Postgame Wrap-up: The Legend of Zelda – Tears of the Kingdom

You are Link. The latest incarnation of the Hero of Legend. Years after banishing Calamity Ganon and saving the land of Hyrule from his blight, you find yourself accompanying Princess Zelda (or maybe she’s finally Queen Zelda?) into a cavern beneath Hyrule Castle from which an odd substance dubbed gloom has been seeping, making anyone that comes into contact with it fall ill. After passing multiple depictions of an event called the Imprisoning War, waged against the “Demon King,” you encounter a desiccated figure being held down by a disembodied arm. What could possibly go wrong?

I mean…yeah.

The Story:

As it turns out, much can go wrong. Very, very much. It seems that the desiccated figure is very much alive and is very much not a friend of yours. In the ensuing chaos, Zelda vanishes, the Master Sword is destroyed, and Link’s arm is badly injured. You (Link) are saved by the disembodied arm and faint.

Awakening on an island, you find that Link’s arm has been replaced by the disembodied arm. You are greeted by the spirit of Rauru, a Zonai and the first king of Hyrule, and discover that the island you are on is a sky island, one of many that have levitated from the mainland (along with Hyrule Castle) immediately following the events below Hyrule Castle, an event referred to as the Upheaval. After navigating the sky island, you make your way to a temple in which the Master Sword, still broken, vanishes and you guide Link back to the mainland by diving off the island, beginning your new adventure.

As with Breath of the Wild, you can get as much or as little story out of Tears of the Kingdom as you want. It’s quite possible to complete the game without learning the details of the Imprisoning War, the Demon King, and what has become of Princess Zelda, though if you choose to do so, you’ll be missing out on a rich and emotional narrative. I think of the story of both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom in the same way I think of the stories of the Metroid Prime series. If you go through any of these games with the single minded purpose of simply completing them, you will be missing out on information that makes the games much richer and more meaningful to complete. And if that’s how you choose to play, that’s perfectly fine, just understand that, in the case of games such as these, you are sacrificing the chance to get more from the game than is available by only completing the required tasks.

Speaking specifically about Tears of the Kingdom, I found the story to be more engaging than Breath of the Wild. Much of what you can learn is focused on Hyrule’s past and, at the risk of mild spoilers, centers on the whereabouts of Princess Zelda. There is some suspension of disbelief here because this is the same Hyrule from Breath of the Wild, yet you’re only now finding ancient artifacts from Hyrule’s distant history. This doesn’t bother me very much as there is a bit of in-game explanation for this. One inconsistency that did pull me out of the game a bit is the complete absence of the Divine Beasts. They’re simply gone, with no explanation given as to why they’re gone. I’m just confused as to why Nintendo didn’t include them and make them inoperable. Not a huge issue with the game, just an odd choice given that this is a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild in which the Divine Beasts played a major role.

The Gameplay:

For the purposes of this section, I’m going to assume that anyone reading this is familiar with Breath of the Wild. I think it’ll be much easier to explain the differences in Tears of the Kingdom this way.

Understand that the very base gameplay, meaning the running, climbing, and combat, is largely unchanged. I found the base combat of Breath of the Wild to be fine, and I feel the same here. Shrines are also present, though those from Breath of the Wild are now MIA. Once you get past the basics though, Tears of the Kingdom becomes very different.

From the beginning, you’ll notice that the Sheikah Slate is gone along with the abilities it provided (bombs, ice blocks, etc…). In their place, Link acquires five new abilities:

  • Ultrahand: Allows you to pick up and attached objects to one another. This is used quite a bit to solve the game’s many puzzles.
  • Fuse: Allows you to fuse items to your shields and swords. This can result in an entirely new weapon/shield or simply stick the item to your sword/shield. Experimenting with this is great fun.
  • Ascend: Probably the most overpowered ability, this pulls you through and landmass above you (if it’s within a certain range) and will place you on the ground above. Using this can actually get you past quite a few puzzles or tricky climbing areas. I’m not complaining.
  • Recall: Using this on an item that is moving will essentially reverse it. I think that the puzzles that utilized this ability were my favorite in the game as it truly forced you to think outside the box.
  • Autobuild: Related to Ultrahand, this saves your past few constructs and, so long as you have the either the items or enough zonaite to create them. You can find blueprints that are automatically saved while also being able to favorite certain constructs.
Yes, I posed as Dark Link wielding a scythe. Fuse is amazing.

