Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom taught me to colour outside of the lines
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is finally here, arriving more than six years after its predecessor, Breath of the Wild.
I spent a few hours with the open-world adventure over the weekend and the intoxicating mix of a gorgeous physics sandbox and new abilities has broken my brain in the best kind of way.
- Wondering if the game is worth picking up? Check out our Tears of the Kingdom review.
Not so Wild at heart
That may be the least exciting statement to kick off an opinion piece with - "very good game is very good" has been done to death, and there will be thousands of similar pieces written in the coming weeks, months, and possibly years.
Some context, then: Breath of the Wild was my first Zelda game, and I didn't love it. That's not to say I didn't appreciate its scope and core mechanics, but I bounced off it shortly after leaving the Great Plateau.
It was very much an "it's not you, it's me" situation because I struggle to think outside of the box. If you were to tell me I have a dozen solutions to every challenge, I'll find one or two and repeat them forever, so long as they work.
Take Dishonored, for example, one of my favourite series - I love the choice available to me, but it'll always descend into lethal stealth. In Skyrim, I'll forever be a sneaky archer (but aren't we all?).
- Be sure to check out our guide on how to get the Master Sword early in Tears of the Kingdom
It's not exciting, but for whatever reason, I'm just not all that creative (with writing being the obvious exception to the rule). I lean toward binary solutions, and as much as I could've brute-forced my way through Breath of the Wild, it just didn't feel like a game made for me.
Elden Ring, on the other hand, was full of encounters that felt mostly split between fight or flight - and it gave me a new appreciation for open-world gaming in a way Breath of the Wild stirred that same awakening for many five years earlier.
So, what's new? It's hard to say, but the main quartet of abilities within Tears of the Kingdom has me approaching things differently each time.
Whereas in my short run in Breath of the Wild I found myself diving into the fray, before retreating to fire arrows from a safe distance, in Tears of the Kingdom both my combat and exploration options have been consistently more ambitious.
Whether it's cobbling items together with Ultrahand to make a woefully unsafe vehicle with which to commit Hyrule's equivalent of drive-by attacks, rewinding arrows to hit the enemies that fired them, or swinging a hilariously roadrunner-esque "boulder sword", I'm gradually leaving my comfort zone in a game for the first time in decades.
The best part is that, although all of these outcomes are accounted for (and very viable), Tears of the Kingdom makes me feel like the smartest cookie in the room because of its complete lack of signposting - the very thing that put me off of the last game.
It's a game that feels catered to giving a very personal adventure to all those who step foot in Hyrule, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I started.
It may even convince me to return to Breath of the Wild, a trip I considered unlikely at best just a week ago.