Me and my wife both loved Breath of the Wild. For me, it represented everything I wanted to feel after the soul-crushing experience which was attempting to beat Skyward Sword. And so when they announced a sequel, there was a lot of excitement at my house. The cat was concerned.
And ultimately, I really like Tears of the Kingdom. The gameplay is super fun, the exploration has been massively improved thanks to the addition of caverns to discover, and the fact that the game lets me build a fully-functional tank in a Zelda game is simply delightful.
So why am I writing an article about it? Because 1) it’s my website and I decide what gets written, 2) there are some tangentially related to tabletop RPG things to talk about, and 3) the game’s narrative struck me as profoundly disappointing.
To stress again – I very much enjoyed this game. Do not ask me how many hours I’ve put in at this point. This is definitely a case of someone complaining about an issue with a cake that, five minutes ago, they unhinged their jaw to swallow whole. But even so, just because I enjoy the game doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed with the story. And I am.
As an unneeded warning – this will contain SPOILERS for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I originally wrote this while basically at the end of the game, and I have now beat the game entirely. I feel all of the below statements are still valid, and I’ve added a bonus section to address the ending.
Tears of a Writer
Some might wonder why I wrote about this when I hadn’t finished the game yet, especially when I myself half-expected the possibility of an eleventh hour twist. Well that’s because, much like with movies by M. Night Shyamalan, a twist can’t save a bad story. Even if you pull out excuses to explain away all the plot holes and revelations that make all the bad characterization “make sense,” that doesn’t change the fact that for 90% of the narrative, the story just sucked.
And that’s what we have here. The ending of the game was great and didn’t fix anything.
Oh, and I know that Breath of the Wild didn’t exactly have a groundbreaking story (wake up, find robots, kill Ganon). But that story worked for the open-world exploration game that BotW was. It was simple because it didn’t need to be complex.
There are a few issues with TotK‘s narrative. This includes the backstory of the game, the plot of the game, and the characters in the game. Essentially…
- The backstory and “history” of the game is overly complex and simultaneously bare-bones.
- Plus their handling of the fact that this is a sequel is awful.
- The story’s pacing is utterly ruined by the open-world nature of the game, despite the fact that BotW solved many of these same problems.
- The game treats me, the player, as if I’m a moron in order to make sure I fit in with all the other characters, who are also morons.
What sets TotK apart is just how avoidable all of these problems were. But let’s take them on one at a time.
Zonai Survey Team: We Don’t Do History
Backstory plays a huge part in Tears of the Kingdom since it features time travel quite prominently. Another thing featured prominently is the concept of archaeology, history, and linguistics – the primary friendly group you encounter during your travels is the Zonai Survey Team, a group of researchers studying the ancient civilization of the Zonai.
And yet despite that, the game’s backstory is a mess.
The basic sequence of events goes like this. Link and Zelda wake up the Demon King, an ancient imprisoned evil. Zelda then travels back in time, meeting the first King and Queen of Hyrule. The King, a dragon-man (Zonai) named Rauru, has several encounters with a Gerudo leader named Ganondorf. Later, Ganondorf kills the Queen and steals her “secret stone” which amplifies his powers, turning him into the Demon King. After some time, Rauru and Zelda team up with Sages from each race in Hyrule (Rito, Zora, Goron, Gerudo) and Rauru’s sister to fight the Demon King. They lose and Rauru sacrifices himself to seal the Demon King away.
I have… so many questions.
Most important to note is that – aside from Rauru’s sister, Mineru – none of the Sages have names. Or faces. Or any distinguishing features whatsoever. They have no backstories of their own, no personality, no specific events or interactions, nothing. It’s just the Sage of Water, whose face, name, and being is so utterly unimportant that the game can’t be bothered to include them.
