What Tears of the Kingdom Will Do to Us
Release Date: May 12, 2023
File Size: 18.2GB
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
I’m a bit worried, folks.
See, I have lots of opinions about Breath of the Wild. I think it is the best Zelda game, period, and puts any other Zelda that is focused on exploration to shame. That being said, it doesn’t invalidate the existence of other Zelda titles. There’s still a space for your Ocarina of Times, your Majora’s Masks, and heck, even your Triforce Heroeses. But the open-world, exploration and discovery-focused Zelda titles? Yeah, we’re going to want more of that. Because Breath of the Wild is a great open world game. Its Hyrule is painstakingly crafted to encourage you to keep looking for bits and pieces of lore, meaningful character upgrades, and enemy encampments.
But what if all of that was… better?
Like, what if there were more surfaces to explore? Not just a wider range of territory, but also a taller and deeper kingdom of Hyrule? What if there were more enemy types, like Redeads, Bokoblin Bosses, little creepy flying critters, and… I dunno, a three-headed dragon? Does that sound good? What if there were more weapons, and the ability to create things out of parts that you find around the world? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Some of you might be excited by this idea, but as I said before, I’m kind of worried. Because that’s actually what the sequel to Breath of the Wild promises, and that’s a game crafted as a sequel that has been in development for around five years.
Game development is hard, and it gets even harder when you’re creating chemistry systems to encourage environmental interactivity. The enemy variety in Breath of the Wild was substantial, but not diverse enough for some, which is why the inclusion of these new enemy types is welcome. But they only exist after building atop the foundation that the first open-world Zelda established. If we begin to expect the complexity of a game like Tears of the Kingdom from Nintendo in a reasonable time frame, we’re in for a rude surprise.
I recently saw a reaction to the latest Tears of the Kingdom trailer where a commentator remarked, “what have they been doing for five years?” I hate to be “that guy,” because I feel comparing oneself to Masahiro Sakurai is always a bit of a stretch. Instead I’ll just paraphase him: “Have you ever made a game?” Like, do you know how much work is going into making all of this new content function within the preexisting chemistry and physics engines that Breath of the Wild presented? No? Then stop. Please.
This line of thought is something that I’ve seen occur quite often, and I’m always shocked by how insanely ignorant it sounds. In my Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review, I bemoaned the lack of innovation introduced, but this can be excused by its thematic nature and the fact that this still-substantially gargantuan game was developed and released within four years of the last Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC. That’s insane. So while I can critique this element of the game’s design, I’m fully aware that the product as a whole is an incredible undertaking, and for it to look and play as good as it does is an impressive feat. For Tears of the Kingdom to include all of the mechanics and elements of the previous game in addition to the new stuff is wild, ambitious, and is a game that is very much deserving of its sequel status.
If you look at what you wish a game did have rather than what is present, you will always find the existing product disappointing. Critique must be measured in what looks to be capable with the elements already existing in the finished product, because honestly, those elements are maybe the only things the developers had time to make. To add more mechanics, complexity, and interactivity to a game like Breath of the Wild is an incredible effort, and if it accomplishes that alone, Tears of the Kingdom will easily be of equal or greater value than its predecessor. But we still have some time until the entirety of the game’s secrets are revealed to us, so until then: don’t complain. Just enjoy.
The last trick of the mind that I would warn against is the astronomical expectations of what the next Zelda title will be if Tears of the Kingdom accomplishes its goals. This is not just a game that took five years to release, it is the culmination of the entirety of Breath of the Wild’s development, which began soon after Skyward Sword in 2011. If you expect a quick turnaround with the next Zelda, I would seriously consider checking your expectations. In a world where video game development is perilous to mental and physical health, it is important to be kind to developers, and not expect miracles from them. Whatever might come after Tears of the Kingdom, whether it be more complex or stripped down, it must be made with care. We need to care about the people who make these products, too.
If one thing is certain, though, it’s that we should always, always, always be critical of two demographics: people who issue death threats because a game doesn’t meet their expectations, and of course, the people who consider The Legend of Zelda an RPG series. They’re equally abhorrent.