Summer Parker Writes

(Mostly) Spoiler Free Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

On March 3rd, 2017, the world was blessed with a masterpiece that stunned even the most experienced video game fanatics. Receiving an average critics' score of 97 out of 100, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seemed to be as close to a perfect game as one could get. By March 2023, the game had sold 29.8 million units, placing it in the top 5 best-selling Switch games of all time. The last six years have been filled with Korok searching, shrine tutorials, dubious food, and many, many falls from great heights as we patiently awaited the next release. On May 12th, 2023, the wait was over. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has arrived.

At exactly 8:45 pm on May 11th, I was ready to go for the 9pm release in my time zone. Snacks were prepared, water was filled up, favorite blanket grabbed. As I settled in, I found myself anxious. Knowing that Nintendo decided to use the same map as in BOTW, there has been a lot of talk of TOTK feeling more like a DLC to the original game rather than its own beast. As soon as the opening cut-scene started, my worry began to dwindle. 30 hours of playtime later, said worry is nowhere to be found.

The game opens with Zelda and Link exploring before disaster strikes, and Link, once again, finds himself in a sticky situation. I was happy to find that a majority of the controls stayed the same, which allowed me to focus more on the story rather than figuring out how to switch from stick to a sword. They added a few new abilities which greatly enhance travel and combat. The combat changes encourage you to play around with weapon customization, which adds a whole new layer to how a player will approach battles. Travel seems more accessible in general, which is much needed when it comes to traversing not just the kingdom but also what is to be found both below and above.

The map was a big concern for most of the Zelda fan base, and I am happy to say that we can put those concerns to rest. While the map is very similar to the one in BOTW, the familiarity does nothing but bring nostalgia to the player. The changes made to the map keep things fresh, while the landmarks and characters are a welcomed familiar face to those who have played BOTW. Impa, Purah, Hoz, and many more are ready to welcome you with open arms. The more I play, the more it feels as if BOTW walked so TOTK could run.

A common theme for TOTK seems to be creativity. The first portion of the game is all about exploring the new mechanics and what you can do with them. The flexibility with the new building mechanic is endless. The limit truly is whatever you can imagine. I have seen everything from literal Trojan horses to spaceships. I initially felt that I was having brilliant ideas and a master builder from the start, but the shrines consistently prove me wrong. I appreciate that the introduction of this new mechanic is subtle, allowing the player to develop at their own pace. However, the shrines are set up to push the players on what they originally thought was the glass ceiling of building. I was a huge fan of the cooking mechanic in BOTW due to it allowing me to experiment with different options to create something new. TOTK has multiple new ways for me to get this same fix, all of which are way more interesting than the cooking.

The quests themselves are epic as always. All of them are found and stored through the "Purah Pad," which stands as a new and improved Sheikah Slate, maintaining its status as the most useful tool in the game. I have not spent any time on a linear quest line. I find myself having "squirrel" moments, constantly shifting from one objective to the next, a great sign of a well-done open-world game. One of my favorite additions is a "character profile" page found within the Purah Pad. It tracks each of the main characters we have met, giving them a sort of trading card with minor details on their goals and background.

All in all, I am having a wonderful time seeing old faces and meeting new ones (looking at you, President Hudson!). I have no concerns with the game aside from how much time it is going to take from me. Nintendo has once again outdone themselves. As a passionate player of Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom feels like coming home. That being said, while I would encourage anyone who asks to play BOTW before TOTK, it is definitely not required. It would help the story make a bit more sense, and I think the nods to BOTW are both entertaining and valuable, but TOTK does have everything it needs to stand alone. I am looking forward to spending the next few months saving Koroks, exploring mountains, and sneaking into Gerudo Town.