And then there’s the named characters – King Rauru, his sister Mineru, and his wife Queen Sonia. The first two are Zonai, a race of godlike dragon-people. What’s that? Where did this race of godlike dragon-people come from or go to? Unimportant. Oh, and then there’s the Demon King, Ganondorf. Who is he? He’s Ganondorf! You know, like from The Legend of Zelda! He has no meaningful characterization beyond “evil,” “power-mad,” and “red hair” – the game did not feel the need to explain anything about the personal history or beliefs of its main villain.
(I know BotW did the same thing, but Calamity Ganon was always presented as more of a force of nature rather than a sentient entity. The whole point of Calamity Ganon was that he was a Calamity – not a person, but an unnatural disaster. And even then, I still would’ve liked more, to be honest. But the point is that Calamity Ganon never speaks to you at all or even actively interacts with you before the final fight. The Demon King does both.)
But wait, there’s more (less)! Because in addition to the backstory characters getting no love, the worldbuilding also doesn’t make sense!
We are told nothing about the past. We know nothing about the culture of the time, their history, or then-current events. How did Rauru, a dragon-man, become King of the humans? There are mines all over the Depths, are those from the Zonai civilization or from Rauru? Where did the Zonai go? What were they like?
I know I’m a history nerd, and I’m not asking for a full accounting of the historical chronicles of ancient Hyrule. But this game repeatedly plays up the “history and archaeology” angle and yet delivers nothing. The secondary main character, Zelda, is a huge history buff who is sent to the past. Tons of characters are part of the Zonai research team – they never learn anything about the Zonai. The most we get are a couple of diary entries from the royal historian of the time, none of which really elaborate on anything.
It’s okay to just have a “fantasy ancient world” backstory sometimes. The modern infatuation with worldbuilding has its limits – it simply isn’t necessary or even possible to completely build out every single thing about every single world from every single work. But when you make a good quantity of characters into archaeologists, historians, and linguists, then you are promising to explain something. If not, why are all these characters so invested in research when they’ll never be able to learn anything?
And the worst part is that these two problems, of characterization and vagueness, can solve each other. Let’s say all the Sages had names. That means, then, that we have four additional historical figures to learn about. If we give each of them just a single “defining event or legend,” then that’s four separate legends we have about the period. Which is an increase to four from zero.
Want even more? The Demon King is pretty important – what did he do? We see defining events for Ganondorf (his attack on Hyrule for unspecified reasons and his later oath of uncertain fealty to Rauru), but what about the Demon King and the Sages? He should have done something to each of the peoples that the Sages represent – that’s another four historical events/legends. And what was Rauru’s response? How did he gain the loyalty of the Sages? There’s another four!
I can’t stress this enough – I’m not asking for a full historical chronicle. But I need something, okay? I have no mental image of what the past of this world is like except for the fact that it retains basically the same medieval architecture as the modern day and yet everyone is inexplicably dressed in ancient Mesoamerican fashion. Why did Ganondorf attack Hyrule before swearing fealty to King Rauru? There are all these “Zonai” ruins scattered around – what happened to the Zonai? Why were there only two left when Zelda arrived from the future?
This is all added to a game which also seems afraid to admit that it’s a sequel. I joked multiple times that it felt like Nintendo had lost the licensing rights to the Champions from BotW since they were all so bizarrely absent, but now I start to wonder.
Link and Sidon saved the Zora from a “great calamity” in the past – that’s why there’s a statue of them in Zora’s Domain. What, Mipha? The central defining individual for nearly every single Zora-associated story from BotW? Her statue’s up on top of a mountain and she herself is barely mentioned. What, Revali’s Gale? No, no, Tulin the Sage of Wind has a unique gust ability, we won’t even reference that anyone else ever did something similar. The giant Daruk statue at Death Mountain is gone.
