How to succeed the video game which has most revolutionized its generation and which still manages to make an impression? This is the immense challenge facing Nintendo with what has been called, for more than two years, “the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”. Now called Tears of the Kingdom , the heir to the game of the year 2017 is finally available, and above all answers countless questions.
By announcing a sequel to Breath of the Wild during E3 2019, Nintendo was taking a huge risk: that of arousing unprecedented enthusiasm, not only among lovers of a license whose fanbase is a model of loyalty, but also among speak to a very large audience, one whose insatiable appetite for big productions is only satisfied with such ambitious projects. Almost four years later, the long-awaited sequel finally arrives, after a few more enigmatic than totally reassuring trailers, a single real gameplay presentation that clearly did not show everything… and above all, the need to convince that no, Tears of the Kingdom isn’t just a really big Breath of the Wild DLC.
Why worry so much when a little over six years (a record in the series) separate the two games? The answer is simple: for the first time in the history of the franchise, two successive episodes will take place in the same environment , the (exceptional) map of Breath of the Wild being reused more or less in full. Thus, even if the possibility of exploring many new areas seemed to be offered to players, especially in the skies, many saw there a simple extension of Hyrule devastated by the Scourge in the one that was voted “Game of the Year” in 2017. And therefore, not a “real sequel”.
Guaranteed without spoilers!
This test aims to preserve you a maximum of surprises and therefore contains no spoilers . We strive to stay as much as possible in the domain of the implied so as not to spoil an experience that deserves to be discovered by yourselves.
A NEW FLIGHT
In The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it is an astonishing continuity that seems to impose itself on us from the start. The first contact with Nintendo’s game is identical to the one that marked us so much in 2017, with the same sobriety in the first introductory screens. A short cinematic immediately makes us understand that the adventure begins with the events of the very first teaser of E3 2019, in hitherto unknown basements, and in the company of a Zelda with a more modern design. However, the surprise is significant since by taking control of Link, the latter has fully filled life and endurance bars,to the point of generating as much frustration as hope for any self-respecting “complete” player. Indeed, Breath of the Wild did not allow us to fill both gauges (it was either one or the other), and Tears of the Kingdom immediately lets us assume that it is possible… as if its intention to correct the few faults of its predecessor was already established.
Of course, you don’t start the adventure with 30 hearts and three full stamina circles, that goes without saying. At the end of a rather scripted underground procession, almost “story-driven” as the major productions of the most powerful consoles love it, comes the first plot twist, the staging of which raises the stakes with great elegance. Breath of the Wild was stingy with cinematics if we weren’t trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle of a scenario scattered around a gigantic map, but Tears of the Kingdom wants to pose the stakes more explicitly, as if it had fully aware of its need to be more “narrative”.What to savor even better the excellent VF which we had already enjoyed the first Zelda of the Switch, the first opus of the franchise to benefit from dubbing.
Past the introduction, place the gameplay and the celestial islands on which Nintendo has communicated so much, and in which Link wakes up practically naked… with his usual three hearts and no equipment worthy of the name. It only takes a few minutes to get to the heart of the matter and find an experience of discovery of a new area that looks like a giant tutorial which is reminiscent of the mythical Plateau of the Prelude of Breath of the Wild. Moreover, the islets between which the hero evolves in the skies of Hyrule constitute a kind of flying archipelago simply called… Celestial Island of the Prelude.
AN ARM THAT MUST PLAY THE LEADING ROLES
First of all, the Celestial Island of the Prelude looks like a flying version of the famous board of the same name. We pick up tree branches, then sticks, even rusty swords or shields, we break them (quickly), we pick them up again, we beat up some monsters that are not very resistant but with enough stamina to send us back to our dear studies without anyone seeing it coming. Then we set off towards the first point of interest which marks the beginning of a real progression, based on the exploration of sanctuaries with the aim of teaching Link the new powers of which his arm is the receptacle. It is by completing each of them that you will acquire these new skills, which you will have to use very regularly fairly early in the game. All this has an air of deja vu,even if the frankly singular topography of the place offers us a nice breath of fresh air.
In the Celestial Islands, the overall architecture and the artistic direction mix several inspirations with a result that is at the very least exotic. We have the impression of exploring divine territories from an ancient mythology, halfway between Kid Icarus and Immortals: Fenyx Rising, whose vegetation recalls the Ginkgo biloba of Ghost of Tsushima , these magnificent trees with leaves resplendent yellows. It was anyway the best way to avoid repetition: it was necessary, even if it meant going through a region thought to be a giant tutorial, to make it extremely far from everything Breath of the Wild had accustomed us to. Fortunately, the gameplay mechanics are there to mark a real break.
