Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

Spoilers probably. You have been warned.

I originally wrote the following at the beginning of October 2023. It is now the end of November. I’ve been hesitant to post it because, pretty much immediately after writing it, I finally spent some time in the underground after spending 20+ hours solely on the surface. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know that means I unlocked an ability that I probably should have unlocked much earlier, which means some of my observations are a little… off. However my general feeling of the game remains largely unchanged.

I recently returned to The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom, having not played it since its release week in May (4 months ago!). To say I bounced off hard on my first attempt is an understatement.

During that first week I finished the opening segment, landed on terra firma, and unlocked a handful of towers on the map. I think I gave up right around the time I found the first tower that I couldn’t immediately figure out how to unlock. This probably demonstrates a lack of patience or intelligence on my part.

Since I began the work of finishing all the games in my backlog, I’ve noticed that I’m much more interested in short games than long ones. I also gravitate heavily toward games that are focused on eliciting a feeling rather than providing a challenge. And Tears of the Kingdom, at least for me, in the first 10 hours, presented a frustrating challenge.

I think, more than anything, leaving and returning made everything infinitely harder. I haven’t touched Breath of the Wild since the year it came out. So I didn’t know the controls and Nintendo just randomly has a different button layout from every other major third person game I’ve ever played. I had to relearn the controls both times - when the game came out, and now again as I return to it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to jump on Y.

By the time I got back to it, I also had forgotten what the basic abilities do. So I’ve gotten into multiple situations that should have been easily solved with the Ascend ability, but I keep forgetting it exists.

Sahasra Slope Tower was probably the biggest annoyance of the playthrough so far. The dude at the tower is like “I need to think hard about how to fix this. It would help if I had mushrooms from the cave down the slope”. Except he doesn’t want mushrooms. You’re supposed to Ascend from that cave into the tower and fix it yourself. If not for a guide there’s no way I would have figured that out.

There’s another tower where I’ve found myself 3 times now, but each time I haven’t had any arrows and you need arrows to unlock it. You can’t teleport to it until it’s unlocked and you have to leave to get arrows. Uggg

In the beginning you’re also extremely squishy. I died to many things in 1 hit. Low heart count. Low armor. And I didn’t have enough food to heal up if I did survive.

All that has kind of calmed down now. I filled in my remaining armor slots and finished enough shrines to get some extra hearts. I found and bought more food. I also have begun making a point of stocking up on arrows whenever I can. I haven’t returned to that tower to shoot the bird though lol

I finished my first temple, Wind, which I absolutely loved! The puzzles were fun and the boss battle was interesting, intuitive, and just challenging enough. To be honest I think that temple was make or break for me. If I hadn’t enjoyed it I probably would have sold the game.

The temple benefited enormously in my mind by not being overly tied to the building mechanics. I managed to avoid all media leading up to the game’s release and was pretty disappointed to find that one of the core mechanics was a Fortnite-style building thing.

I think I’m finally at least adapting to the building, but, when I initially encountered it, I absolutely hated it. It simultaneously isn’t on a grid, but sometimes, seemingly randomly, seems to snap to a grid when a connection is made. Things can just be super frustrating - a cart rolls away while I’m trying to attach something to it - I have to reposition both items to get the connection I want.

Also the stick sensitivity is sooo low when constructing stuff. You walk slow. You pan slow. You push and pull the objects slow.

I can’t imagine how to make it better. Maybe some kind of way to temporarily freeze a main object while you add other bits to it? Maybe some controller sensitivity options? The game needs controller config options in general. Maybe they exist and I couldn’t find them.

Still though, I’m getting used to it. I voluntarily built a cart to drive somewhere. It took me longer to build than it would have taken to run there. Maybe next time I’ll be able to build it faster. Probably not though lol

I tried to go straight to what I assume will be the water temple after the wind temple. Since the temples seem like the bit I will enjoy the most. But of course I ran face first into a long “find a guy” quest series. That quest series culminated in instructions to find the King of the Zora at a waterfall I can’t find because my map is incomplete. So now I’m wandering around unlocking towers again.

Somewhere after failing to find the King of the Zora is where I finally started to feel like I was adjusting and having fun. I’ve still encountered at least a few times where I died only to find that auto-save is far less frequent than I would like in certain scenarios. I’m also still getting one hit a lot.

I rediscovered Hateno Village, which was probably my favorite area in the first game. It really makes the world feel alive in a way that makes it all seem more worth it. The town is comfy and the people are active and unique.

I’ve done a lot more shrines now. So I’m slowly getting used to all the weird mechanics. And I’m slowly gaining more hearts so I’m not so squishy.

The game is growing on me. It is far from the love at first sight of Breath of the Wild, but I am a different person from who I was then. I’ve played a LOT more games and I’ve refined my tastes. I have expectations now that I did not then. Hopefully, as I continue to play, I will uncover the greatness that everyone is celebrating with this game. I think I’m beginning see it.