And, worst of all… what’s that? Red-black goop has sprung forth from Hyrule castle and weakens all who touch it? Why yes, that is awfully reminiscent of the great evil Calamity Ganon, who plagued our lives for one hundred years up until recently. Does anyone mention this? Nope! Is anyone afraid that Calamity Ganon has pulled a Palpatine and “somehow returned?” Nope! Does Zelda go to the past and see this objectively evil-looking person named Ganondorf and say anything about the great evil of her time that she spent one hundred years containing, Calamity Ganon? Well yes actually, but she just says that his name “feels sinister” or something. She doesn’t, y’know, inform Rauru that she has already spent an entire century fighting against a demonic monstrosity with nearly the exact same name. An entity who created puppets to kill the Champions, all of which had giant red hair just like this Ganondorf fellow. A demonic entity who, I should note, was known to have once been born among the Gerudo. Just like Ganondorf.
But no, none of these things happen. A lot of the issue is that the writers just don’t want to establish anything – it feels like they’re avoiding giving concrete answers for fear that someone will point out some plot hole or another. And yet this very process of avoiding specifics creates even more plot holes.
(Edit: As my wife plays through the game, we’ve discovered that it actually references your prior BotW saves. I played TotK on a Switch that did not have any previous BotW save data of mine on it. My wife, meanwhile, replayed BotW on that Switch just a few weeks ago. So far the only major effect is the presence of the picture of Link, Zelda, and the Champions inside Link’s house in Hateno. I’m interested to see if there are larger changes though – perhaps even partially solving my complaint about TotK‘s seeming reluctance to admit that it’s a sequel. Though, to be honest, if the reason I never saw the game referencing BotW is because I didn’t have any save data on that console… that’s still a bit dumb. But we’ll see.)
And the other problem, of course, is that everyone in this game is a complete moron. But before we discuss that, we have to take a small, awkwardly placed moment to talk about pacing.
Pacing in an Open World
And that has been “Pacing in an Open World.”
But seriously, we have to talk about this. Tears of the Kingdom suffers immensely due to a pair of conjoined bad decisions which make a mess of the story’s pacing and internal consistency.
The first was to make it so that every step of the main quest depended entirely on looking for the answer to the question “where is Zelda?”
The second was to make it laughably easy to find out where Zelda is before doing any of the main questline.
Hopefully you can see the issue here.
So the whole driving question behind the main questline is “where is Zelda?” Your “guiding statement” is Zelda saying to come find her. The four main Sage questlines are all undertaken after you go to the various regions of Hyrule in search of answers on where Zelda might be. Each of those questlines then feature Zelda mysteriously appearing and disappearing, with you unable to find her. The largest series of side-quests is a based on tracking down rumors of people having seen Zelda after she disappeared. “Zelda is Missing” could be the tagline for the entire game, that’s how important it is.
And yet you can find out where she is by going to fourteen different relatively easy-to-reach spots on the map. By doing so, you will be shown fourteen cutscenes which neatly answer what happened to Zelda when she disappeared, where she went when she disappeared, what she did during that time, what happened to her at the end of that time, and why people have been seeing her around when she should be missing. By the end of these cutscenes, you should be able to answer anyone’s “where is Zelda?” question by simply pointing up at the gigantic light dragon in the sky which is Princess Zelda. She is right there. In the sky. Right there.
So you, Link, the main character who canonically can, has and does talk, then proceed to tell absolutely no one about any of this. Despite them asking you about it. Constantly.
The King of the Zora tells you about how “Princess Zelda” appeared and attacked him with a sludge monster, nearly killing him. You say nothing about the fact that you already know Ganondorf can make doppelgangers of people, which he has already done to Zelda once before.
Several different Sages urge you to hurry into clearly dangerous situations because they just say “Princess Zelda” running in there. You say nothing about how the real Zelda can’t run anymore because she’s a dragon, and instead you rush into dangerous situations chasing what you already canonically know to be an illusion.
Paya and the Zonai research team prevent you from exploring a Zonai ruin because “Princess Zelda” ordered them to not let anyone inside. You say nothing about how that “Zelda” was an illusion made by the Demon King and thus the ruins must hold something important inside which the Demon King doesn’t want you to find.
