The Duck’s First Week with Tears of the Kingdom

Well, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was released just over a week ago.  While I’m usually behind most people when it comes to playing new games, you’ll typically find me at the game store on the release date of any new entry into the Zelda franchise.  I’ve now been playing this game nearly to the detriment of anything else in my life, and I wanted to talk a little bit about my time with Tears of the Kingdom, like I did with Breath of the Wild just over 6 years ago.  Some spoilers to follow…

My playthrough began just like anyone else’s in the depths far below Hyrule Castle where we learn about something called the Gloom that can sap your life force.  Since I want to get right to my own unique experience with this game, I’ll try to be quick.  Well, this whole opening was quite eerie, and it culminated in Link and Zelda encountering the zombified Ganondorf as seen in the early trailers all those years ago.  Long story short, Link somehow ends up on an island high in the sky with his arm (corrupted by the Gloom) replaced with that of a Zonai named Rauru, and Zelda is missing.

This whole section of the game is a bit like the Great Plateau from BotW, where you are stuck exploring this single location and completing a few initial shrines in order to learn a few necessary abilities, some of which I was initially skeptical about.  And I must say, Link’s new powers are certainly unique ones.  Ascend is a rather nifty ability that lets Link pass through ceilings, which will cut back on unnecessary climbing.  Fuse and Ultrahand were two others that I wasn’t so sure about, as I’ve never been too fond of games that force me to build things (because I’m awful at it…), plus I wasn’t terribly impressed with a recent trailer’s bold proclamation that we’ll be able to fuse sticks together in order to make even longer sticks.  Wee, sticks!

Well, so far, I’ve been having much more fun building than I expected (more on that later), and there are certainly practical uses to the Fuse ability, namely fusing rocks to weapons to use for breaking ore deposits and whatnot and attaching bomb flowers and fire fruit to arrows in order to rain down maximum pain upon my enemies.

Oh, and Recall allows you to reverse time on objects, like making a waterwheel spin in reverse or making a rock fall upwards, though I haven’t found many practical uses for this one quite yet…

It wasn’t really until Link dove down to the surface of Hyrule that my adventure became more my own, which is going to be the true focus of this post.  Again, I love that TotK is so open, meaning that everyone’s playthrough will be different, and everyone will get to discover things at their own pace, in their own time.  One of the very first things I managed to do (after visiting the nearby Lookout Landing) was tame a horse that was being ridden by a Bokoblin.  Being the type to give horses weird names (in the tradition of racehorses everywhere), my very first horse had a truly original name indeed.  You see, this beige horse had a big white booty, making it appear to be wearing a certain article of clothing babies are known for.  And so, my first noble steed’s name became…Diaper Butt.  Ahem, yes, Diaper Butt…although I had to spell it DiaperBut because the game only allows for 9 characters when naming your horses.

After that, I proceeded to explore rather aimlessly for a while.  Upon catching sight of a ring-shaped rock in the distance (which I’m sure many people noticed in the trailer), I headed off to the east.  It turned out that a bunch of ring-shaped Zonai ruins had fallen down around Kakariko Village, though I wasn’t allowed to go near them without Zelda’s permission (which might be an issue, considering we have no idea where she’s gone).  Even attempting to approach one particular ruin from all sorts of sneaky angles resulted in my being caught and reprimanded.

Seeing as a few of my abilities were still absent, I revisited Lookout Landing, where I got my paraglider back and was tasked with exploring one of the nearby chasms that had opened up in Hyrule’s surface.  Now this was exciting!  Back when we learned that we’d be exploring what is essentially the same Hyrule from BotW (albeit with some changes), I was a little disappointed.  My main point of interest were the sky islands floating above Hyrule, which caused me to speculate…if we’re going to be exploring upward, why not downward, as well?

Well, to my delight, Hyrule is indeed littered with all sorts of cave systems to explore now, and the most exciting are the deep, dark chasms littering the landscape.  And to make them even creepier, they are surrounded by red patches of the very same Gloom that we encountered in the game’s opening.  And now it was finally time to delve into the unknown and discover what secrets are hidden beneath Hyrule’s pleasantly sunny and grassy surface…

So without hesitation, our brave hero jumped into the chasm near Lookout Landing, which was way deeper than I was expecting!  Deploying Link’s trusty paraglider at the last moment, I found myself in a dark environment that looked as if it could go on forever…and there were trees down here!  And not like the sorts of trees you’d find aboveground, but strange, exotic ones.  Truly this was some sort of hidden ecosystem that the Hylians never before realized was hiding far beneath their feet!  There were even plenty of enemies here, which were corrupted by the Gloom!

