The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Complete Review

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom doesn’t change what made Breath of the Wild one of the best games of all time, but it’s also not just a sequel. This sandbox is bigger, more detailed, and more ambitious.

It has creative new features like building vehicles and making ridiculous weapons, as well as a redesigned map of Hyrule with a dizzying amount of depth. These features add to the addictive exploration that made the first game so fun. Breath of the Wild was done, but Tears of the Kingdom made it look like it wasn’t.

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

Before we go to Hyrule, here are some spoilers. I won’t give away the incredible story of Tears, but these games are about much more than that. The magic you feel when one of BotW’s (Breath of the Wild) dragons flies over your head is all around you here, and I wouldn’t want to take away any of the many times my jaw dropped.


The Phenomenon of Breath of the Wild

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

BotW (Breath of the Wild) is also a great game you should play because you need to ensure you get all the benefits. Tears is smarter and more interesting when it knows what came before, but many of the familiar basics shine just as brightly.

Because there’s so much new to talk about, I won’t talk about things like climbing almost any wall, gliding as far as your expandable stamina lets you, or shrines being self-contained puzzle chambers you can solve to improve your skills.

Fans of BotW are likely to like Tears because of how much it sounds like BotW. The first part of the game follows a familiar pattern: you start in a masterfully designed tutorial area, where you learn the ropes and get new, powerful skills.

Then, you jump into the open world, where the main quest marker quickly splits into four. From there, you can do anything. You can march right to the end of the campaign if you know where to look. Still, it’s more challenging this time, which is probably for the best since I don’t recommend it to anyone except the inevitable speedrunners, whom I proudly salute.


Tears of the Kingdom Unveiled


Again, most of the cutscenes and big story moments happen in specific places around the map. These show Hyrule’s history and explain what caused the “Upheaval,” a big event that happens at the beginning of Tears and creates new structures and strange things on the ground.

Since you don’t interact with the main characters for most of the game, there may be better ways to tell the story of such a long game, but the story is so cool that it’s easy to overlook.

It’s about stopping a bad guy (hello, Ganondorf) and saving Princess Zelda. Still, the familiar shell goes in the craziest directions possible. Tears stand out because Nintendo surprised me with them. It’s not as good as the story in God of War, but it can be a highlight instead of just a fun extra in BotW.


The Enlarged Sandbox

Bigger, More Detailed, and Ambitious

Exploring is still fun in Tears, especially now that a new building system lets you make your own cars, boats, and planes to get around the world. BotW has affected many games since 2017, but only some have learned that a blank map is more powerful than a full one.

There are so many things to do, and a list of things to do right away could be stressful instead of fun. You get pins and a blank map that you have to fill out.

Following an arrow to your next destination is much less interesting than marking interesting places as you dive in from the sky, hearing rumors from people in the town, or just getting lost and finding something interesting.

Nintendo is sure that we’ll find the secrets of the map on our own, and if we don’t, that’s okay. It makes the whole adventure feel more natural and less “video games” than you might expect, which is important since Tears basically doubles this world.


Samp Map, But Different Stories

Exploring Hyrule Once Again
A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

Even after looking for secrets in BotW, this map of Hyrule feels different. Calamity Ganon was defeated, and now the people are rebuilding. The main town is a new town outside the castle in Hyrule Field. It changes as you play.

It’s fun to recognize people or places and see how they’ve changed, but Tears take you to new places and down paths you didn’t expect. That gave a map that was still in good shape and new views of places already known in Hyrule.

If that isn’t enough, bigger things can be done. The Upheaval has changed the weather in whole areas and created new places where chests and shrines can hide.

Many of these places are part of the main quest, but I’ve found many others while playing for more than 100 hours, and I’m sure I’ve missed many more. For example, Tears tells you that pirates have attacked Lurelin, a beach town in the southeast that didn’t have much to do with BotW.

You will find a huge number of caves, wells, and sky islands. Most of these are self-contained. They range from hidden fairy fountains to large obstacle courses that test your intelligence and fighting skills.


A Unique Story with Unexpected Twists


I loved finding a new cave and fighting through twisting halls full of monsters to find a hidden piece of armor or a boss monster guarding a shrine. By looking up instead of down and using one of the new Skyview Towers to get into the air, I was able to easily find shrines on the ground before gliding to a nearby floating archipelago with its own challenges.

If that wasn’t enough, I saved the best for last. If you don’t want to know anything more than what’s been shown in trailers and previews, you should stop reading now (though this part is shown very soon after the beginning). Even after all I’ve said, I can see why someone might think Nintendo took the safe route by reusing the same (but changed) map.


Diving into the Pitch-Black Map

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

But when I dove down one of the angry, red chasms that dot the surface and into the Depths below, all my doubts turned into pure, joyful amazement. Under the small sky islands is a dangerous, pitch-black map the size of Hyrule. It’s a lot. Even though I’ve played Tears for more than 100 hours, I’ve only seen half of this fabulous new area.