I think the “ideal form” of this plot was simple. You go and tackle the four main Sage questlines (specifically Rito -> Goron -> Zora -> Gerudo) before doing literally anything else. You go straight to each quest marker, no diversions, no getting sidetracked, no passing Go and collecting Korok seeds. As you play through the Sage quests, you slowly come to believe that the “Zelda” you’ve seen isn’t the real Zelda, but you have no proof until you confront the illusion at Hyrule Castle and the Demon King appears.
Then, presumably, you go back to all these geoglyphs (gigantic glowing line art on the ground that simply screams “come look at me!”) that you passed by earlier in your single-minded pursuit of the quest objective tracker. You watch the various cutscenes and learn that, –gasp!-, Princess Zelda actually turned into the light dragon and Ganondorf made an illusionary puppet of her.
What I hope I’ve made clear is just how absurd this is. This is a game about exploration, and yet if you do any exploring, you risk making the entire rest of the plot nonsensical and aggravating. And if you do happen to explore the various giant glowing sigils visible from space before completing the Sage questlines, your reward is a ruined narrative experience.
And the game treating you like a moron.
I, an Idiot, Am Surrounded By Idiots
Before we get to the narrative parts of this, I’d like to back up my claim that the game treats you like a moron. Whenever you complete a Sage questline, you get the ability to summon their avatar to help you with stuff. And five minutes after you get these summons, every single time, the game stops everything to force-summon your most recent Sage and put up an informational help panel to explain how to summon Sages.
This will happen five times throughout the game.
But let’s get back to the narrative – namely how all of the characters in this game are morons.
No one guesses anything.
- Impa and Purah, close personal friends with Princess Zelda, don’t question it when “Zelda” shows up and starts acting evil.
- It takes fourteen whole cutscenes before Impa begins to suspect that Zelda “might” have traveled back in time, despite several of those cutscenes including characters directly stating that Zelda has gone back in time and explaining how she and her ancestor Queen Sonia both have time-control powers.
- Four of the five Sages witness flashbacks of their ancestors talking with the “Sage of Time” and then nonchalantly go “wow that Sage of Time sure looks a lot like Zelda ha ha how weird is that” and never question it further.
- You, the player character Link, never explain any of this to anyone despite the fact that doing so could save everyone a lot of trouble. And then you get chided for it.
I want to pause on that last point for a moment. That is ridiculous. You should never so confidently assert that you’ve “fooled” the audience unless you are absolutely sure that you have. And if you are absolutely sure, you’re probably wrong (unless you are Agatha Christie).
After finishing the four Sage questlines, your next stop is Hyrule Castle. Why do you go there? Because you and several others spot “Princess Zelda” up there. She’s in danger! You need to save her! Despite the fact that you already know this is a fake Zelda. But the quest tracker tells you to go, so you go.
When you arrive at Hyrule Castle, Zelda disappears again and a bunch of monsters show up to kill you. This same interaction happens three more times (each time with no indication besides the game map as to where “Zelda” will be next, so I guess Link just knows somehow). And finally she tells you to go to the throne room, where the Demon King reveals himself…
And mocks you for having fallen for his trick.
I nearly exploded at this. This is infuriating. Not only did I start to suspect that the “Zelda” people kept seeing after her disappearance might not be the real Zelda within five minutes, but at this point in the game… I already know it isn’t the real one! And the game should know too, because it’s the one that told me that in the first place!
It’s one thing to mock a character for being tricked. Members of the audience are in a different position than the characters in the story – in the safety of their homes, with the ability to pause and sleep and eat, of course the audience will guess at things before the characters do.
But this is something you simply cannot do in video games where the audience is meant to be the character. And you definitely can’t do it in a game where it’s possible for the player and the character to discover the truth early. Those memory cutscenes from the geoglyphs? Those aren’t “player-only” cutscenes. Those are flashbacks that Link himself is seeing. And yet despite that he’s still “tricked” by the Demon King’s illusory puppet? Well I guess he’s just an idiot like every other character!
This anger was compounded, by the way, by what came after the Hyrule Castle encounter. Link returns to homebase to meet with his allies, including the Sages. The Sages and others then have a several minute long discussion about where the real Zelda is if this one is a fake.
