Like a lot of people, I've been sinking hours upon hours into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom since its release last week. In part because I adored its predecessor, Breath of the Wild, and partly because my day-to-day has been crazy these past few weeks following a sudden death in the family. So I've been finding solace in refamiliarizing myself with the kingdom of Hyrule.
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As in Breath of the Wild, you're given pretty much free rein to explore after you've completed the tutorial. Once the training wheels are off, the game offers a few gentle hints about where to start your adventure, but you're free to ignore them and instead rush off to whatever catches your eye on the horizon.
While you could go into the experience blind — after all, half the fun of Zelda games is the sense of discovery — the lack of direction can make for some annoying trial and error. I ran into several instances where I missed out on key items or quest lines because I'd been too eager to dive into the rest of the game, which made my wayfaring much more frustrating than it needed to be.
Here are some tips I wish I'd known before I was a dozen or so hours into the game. I'll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
Do the first main quests before exploring
This may seem obvious, but if you're anything like me, you'll be itching to peel off at the first opportunity to see everything Tears of the Kingdom has to offer. But trust me: You'll have much more fun in the long term if you hold off on indulging your wayfaring urges. At least until you unlock your standard loadout, like the paraglider and the camera app on your Purah Pad.
The world in Tears of the Kingdom is huge. You'll have plenty of time to see everything. The best way to set yourself up for success early on is to spend some time in Lookout Landing, the first settlement the game points you toward after completing the tutorial. Here you'll find main quests to unlock Skyview Towers, a new spin on Breath of the Wild's Sheikah Towers that unveil portions of the map, as well as one of the handiest items in the game: the Paraglider.
The Paraglider lets you safely glide down from high places. And while Breath of the Wild rewards you with this key item at the end of the tutorial, in Tears of the Kingdom, it's much easier to miss. The quest only becomes available after the game really opens up its world to you.
Lookout Landing has some other key missions you'll want to tackle first, too. In the building directly beneath the Research Tower, you'll come across a familiar face and a quest to unlock the camera app for the Purah Pad. This can be upgraded to alert you to nearby shrines and other resources. Following Robbie's missions also unlocks a useful new rune that, to avoid spoiler territory, I'll just say complements your Ultrahand ability quite nicely.
Forget what you learned in Breath of the Wild
Tears of the Kingdom introduces new Rune abilities that dramatically reshape how you interact with its in-game world. From puzzle-solving to exploring and defeating enemies. But if you try to approach problems the same way you did in Breath of the Wild, you're going to be in for a difficult time.
I can't count how many times Tears of the Kingdom has made me feel like an absolute idiot for this very reason. For instance, I'll come across a towering structure or mountain and my first instinct is to immediately start trying to climb it, only to remember halfway up that I could have used the Ascend Rune to shoot through the solid surface and instantly come out on top.
Gone are bombs and different types of arrows, replaced by the much more versatile Fuse Rune. Need to break some cracked rocks that are undoubtedly hiding a treasure chest behind them? You have a few options: Combine a bomb flower with an arrow to create a bomb arrow and fire away, or fuse a rock with one of your melee weapons and start swinging to become a one-man demolition crew. And with the Ultrahand ability, which lets you pick up, move, and combine items, you can craft just about anything under the sun.
If you're having trouble completing a particular puzzle, take a moment to step back and see if you're using your loadout of Runes to their fullest extent.
The Recall and Ultrahand Runes are your friends
Tears of the Kingdom's Ultrahand mechanic is easily the most impressive addition to Link's arsenal. It's relatively easy to use, and you can make all sorts of creations from attack planes to towering mechs. But another Rune is just as useful: Recall, which lets you reverse and pause the effects of time on a particular object.
In the first few hours, I kept spotting rocks falling from the sky and was scratching my head trying to figure out their purpose. When it finally hit me, it was another face-palm moment. If you use the Recall Rune on these rocks, they become instant elevators to the many sky islands floating above Hyrule. Duh!
The potential of Recall really opens up when you combine it with the Ultrahand Rune. For instance, Wings are a handy new item that essentially functions as miniature planes, letting you glide for as long as you like without using stamina. But figuring out how to get enough momentum to successfully launch off high places requires a bit of a learning curve. Use Ultrahand to lift the Wings over the chasm you want to fly down, bring it back to the ground, hop on and then use Recall to rewind its position until it's over the edge and let it fly.
For more Tears of the Kingdom tips, check out our guide on how to unfuse weapons in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
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Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment.
Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats. She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.