Before we get to the review, I would just like to apologize. When I first launched this site I had big ambitions at the start, a brand new site filled with lists, opinion pieces, and reviews from many different personalities. Sadly these ambitions have gone fairly unfulfilled, it hasn’t helped that I’ve endured a fair amount of anxiety and burnout over the last several months. Two weeks ago took a serious nosedive as we got the tragic news of my twin brother’s sudden unexpected passing, the outpouring of love and support during this time has been quite overwhelming. While it is my intention to come back full time to Unboxed, I hope you’ll understand that it may take some time before things can get back up to the speed.
Thank you for your time
After several years we have returned to the world of Hyrule we were introduced to with the launch of the Switch, not since the Gamecube have we had the chance to experience two original Zelda adventures on the one system and its been even longer since we’ve had a direct sequel. It’s definitely been a while since I set foot in the kingdom myself and that time has brought out some hindsight for our 2017 Game of the Year. We open up on Link and Zelda investigating deep beneath Hyrule Castle following the events of the previous game, 10 minutes later and Link has had his stats all zapped away, he’s awoken in a cave and Zelda is missing once again.
This time however you have found yourself high above the clouds, learning about the ancient Zonai civilization, along with a brand new arm that unlocks a whole new set of rune powers, alas the days of magnets, square bombs and stasis are over as we are introduced to the brand new mechanic of Zonai devices that basically turn your adventure into a giant build your own toy.
The new runes include Ultrahand which replaces Magnesis but with the ability of combining objects together, you can do something as basic as a log raft or build your own flying machine. Unfortunately, as we will discuss later, this mechanic really is a double-edged sword. Fuse is another ability that can let your imagination run wild allowing your sword and shield to add virtually any other item to the end of it. Take a sword, put a rock on the end and you have a ore smashing weapon or add a Zonai flamethrower to your shield to unleash all amounts of damage.
Other runes like Recall and Ascend can really help in navigation with Ascend basically allowing Link to NoClip through a ceiling and Recall used to rewind an object’s path. The first few hours of Tears brought back many memories of the first time playing Breath, the crazy amounts of death from freezing, drowning, and of course, the one-hit kills. We were spending a good hour or two just trying to figure out how to return to an earlier point for our objective. We only were able to progress because we stumbled on a set of floating wings.
The introduction of Zonai artifacts is the major selling point, these new devices are what really set this game apart from Breath of the Wild but it’s also the most frustrating. Utilizing many different components you can make any number of contraptions, with many of the brand-new shrines requiring you to really think outside the box to accomplish them. The amount of different parts is really varied with wheels, fans and even components like hydrants and roombas, the problem is it can be really finicky and tedious building what you want and then there is an issue with success when it works it works but when it doesn’t it *realllly* doesn’t work.
Beyond the new Zonai abilities, the core gameplay really hasn’t changed much from several years ago for better or worse, you still can’t even pet the dogs for Christ’s sake. The most polarizing part has been weapon degradation, Several years ago we actually stated that we didn’t find the feature all that frustrating but several years is a long time, and coming back to swords breaking all the time, especially after fusing it with a powerful add-on is really outwearing its welcome. The return of voice work also means the return of Summersett as Zelda and not to knock the person but she still is trying to pull off the faux-regal voice for a 17 year old princess only to come off as a 35 year old woman, lets just say that Japanese voice option couldn’t be switched on quicker
That being said, there is something still just magical about the size and scope of the world, even if you spent 100s of hours in the previous title the amount of new things to discover as you traverse the world is simply staggering. Heading off in any direction will have you finding numerous shrines, caves and other oddities to discover where soon enough you are on a completely different trek. Plus the new areas high above the clouds just mean more places to explore and find all the hidden secrets.
There is however one other aspect from Breath that has been vastly improved and that is the dungeons, last time around they were substituted with the divine beasts but thankfully we have been given actual sprawling and thought-provoking dungeons this time, we’ve only been able to explore through a few at time of writing and while they all have the basic concept of accompanying that regions champion and unlocking several mechanisms before a boss fight. Each one has been given its own unique way of traversing and solving its puzzles.
Tears of the Kingdom is a valiant effort to an almost impossible feat, to release a new Zelda game that isn’t just Breath of the Wild all over again, the new fusing and building mechanics are ambitious but the requirements and construction strip away some of that free exploration the first game was famous for. Zelda as a franchise will never stop innovating and trying new things and while not every idea will work out, there will always be something that will keep you coming back.
The founder and Editor in Chief of UnboxedTV. Nintendo lover and not afraid to admit it, can always go for a good Indie Metroidvania with a nice cold Cider.