After years of anticipation, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is finally here. We’ve been waiting not-so-patiently through endless announcements and delays, and it’s hard to believe we can play it at last! But with all that hype, it raises an important question: was it worth it?
After hours of working through this game and exploring its nooks and crannies, I can assure you that it is unequivocally excellent.
But this still leaves us asking why? Why is it so good? Does it live up to its predecessor? Is it worth my money? Well, settle in and let me answer all of that and more in this Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review.
A New Adventure Begins
After awakening the ancient Demon King lying dormant beneath Hyrule Castle, Zelda, and Link are pulled apart and deemed missing by those they left behind.
Link wakes up in the Garden of Time, a collection of islands floating far above the surface Kingdom of Hyrule, and is guided by a strange being called Rauru to reunite with Zelda. Unfortunately, she’s nowhere to be found outside strange whispers across the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the people are dealing with the aftermath of ‘The Upheaval,’ where ruins have started falling from the sky, and mysterious phenomena are threatening their lives. So Link must travel the land, solve problems, try to find his lost princess, and, once again, save Hyrule from certain doom.
Tears of the Kingdom opens with a bang and continues to feed you mystery after mystery to unravel. While Breath of the Wild generated intrigue by throwing you into an unknown world that remembers you while you can’t remember it, this game instead takes a familiar world and throws it into disarray.
So much is going on, and answers are hard to come by for a long time. The narrative sweeps you along at a breakneck pace and doesn’t let up.
And Nintendo didn’t only put care into the main quests but also all of the side stories. All the characters we know, and love are affected by this disaster and doing their best to get by. This attention to minor details makes everything feel important, with each turn presenting a new conflict.
For example, there’s a struggle for power between the mayor of Hateno village and its up-and-coming fashion icon Cece. And Kakariko Village is in conflict after giant Ring Ruins crashed around them, endangering the people but generating a tourism boom.
In this way, Tears of the Kingdom improves upon one of my biggest issues with Breath of the Wild, where the world beyond the main quest often felt static and unimportant. Hateno didn’t matter beyond the laboratory or Link’s house, and Lurelin Village didn’t have a single important questline or character associated with it.
Now, everything has a purpose. There’s a reason to comb through the map because you’ll always find something interesting.
But ignoring what the game does on its own merit, we must remember that, unlike most Zelda titles, Tears of the Kingdom had to function as its own entity and as a sequel. Breath of the Wild was immensely successful, and most of this game’s audience will be familiar with it.
In the past, Zelda sequels largely ignore the original game beyond the characters and sometimes mechanics. Majora’s Mask is set in a completely different world from Ocarina of Time and features an all-different cast. Phantom Hourglass was so different it turned a console game, The Wind Waker, into a handheld experience.
Tears of the Kingdom toes this line between sequel and original work in sometimes confusing ways.
This is a direct continuation of Breath of the Wild, with the same characters and world, taking place just a few years after the calamity is defeated. But in other ways, it changes and disregards these same events.
Some characters you interact with in the first game no longer remember you. The champion weapons no longer hold that same significance of ownership. And the ancient technology is all but wiped from existence. This will be jarring for anyone who played through the first game.
But in other respects, this game is a perfect sequel, in the way most sequels we see in mainstream media aren’t. We follow the same characters but see how they’ve changed and moved on after 100 years of grief.
Children have grown up, old leaders have retired to make way for the new generation, new settlements have sprouted in the wake of peace, and even the cultures have changed in some locations.
This expansion upon the source material is what I believe to be the mark of a great sequel, and for any fan of Breath of the Wild, you will find it all a delight.
While plenty about this new narrative rubbed me the wrong way as a die-hard fan of Breath of the Wild, I don’t believe they detracted from my overall enjoyment. They definitely won’t for your average player.
The narrative of Tears of the Kingdom is almost over-the-top in how in-depth it is. You can get lost in this story of dozens of hours, as I already have, and somehow still find something new to sink your teeth into every five paces.