With the help of a copious number of brightbloom seeds to light my path, I eventually reached my destination and was granted the Camera ability so that I could take a photo of a statue depicting some kind of creature that may have once dwelt in these caves.  At some point, I was even able to activate a Lightroot, which allowed me to illuminate a portion of the world below ground.  Once I was left to my own devices, you’d assume I’d probably want out of this dark and creepy place.  And you’d be wrong because I immediately left the Lightroot’s radius of comforting light and trekked back into the cold, deep darkness, where I promptly found some ruins, a whole bunch of zonaite deposits, and an outfit that glowed in the dark!

I ended up spending quite a long time underground, just exploring and activating even more Lightroots in order to further illuminate the darkness.  I even found some skeletal Stalhorses, which are much more docile than they appear and can even run on the Gloom!  I only wish I could keep one at the stable, but alas, this was never an option in BotW due to these particular horses’ dislike for light, so I imagine that’s still the case here.  Along the way, I collected tons of glowing, blue Poes and even managed to buy the Dark Tunic from a Bargainer Statue in the area, which looks like Link’s classic green tunic, except black.

I eventually struggled to make any more progress below ground, so I returned to the surface with my newest goal, locate Misko’s treasure.  Earlier, some lady I met on the way to Kakariko Village marked three places on my map where I should look, and I began by seeking out some clothing that would aid in Link’s climbing prowess.  Along the way, I tamed a wild blue horse that I named Blueberry and helped Impa to check out these Nazca-esque lines that had appeared in a big, grassy field.  Afterward, I managed to discover all three caves containing the hidden clothing, though I was unable to obtain one that I assume is guarded by a Stone Talus that keeps murdering me in one hit.

Finding another chasm further south from the one near Lookout Landing, I dove back into the dark depths below and continued my exploration.  I had fun creating a little car that Link was able to ride across the Gloom, and I discovered a handful of Yiga Clan members lurking in the darkness, including their dorky leader himself, Master Kohga!  After defeating this fool, I delved even further into the caves with the instruction that I needed to follow the gaze of the statues depicting a woman with a sword.

Along the way, I found some sort of Yiga fort surrounded by spikes that I was able to enter by flying high up in a hot air balloon and paragliding over.  After destroying everyone there, I stole a motorcycle, which I promptly lost when some enemies knocked me off, and the vehicle went careening away (presumably off a cliff, as I couldn’t find it anywhere)!  As I stubbornly continued my hike, I got a really amazing view of the dragon Farosh and took some great pictures of it!  This encounter was surely a highlight of my playthrough so far, as the dragon passed quite close by me!

Some time later, I managed to find Master Kohga again, but I found myself unprepared to defeat him because he spent the whole battle flying around on one of those bird-shaped gliders.  It’s possible that, given enough time, I could have defeated him with enough arrows and bomb flowers, but I’m always finding myself with a shortage of bows, which never last terribly long without breaking.

Which brings me to a few minor complaints.  Again, my equipment breaks very quickly, just as it did in BotW, and I’m usually finding myself very low on bows and shields, which aren’t dropped by enemies nearly as often as melee weapons.  I’m also not having as much fun with the puzzles in this game, as the shrines so far seem to place heavy emphasis on building.  Perhaps I just need a better understanding of how the Zonai devices work in this game, but I was certainly not the only person who could not figure out the Makasura Shrine near Kakariko Village, which required you to use devices that always stand upright when struck.  (This is the only time so far that I’ve looked up help online, and I don’t think I would have ever figured this out on my own.)  Lastly, they really just need a button to unstick objects that you’ve fused together with Ultrahand because shaking the right analog stick is both annoying and frequently doesn’t work.

Lastly, I’m still having mixed feelings about the addition of vehicles to the more medieval fantasy environment the Zelda series normally embodies, especially when my first battle against Master Kohga had him riding around in a large and spiky vehicle.  On one hand, such absurd vehicles feel strangely fitting for the Yiga Clan, and on the other, I’ve never associated The Legend of Zelda with monster trucks before, and I’m not sure I want to.

Well, the last thing I did was travel far to the southeast to reach Hateno Village, the supposed fashion capital of Hyrule, all for the purposes of getting Link some new clothes…only to find that no such clothing was even for sale.  Hmm…  Well, I’d better end this post here, as I have a lot more playing to do.  My newest goal includes reaching the seaside town of Lurelin Village, taming a more powerful, solid-colored horse (I have my eyes on a black horse that I want to name Licorice), and just generally making Link stronger so he stops dying in a single hit against some of the stronger enemies.  And once I’ve gathered enough new experiences to talk about, you can bet that I’ll back with yet another update on my adventures with Tears of the Kingdom!

Lede image taken from presskit for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (© Nintendo).

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