The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom seems to be all that anybody in gaming circles wants to discuss right now. That’s hardly surprising considering it’s the sequel to one of the most celebrated games ever, Breath of the Wild. And, just like my peers, I’m currently enamored with this Nintendo Switch exclusive as well.
Welcome! This column is part of a series in which members of the Tom's Guide staff share what they're playing and enjoying right now, with the goal of helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our previous entry where we also talk about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and how it's a game all about breaking things.
Frankly, fully dissecting a game this rich could fill more than a dozen of these columns. And, to be truthful, I’m not yet in a position to judge the game as a whole having only played a pitiful 10 or so hours since launch. Why you ask? Because my free gaming time has been primarily dedicated to the arduous task of reviewing The Lord of the Rings: Gollum — how I wish I could take back those hours and spend them with Link instead.
However, even with a relatively small amount of playtime under my belt, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has already greatly impressed me. But rather than being delighted when all its systems click together — or should that be fuse together — the most fun I’ve had so far has been when I’ve been allowed to completely break things.
Tears of the Kingdom is a creative cornucopia
After completing the Tears of the Kingdom's introductory section in the clouds and skydiving onto the Hyrule surface below, one of the first points of interest I stumbled upon was the Tajikats Shrine. To solve this puzzle room, Link needs to use his new Ultrahand ability to manipulate wooden logs in order to cross several small bodies of water — swimming across is not an option due to your limited stamina.
The final test requires you to build a raft and then use the fans provided to blow yourself across the miniature lake to your final reward. However, I decided to mix things up by constructing a preposterously long bridge by sticking eight or so logs together in a straight line.
It was an inelegant solution, and clearly not what the designers had in mind when designing the shrine. In pretty much any other game, my grand plan would have failed, and yet in Tears of the Kingdom, it worked like a charm. To be honest, I felt like a construction genius for experimenting with an out-of-the-box solution and still finding success.
Another great example of Tears of the Kingdom letting you find your own solutions to problems came when I discovered Lindor’s Brow Skyview Tower. This viewing tower is placed upon of a large rock formation and surrounded by a moat. I’m not entirely sure what the intended way to get up to its entrance is, but I can tell you what I did.
I noticed a stack of wooden planks and some wheels nearby. I presume these are there for players to build a horse-drawn cart, but I had other ideas. I constructed another structurally unsound bridge, propped it up against the rock platform the tower was perched upon, and merrily strolled up to the entrance with a big stupid grin on my face.
Of course, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom isn’t just a bridge construction game. Another one of my favorite puzzles so far has come in the form of the Runakit Shrine. Here it’s your job to transport a large stone ball down a series of metal rails to a pressure pad. To complete this puzzle, I mashed several L-panels together into a strange cube-like thing, stuck the ball on the bottom, and threw it down the rail with gusto. Another inelegant solution, another trademark music cue to confirm my success.
This experience may sound unremarkable, but I was curious to see how other people solved this particular head-scratcher, so I searched for an online guide and found myself presented with a completely different solution to the one I had ultimately utilized. Even though my solution was pretty unorthodox, it still resulted in me achieving the desired goal — and because I’d found a solution unique to me, this victory was all the sweeter.
And these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve also totally misused Link’s Ascend and Recall abilities to solve shrine puzzles and bypass overworld obstacles in ways that were downright comedic. Yet somehow these ridiculous plans have often proved to be highly effective.
Tears of the Kingdom makes me love puzzles
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with video game puzzles. While I often enjoy the change of pace they provide in action-oriented games, and the satisfaction of working out the correct solution can be highly compelling, puzzles can also feel restrictive, railroading you into playing in a specific way. Plus, they do little more than serve as progression roadblocks in some games (*cough*Gollum*cough*).
However, at least from what I’ve played so far, that’s never been the case in Tears of the Kingdom. The various puzzles have actually been my favorite part of the game because of how much freedom you are given to solve them as you see fit.
The game has no problems with you effectively breaking things to the aim of figuring out a solution. Puzzles in Tears of the Kingdom are not simply about brute-forcing your way through via a process of trial-and-error, but instead, a chance to flex your creativity and experiment with Link’s expanded move set.
While many games will punish you for trying to solve a puzzle via unintended means, Tears of the Kingdom gives you a toolbox and sets you free to craft whatever over-engineered vehicles and objects you can think up. And you just might find that your ridiculously silly idea is ultimately more functional than you expected.