After sitting there quietly for several minutes, Link the jerk finally speaks up to say “oh yeah, she’s the light dragon, right up there, yep, could’ve told you at any time.”
And the game has the gall to have a character respond to this by saying “why didn’t you tell us!?”
Because you didn’t LET me!
Oh, and Link does this again a few minutes later when they start discussing the fifth Sage, Mineru. I had accidentally stumbled on her questline earlier, so I’d already done it. And yet Link just stands there and lets everyone trade theories and discuss this mysterious “fifth Sage” for five minutes before finally speaking up to mention that he’d already met her.
What a jerk. Seriously.
Isn’t This Supposed to Be a D&D Blog?
Well yes, and I do have something to say on that subject actually.
First off… my website, my rules. And my opinion on rules? Screw ’em. (This message brought to you by the Lawful Good Rogue.)
And secondly… all of these narrative issues are the exact type of things that trip up new DMs trying to write their own campaigns. The backstory is complex and over-explained. Very simple concepts and story beats are repeated over and over again in an effort to force players to listen. Despite being a story in which there is free will (the players’ choices), no accommodations are made to ensure the plot can survive unexpected developments.
Simply put, Tears of the Kingdom feels like a railroaded D&D campaign.
I have made many of these same mistakes myself, that I won’t deny. My first couple of campaigns had rough spots. I was learning. And that’s how this ties back to D&D – this game is a great way to learn what not to do.
Don’t make a backstory without anticipating what your players will want to know. All that’s required for your plot is to know that X did Y and caused Z. But if you’ve done your job right and created a interesting and engaging world, your players will want to know more. Luckily you can adapt on the fly, so all you need is to make sure you understand things well enough to improvise if needed. A video game (or book) has to be published and thus “locked in” at some point, so you need to put a bit more effort in.
And don’t tie the plot together with something you don’t have control over! If the only thing stopping the PCs from accomplishing their goal is the players’ knowledge of what to do, you have created a campaign with a not insignificant chance of being completely invalidated by a single correct guess.
Instead, tie the plot to something you control. It isn’t about discovering what to do, it’s about the PCs finding an in-universe ancient tome. The players know what they have to do, but their in-game counterparts don’t have the technical knowledge to do it. MacGuffins are popular for a reason.
Or tie the plot into discovering the answer to a mystery and communicating that answer to others. So sure, one of the players guessed at the true killer in session 1. But now they have to prove it. Maybe they’ve skipped over a few planned red herrings or little twists, but that’s something you can work around. The plot as a whole still stands.
Read through the Tears of the Kingdom plot and imagine it as a D&D campaign with a party of PCs standing in for Link. Doesn’t that campaign sound aggravating? It’s strict and rigid and yet doesn’t bother to take the time to actually reward curiosity and engagement. It insists on ignoring the fact that the PCs have discovered something “too soon” and instead treats them like idiots, and yet the campaign can’t even muster the effort to give names to vital backstory characters.
It’s lazy. It’s lazy and aggravating and utterly fixable. These are not insurmountable problems. That’s what I hate most, I think. Not that the story has all these problems, but that it has all these problems and their solutions and yet doesn’t fix them.
Secret Stones and Other Annoyances
While the above problems are the primary contributors to the narrative’s failure, there are other visible symptoms of the same fundamental flaws. Which is to say that while these are minor, miscellaneous complaints I’m about to detail, I think they still call back to the same problems that actually mattered.
To begin with, I don’t ever want to hear about the Imprisoning War ever again. As mentioned previously, the “Sages” from the ancient past don’t get much characterization. Instead, they get carbon-copy cutscenes at the end of four out of the five Sage questlines – the fifth one has minor differences but is otherwise the same.
Needless to say, I’m quite sick of it after being forced to watch basically the same cutscene five times. They’re so generic you can actually plot them all out and even the order of events never changes. The only changes between different cutscenes are the character models and minor word variations.
