[Game Review] Fresh side of Hyrule unveiled by new abilities and mechanics in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

[Game Review] Fresh side of Hyrule unveiled by new abilities and mechanics in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

“I just want to keep playing the game,” is what I thought when I first started writing this review. As much as I want to share with you guys how I feel about Tears of the Kingdom, there hasn't been a single moment when I didn't want to dive back into the game and explore more of Hyrule. Seriously, I've been gaming for years, and it's rare for a game to have such a grip on me. Even after almost 40 hours of playing, it's like this game is stuck in my head.

I asked myself, "Why is Tears of the Kingdom so captivating?" And I'm pretty sure it's because of humanity's inherent curiosity – that burning desire to step on adventure to unravel the mysteries of the unknown. In this fast-paced world, not everyone have the luxury of time and cash to go travelling around the world. But what if I told you there's an epic adventure waiting for you, all for the price of $70 and a console? It's pretty tough to resist the temptation of an adventure that's so within reach.

In Tears of the Kingdoms, Link’s adventure in Hyrule kicks off again as the evil Ganondorf comes back to life, causing the catastrophic event called the Upheaval which opens up creepy chasms and brings back the ruins of the ancient Zonai civilization that are now floating in the sky. Caught up in the event, Link’s right arm is heavily injured, while Princess Zelda gets sent back in time and meets the old king and queen of Hyrule, Rauru and Sonia. Knowing that Ganondorf is destined to be revived in the future, Princess Zelda gather the powers of the ancient king and his subordinates, hoping that Link in the future will discover and make use of these powers to finally defeat Ganondorf. And that’s how Link got his super cool right arm with new abilities thanks to the spirit of Rauru, as well as other powers unlockable as you progress further into the story.

Exploring the vertically-expanded Hyrule

Hyrule is twice larger than ever before in Tears of the Kingdom. Other than the Sky Islands that were so heavily featured in the trailers before the game’s release, there’s also the Depths, the underground regions of Hyrule which reflects the broadness of the Surface, making the explorable region in the game way larger than its predecessor. To get to the Sky Islands, you can hop on rocks that fell from the Sky using the new Recall ability, which lets Link rewind objects along their exact path, sending them back to where they came from. And if you want to explore the Depths, just dive into the scary Chasms that appeared after the Upheaval.

Tears of the Kingdom is literally the sequel that builds upon the foundation of its predecessor. The Surface region is mostly the same map as before, but with some alterations due to ruins that fell from the sky and there's this scary "gloom" thing after the Upheaval. Despite having familiar regions to explore, Link’s adventure this time doesn’t feel quite the same as in the game released six years ago, as the events that have unfolded have caused changes in the behaviour of Hyrule’s inhabitants, as well as their interaction with Link. Shrines also make a return this time, featuring interesting puzzles and trials prepared by the ancient king of the Hyrule Kingdom. Shrines found on the surface are reported to have fallen from the sky, so I can’t really make heads or tails of why some would appear in caves (?)

The Sky Island are ruins of the old Zonai civilization covered with a peaceful ambience, offering breath-taking views of the Surface from up high. In these ruins, you'll come across the remaining servants from the Zonai era, known as the Constructs, who will be your guides as you start your adventure initially in the Sky. There are also some aggressive Constructs, which are programmed to protect the Kingdom against any intruders no matter their intentions, thus making them enemies that could seriously threaten the life of Link. The good news, though, is that beating them will drop handy materials that can help you in your battles and travels across Hyrule.

On the flip side, the Depths are like this massive underground version of Hyrule, with its size and even some landscapes (such as river and lakes) mirroring the Surface. The Depths give off vibes of Hell itself: a pitch black environment filled with gloom and monsters. Those monsters in the Depths? They're way more dangerous than the ones on the Surface. If they hit Link, he loses a chunk of his max health. Heck, even touching that gloom stuff will have the same effect. The only way to regain that lost health is by touching the Lightroots, the travel points in the Depths, or by chowing down on meals cooked with Sundelion. Before diving into the Depths, you better be prepared by stocking up on Sundelion food and Brightbloom seeds that could light up your way.

With a map twice the size of its predecessor, I have had double the fun discovering new places in Tears of the Kingdom, as all three different regions provides a wholly different exploring experience. The Sky areas provides fun vertical challenges and jaw-dropping view, while on the Surface, you get to explore various places with different climates, giving you a mix of beautiful landscapes. Also, the Depths feels like a rogue-like adventure where you can't even see what's up ahead. The only complain I have is about the Sky Islands that were heavily advertised before the game dropped. Truth be told, they're way smaller compared to what I was expecting. It's a shame because the Depths stole the show with all the content that they offer. Maybe Nintendo just had a little too much of ruins falling from the Sky.

Despite that, while open-world games aren't really my cup of tea, when it comes to adventures in Hyrule, you can count me in. Most open-world games have these ridiculously huge maps that feel empty and pointless, but the map in both Tears of the Kingdom just don’t give me that feeling. Almost every nook and cranny found on the map comes with an engaging quest that will eventually lead you to explore some of the most secret spots in Hyrule. If you're willing to take it slow and really soak in the world of Hyrule, you might just stumble upon some epic gear that will totally level up your gameplay. And who knows? You might even make some new friends who will show you a whole new side of Hyrule. In Tears of the Kingdom, it's all about taking the time to savour the adventure.

