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The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ Review Part 2

Sky High and Below Ground
Photo courtesy of Video Game Chronicle
Photo courtesy of Video Game Chronicle

This is the second part of our three-part review of The Legend of Zelda Tears of The Kingdom. Check out our first part here!

Just like Breath of the Wild, this game also features shrines scattered throughout the world. These act as “mini-dungeons” that provide a reward at the end in the form of a “Light of Blessing.” Collect four of these and you can upgrade your health or stamina at a goddess statue. In that respect, it’s almost identical to Breath of the Wild. However, each shrine is different to account for the new abilities. Some shrines are combat-oriented that force you to utilize Fuse, whereas others are classic puzzles that make use of your other abilities. Let me just say: Ultrahand and Recall can be used to cheese most shrines. Together, they can allow you to traverse gaps and get to a higher level without much thought. Each shrine has an intended way it should be completed, but that doesn’t mean you have to complete it that way. Heck, for some shrines you can bring in specific items, create a makeshift airplane, and skip everything entirely.

If I’m being honest, the fact that every puzzle can be solved in a variety of ways is such a great idea. You can try to figure out what the developers had in mind, or you can attempt to complete a puzzle as quickly as possible. I don’t even know if I’d approach a puzzle the same way two times. There is simply so much to do that every puzzle no longer becomes a question of “How do I solve this?” but rather “What combination of items and abilities will get me from the beginning to the end?”

Shrines are hidden all throughout the world. Some are in plain sight, and others require you to look a little deeper. Alongside stables, there are also fairy fountains, enemy camps, geoglyphs, and much more for you to find. Korok seeds make a return as well, and they’re just as annoying to get as ever. Some koroks require you to use Ultrahand in order to bring them across a part of the map so they can reunite with their friends. I’ll be honest, I really wish they figured out a new system so you could upgrade your inventory space. Korok seeds are a pain to collect and I don’t necessarily think that they’re integrated well. I upgraded my inventory a few times, then forgot about it completely. I didn’t have much of an interest in finding koroks again.

No longer are you limited to just Hyrule. Now, you’re able to explore the sky islands above Hyrule and the depths below. Additionally, the Hyrule you knew from Breath of the Wild has changed significantly. Don’t get me wrong; some locations are still present from your past adventure, but there are also new places to explore such as the completed Tarrey Town, or the new Lookout Landing. Even places like Kakariko village have been updated to reflect the passage of time between both games. 

Like I said in the last paragraph, you can explore a variety of islands in the sky. These sky islands can contain shrines, special enemies, special items, and more! You begin the game on a massive sky island, which acts as a sort of tutorial, much like the great plateau in Breath of the Wild. Other than that, you can access new islands by using Recall on fallen rocks, being launched into the air via towers, or making flying machines thanks to Ultrahand.

The sky also plays a role in the main story, mainly with the water temple and the wind temple. With the wind temple specifically, you’re climbing up massive sky structures in order to reach it, and it is glorious. The entire lead-up to the temple as you get higher and higher in the sky is so much fun, and it is easily one of my favorite moments in the game. Gliding from one island to another is also pretty fun, as each island is vastly different from the last. Your paraglider has never been more important!

It’s clear that this game took inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In that game, you also explore islands in the sky as you’re constantly switching from it to the land below. If I’m being honest, Skyward Sword crawled so Tears of the Kingdom could run. Exploring the sky in Skyward Sword was fun and all, but Tears of the Kingdom just does it better. No longer do you have wonky motion controls that ignore your commands half the time. You can easily go from one island to the next with barely any load times or problems. It’s such an improvement that part of me will have a rough time returning to Skyward Sword.

Of course, nothing’s perfect. The sky has some serious problems, mainly the fact that there isn’t as much as it may seem. The beginning sky island is huge, and it implies that the sky will play a massive role in your adventure, on par with your exploration of the ground. However, the sky islands are simply too few in numbers that any sky exploration outside of story beats is underwhelming. Another problem comes from the game’s marketing, which advertised the sky almost more than it did the land of Hyrule. When the sky was extraordinarily built up only to fail to deliver, it frustrated me. 

A lot of sky islands are just rocks with practically nothing on them, and the ones that do have interesting things are too few in number. I hate to say it, but there’s almost no point in exploring the sky unless you need specific materials or items. Otherwise, I just think it’s a waste of time. Maneuvering around the sky is extremely fluid and nice, but there simply isn’t enough content to keep me returning. I wish they kept the same level of care with the sky islands as they did in the story.

The Depths came as a complete surprise to fans when the game was released because they were not advertised at all despite being the biggest addition to the world. At launch, everyone was gushing about how awesome of an addition they were and how fresh they made the game but after fully exploring them, I have to say that the Depths kind of blow. Don’t get me wrong they are a neat addition to the game and provide a nice break from the normal exploration of the map but they kind of just get worse the more time you spend in them.

At first, the Depths are absolutely awesome. It feels like you have a whole new map to explore and mess around in with one big caveat: It’s completely dark. That’s right, the entirety of this new map is completely black so it is up to you to light your way through this massive underground cavern. You do this in two ways. First, you can throw brightbloom seeds onto different surfaces to illuminate the immediate area. Second, you can go to a lightroot which will illuminate the surrounding area and reveal the topography on your map. At first, this sounds like a daunting task but as you progress into the depths it becomes almost second nature wherein lies the biggest problem with this area.

After you get used to exploring, the Depths become really repetitive at best and frustrating at worst. If you’re exploring for long periods of time, you kind of get into a rhythm of finding where a lightroot is, going to it, lighting it, then finding where other ones are. You really don’t have much of an option to just explore and take in the area because the lightroots pigeonhole you into doing those first whenever you enter a new area. Even with the area lit up, there still is a lot of repetition to the Depths because every point of interest is repeated what feels like 1000 times. There are not many interesting places to find down there besides some hideouts from the comedically infamous Yiga Clan. You can almost always tell what to expect from a location just by looking at the map. See a grove? Well, you’re about to fight a tree and find a treasure chest behind it. See a mine? Well, you’ll find a ton of zonite deposits and a treasure chest. The depths just don’t feel as dynamic and interesting as the world up top but to get the best weapons and armor in the game you kind of have to go down here.

The biggest issue though is the design of the map itself. Put simply, the depths can be really frustrating at times because on top of them being pitch black at first, they are also vertically designed so it’s not just a flat plane throughout. You might say that this is a good thing so it keeps the map from being stale which I would agree with, but because it is pitch black, it makes exploring and trying to get places extremely frustrating because there is no clear way to get to somewhere. I can’t even count the number of times I wasted 10-15 minutes trying to climb a cliff face to get somewhere only to find out that there was no possible way to go over it and I actually had to go around it. What they should have done is take notes from Skyrim which has a large underground cavern similar to the Depths called Blackreach. Instead of being pitch black, Blackreach is illuminated with glowing geodes and mushrooms which gives the location a cool and unique aesthetic. I feel like doing this with the depths would have immensely helped with making the exploration more satisfying and fun rather than frustrating

I’ll give credit where credit is due though. The few unique locations are actually really cool to discover and the map does sometimes change depending on the location you are in. For example, when you are right below Death Mountain in the northeastern portion of the map, you can see lava flowing everywhere and you’ll need special armor to survive the heat. I also think the colosseums you can find are a blast to complete. Sure you know exactly what to expect in each one but they are fun nonetheless and they come with some killer rewards. I especially enjoyed the one that had you fight a gauntlet of Lionels which were considered the hardest enemy type in Breath of the Wild. This challenge comes with some great rewards that quite literally will save your life later in the game so long as you know what you are doing.

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