The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has received some high praise since its release. IGN gave it a perfect 100, as did GameSpot, The Telegraph and, unsurprisingly, Nintendo Life. GAMINGBible wrote, “Nintendo managed to follow a straight-up masterpiece with something bigger, better, and smarter. I genuinely feel bad for every other video game that has to be released in 2023.” Its Metacritic score sits at 96! Just, WOW!
But I am not the person you should ask to review a game like this.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (TotK) is the direct sequel to Breath of the Wild (BotW), the 2017 Game of the Year. It, like its predecessor, is an open-world, action-adventure game available on Nintendo Switch. Its massive world and creation mechanics allows you to play your way, like an immersive sim.
That statement tells you everything you need to know as to why I am the wrong choice to review this game.
Everything from this point on is based on reviews and YouTube gameplay footage and not on my own experiences. This game is my worst freaking nightmare.
Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo. How do you do it? Reviewers openly ignore the standards that they set for PlayStation and Xbox for Nintendo, accepting that the bar is lower and should be judged like me in gym class. I’m no athlete, but I did my best, that’s good enough.
The hardware has limitations.
The Switch released in 2017, a full six years ago. But why am I looking at textures and graphics that look like they’re taken from a PlayStation 3? The videos I’ve seen showcase graphics that are worse than that generation! Compared to Infamous 2, these textures are fugly. Infamous 2 was released in 2011, twelve years ago!
Undoubtedly, the detail in the world has been compromised due to the sheer scale of the map, and some of the graphics do mesh well with the simplistic art style, like the grass. But when I’m able to compare graphics to games from two generations ago, there’s a problem.
This is a Nintendo game, and it’s exclusive, so the developers don’t have to worry about troubling PC ports that everyone seems to be struggling with. That means we can get a buttery smooth 60 fps with no frame drops, right?
No, it’s capped at 30 fps because of the Switch hardware. Cool cool cool.
So how’s the performance? Similarly to BotW, it drops frames a bit. It’s made for a dedicated console with no need to worry about 60 fps, but it still drops frames! And we’re letting that slide because… Nintendo? I guess we don’t expect anything less, comparable to the jankiness and bugs expected in Bethesda games. Redfall was lambasted for its performance issues, but Nintendo isn’t held to the same standards.
TotK is $70 for its standard digital edition, as much as a AAA game for PlayStation and Xbox. But it’s developed on outdated hardware with an expectation of poor game performance. Maybe we’re paying for quantity over quality…
Tears of the Kingdom is massive. The kingdom of Hyrule returns from BotW, and it’s as sprawling as ever. More than that, there are entire worlds in the sky to explore. And they fit this whole map into 16GB of storage! It’s a technical miracle!
But, as per my previous article Why I Will Never Play Elden Ring, I have issues with large open-worlds. I can feel my completionist anxiety worsening as I write. SkillUp testifies that the average clear time of the game is 80 hours, and he hadn’t spoken to any reviewers who managed to complete it in less than 70. Sorry, just no, I can’t commit to that time sink. And 70 hours is not even for 100% clearance!
It’s a mental block. Like when you don’t have time to watch a movie but end up doom-scrolling YouTube videos for three hours. Give me a 20-hour story and I’ll complete it and then mop up collectibles for another 20 hours. Tell me it’s a 40-hour story; it’s a no from me. So, if you double that time, then it’s a HELL NO!
The creation mechanics in TotK look incredible. You can fuse two logs to make a raft or a longer log. You can fuse a fan onto the raft to create a motorized raft to easily traverse a lake. You can fuse two or more fans onto the side of the raft to create a flying platform thingy. The ways you can join objects together and conjure weird and wonderful creations are unprecedented.
But it’s so boring. Why do I want a building mechanic in an Action-Adventure game? It’s neither Action nor Adventure. I don’t want creation in Fortnite (hello, no-build mode!). I don’t want creation in Uncharted, The Last of Us or Ratchet and Clank. Hell, I barely want building mechanics in Lego games!! Yes, you can marvel at physics and how your creation reacts to the world, but if I wanted to think about realistic physics in a game, I’d play Kerbal Space Program. And I don’t want to play that, either.
And now for the piece de resistance: weapon durability and creation. Picture this: you have a gnarly weapon you enjoy using, and it’s smoking every enemy on the map. It breaks, so you can’t use it again. Can you replace it? Oh yeah, definitely. Remember how you created the weapon before, find all the resources and fuse it all together. In the meantime, good luck creating your next terrible weapon made from a stick and a rock. It’s more bullshit to lengthen the experience.
The main feature of an immersive sim is that there are multiple ways to solve every problem, traverse the land or attack an opponent. It’s a selling point that will appeal to many people, but not me. I enjoy a tight, linear story that I can immerse myself in. If there are ways to traverse the land and wind up in end-game areas first, then I’m not receiving a curated experience. Sure, it would be cool to come up with a clever combination of items and weapons to Frankenstein a solution together, but I don’t have the energy.
Also: STOP PUTTING THINGS IN GAMES THAT I DON’T WANT TO DO IN REAL LIFE!
Mad Max: scrounge and fill up your vehicle with gas; Red Dead Redemption 2: shave your beard and brush your horse; TotK: cook meals for yourself. I’m out. I could cope with cooking each type of recipe once and never having to see the animation again. But that’s not what happens. You gather your ingredients in your hands and drop them in a pot or near a fire to combine them. That’s dull. And it reminds me that I need to go shopping instead of playing the game.
*adds apples to shopping list*
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a technical marvel running on outdated hardware leading to diminished graphical and technical quality. It’s an extraordinarily huge open world with hundreds of things to discover that will take you around 3-4 calendar days to complete to the story’s end. It has revolutionary creation mechanics allowing you to forge inconceivable weapons and objects to solve puzzles and approach combat encounters.
All of that leads me to the conclusion that I shouldn’t be the one to review it. Because I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy this game and overlook its shortcomings.
I’m not one of them.