Tears of the Kingdom offers Link new powers from the start, radically different from those associated with the Sheikah Tablet obtained at the start of Breath of the Wild. If we understand very quickly that we must definitely ignore the return of cult objects and that everything will be done again with weapons that break and magical powers concentrated, this time, in Link’s arm, the possibilities are very quickly multiplied in proportions that we had not envisaged. We come, and it may seem crazy, to find the powers of the Breath of the Wild tablet almost obsolete.
The sheer wealth of new gameplay mechanics introduced by Tears of the Kingdom comes at a price, however. As ingenious as they are, and the word is weak, their mastery requires a longer adaptation time than was the case with Polaris, Cinetis and Cryonis in their time.A relative complexity of use which contrasts quite a bit with the habits of Nintendo, a developer renowned for its ability to make its creations easy to use and of formidable simplicity. However, this difference in accessibility is not so surprising, considering what has become of the Zelda license with Breath of the Wild, the only Nintendo franchise more or less treated as “AAA” (the latter often requiring much more than a few minutes to assimilate their playability). The great richness and delicacy of learning its playability ultimately goes very well with its excessive ambitions, from earth to heaven.
THE FEAR OF EMPTINESS
The earth, let’s talk about it. After the charm of the celestial islands, where we finally accept without flinching the slight repetition of the structure of the tutorial, it is time to return to sea level, the time of a vertiginous fall which lets us admire the extent of space which is offered to us. We had already more or less understood that we would return to Hyrule, the one we already know if we have surveyed Breath of the Wild for tens – even hundreds – of hours. The good news is that the return home is frankly exhilarating, even exhilarating, the menu having evolved quite a bit.Of course, the geography of the place remains unchanged, but many events have taken place in the meantime, a strange cataclysm having struck the kingdom, both more alive and yet even more devastated and hostile than ever.
Since Nintendo’s philosophy hasn’t changed too much between the two games, stepping onto Hyrule will have the same effect as when leaving the Prelude Plateau six years earlier: the open world is completely open, without any other limit than those related to Link’s abilities. Emerging gameplay, to which Breath of the Wild had somehow given new acclaim in 2017, is once again in the spotlight, and it’s a safe bet that the most creative players will soon compete. ingenuity to complete supposedly out of reach objectives sooner than expected, just because the game allows it.
etween new tower mechanics to unlock regional maps, more varied than before, countless caves to explore fascinatingly, and new gameplay micro-mechanics that are added to the set, explore Hyrule with the means available in Tears of the Kingdom is at least as exhilarating as in the one we nicknamed “BOTW”, if not more. Nintendo promised to “push back the limits of adventure”, the one with a capital A of which it had had the audacity to redefine the contours with such talent six years earlier. It is clear that the Japanese manufacturer keeps its promises with an even greater experience, with infinitely greater possibilities, and which we prefer to save you from the large number of surprises it has in store. Kind of like it was better left to discover everything Breath of the Wild had to offer in its time.
HARDER, BETTER, STRONGER (AND NOT SLOWER)
As you’ll have noticed, comparisons to 2017’s “GOTY” are incessant in this review, and for good reason: most of the attention is focused on how Tears of the Kingdom compares to its predecessor. We don’t expect to find the premature influence of an Elden Ring there, and anyway, the only thing we really want to know is how much the one we affectionately renamed “TOTK ” justifies going back to the checkout, and if it differs that much from its elder. The answer is not obvious at first glance, because never has a canonical Zelda been so reminiscent of the opus that preceded it , and gossips will not fail to point out that 6 years for that is a bit too bad, especially thinking back to the 17 months (!) that separated Ocarina of Timeand the yet radically different Majora’s Mask in their time. Admittedly, the development times for video games have increased considerably since then, but it is understandable to be moved by a possible lack of audacity, or even madness.
However, by deconstructing (again) part of its myth, by shaking the foundations of one of the most prodigious open worlds in the history of video games, Tears of the Kingdom skillfully fulfills its bet. Above all, it correctly corrects many of the design flaws of an imperfect masterpiece , acclaimed by critics despite some wanderings that we hoped to see at least diminished.