I just want to preface this by saying that you are allowed to like what you like. I can see many people are really enamoured with this game and that’s great! Keep on truckin’, or horsin’, or whatever autonomous contraption you’ve built to awkwardly propel yourself through Hyrulein’. But some of us aren’t so keen. Please respect that! Do not fire bomb my house (I’m looking at you, Shigeru Miyamoto. I know you’re behind those anonymous twitter messages.)
So yeah, Tears of the Kingdom came out and it’s very much Breath of the Wild 2. It uses the same map as the original game with major tweaks and additions, mainly the sky islands above Hyrule and the depths below. The controls are mostly identical, the graphics look much the same (with perhaps a slight improvement at the cost of performance on the ailing Switch hardware.) If you come into this game fresh out of Breath of the Wild you’d be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of expansion pack meant to show off the building/crafting stuff they’ve added.
Because for me, that’s how this feels! Tears of the Kingdom is an expansion pack. It just barely qualifies as a sequel. The aforementioned building and crafting seems to be the main draw of the game, and- okay, look. I get that a lot of people like that kind of thing, but I absolutely loathe building stuff in video games, especially when it’s added to an existing series known for something else (looking at you, Fallout 4.) I just don’t find it fun. Oh, a little Korok dude needs to find his friend way in the distance? And you want me to use all these nearby materials to build him some kind of godless abomination that in the wildest alternate universe might be considered a vehicle? Well, too bad. I’m carrying him myself. Slowly. Across the vast distance. Because that’s more fun for me than the alternative. I want to accomplish the task, not dick around doing something that’s going to be way less efficient. And I want those korok seeds.
I want those korok seeds because they expand my weapon slots, which I desperately need because the painful weapon durability thing is, bafflingly, still fucking here. Weapons last five minutes or (usually) less before exploding into particle effects. Oh, but don’t worry! You can craft more weapons by sticking pieces of the environment to stuff! Isn’t that great? More crafting! Just like you wanted! I know I complained about weapons in Breath of the Wild too but god, what I wouldn’t give for a normal sword again. Instead of a sword with a rock on the end. Or a sword with a monster horn on the end. Or a sword with a sword on the end.
Going back to those additions to the map, the sky islands way up above Hyrule feel wasted. They’re tiny isles that mainly float above the sky towers, usually only sporting a little puzzle, a shrine, and a dispenser for knick-knacks to weld to bits of wood. I was expecting more large landmasses up there akin to the tutorial area, and the lack of such spaces later on feels like a bit of a bait-and-switch. The depths beneath the map aren’t much better, a vast darkness that you can illuminate one speck of light at a time, not filled with anything interesting enough to warrant exploring.
Oh, oh! I almost forgot, after each dungeon you get a ghostly companion following you around that has a specific ability you can use, but how they’re implemented is a nightmare. Needing to be within touching distance of them to activate their abilities is a huge pain when they amble around Link haphazardly. They really need to be added to the d-pad, or perhaps the abilities wheel, instead of having a whole slot on said wheel taken up by the map for some bizarre reason when the map already has a dedicated button all of its own.
I’ll give credit where credit is due- the new main dungeons are much more interesting than their Breath of the Wild counterparts, and actually use your new abilities in interesting ways (though I did end up climbing and gliding around the fire temple instead of using that god-awful rail system.) The bosses remain tremendous setpieces, and the soundtrack is also as great as ever, though my earlier complaint about this feeling like more of a DLC stands here, with many of the same locations from the previous game obviously using the same score as before. But hey, if it ain’t broke.
My problem is in Breath of the Wild there was important stuff that *was* broke, and they just didn’t fix it. Weapon durability is still here, and the extremely open-ended nature of the game means that it can feel like, despite the encouragement towards outside-the-box thinking, when you approach something in a certain way that only kind of works, you’re just doing something fundamentally wrong.
I personally prefer Elden Ring’s approach to open-world gameplay much more, with clearly defined paths to goals and classic RPG stats to increase. But hey, I’m basically a boomer now. Zelda is for the youngins. I’ll just take my grimy dark fantasy open world game to my office after I’ve done my taxes.
I don’t know. I have a complicated relationship with these games. I enjoy playing them for the most part, but for large portions of my time with them I’m left feeling frustrated and angry. I just think they could benefit from a little more direction and a little less settlement building.
Also, can we talk about how the shrines are literally just goatse?