The setting sun colors the sky a soft orange as Link flies through the air. Beneath my dangling feet, Hyrule is almost forgotten as my attention is entirely focused on the collection of islands scattered across the horizon. One in particular catches my eye – a small island adorned with a tower that hails from a lost civilization, and, at its feet, a pool of water. I carefully carry Link over this pool and when the time is right, send him to dive onto the floating island. Somehow, even in the sky, fish swim in water.
Tier of the Kingdom is unique in the Zelda series because it is the first time a new installment has reused a Hyrule from a previous game, rather than completely changing the country. Judging by the game’s trailers and the outside of a bokoblin-infested fortress I invaded during a recent preview event at Nintendo’s European headquarters in Germany, we don’t know how much the Hyrule overworld has changed since Breath of the Wild. Still, from what I’ve experienced, Sky Islands helps keep this return trip to a familiar Hyrule from feeling repetitive by bringing a new landscape into a world many of us have spent months exploring.
Some islands are large landmasses, with cave networks and pinnacles that reach heights where Link would need warm clothing or a trusty torch to survive. Others are smaller – possibly containing a puzzle or, in some cases, a puzzle itself. However, almost every island you visit has the remains of a forgotten race whose architecture resembles the Zonai ruins from Breath of the Wild. How much Zonai is involved with the events of Tears of the Kingdom remains to be seen – I’m sorry to say I know about as much about the game’s story as you do. His memory survives though in the form of talkative Zonai mining robots and much less friendly Zonai constructions.
The sky islands are also designed in a way that allows you to easily travel between them, whether it’s giving you the opportunity to create an updraft for Link’s paraglider or equipped with fan-like devices that Can be used to move floating metal. Build boxes or custom flying machines. Many of the islands also sit at different altitudes, so you may be completely unaware of the terrain passing beneath you as you fly through the sky. It not only brings a sense of depth to the sky, but promises to reward backtracking, like the first time a linal nearly crushes you under its hoofs in Breath of the Wild, the sky holds challenges for which Link needs to become more powerful before he can overcome them.
Thankfully your air travel just got easier with the return of the Travel Medallion, perfect for traversing the skies. Place it on an island and it allows you to return there quickly, whether due to the fall of Hyrule below or a wrong turn. If you fall after forgetting to place the medal, there are other ways to return to the sky – although we won’t go into details – so don’t worry about returning to a specific location.
The design of the sky islands also implements Link’s new abilities, both for transportation and the puzzles you can solve. My favorite puzzle from the preview program that uses UltraHand. Ultrahand grants add the ability to pick up almost every object you encounter, from explosive barrels to Korox. During my time in the sky, I came across a group of three islands and, on the first, sat a device that looked like the middle island. Using the UltraHand, I was able to move the device and, in doing so, change the angle of the middle island to any degree I desired until I had a path between all three. When I came across this riddle, a spark of joy ran through me; Not just because I had something interesting to solve, but because its existence suggests that there are more puzzles awaiting me across Hyrule’s landscape and its skies.
As I turned the moveable island I noticed it had a chest hanging from a vine on one of its sides and then my quest was to figure out what angle the island had to be at to make the chest accessible. However, what I love about this puzzle is that it invited a level of player expression that older Zelda games lacked, offering multiple solutions – such as building a simple path or making Link climb Using abilities – rather than a set answer.
With the Ultrahand, I got to experience three of Link’s other abilities. Ascend is a useful power in and out of combat; Gives you a chance to sneak up on enemies and avoid any unnecessary climbing. Thankfully, if you climb into conditions you’re not prepared to handle, like a sudden drop in temperature or an ax hitting Link’s head, you can quickly return to your original position. Meanwhile, Recollection gives you power over the flow of time – turning back the clock on enemies and objects alike. While I wasn’t able to experiment with Recall as much as I’d like, it has the potential to give you control of the battlefield once mastered and can hopefully lead to some very interesting puzzles. At the time of writing, we have no idea whether Link’s Breath of the Wild abilities will return, but, even if they don’t, Link’s new powers will easily keep you occupied, especially the standout , Fuse.
Fuses have two main purposes – fusing objects into weapons and crafting vehicles – and the amount of scope it gives you is great. It’s hard to avoid getting lost in the excitement of mixing random objects into weapons to see what they’ll do, especially since, in my experience, almost every object is fusible. Some, like rocks, simply increase a weapon’s attack power, while others will give the weapon a new ability. For example, by attaching topaz to a sword, it allows it to shoot bolts of lightning. A variety of items can easily be attached to arrows before you shoot them. I enjoyed mixing ChuChu Jelly into arrows because, depending on the color, they grant an elemental ability, such as white ChuChu Jelly arrows freezing enemies. Meanwhile, apples are less effective unless your enemy has scurvy.
Fusing also increases weapon durability, which is incredibly useful when you find a weapon you want to keep around for a while. Still, it’s important to remember that you can only fuse one item into a weapon or shield at a time. Thankfully, there’s an ability to master the controls to combine both weapons and arrows, allowing you to use the ability more easily in combat. That said, if you attach an explosive barrel to a sword, I would recommend throwing rather than swinging your new weapon or else you may find yourself caught in a raging reaction…
A new collection of objects called ZoneI devices is key to the fuse capability. These gadgets range from fans and portable stoves to rockets and flamethrowers. You can find Zonai devices in a variety of mediums, but the most notable one is what can only be described as a fictional gacha machine. Toss some zonai charges inside and, in true gacha tradition, pray that you get what you’re looking for in return. Of course, Zonai equipment can be attached to weapons and shields. My personal favorite is how fusing a rocket into a shield turns it into a jetpack and, if you choose to fuse a flamethrower instead, it turns your wooden shield into a flamethrower for, well . However, the main use for many of the ZoneI equipment is manufacturing vehicles.
For building vehicles the fuse works in conjunction with the UltraHand, which you’ll use to position and choose the angle of the fusing device based on your new mode of transportation – be it a log or a bird glider. It’s important to make sure your equipment is placed correctly, because if a fan or rocket is at the wrong angle, you’ll find yourself moving away from your destination instead of toward it. It’s not just a matter of making sure all equipment is placed evenly so that your creation doesn’t topple and that it has enough Zonai battery power to sustain your journey. Usefully, it’s very easy to take apart a connected Zonei device, so, if you do make a mistake, it’s quick to fix. While I can’t go into specific details, you will eventually get an ability designed to streamline building, which is ideal when you don’t want vehicle building to distract you from your current goal.
Tears of the Kingdom seeks to fuel players’ passion for creativity and experimentation in the same way that Breath of the Wild urged exploration. I can easily see myself spending hours crafting the perfect machine of death that will crush enemies without me ever having to pull out a sword. Even after building a glider with multiple rockets and a flamethrower, it seems I’ve barely seen what the fuse capability has to offer and I’m curious to know what it can do outside the realm of combat and transport . I’ve already attached a korok to a minecart – what else can it do?
Despite being a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom feels more like a spiritual successor to Majora’s Mask. Not in terms of cow-stealing aliens, toilet ghosts and imminent death by the moon, but in how Majora’s Mask changed the formula, the previous title excelled in a wonderfully unique journey that players didn’t fall in love with in the original. From what I’ve experienced, Tears of the Kingdom embraces creativity, giving players the opportunity to indulge their imagination, without sacrificing the adventurous heart of its predecessor. Much of the game still remains a mystery – we haven’t yet seen a dungeon nor know what Hyrule Zelda is on – but we do know it will be a heroic venture and one Link might walk in his underwear. Is.
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