Each one goes as follows:
- The Sage says “let me tell you of the Imprisoning War and our people’s duty.”
- A flashback shows the Sages fighting the Demon King and losing.
- The camera zooms in on the specific Sage in question as they say something about how they couldn’t beat the Demon King.
- You get to see Rauru sacrifice himself to seal the Demon King away before it fades to black.
- An indeterminate time later, Zelda approaches the Sage while they’re in their respective Temple.
- She asks them to swear to help a future swordsman named Link.
- The Sage replies “I promise when the Demon King returns, my descendent will awaken as a Sage and help the swordsman Link.”
- The flashback ends and the present day Sage says “so that was the Imprisoning War.”
There are functionally no differences. One Sage, Mineru, is actually the same one from the past – the second half of her cutscene goes a bit differently, but the first half is still identical to all the others. And this isn’t just paralleled storytelling – all of the dialogue lines are basically copy-pasted in.
Rather than unique details about themselves or their view of events, each one says the same lines with what amounts to a different accent. The Gerudo Sage is the one exception – she gets a brief chance to double down on how much she hates Ganondorf – but even her lines are all just copied.
Imagine taking a set of dialogue lines and translating them into different accents and you’ve got a good sense of what it’s like. Sure, sure, one of them says “help y’all” instead of “help you all” – but does it really matter?
There was zero effort put into these dialogue lines and it shows.
And then there’s the secret stones, the fuse system, and the Demon King. Besides getting sick of hearing the phrase “secret stone” all the time, there’s the problem of the Demon King’s power.
Secret stones are supposed to enhance the wearer’s natural abilities. Rauru has the power of Light and so gets to shoot light beams and cleanse/purify evil. Sonia and Zelda have the power of Time and so can rewind time for objects. Mineru has power over Spirit and can separate her spirit from her body (still not sure why they bothered to bring her along to fight the Demon King, her power doesn’t really sound useful). The Sages all have control over their various elements to some degree. And then there’s Ganondorf.
As the Demon King, he can create a seemingly infinite number of monsters, spread gloom which makes people sick and destroys weapons (including the literal Master Sword), control terrifying gloom hands that scare the crap out of you, turn the moon red somehow (does that mean the blood moons from BotW weren’t even caused by Calamity Ganon?) and finally he also seems to be functionally immortal, immune to all attacks, and able to overpower seven other secret stone wielders at the same time.
Just seems a bit unfair. And the whole “destroying all weapons” thing also seems bit random. I know they just did it so they could explain away the fuse mechanic, but it feels a bit contrived. The basic problem is that I just don’t see how “create monsters” leads to “degrade all weapon quality.” Maybe they intended it to be part of why the Sages all mention being unable to hurt him, but if so that isn’t very clear. Or maybe when he struck out at the Master Sword, he had to use so much energy that it spilled out and broke every other weapon too? If so, that’s never really addressed or explained.
There’s more to the game’s failure to recount history too. Normally I wouldn’t complain about these things quite so much, but… this entire game is based around history and research. In addition to a solid 70% of the characters being archaeologists, historians, or linguists of some description, there’s also the fact that you can’t go five feet without tripping over a newly uncovered ruin or an active archaeological dig. And yet despite all of this focus on the recording and researching of history, the number of history questions I still have now is functionally infinite.
Where did the Zonai go? Who worked at the mines in the Depths? How did the Hylians feel about a king of a different species? How did Rauru even become king of a different species – what right to rule does he have besides “being able to shoot lasers out of his third eye?” And if Rauru and Sonia are Zelda’s ancestors, but they’re both dead after the Demon King debacle… why do we never see any evidence that they had a kid? Who served as regent for the baby? How did the kingdom of Hyrule survive having an infant as its second ever king/queen? Princess Zelda is a direct descendent of Rauru and Sonia, so does that mean the same royal family has ruled over Hyrule for over 10,000 years (if we date the beginning of Hyrule to before the original emergence of Calamity Ganon mentioned in BotW)?
