How “Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” Ascends [SPOILER FREE]

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” (TOTK) somehow makes its predecessor, “Breath of the Wild” (BOTW)—which received an inventory full of awards, including several game of the year accolades—feel incomplete. Before it was released May 12, there was an underlying fear among many fans that TOTK would simply be a $70 DLC of a game people already know and love. Instead, it not only establishes itself as being worthy of its own title, it fundamentally changes, expands and improves nearly every facet of Hyrule.

Almost like one giant, goofy sandbox, the amount of creativity available in “Tears of the Kingdom” makes traversing Hyrule feel fresh and liberating. One of the biggest points of emphasis upon the game’s release was the inclusion of new “sky islands” which can be found floating above the familiar floor below. These along with other major changes (which I won’t spoil here) add depth to the familiar map which makes it an entirely new place to explore.

Obie Loyola, a second-year design major and completionist at heart, was a huge fan of BOTW and understood the hesitation that TOTK may be an overpriced DLC, but after having the chance to play it—maybe a little too much over the past week—has come to appreciate the adjustments that have been made. 

“I really like the changes to the abilities you gain at the beginning of the game,” Loyola said. In TOTK the player no longer has their Sheikha slate and instead has their Purah Pad. “I felt like BOTW runes were just ok, while the new abilities in TOTK always feel useful, whether it be for exploration, combat or building.” 

The new abilities Loyola mentions include ascending through surfaces, building hovercrafts, turning back time, as well as fusing weapons with anything from other weapons, monster parts and even fruit. 

For Daniel Truog, a second-year environmental studies major who has completed BOTW three separate times, the fear that TOTK would just be an overpriced DLC wasn’t alleviated immediately. 

“I got the feeling that it was BOTW with some floating rocks above it.” Truog said. “Waking up with no powers or supplies, then gaining four ancient abilities and having to save princess Zelda—it all felt the same.”  

The way the dungeons and shrines in the game work is reminiscent of BOTW. The locations of them are different and the puzzles vary, though at its core, TOTK relies on many of the same elements which BOTW did to great success.

It was only once Truog started to progress past the expository stages of the game, that TOTK began to blow him away. 

“It was once I started progressing the story, and having the new things in the game revealed to me, that it slowly became more and more fresh as I continued to explore,” Truog said. 

Jokingly, Truog mentioned that “It has caused all sorts of problems,” in regards to how much time he has played so far. Balancing class work especially with finals coming up, the addictive nature of exploration in TOTK makes it both incredibly compelling and time consuming, something that Loyola could relate to. 

“There is always something more to do… and when you’re on your way to do that thing, you end up getting distracted by other things you notice on your way to that thing you want to do,” Loyola said. 

The first game Sydney Caba, a fourth-year film major, played on her own (without her little brother’s help) was BOTW. Six years after BOTW’s release, TOTK was Caba’s most anticipated game of the year. Pre-ordering it and clearing her schedule for the weekend, Caba was eager to immerse herself in TOTK as quickly as she could.

When asked if she would recommend the game to someone, including those who don’t have much gaming experience, Caba gave a resounding yes. 

“With so many different ways to approach the gameplay, if you want to fully avoid combat, crawling over walls and throwing bombs instead, that’s totally valid and the game lets you,” Caba said. “It feels very accessible from all levels of gaming experience—I had to look down for where the x button was when I first started BOTW, but the game does a very good job guiding you through.” 

“Tears of the Kingdom” had a mountain to climb to live up to its predecessor, but somehow, they went even higher—to literal islands in the sky.