In Zelda’s world
When I started BotW, I was quick to realise that it was only a warm-up act to the grand symphony of TotK.
Two weeks ago, an iridescent object plopped from the gaming heavens, leaving a cloud of dust where it fell on the ground. From the commotion emerged a cartridge of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (TotK). I grasped it and posed a question: Breath of the Wild (BotW) was a very large open-world adventure with physics-based puzzles and an engaging story. Can TotK offer anything to surpass its predecessor? The cartridge gazed back; answered “Yes”.
When I started BotW, I was quick to realise that it was only a warm-up act to the grand symphony of TotK. Here’s how the story goes: Link, a young hero who loves the colour green, sets off on wild escapades to rescue Princess Zelda, and then gives the notorious villain Ganon a swift kick in his pants. This time around, TotK uses its story to prime us for the scale of its gameplay.
Zelda and Link’s underground exploration leads to an upheaval ripping through Hyrule, creating chasms, and islands to pop up in the ground and sky. In the chaotic whirlwind, Link finds himself in a Luke Skywalker-esque predicament, losing his arm to corruption. However, ancient king Rauru provides him with a new one, advising him to seek out shrines and upgrade this glowing bionic arm as he explores this new world. As for Zelda, she’s lost again. She must twiddle her thumbs while Link explores and regains his strength with his newfound powers.
Among other events, Hyrule’s weapons have lost their power to the corruption. Enter ‘Fuse’, a handy ability that helps join items together. Weapons are twice as powerful, and degeneration is slower if you, say, fuse an apple to the end of a stick. My favourite fused item is a flamethrower shield. You think it’s just a defense item, but really, it roasts the enemy till they’re crisp—the touch of my apple-club can make them crumble.
We are introduced to the ancient Zonai, who are quite modern as they seem to understand electricity. These zonai objects have mechanical abilities that are useful in several areas. The ability ‘Ultrahand’ is a perfect complement to the new Zonai tools, and transforms Link into an on-the-go Bob the Builder—levitating heavy objects and combining them with others to make structures that help in traversal. Now, I can see its resemblance to building walls in Fortnite, but it’s really a bit more clever than that.
Comparing the two games would be like equating a thrilling skydiving experience to jumping on a trampoline. The Ultrahand-creations cover a range of machinery. You could strap on powerful zonai fans to a giant plank of wood to allow Link to soar through the skies and bypass regions in a matter of minutes. But if you fiddle around the game for longer, you could build a fully-functional mechanical robot that walks around zapping enemies.
By the time you have perfected the different ways to use these abilities, the game throws us a few new ones—through advances made in the main mission. Without spoiling too much of the story, I will say this. The tension builds as large chunks of glowing rocks from the sky islands fall. As Link sets off to the corners of Hyrule to sort the mess, he is assisted by an exciting twist: He forges friendships that provide support through his journey.
I had not previously delved deep into BotW, but the ingenious puzzles in the shrines in this game were a perfect crash course in sandbox gaming, making me a master architect of my own gaming experience. What stands out though is the optional nature of combat in Zelda games. Instead of grinding for experience points, the game suggests you fight enemies only if you want valuable item pickups for crafting and side quests, allowing the rest of us to focus on exploration. As all games in the series, TotK is available exclusively on Nintendo’s console. The physical edition for the Nintendo Switch is priced at around Rs 5,500.