Unleash the fun of freedom with newfound powers

Gameplay-wise, our adventure in Hyrule gets even more exciting thanks to Link's awesome new abilities. Perhaps the most widely discussed new addition to the game is Link’s Ultrahand ability, which expands on Link’s Magnesis Rune in the previous game. This time, Ultrahand lets Link move not just magnetic stuff, but also all sorts of non-magnetic objects like wooden boards, rocks, and even those adorable little Koroks who got separated from their buddies (IYKYK). Not just that, Link can also merge multiple objects together, giving you the power to create whatever you need throughout your adventure in Hyrule. Need a wooden raft? Ultrahand. Want a makeshift vehicle made using Zonai Devices? You got it. The possibilities or item-crafting are simply endless, and that’s why Ultrahand easily tops my list of best new features in Tears of the Kingdom.

Apart from that, the Fuse ability allows Link to merge natural objects, monster materials, and even other weapons with his current weapons, shields, or arrows. Picture this: combining two spears to make an epic super-long-range spear. Or how about fusing a Flame Emitter with a sword, so you've got yourself a fiery blade that's both powerful and mesmerizing to see in action? Talk about a crazy arsenal of weapons and a plethora of battle styles to experiment with. Not just that, shield surfing just got a whole lot more awesome, as you can combine your shield with a mine cart and watch as Link ride those cart tracks on his shield.

Other cool abilities include Ascend, which allows Link to zip through ceilings and end up on top of any structure, and the aforementioned Recall, which is not just for getting around, but it's also a sweet combat move that could rewind bombs or boulders thrown at you and send them right back at your enemies. Look how the tables have turned. Then there's also one that'll require you to take a little detour from the main quests to get your hands on: the Autobuild ability. It puts together materials from nearby or from your inventory and creates an item that you've got registered in your Schematics, saving you the time and effort of merging them all over again with Ultrahand. All these new abilities unlock an enthralling gameplay experience that is limited only to your creativity and imagination, making the adventure in a familiar environment as fresh as a wholly different new game.

Just like the Runes in Breath of the Wild, Link’s new abilities play a huge part in the Shrine challenges, as well as the puzzles in the overworld. However, these abilities take the puzzle game to a whole new level of fun and complexity. Previously, you had tools to navigate through the puzzles, but now, you have the tools to make more tools. Like I have said, Ultrahand is by all means an upgrade over the previous Magnesis, giving the game developers endless possibilities to design new mind-bending puzzles. The Ascend ability also adds a whole new dimension of verticality, as you'll constantly find yourself tilting your camera up to spot any clues you might've missed while stuck in a puzzle. I’ll have to admit that I kind of miss the old Stasis ability, but the Recall ability is also a blast to play with, as with new ways to manipulate time comes a whole new set of puzzle challenges for us to conquer.

Puzzles are hands down one of the things I love most about Tears of the Kingdom. For example, as you roam around Hyrule minding your business, you’ll definitely come across multiple times a travelling NPC called Addison. Poor guy's always struggling to put up his boss Hudson's signboards, and your job is to use whatever materials you can find nearby to help him fix those signboards upright. The rewards might not be much, but it’s the sense of achievement that counts: there's nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment when you whip up a makeshift support out of random stuffs and see that signboard standing proud.

Also, as a player who likes to be intellectually challenged, I'm all about those Shrine challenges that give me mental workouts in Tears of the Kingdom. The list would go on and on if I were to list out my favourite puzzles in Tears of the Kingdom, but one that I can’t get off my mind is the Lever Power puzzle of the Wao-os Shrine. The puzzle requires us to build a makeshift seesaw, aiming to fling an iron ball onto a faraway target by dropping a heavy metal block on the other side of the seesaw. Precision is key, as a slight change in how you place the ball or the height you drop that metal box can totally mess up the trajectory, thanks to the insanely realistic physics system in this game. I remember spending almost half an hour in this Shrine alone, trying different approaches, experimenting with various heights and angles. It was really a rollercoaster of trials and errors. But when I finally nailed it, it felt just like my favorite football team has scored a game-winning goal. It's crazy how even a little minigame in Tears of the Kingdom can totally hook you.

The jaggies, though

There’s honestly not much to gripe about the gameplay other than the small Sky areas, but one thing that might disappoint many people is the graphics quality of the game. You’ll probably notice the jagged edges on the trees and shadows when Link first ventured out of the cave at the beginning of the game. The low shadow details and limited draw distance certainly won’t please gamers either. Running the game on a 24” monitor, the visual flaws are already very noticeable, and I can’t even imagine how much worse it would look on a bigger screen or TV. It's a bit of a letdown that the game doesn't utilize any anti-aliasing techniques to make it look better, but I guess it's understandable since a game of this size might struggle to run smoothly on the somewhat outdated Nintendo Switch, and it's likely that some compromises were necessary. Luckily, the gameplay is solid enough that I can overlook these issues and still get totally hooked.


Despite the visual flaws, Tears of the Kingdom is the textbook example of how an open-world game should be: tons of freedom in every aspect of gameplay and interesting places to explore without “filler” locations. The addition of the Sky Islands and the Depths is a brilliant move that adds “new layers” (literally) to Link's adventures in a familiar world. Plus, with the new abilities, the game introduces fresh gameplay mechanics that keep things exciting for both new and old players. After almost 40 hours of gameplay, I’m not sure how much of progress I have made in the game, as it’s super easy to lose yourself in the incredibly interactive world of Hyrule. Pretty sure it’s going to take me more than 100 hours of gameplay before I even start to get tired of the game, yet I’m very much looking forward to what else I’ll discover in the remaining 60 hours. Some people might think gaming is just a way to kill time, but Tears of the Kingdom is definitely a game that I'll make time for.


And that concludes Lluvia’s review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.


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