Review: The Legend of Zelda – Tears of the Kingdom


Six years after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo continues the franchise with the next entry on Switch. Back then Breath of the Wild was a milestone for open world games and video games in general. Based on this strong foundation Nintendo creates a new adventure for Link and Zelda fighting Ganon yet in another epic story.

Breath of the Wild founds the basis for Tears of the Kingdom not only in terms of world design and gameplay but also story-wise. Continuing right after the events of Breath of the Wild Zelda and Link find traces of an old civilization, the Sonau, in catacombs below Hyrule castle. Over the course of the following story, you learn more about the Sonau and their leader Rauru and their fight against Ganondorf. Step by step also Zelda’s and Link’s role in this battle are revealed. The storytelling comprises longer cutscenes which are excellently created in terms of visual and audio-quality and pose another step forward in terms of presentation. In the entry sequence you learn about the islands in the sky which suddenly appear all over Hyrule and the first 3-4 hours of the game you spend on one of those as a kind of tutorial.

Once you complete the first shrines on the island in the sky you are allowed to fly to the ground using your paraglider. The ground world map of Hyrule is the same as in Breath of the Wild with same topography, villages, and regions. Some updates were maid making it feel like a homecoming to Hyrule six years after Breath of the Wild was released. The gameplay basics did not change. While following the main quests around finding out what happened to Zelda who disappeared in the entry sequence you visit four different main regions of Hyrule. In each of the regions the evil force of Ganon caused chaos and by finding the main dungeon and defeating its boss the region gets cleansed from this evil. For example, in the region of the Zora big amounts of mud pollute their land and water. The story for the Gorgons in the volcano mountains, the Orni in their aerie home and the Gerudo in the desert are similarly designed. For each of the four races you get to meet one of them following you in the endeavor to find and master the main dungeon of the region. The dungeons are larger than the titans from Breath of the Wild, however all of them can be completed in around one hour. The unique abilities of your Orni-, Gorgon-, Zora-, and Gerudo companion play a key role to master the dungeons puzzles. I still prefer longer dungeons with more complex maps, puzzles and different enemies as in classic Zelda games but compared to Breath of the Wilds even shorter titans the new temple dungeons are a step in the right, yet classic, direction. The boss fights are challenging, well designed and rewarding, requiring you to be prepared with cooked food for buffs and healing and making use of the companions’ abilities in the right moments to succeed.

Alongside the main quests as usual there is a lot to explore: Shrines are back in the game, now placed at different locations on both the ground map and in the sky. Some of them are hidden and side-quests or puzzles need to be solved before they are appearing. Others are high in the sky island and cannot be reached easily. Side quests from NPCs are also back, most of them to be found in the villages like Hateno, Kakariko or Tabula Rasa. Some side quests even form small side-stories with well written narrative and characters. Unfortunately, they are told via textboxes only. Cutscenes with a real voice cast are exclusive to the main story quests. Towers for revealing the different regions on the map, caves for exploring and Kroks allowing you to extend the size of your inventory also made it back in the game. Quite early in the game you will make your first steps in the world underneath Hyrule allowing you to explore the dark underworld. Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is easily the largest game of the series and when the credits where rolling after around one hundred hours of playing time a lot remained still to explore for me. Similar as for the final hours of Eldenring it even felt overwhelming at some point and personally the more condensed experience of Breath of the Wild is still my favorite. For those who want to focus on the main story only a playthrough in fifty hours or less is also possible, therefore Tears of the Kingdom serves all kinds of players and playstyles.

