After many years of anticipation and theories online, Tears of the Kingdom is just around the corner for Switch players, releasing exclusively for the Nintendo console on May 12. Though the video game giant has kept many secrets of the game’s premise close to its chest, the abilities and tools showcased in the various trailers tease a game with as much open-world allure as the first.
Ahead of the game’s release, Nintendo provided Distractify with a preview, showcasing about a collective hour of hands-on Tears of the Kingdom gameplay. Here are our first impressions of one of the most anticipated games of 2023.
'Tears of the Kingdom' first impressions — a sequel that caters to many fans' hopes.
Breath of the Wild redefined what we consider to be an open-world game, making it one of the Switch’s best-selling titles and introducing many to the Legend of Zelda franchise for the first time. Tears of the Kingdom takes that beloved Game of the Year-winning formula and elevates it, though not in a way that makes it stand out from its predecessor as a standalone.
Though it doesn’t appear as though Link’s well-loved (and over-abused) Sheikah Slate abilities will be available to the player, the tools provided in their place still give that sense of discovery Breath of the Wild excelled at. Fuse allows players to attach just about any item to their weapon or shield, Ultrahand lets you build using new Zonai technology and various raw materials at your disposal, and Ascend makes ceilings much less inconvenient when trying to quickly reach a high-up place. No matter how many ways you found to jerry-rig the mechanics of the first game, Tears of the Kingdom’s only limits are those of your own creativity.
Much of the preview was spent getting used to the new abilities given to Link, with a rep available at my side to help me build even my wildest concoctions to accomplish the puzzles in front of me. Breath of the Wild players have long found creative ways to bypass necessary combat, defeating silver Lynels with a metal block or overusing the Statis ability to yeet foes off into the distance — and Tears of the Kingdom manages to tap into that same chaotic energy.
Though my hour with the game only showcased an out-of-context sliver of the story in Tears of the Kingdom, the title’s allure comes in Nintendo’s ability to recreate the sense of discovery that charmed so many players in the Switch’s first official game.
At one point, I was able to wield both a sword and shield that breathed fire at opponents. I could equip explosives to my shield to deal additional damage when blocking an attack from an enemy, and fusing an electrifying fruit to the end of my arrow would zap those it pierced.
While developers often put mechanics into place with particular purposes, there are abilities available in Tears of the Kingdom that don’t necessarily appear to have much rhyme or reason — mostly serving to satisfy the fanbase’s continuous need to find the most unconventional ways to do things. Why would one want to fuse an acorn to the end of their arrow? When playing Tears of the Kingdom, the better question would be “Why wouldn’t one want to fuse an acorn to the end of their arrow?”
The network of islands in the sky adds variety to the well-explored Hyrule map, adding new content to explore (even for those who managed to unearth all 900 Korok seeds). It’s in these new areas that Link’s introduced abilities really shine, letting you fly from island to island using more than just your paraglider.
Unfortunately, though the Legend of Zelda games have often been treated as standalones, Tears of the Kingdom’s clear audience is Breath of the Wild fans, sticking to a familiar format with some new twists and tricks. Nintendo has never been one to shy away from reinventing the wheel — but Tears of the Kingdom may be a safer play than some were expecting. With only a limited amount of time with the sequel, it’s unclear if Tears of the Kingdom will appeal to those who didn’t play Breath of the Wild as well as Breath of the Wild appealed to Zelda novices.
There’s been concern among the Zelda fanbase that Tears of the Kingdom would be little more than a fancy DLC to Breath of the Wild, and while there’s so much of the game I wasn’t able to preview during my short time with it, there’s no doubt that the sequel will add so much more to Hyrule than one could expect.
Breath of the Wild boasted astonishing replayability, with many of the game’s most dedicated fans clocking in thousands of hours in the open-world game. When Tears of the Kingdom releases on May 12, there’s no doubt those same fans will find even more kooky and creative ways to spend a thousand more hours as Link defending Hyrule. Whether or not the game will bring in a bigger audience than the first has yet to be seen.