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      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

      Nintendo soars to meet the ever-increasing expectations of Zelda fans in this amazing sequel.

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      Here we are. Over six years after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched, and following months of delays we've finally arrived at the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. There has been a lot of pressure put on this game. It's following in the footsteps of one of the most highly praised open-world sandbox experiences of all-time, and not only are fans hoping that the sequel can match the quality of its predecessor, but they'd also like it to exceed that quality.

      The only question that remains is whether The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom achieves that. If you're looking for the short answer, then it is a resounding yes. If you'd like to enter the land of Hyrule once more without knowing anything, then you can rest easy that not only does The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom match the quality of Breath of the Wild, but even surpasses it in many ways.

      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
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      I didn't feel as positively about the game immediately going in. When once again finding Link battered and devoid of his full strength in a strange location, being guided to shrines by a mysterious elder figure, I thought we were treading familiar waters a bit too much. Even with the glorious visuals granted by the sky islands, there were concerns the gameplay could be too similar to what we've had before. How wrong my first impression proved to be, when I landed back down in Hyrule, and realised that even though we may recognise some of our surroundings in Tears of the Kingdom, the game builds on its predecessor's successes rather than merely relying on them for nostalgia. There are multiple ways in which we see how much Tears of the Kingdom has improved on the groundwork set in Breath of the Wild, but when you leap from a car made out of stone, wood, and a few giant wheels to whack a Bokogoblin with a tree branch that has a boulder fused to the end of it, you begin to realise how creative and intuitive the gameplay is this time around.

      For the most part, we're still relying on shrines for health and stamina upgrades. We still need to visit the four corners of the map to deal with problems arising due to a great evil showing up in the land, but the way that Tears of the Kingdom approaches the challenges it gives us feels much more streamlined. Traversal, for example, was one of the major mechanics I noticed a big change in early on. Due to the Ascend ability, you can shoot up through the map, which doesn't remove climbing as a necessity but can make vertical travelling a lot easier. Moreover, with rocks falling from the sky every so often, you'll be able to use Recall to send them back up into the air with you hanging on, which then allows you to fly from a great height around the map. Then there's the aforementioned vehicles you can make yourself with the right parts. There are simply so many options in traversing the map that practically none of the journey through it felt like a slog.

      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

      The new abilities you get in Tears of the Kingdom feel like an overall upgrade from those you could use in Breath of the Wild. Not only is there more freedom in them, with Ultrahand being a key example here as it allows you to pick up, rotate, and attach pretty much any object that isn't tied down to the game world, but they also feel as if they each have a distinct purpose to help you solve the puzzles you'll encounter and the world you have to traverse. The Zonai devices you'll find scattered around only amplify the usefulness of these abilities, too, as they can help you soar to great heights, defeat enemies without even touching them and ride over the rolling hills of Hyrule.

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      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

      While we're dealing with a familiar Hyrule, there have been some significant changes made even to the places we know. Rito Village, for example, is covered in snow, and the waters of Zora's Domain have been infected with a sludge that'll slow you down and make you easy prey for enemies. This means that even the most well-versed Breath of the Wild player is going to find some refreshing surprises as they travel the world. Of course, alongside the main map you're also able to explore the brand-new sky islands above ground and the great depths below with plenty of extra caves dotted all over, too. Furthermore, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom shows a step forward in how populated its map is. Rather than just the few remnants of civilisation we see following the Calamity of the first game, here we see how Hyrule has been rebuilt in the time since. You'll find a lot more people on your travels this time around, and they'll have plenty more to tell you about themselves and the world around them. It's this attention to detail which really lets you know you're onto something special when you're playing Tears of the Kingdom. Not only is there a lot of the map, but there's also a lot to do within it. But, it's not all about what this game does to separate itself from its predecessor. It is more than just a game that polishes the few lacking elements of Breath of the Wild, and brings about new elements that freshen up the experience completely. The narrative, as mentioned, surprised me completely this time around.

      I wasn't expecting much more than a few cutscenes tied to the big bad and a few characters' pasts. In Tears of the Kingdom we're instead treated to two stories: one is the one we forge as Link and another is Zelda's own story, as told through memories. Zelda takes much more of a focus in Tears of the Kingdom, and as Gamereactor's own David Caballero put it: "it is literally the legend of Zelda this time around." Zelda is a much more mysterious character in Tears of the Kingdom. As we find ourselves separated from her once more, having to chase her down based on short sightings that can make it feel like we're following a myth.

      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

      It's probably best to avoid talking about the story there to avoid spoilers, but the narrative in Tears of the Kingdom stands as another example of this game taking what was already solid if not great and somehow making it even better. The backbone that made Breath of the Wild so memorable is still there, but in so many ways it feels like the scale is turned up to eleven. Bosses, for example, are much more numerous and come in plenty of different flavours that keep combat exciting and the battles with the bigger threats feeling as monumental as they ever have. It is impossible to put the sheer scale and achievement of this game into words, and I've barely touched on the glorious visuals and enchanting music that combine to make the open world such an enthralling space. In my time with Tears of the Kingdom, I found it incredibly hard to put down and step away from because there's always a shrine that needs doing or a quest that catches your eye or something far off in the distance you can't quite make out but want to explore anyway.

      Perhaps the most impressive feat of all for Tears of the Kingdom is in its performance. Apart from a few moments in the sky islands where I tried to look at everything the map below had to offer, the game ran incredibly well, again exceeding my expectations. Considering we're dealing with hardware that can be outmatched by some smartphones nowadays, it is incredibly impressive that not only does The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom play and look as good as it does, but it also manages to run without error for the vast majority of its time.

      The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

      If, as the rumours suggest, the end of the Switch era is being heralded by The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, then what an ending this is. Tears of the Kingdom not only manages to match the quality of its predecessor, but at times it can stand head-and-shoulders above it. In its open world, narrative, combat, and traversal, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom proves itself to be a triumph, a game that will be remembered not only as a phenomenal sandbox experience but an outstanding achievement as a game.

      10 Gamereactor UK
      10 / 10
      Enthralling open world, story that matters this time around, incredibly smooth traversal, breath-taking visuals
      overall score
      is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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