Tears of the Kingdom was such a disappointment

I had a lot of high hopes for Tears of the Kingdom and every part of me was expecting it to be amazing. But the further the game progressed, the more dissatisfied I became with it.

The abilities felt like tedious remakes of the originals

Early in the story, we're told by one of the guards at the Gatehouse (directly below Hoz) that all the weapons suddenly decayed after the Upheaval occurred. Presumably, the Fuse ability exists to counter that. You need to "reinforce" your weapons to make them usable again. Ok, whatever. It's a unique ability that is somewhat entertaining to play with, but the vast majority of things you can fuse to a weapon have no point in doing so.

The ability does have its bonuses in being able to replicate some features of Breath of the Wild. For example, you can replicate Cryonis from the previous game by fusing an Ice Fruit or White Chu Chu Jelly to a weapon to spawn ice blocks in the water (though they don't rise) to quickly dash across the water instead of making a stupid boat with Ultrahand. That doesn't overcome the tedious nature of having to do the fusing and then switch to the correct weapon, but it is at least less tedious than making a boat. I would rather just have Cryonis, to be honest.

But Fuse quickly loses all its polish with the insane menu that comes up on screen to "quickly" utilize an item in your inventory, having to scroll through who knows how many items trying to find the one you want. With all the improvements to the inventory screens and even having a recipe book (yay!) that was missing from the previous game, they again lost their points by implementing a long pop-up menu that only scrolls in one direction.

Probably not a popular opinion amongst the ultra-fans (ha), but Ultrahand is by far my least favorite thing about the game. I've never encountered a more pointless feature implemented into a game. It's frustrating to use and makes exploring the world far more tedious than it needed to be.

When you're first introduced to it, you can do simple things like putting minecarts onto tracks with a fan. It gives that small sense of joy. "Oh look, I can make a mini roller coaster tehe." Once you're out of the sky and on the ground, though, it tries to push you in the direction of putting wheels onto planks to get around. But you quickly discover that, without a steering wheel, there is no point whatsoever in doing this. You'll travel a relatively small distance before you either hit something or run out of battery power. Then you can either get off and realign it or wait for your energy to refill. You can just walk faster than that.

Oftentimes, getting across rivers or cliffs is a lot easier to do by just connecting a ton of pieces together to make a really long bridge instead of constructing a raft, car, or flying apparatus that may or may not get you where you want to go. Effectively, Ultrahand is more convenient when not used the way Nintendo wanted you to use it. Better yet, not using it at all unless it's necessary for the puzzle.

The story is very dry, repetitive, and confusing at times

Warning: This section of the article contains spoilers to the story.

Quite honestly, the story of this game isn't anything to write home about. The only truly interesting parts of the story are the memories, which are considered optional. Unfortunately, if you do the memories before completing the main story, the game kind of spoils itself which was very off-putting. Through the memories, you learn that Zelda was transported back in time and trapped there, where she informs Rauru and the other sages of what is to come and what they need to do to defeat Ganondorf. One scene, in particular, involves Ganondorf impersonating Zelda in an assassination plot, which kind of ruins every encounter in the main story where you'll now be yelling, "I already know it's Ganondorf impersonating her!" It ruins the surprise of finding it out at the end because none of the main story changes based on what you've already learned through memories.

This game is also obsessed with doing recaps and repeating the same information over and over. And over. And again. And maybe one more time. There's nothing more boring in a game than going back to a character and sitting through a reading of everything that just happened two minutes ago.

Another aspect that left me a bit perplexed was the timeline. Most people online have theorized that only two or three years passed between games, based on the aging of the characters. But there are a lot of other timelines that are extremely confusing. One that stands out is how much time passed between Link and Zelda being "lost" in the Upheaval and Link reappearing after doing things in the sky? They never say, but it makes a big difference. A lot of things have happened in the game, but I didn't get the impression that Link was missing all that long.

For example, Gerudo Town was deserted due to a dust storm and driven underground. But the enemy that caused this to happen would have only existed after the Upheaval so that is a relatively quick turnaround for a torn becoming uninhabitable due to dust. As well, all the Guardians and other technology from the previous game have just vanished completely from the world, without a trace. The towers, the shrines, everything. Where did they go? How did they do that much clean-up and even have all the places growing grass like there was never anything there in only a few years? Seems unreasonable.

The concept of the Skyview Towers was another aspect that just gives you a "huh?" reaction. Putting aside the ridiculousness of a giant balloon launching you into the air (it is just a game), why exactly am I doing this? Supposedly, we're transmitting this data back to the ground via the connected cable and not only filling in my device, but it makes no sense to do that. We would have needed maps of the land to transport materials out to all these locations to build the towers. So we're... building towers to map the land that we would have already needed to be mapped? What is the logic here? And to continue off the weird timeline, one of the towers has already been overtaken by enemies from the Upheaval and turned into an encampment. The amount of time it takes for things to happen in this world...

