Nintendo has plenty of iconic franchises like Mario or Pokémon, but none have thrived more in the Switch era than The Legend of Zelda. Now back with Tears of the Kingdom, Nintendo has endeavored to top the highs it reached with Breath of the Wild, and done that it has.
Breath of the Wild launched in 2017, bringing new life into the Zelda franchise by presenting Hyrule in an open-world setting. Gamers familiar with the franchise were mesmerized by this idea, but its most significant win was becoming the gateway for those who had never touched Zelda before.
In TOTK, you’ll find this expansive open world once again, but with a new story that takes a fresh spin on one of the franchise’s most feared villains, and a set of new powers that take the best aspects of BOTW while keeping it fresh for the sequel.
TOTK doesn’t recreate the Zelda formula, but it does evolve the series into something tailor-made to capture your attention and keep you coming back for more. From the characters to the new gameplay aspects, the game is undoubtedly the most complete Zelda experience to date.
For players who already conquered Hyrule in BOTW, you’ll immediately feel familiar starting Tears of the Kingdom as the sequel picks up not long after the events of the first game. In the depths below Hyrule Castle, a new threat is brewing with a familiar face, and as you’d expect, it’s going to be your job to stop them and rescue Princess Zelda.
You start off the game with Link’s best weaponry from BOTW, but this is quickly stripped from you as Hyrule is torn apart. Now left without your trusty Master Sword, things start fresh.
None of the powers from BOTW return in TOTK, instead, there is a set of new ones that, put simply, are just better. The core abilities you’ll be using are Ultrahand, which allows you to grab and join objects, Ascend, a new cast that lets you burst through above terrain, and Fuse, which lets the player attach an item to their weapon.
It’s with these new powers where TOTK excels above its predecessor. Of course, the many puzzles in the game provide plenty of challenge, but now Link is gifted more freedom to solve them as he pleases. Don’t want to take the ladder? Simply Ascend up to your destination. Can’t find the right way to scale that cliff? Why not build your path by chopping and combining nearby trees. Sometimes giving the player this much freedom can ruin the intentions of a game, but in this case, it takes TOTK from a good game to a great one.
Alongside the new skills, TOTK beats out BOTW in its sheer size. The game doesn’t just boast the same Hyrule, but also a series of floating islands packed with shrines, and rare loot to make exploring worth your time.
Shrines continue to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of Zelda and their unique puzzles are just as difficult today as they were back in 2017. The core narrative content in TOTK is rewarding and full of life, but often gets lost to the player in favor of exploration and experimentation.
Boss fights are simple but fun; however, the motivation to complete them only comes as a necessity to gain access to more powers and items. It’s hard to pull yourself away from drifting across Hyrule on your makeshift skateboard or gluing as many jets to a boat as possible just to go find Tulin in the Rito Village.
Once you start doing story content, you’ll get sucked in and see it through to the end, but that’s not where TOTK concludes. There are roaming bosses and plenty of side missions to keep you coming back well after the credits roll.
Being great is no simple task, but outdoing an already great game is a near-impossible job. Fortunately with TOTK, Nintendo pushed the envelope further just enough to take it from a nine to a 10. Whether you’re a Zelda newbie or a returning veteran, this sequel will capture you with its puzzles, massive world, and the overwhelming sense of freedom you get simply from venturing its lands.
If you’re on the fence about purchasing TOTK, we suggest you take a page from Link’s book and dive straight in.
Disclosure: Our review copy of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was provided by Nintendo.