A New Way to Play
The core gameplay is largely identical to Breath of the Wild. The controls are the same, the combat is unchanged, and the same collectibles are scattered across the world. However, Tears of the Kingdom took this foundation and improved it in small but significant ways.
This game replaces the Sheikha Slate with the new arm Link is given by Rauru, which can harness the power of the ancient Zonai technology. With it comes four new abilities: Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, and Recall.
These new abilities are your toolset for solving issues you encounter in the game. And while these abilities are fun to use from the get-go, as you explore Hyrule and complete more shrines, you realize how complex these abilities allow the puzzles to be.
Shrines work in multiple axes thanks to the ascend ability and require you to get creative when presented with items for the Ultrahand to combine. This results in the puzzles feeling more difficult than in Breath of the Wild, needing a basic understanding of physics and even machines, but it makes figuring them out all the more rewarding.
And branching from that, the ways you can use these abilities in the overworld only grows. You’re presented with various materials to create things that can be used for greater mobility and access to places you might have struggled to reach otherwise.
Horses can now pull Ultrahand-crafted carts, and some people reward you for building them things. Not to mention that upward mobility is through the roof if you find the right spot to travel from.
This all makes the world less tedious to traverse. Moving from place to place is a challenge to overcome instead of just taking your horse everywhere or walking.
And, of course, this wouldn’t be a Zelda game without enemies to fight. And while the basic combat is untouched, it’s been updated in the weapon department.
This was a big point of contention in Breath of the Wild, as the breakable weapons divided people on whether they liked it. I was personally a fan of how it forced the player to be resourceful, but it led to me hoarding good weapons.
Tears of the Kingdom fixes this with the ‘Fuse’ ability. Link can now weld materials he picks up to basic weapons and shields to improve their damage or give them special properties.
This new system encourages experimentation and means that no weapon you pick up has to be useless. I feel free to use fun equipment, knowing I can get a new one when it breaks, drastically improving the overall experience. Paired with the slew of new items to find and enemies to battle, it all adds up to something that feels genuinely special.
Of course, the gameplay isn’t totally without flaws. Like magnesis before it, the Ultrahand can be clunky to work with. You don’t have to look far to find people struggling over the learning curve of the building system.
But try as I might, I couldn’t find anything frustrating in this game that wasn’t a result of user error or that detracted from the overall experience.
Finally, while all of the new innovations this game makes to the gameplay are fun, I also want to mention how this installment felt like a return to form for the franchise.
Breath of the Wild stood out in the Zelda series for playing unlike any title before. The combat was drastically different, boss fights aligned with more traditional RPGs, and the story was so nonlinear you could walk out of the tutorial and into the final boss arena.
And while some of this is true for Tears of the Kingdom, it also returns to the more familiar gameplay loop of older Zelda games.
At each location, you complete temples and collect special items that join together to help fight the great evil threatening Hyrule. The boss battles are no longer a matter of mastering the combat system but solving puzzles to attack weak spots.
We even see a lot of returning items and enemies from older titles, like the gohma, gleeoks, and bomb flowers.
It’s just the little things, but it’s noticeable for a veteran Zelda fan. And importantly, it will provide a different experience for players who only know Breath of the Wild. This isn’t a bad thing, I really like it, but it’s worth noting before you pick up the game.
Maintaining the Beauty Standard
Tears of the Kingdom runs in the same engine as Breath of the Wild and matches its visuals exactly. And considering how drop-dead-gorgeous that game was, it speaks to the looks of this one.
Beyond that, all the new environments, enemies, items, and recipes Nintendo added fit well into the established aesthetic. Nothing feels out of place. Most of the characters have had visual updates too, with new appealing designs and quirks to make them stand out and add charm.
The most notable addition is the design of the Zonai technology. I like how it’s distinct from the ancient sheikha technology of the previous game but maintains the same feel.
I can see some people considering it a little samey, with all the bright blue having a green coat of paint. But the ways they drew on Zen imagery, specifically Zen Gardens (versus the Joumon pottery of the last game), let it stand on its own.