The last confusing aspect that is never addressed occurs near the beginning. When you talk to Hoz, you see Zelda briefly standing on a ledge before she ascends and disappears into the same ball of light. Given you see the same light as in the opening cutscene, it implies that it is, in fact, Zelda and not Ganondorf impersonating her as in the following encounters. But from the rest of the story, we learn that she's stuck in the past and cannot return without living through all the time as a dragon. But if she is trapped there, why does she briefly appear for that moment? What exactly were we seeing and why? It comes off as one of those details that gets your hopes up for her being able to return only to be told later it's impossible and left confused as to what happened before. I'm still scratching my head at this.

Figuring out where to go is a pain in the ass

I know a lot of people have praised the game for not holding your hand so much in telling you where to go, but the way Nintendo chose to clip all the cords was the worst thing they've ever done. If you're not going to have objective markers to indicate where the next part of a mission is located, you at least need to give instructions that are detailed enough to find that location. The instructions never do that. Sometimes they don't even get you remotely close to where you need to be. At best, they get you to the general area so you can waste time wandering about looking for the objective in the area.

Worse yet, the game likes to put an objective marker on the screen where the mission started in place of the one that used to tell you where you are supposed to go. For a player used to following objective markers, like in literally every other game on the planet, this is horribly confusing and results in a lot of wasted time running back to where you started only to realize you just ran in a circle. There's no real reason to need to go back to where I started. If there was some important information that the character gave for completing the mission, it should just be in the quest log. I shouldn't need to go sit through their boring conversation again.

Other games already solved this problem many times over. The simplest solution is a toggle in the game settings or one based on the difficulty you choose that determines whether the objective markers appear on the map. If you turn it off, they disappear and you're forced to figure it out based on the contextual clues. But turning it on allows people who don't care about that crap to still enjoy the game. That Nintendo didn't include such a simple toggle feature is an incredible annoyance.

How others react to the game is just as baffling

I've watched quite a few streamers playing this game now and everyone seems to have quite similar experiences but wildly different opinions. One streamer I watched was sitting there complaining relentlessly about feature after feature that is in the game. But when someone in their chat asked how they were liking the game, they did an instant 180 and claimed it was the best Zelda game yet. HUH!? You've literally done nothing but complain in this stream yet it's somehow the best game? If there were ever a more obvious sign that people would just give a Zelda game a perfect score regardless of how bad it is, there couldn't be any better example than that. I get a strong impression that the rating for Tears of the Kingdom is quite inflated with fanboys who just want anything Zelda.

I would also point out that, according to those same ratings, Tears of the Kingdom is definitively not better than Breath of the Wild. The audience has spoken. As of writing this, Breath of the Wild sits at a 4.8 aggregated rating while Tears of the Kingdom sits only at a 4.4 aggregated rating. Sure, Breath of the Wild has twice as many reviews, but there's one interesting data point that suggests the ratings aren't going to change: Despite having less than half as many reviews, Tears of the Kingdom already has more 1-star reviews than Breath of the Wild did over its entire lifespan. Clearly, not as many people enjoyed the sequel as they did the original and you shouldn't be distracted by all the superfans claiming it's the perfect game.

My rating

3 / 5

This game is not for everyone. I would say it's fine-tuned for hardcore Zelda fans and anyone who isn't a die-hard will probably not enjoy it in the slightest. Overall, this game feels like Nintendo's form of fan service. So many people requested being able to build cars, be guided to destinations less, and whatever else that Nintendo caved in and implemented this shitty feature that, sure, lets people build cars, but forces them into every aspect of the game where everyone else that didn't want cars is forced to deal with it. This feature should not have existed and ruined the game for everyone who didn't want it.

So if you are that hardcore fan, or you were just really excited to go screw around with Ultrahand building things and don't care that much about a legitimate Zelda story, go for it. If you are a story-oriented gamer that expects some level of decorum in your games, you won't enjoy this. Despite my consistent criticism, it's not a terrible game and I wouldn't ever consider a lower rating for it. The game just comes off as rather generic, leaves a lot to be desired, and lacks the usual aspects of a game that keep you motivated to continue playing. The game feels like its development was very rushed in a lot of ways, which is strange given that it was in development for so long and saw many delays due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, I struggle to find anything with the game that stands out as a "that was amazing" moment in the game.

July 3, 2023