss in Part II. I’m not far story-wise, but I’ll try and complete the narrative and pass it onto those who want to hear more. Until then, throw your cash at Nintendo to play this wonderful sequel that exceeded my expectations.
Hello, my name is Luke Fann. I love to read and write myself into a fantastical realm, but I love all genres. Of course, such a task requires assistance from my parents and older brother. I've feasted on alligators and tamed beasts like alpacas (my favorite animal), but none of that compares to my greatest weapon: a pencil. I am an editor here for the City Voice, and this is my second year writing for it.