I don’t have much to say about the music, which is a shame as I can go on at length about Breath of the Wild’s music. The main issue is that the vast majority of the soundtrack is taken from the first game.
The themes for the locations and any surface exploration are the same as we’ve heard before; if it is different, it’s too subtle for my ears. Sadly, there’s nothing here quite as iconic as the guardian theme from Breath of the Wild. Still, the soundtrack is as reliably atmospheric and does precisely what it needs to.
Like the game that came before it, there’s so much option and variety to what you do, and when that replayability is through the roof.
There may not be different outcomes, but the methods by which you get there and the sheer quantity of things to do and find mean that you’ll always find something new on repeat playthroughs.
This game is long. There is so much to do and engage with that the main story alone is reportedly 40 hours on average. However, you will eventually reach the point when you’ve exhausted the game and are looking for more. So here are my recommendations for games that scratch the same itch as Tears of the Kingdom.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker — if you haven’t played Breath of the Wild, I recommend you play that one first. But if you have, I consider The Wind Waker the best bridging point between the Tears of the Kingdom’s playstyle and earlier Zelda titles.
- Genshin Impact
- Super Mario Odyssey
- The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
- Horizon Zero Dawn/Forbidden West
The Verdict – 10/10
- Immersive and expansive game world
- Extended and in-depth characters and storylines
- Fleshed out and engaging combat and puzzle system
- A plethora of new game items and enemies
- Beautiful music and visuals to match its predecessor
- Some elements may be jarring for fans of Breath of the Wild
- The puzzles are overall harder than the previous game and may be more challenging for younger players
Where Breath of the Wild was concerned with the past, dealing with trauma, and working your way through it, Tears of the Kingdom is concerned with the future.
It’s about moving on and working to build up in the wake of destruction, passing the torch to a new generation, and preserving the world to come. And this is reflected in every corner of it.
Everything that came before has been preserved or improved, combining and moving forward to create something bigger and brighter than the past we leave behind.
The new mechanics are a joy to play with and provide endless opportunities for creativity and experimentation, and the story builds up from the foundation of its predecessor and explores it in new depths.
It feels reductive to have so few cons in this review. I tried my best to be critical of the game, but at every turn, Tears of the Kingdom refined what I loved about Breath of the Wild and never failed to fill me with glee at the next thing I found. It blew my expectations out of the water, and I haven’t been able to put my controller down in days.
I couldn’t give this experience anything less than a perfect score, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to go out and experience this game for yourself. You won’t regret it!
Nintendo doesn’t tell you how many hours you’ve spent in a game until a week after you first play it, so I don’t have an exact figure for how long I’ve played. But I can guarantee that so far it’s more than 24 hours and only climbing.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review: FAQs
Question: Is Tears of the Kingdom Worth it?
Answer: It will come down to personal opinion, especially at a $70 price tag. But I think it’s worth every penny, especially if you enjoyed Breath of the Wild. It’s a standard price tag for brand-new games of this caliber, and it’s one of those games that deserve it. You can easily spend over 70 hours in this game, and a dollar for every hour of play is worth it to me.
Question: Is Tears of the Kingdom a Sequel to Breath of the Wild?
Answer: Yes! Tears of the Kingdom is a direct continuation of Breath of the Wild. It takes place a few years after the defeat of Calamity Ganon, with the Kingdom of Hyrule on its way to recovery after 100 years of torment. Many of the characters from the first game return, and events from it are referenced at various points.
Despite this, you don’t have to play Breath of the Wild first. I recommend doing so, but this game has obviously been made so new players can enjoy the experience as much as returning players.
Question: Do Amiibo Work in Tears of the Kingdom?
Answer: Yes, the amiibo do still work with Tears of the Kingdom. While all amiibo will have some effect on the game, Legend of Zelda-specific figures may give you unique items only obtainable from that amiibo.
Not all of the collectibles are the same as Breath of the Wild, so it’s worth experimenting with them to see what you get! There’s also a brand new Tears of the Kingdom Link amiibo out now, and I daresay there are more on the horizon.