The Depths is about the same size as the surface but has fewer side quests and story moments. Instead, it is full of treasure chests and surprises, many of which are cleverly hidden in plain (if very dark) sight.


Gloom and the Challenge it Brings


Gloom, a red substance that covers the ground and enemies, makes it Zelda’s “poison swamp” nightmare. Gloom lowers your maximum health until you return to the light or eat a meal that removes Gloom. This makes every fight more fun and challenging.

What does it mean to “return to the light”? That’s something else. The Depths are very dark (Advanced Darkness dark), so you have to throw out collectible Brightbloom Seeds to see where you’re going. Using Lightroots in the Depths heals your Gloom damage and lights up a part of the map, giving you another large and compelling goal to reach.

The Depths and sky islands add to the activities on the surface, extending a structure I knew into beautiful and wild places I hadn’t seen before. Tears has so much to do that you can spend hours doing things without checking your quest log.

For example, you can light up the darkness below, fly a custom glider between floating rocks hundreds of meters up, or look at the bottom of a random well. You might be on your way to a place of interest when a cave worth exploring or a citizen with a quest for you pulls you away. Then you get completely sidetracked by something fun and unexpected that’s just as exciting.


Endless Exploration and Unforeseen Adventures

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

It took me about 82 hours to finish Tears’ main questline, but I still needed to do half of what I wanted. After more than 20 hours, I still need to find dozens of Lightroots and finish a lot of shrines. I also have two maps with many interesting places I have yet to see, a long list of side quests, and more.

When I played the main quest stuff, I also let myself wander and get sidetracked. Even though I said the same thing about the game before it, this one feels bigger. The in-game tracker shows that I just barely made it past 50%. Send aid.

Tears’ stronger enemies, weapons, and dungeons are all direct responses to BotW and what people have said about it since it came out. Even though Tears’ Divine Beasts don’t have a compass, map, or key item like the ones in older Zelda games, they are more interesting and have a broader range of themes.

The tasks are similar to those of the Divine Beasts, but their new settings and the epic paths that usually lead up to them make them much more fun than the cramped interiors of the ancient machines.

Changes to the bosses are also a big part of Tears. You no longer fight four different versions of the same enemy that is close to Ganon. Instead, you fight unique, often funny enemies that can sometimes be as good as the best in the series.

My favorite was a monster that had sneaked into Hyrule and looked like a bad guy from Splatoon. On this map, some new enemies act like bosses, such as jumping Frox, three-headed Gleeok, Hinox, and Talus.


New Enemies, Bosses, and Dungeons

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

The bosses and enemies have become more interesting, making the still simple but very satisfying combat even better. Bokoblins can now carry baskets with things that can be thrown or wear armor that can only be broken with blunt weapons.

They can also be led by a big Bokoblin Boss. New Horriblins crawl along the ceilings of caves, Constructs shoot rocket arrows, Like Likes to eat you, and in the Depths, Little Frox eats your Brightblooms. It’s a great collection of animals that can make you play differently depending on what’s going on.


Embracing Creativity with Weapon Fusion

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

The crazy new weapon fusion system lets you attach any item to any weapon, shield, or even arrowhead. Monster horns now make base weapons stronger by acting as powerful blades or hammers. This lets you do cool things, like replace the blade of a rusty sword with a katana-like saber made from a Blue Lizalfos horn.

You can also do stupid things, such as placing a bomb on a stick to blow yourself and your enemies up when you poke them, or a minecart on a spear, because… why? It always says “Yes” and lets you decide what’s good, bad, or funny.

The controversial system for how long weapons last is back, so get ready for your favorite sword to break into your hands again. However, the new fusion system has completely changed how it works.


The Joy of Creative Problem Solving


Because a bag full of monster parts is like having dozens of backup weapons waiting for handles, you can get strong weapons by killing strong enemies. You have to make fire swords now, but adding a fire dragon’s horn to any base sword will work.

There’s a lot of room to min-max and build high-damage weapons to take down Tears’ most brutal enemies. Still, most of a weapon’s power and playstyle come from its attachments rather than its base, so I was always eager to find more powerful parts instead of hoarding what I found. (Or I’d put a stick on a stick to poke an enemy twice as far away; whatever works for you!)

Tears give you more ways to fight, which adds depth. Throwing items, like the great Muddle Bud that makes enemies fight each other or the Dazzlefruit that makes them drop their weapons, is now a key part of every encounter.

Attaching these items to arrowheads gives the same effect from a distance, and adding flame or ice throwers to shields turns them into off-hand weapons. It took a little while to get used to because you have to select items one at a time to throw and attach arrowheads. Once I did, though, it was a straightforward system that let me do cool things in the middle of a fight that I couldn’t do in BotW.


Building Tools and Ultra Hand System

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

The Ultra Hand building system is creative and works well with weapon fusion. BotW’s Magnesis power can now pick up almost anything, turn it, and attach it. This is made possible by Zonai Devices, which you can get at any time from your inventory.