Much of Tears of the Kingdom is built around the use of Ultrahand and Fuse. Scattered all around Hyrule are items you can use to create practically anything you can image, assuming you have enough patience. These range from boards and wheels to an array of Zonai items. Zonai items are technologically advanced items from the era of the Zonai, the earliest people in Hyrule (I think?). These include fans, rockets, and steering sticks, to name only a very few. Zonai items can be found randomly or be purchased from giant gumball type machines. Much like fusing items to create amazing weapons, using Ultrahand to create machines is truly a blast. I personally created a Bigfoot-esque car to shoot across the plains in as well as a very basic flying machine that I used extensively to explore (for real, it uses three items and is amazing). The cost of this new creation ability is the use of horses. While getting around on a horse was practically a must in Breath of the Wild, I rode a horse maybe twice in Tears of the Kingdom…though I did ride a bear for a while to complete a sidequest. Now, that said, if horses are your jam, there are still plenty to find, and they can still be boarded at stables.

So simple, yet so brilliant.

Moving beyond the items, Hyrule has also changed. It has become a busier place since the fall of Calamity Ganon, with both the towns and population growing larger. The layout is still very similar to Breath of the Wild, which is to be expected, but Tears of the Kingdom has added two new wrinkles. The first are the aforementioned sky islands. Scattered throughout the sky are an array of islands that hide items, costume/armor sets, weapons, extremely strong enemies, etc… These are not overwhelming, but there are enough islands to keep you busy for a while assuming you are a completionist. What will keep you busy is the second wrinkle, which is the depths.

Scattered around Hyrule are sinkholes surrounded by gloom. Jump into these and you’ll find yourself falling into a dark world filled with strange foliage, enemies, and an abundance of gloom (while possibly including a repeat appearance by some bosses). This area is equal in size to Hyrule proper, but is cloaked in darkness, though illumination is possible by finding light roots. I found the depths to be far more interesting than the sky islands, probably because there is just so much more to explore in them. For instance, the depths are where you’ll encounter and battle the Yiga clan. This is also where you’ll find a couple of the new abilities I noted above. Finally, if you explore, you’ll find a plethora of zoanite that can be used for Autobuild.

Lastly, a very quick word on the enemies in this game. Practically all of the non-boss enemies from Breath of the Wild return here, including all variety of -oblins. New to Tears of the Kingdom are gibdos, gloom hands, phantom ganons, flux constructs, and gleeoks (a/k/a King Ghidorah in the Godzilla universe). I’m certain there are others, but these are the most prominent. One of my hopes for this game was an increase in the variety of enemies, and I’m happy to say it delivered.


What I’ve done here is attempt to give a very generalized recap of Tears of the Kingdom. The fact that I didn’t get into the weeds is only because I didn’t feel like writing a novel, and is no way related to how I felt about this game. I say that because I absolutely loved this game. The new abilities and areas of Hyrule that have been added to the base from Breath of the Wild are just phenomenal, and truly allow you to approach the game in any way you choose. You can explore Hyrule on foot, you can explore on horseback, you can travel on a near infinite variety of vehicles. The only limit in this game is your imagination, and I say that with no qualifiers.

My son, after playing Tears of the Kingdom, noted that it made Breath of the Wild feel like a beta version of Tears of the Kingdom, and after completing it myself, I have to mostly agree. Tears of the Kingdom adds so much to what you can do that it retroactively makes Breath of the Wild feel antiquated (this is not to meant to paint Breath of the Wild in a bad light, as I believe it to be a phenomenal game still, but I can certainly see how going back to it would leave me longing for the machines Tears of the Kingdom introduced to the series). Now, the flipside of this is that there are going to be people that play this and feel that it sticks too closely to Breath of the Wild, and that the new gameplay elements aren’t enough to differentiate it from its predecessor, and that is a fair criticism. Personally, I don’t share that feeling, but Tears of the Kingdom does take the world of Breath of the Wild and build upon it. For me, that was more than enough, but for others it may feel like a retread. Again, even if I don’t share that feeling, it is a valid statement.

Regardless of how much you may have liked or disliked Tears of the Kingdom, it seems that the new open world direction is here to stay, at least in some capacity. Given how long the Zelda games stuck with a similar formula, yet managed to be critically acclaimed with practically every release, I’m truly excited to see what Nintendo does with the series post Tears of the Kingdom. Will we see a new Hyrule, ages removed from these games, or will we perhaps see an entirely new land in the vein of Termina from Majora’s Mask? With the Switch successor on the horizon, I suspect it won’t be too long before we get an idea of what the next Zelda title holds for us.

Fierce Deity Link will always be my favorite Link.