The new crafting and manipulating abilities Link is learning early in the game are the main driver for gameplay innovation in Tears of the Kingdom. Synthesis allows you to combine weapons, bows, and shields with almost everything you find the world. For example, combining your sword with a horn of a defeated goblin enemy increases the attack power significantly, similar the strength of your shield is increased the same way when combined it with the right materials. Using synthesis is important as standard sword and spears have only low attack power by default and break very fast. Without synthesis already a few standard enemies may cost you your whole inventory of weapons, but latest for boss encounters having a set of weapons enriched with synthesis feature is highly recommended. The second new ability is that link now can warp himself vertically upwards trough concrete walls. This feature allows him to reach heights not reachable by climbing and is cleverly used in the shrine puzzles. However, the feature comes in handy in the open world also, for example when fighting enemies placed at different altitudes on platforms. Moreover, escaping a cave by just leaving it upwards through the ceiling is much more convenient than just walking all the way back to the entry. The third ability is time manipulation, allowing Link to move certain items back in time. One example for using this ability is to travel to the sky island. From time to time, you will encounter rocks falling from the sky. Jumping on them and using the time manipulation on those rocks will allow you to reach the sky very easy. The effect is limited to only some second and is heavily used in shrine puzzles for rotating wheels in the opposite direction for some time or reverse the trajectory of items to reach higher platforms.

The most important and impressive ability is surely the master hand allowing to grab, rotate and glue together almost any object. By doing this you can craft small boats, airplanes, carts and much more. Items like ventilators, rockets, batteries, balloons, and steering items are available to power and enhance your constructed vehicles. All of them consume energy from your Sonau battery which can be extended with special material found in the underworld. After your battery runs empty it will need some time to recharge itself. In addition to constructing vehicles of course the master hand can be used to construct bridges over rivers, ramps or whatever comes to your imagination for solving your problem. Inside shrines and inside the open world the possibilities are almost infinite, and the precise physics system allows you to be creative and explore the crafting system for hours alone.

It is astonishing how good the Hyrule’s open world looks when just standing on one of the sky islands and looking into the distance. Some late appearing objects or pop ins are observable time to time, which are not influencing the experience too much. More severe are noticeable dops in frame rate appearing occasionally. They luckily do not occur that often in battles or fights and rather in areas with a lot of fauna to animate, like grasslands and lots of trees. It is quite visible that Nintendo made it to squeeze everything out of the Switch in terms of graphics bringing the console to its limits in these situations. Sound effects in the open world are again used with care and play a key role to the environmental atmosphere as in Breath of the Wild. The sound of links boots marching through snow fields, the blowing winds on top of the mountain and birds singing in the distance are only some examples how simple effects contribute a lot to the overall immersion of the open world. The soundtrack uses the known Zelda melodies and the dynamic adaption of the music to the situation works as good as in Breath of the Wild. The controls work good mostly but the assignment of certain actions to the buttons is not intuitive and it happened multiple times I selected an action I did not want to do. This holds especially for links unique abilities and the special actions of your companion fighters. Th problem is similar as in the Metroid Prime remaster as some parts of the controls are simply not intuitively designed and require to many buttons to press at the same time. One example is that synthesis can only be applied on item directly on the ground, requiring to unpack the item from the inventory before. Allowing to do this combination already inside the menu would have made things much easier.

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom enhances the Breath of the Wild gameplay with Links new abilities and crafting mechanics. The larger world to explore with tons of side quests and activities make traveling the world as interesting as ever and Tears of the Kingdom the by far largest game in Zelda history. The story around the ancient Sonau civilization adds a surprisingly interesting element into the usual Zelda storyline, however in terms of presentation the game makes only small steps. Except for few cutscenes for the main story the game relies on text boxes without voice cast. In combination with some frame-drops appearing when exploring the brilliantly looking open world it is evident Nintendo needs to modernize mostly the technical parts for future Zelda adventures. In terms of gameplay Nintendo again shows its masterclass by enhancing the gameplay with well-integrated new elements, crafting and a clever design of boss fights and puzzles.


  • new abilities well integrated into gameplay
  • narrative of main story more interesting than in usual Zelda games
  • longer dungeons compared to Breath of the Wild
  • a lot to explore for potentially hundreds of hours


  • the game can be overwhelming sometimes
  • controls overloaded and not always intuitive
  • some frame-rate problems from time to time
  • no voice-cast outside main story cutscenes


Sample Title 92%


“Tears of the Kingdom adds new gameplay elements and mechanics to the phantastic foundation Breath of the Wild was laying six years ago. Surely being the biggest, best-looking and most complex Zelda-game Tears of the Kingdom presents more a careful update than another revolution”

Screenshots and Videos: own screen captures