(One of these days we’re going to have to talk about how ridiculous time scales are in fantasy. Ten thousand years is more than you or I could ever hope to comprehend and that is a threat.)
I could go on like this for a long time (but not 10,000 years long). And none of these complaints are killers – a narrative could easily survive any one of these, or even all of them, and still be a “good story” at the end of the day.
But the same things which caused all of these minor problems also led to the major issues that we’ve already discussed. And I can’t say for sure what that underlying flaw is. Perhaps laziness, or maybe an overabundance of caution. But whatever it was, it left Tears of the Kingdom as a phenomenal game with a stunningly disappointing narrative.
After Finishing the Game
This is an addendum after I’ve completed the game. And I’d just like to state – it was worth it.
The ending was fantastic. The final fight against the Demon King was extremely fun. They even managed to solve the one big problem with BotW‘s final boss fight, namely being able to spam food items to never die. I had prepared for this fight by wearing fully upgraded Depths armor to stave off the gloom, and I’m glad I did. But the Demon King also had attacks which flat out removed heart containers. And that was scary!
The narrative was also excellent. You have to ignore a lot of plot holes, but it felt fantastic and epic. And yeah, it had a bit of a deus ex machina with Rauru and Sonia just magicking Zelda back to normal, but I don’t really mind. It was satisfying all the same.
My feelings on this game are very complicated. Playing it was the most fun I’ve had with a video game since Elden Ring. The story was the most disappointed I’ve been since WoW: Shadowlands. The final boss fight was as fun and engaging as the final fight in Hades. The ending was as satisfying narratively as the conclusion to FFXIV: Endwalker. My overall impression is positive. And yet I still wish it had done better.
I stand by everything else in this article. Nothing in the ending changed anything. My questions have gone unanswered. But at least I had fun – and that’s my final say on that.
Why Don’t I Just Go Cry About It
In conclusion, while I thoroughly enjoy the gameplay mechanics of Tears of the Kingdom, I just don’t think it’s anywhere near as good of a game as Breath of the Wild was. That’s a high bar to judge things by, I will admit, but as a sequel that’s just what you have to deal with.
One of my primary concerns, honestly, is how much of a bad omen this is for the Zelda series going forward. Prior to BotW, we had games of steadily decreasing quality and innovation which ultimately culminated with Skyward Sword – the single main-line Zelda game which I have never completed. Well, besides Zelda II.
Ocarina of Time is a classic and quite fun, and while Majora’s Mask was a spin-off (and thus a game I never fully beat) it was still a blast. Wind Waker is one of my absolute favorites. I quite liked Twilight Princess even if it felt a bit formulaic at times. And then Skyward Sword, despite its occasional bright points (ironically limited to narrative moments), just sucked. BotW was, to be rather unsubtle about it, a breath of fresh air.
And yet TotK isn’t. But it isn’t a complete step backwards either. Aside from the return to Nintendo’s classic fixation with interrupting gameplay every five minutes to share some tutorial screen for the seventeenth time, the gameplay in general has remained fresh. It’s even been improved, thanks to the addition of caverns and the fuse system. The one thing I thought BotW was missing was discoverable “mini-dungeons” to explore, and that’s precisely what the caverns and wells are – and they’re a blast! And while the fuse system might be unsustainable as a multi-game recurring feature, it definitely made combat a little more interesting compared to BotW.
Plus you can make tanks and pioneer Hyrule’s first two-stage rocket program – our most recent launch “Got Somewhere(TM)!” (even if it wasn’t what I was aiming at). Early on while exploring the Depths on an ATV of sorts, my wife overheard me saying “does this thing have parking breaks- IT DOES!” and, to us, that’s representative of what this game is. The old fun of discovery is still there from Breath of the Wild, it just only exists in the game’s mechanics this time around.
As for the story… it just isn’t as good as I wish it was. But the game is still worth it.
Anyway, that was that! Look forward to more directly D&D-related stuff coming up next (hopefully – either that, or an article on time travel in fiction).
And, like always, let me know what you think!