It’s crazy how often I would pull a Zonai glider and a few fans out of my pocket to make a makeshift airplane and fly somewhere far away very quickly. I also loved experimenting with powered wheels to make cars that could get me from town to town faster than any horse. One Zonai device works like a Roomba base that drives toward enemies and is ready to be loaded with your deadly weapons.

These tools for building are fast, easy to use, and can be changed in almost any way you want. Why climb when you can ride a hot air balloon to the top? Why swim across that river when a speedboat can be made quickly? When I got to a dead-end mountain next to a deep valley in a little car I made, I channeled my inner Doc Brown. I turned it into a flying car that could go around the mountain instead of climbing.

Was that what Nintendo wanted? No idea. Even though I didn’t get anything for it, that simple act may have been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in a game. BotW’s motto is “I’m not sure I was supposed to do that, but it worked,” and Tears loves that creativity.


Engaging Puzzles and Challenges

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

Most of the challenges at Shrines in Tears require using these building tools creatively. It’s not Nuts and Bolts. This system doesn’t turn Tears into a game where you build things. When a device is the best or “intended” way to do something, the parts to make a simple one are usually close by.

Autobuild saves designs and finds schematics that were made by developers. Tears let us play Kerbal Space Program in The Legend of Zelda and give shortcuts to people who want to avoid playing Kerbal Space Program.

I had a lot of fun using these tools to solve problems. One of the best parts is a character who shows up over and over again and asks you to use nearby items to hold up a sign in dozens of places around Hyrule in increasingly silly ways.

Fun puzzles include helping a Korok (they’re back!) get to his friend or making a traveling band’s carriage fly up a mountain. In the middle of all this cleverness is a hilarious Looney Tunes craziness that lets you put rockets on anything and everything and watch like Wile E. Coyote as your plans blow up or drive off on their own. Even bad things can be funny.


Enhancements from Breath of the Wild


Your other two new skills are less important but work well with the others. With “Recall,” you can ride downed rocks from sky islands back up or send enemy attacks back at them. “Ascend,” on the other hand, lets you warp through the ceiling to whatever is above you.

Given how many caves there are in Tears, quickly climbing mountains or getting above ground is very important and can help you find all kinds of secrets. After “thinking with portals,” I really liked this power. Since Link no longer has the Sheikah Slate from BotW, I never missed Stasis or Cryonis, but neither of these abilities is as cool as Ultra Hand or Fuse.

BotW’s million-and-a-half improvements to quality of life make it even harder to return after Tears. This includes simple things like being able to drop a weapon, shield, or bow right away when opening a chest with a full inventory instead of having to back out, open the menu, drop it, and then open the chest again.

But there are also more complicated changes, like finally getting a recipe list that saves every meal and elixir you’ve ever made or found. I couldn’t even begin to collect all of these small details, but they show that Nintendo was listening, even if it didn’t always make big changes.


Technical Aspects and Performance

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

Tears haven’t gotten any better since BotW. This game is beautiful, especially when flying high above the beautiful landscapes and listening to the amazing music. However, even when it’s docked, it still has 1080p resolution and 30 frames per second.

Games for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC can do more; that much is clear. That’s only the point if you put resolution and frame rate above everything else, even the game itself.

Tears’ frame rate drops a lot when the screen has too many effects. It wasn’t worse than the same problems in BotW, but it’s more obvious in the new simple but charming raids you can do with a group of NPC monster hunters against enemy camps. When I was diving from the sky, like BotW speedrunners do when they zip across Hyrule, I sometimes saw things freeze.


Beauty and Challenges on Nintendo Switch

A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom
A Complete Review of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

As before, these problems rarely stop what’s going on. The dips in frame rate can be annoying, but they only hurt me emotionally because they make me want a Switch Pro again, just like they have for years.

Would a system that was more powerful and up-to-date look better? I hope Nintendo will make it soon. Does that mean I won’t be able to play again on my PS5 or Xbox until I’m done exploring this new Hyrule? No way.

Different from last year’s Pokemon Scarlet and Violet or other recent games on other platforms, I almost never saw any bugs in the more than 100 hours I played.

Jumping from the top of the sky and diving all the way to the surface, straight through a chasm, and down to the floor of the Depths without a load screen on a Switch from 2017 feels like a miracle, and that makes it easy to ignore the few times it hung up while doing so.


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is an amazing sequel to one of the best games ever made. It’s better in almost every way, whether it’s through simple improvements to the game’s quality of life, a really exciting story, or new building mechanics that make you rethink what’s possible. It changes old areas and adds new ones so big that I wonder if Breath of the Wild was that big.

There are almost too many tasks to do, mysteries to solve, and fun things to do that will keep you from ever getting to where you thought you were going. Nintendo has done it again, making a world that already felt full feel even fuller by adding to it and changing it, raising the bar even higher into the clouds.

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