Tears of the Kingdom impresses in its opening hours

You can’t have escaped The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom chatter online. Nintendo’s follow-up to one of their most successful and enduring franchises comes off a laboriously long development time and a hype train that felt out of control for the past few months. However, the time has finally come to go back to Hyrule and save the Princess all over again.

This game has been in development so long that the first article I ever wrote for Rice Digital was about it. I picked up Tears of the Kingdom on release day and spent as much time as possible with it over the weekend. While I am far, far from finished with the game, what I’ve seen shows that the wait was certainly worth it, and, more importantly, the game does live up to the hype, provided you go into it with the right mindset.

Tears of the Kingdom is the perfect sandbox

Tears of the Kingdom Link Falling

The story of Tears of the Kingdom picks up not long after the end of Breath of the Wild. Link and Zelda delve below the ruins of Hyrule Castle and, as we saw in the original trailer for the game way back in 2019, awaken an ancient evil bent on destroying Hyrule. This leads to Zelda getting flung into a chasm and Link waking up, naked and alone, in a dark room once again.

If that sounds familiar, it is because the opening is an almost carbon copy of Breath of the Wild, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Tears of the Kingdom started development as DLC for the previous game until it grew too big in scope and became a full-fledged sequel. The plot and structure have Breath of the Wild’s DNA running through it; if you didn’t like that one, you’re gonna have a bad time here.

Fortunately, Breath of the Wild remains one of my top Zelda games of all time, so I’m loving Tears of the Kingdom so far. There is a distinct lack of structure to the way the world is set up. While Breath of the Wild focused heavily on the open world that you could explore, the sequel is much more of a sandbox to play in. Link receives a new array of powers to help him save Zelda, but they’re not as focused on combat as before.

Tears of the Kingdom master sword

Instead, we are pushed to create rather than destroy. Within moments of landing in Hyrule, I had built a makeshift car powered by a fan. It had no steering and could only last a few minutes before it ran out of power, but that is what Tears of the Kingdom is all about; exploring and experimenting. Later, I used what I learned to create a rocket-propelled minecart that immediately flipped off the tracks and killed me because it had too much thrust.

It was a learning experience. Unsurprisingly, there are already videos circulating of people building giant roving mechs that launch bombs at enemies or using huge floating penises to take down a sleeping Hinox. Nintendo has given players far more freedom to try to break Tears of the Kingdom and it is a better game for it.

Weapons get the same treatment. You can attach almost anything to your shield, sword, or arrow to either deal more damage, inflict status effects, or just be wacky. My personal favourite combo so far has been attaching a flamethrower to both my shield and my sword and walking around as the pyrotechnic display at a Kiss concert. It is woefully impractical but beautifully metal.

There is less impetus to pursue the plot in this game. Less handholding by the developers to push you in the right direction. The world feels like a playground with very few rules, like if Minecraft got the kind of polish and direction that Nintendo gives all its first-party titles. Sure, the graphics aren’t going to blow anyone’s mind, but who cares when the final product is so bloody fun.

Just ten hours in and I am in love with Tears of the Kingdom’s grand experiment. It is chaotic and silly and easily the most fun I’ve had with a game in years. While the graphics and the story are both near copies of Breath of the Wild, it makes up for it by trusting its players to entertain themselves. It is the best implementation of the sandbox game design philosophy I have ever seen, leaving me constantly itching to find out what is over the next hill.

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