first impressions

One Week in Tears of the Kingdom

Photo: Nintendo

The newest Legend of Zelda game, Tears of the Kingdom, has arrived, hitting our Slack channels, DMs, memes, and social calendars with all the gravitational force of a Hylian swordsman falling through the sky. The first Zelda game playable on the Nintendo Switch, 2017’s Breath of the Wild, became an instant classic, and more than six years later, its sequel is already a hit — delighting gamers around the world with a refreshed version of its map (including a full sky) and mechanics that emphasize the player’s freedom of choice. TOTK encourages gamers to explore its world while constructing tools, weapons, vehicles, and even flying mecha. Here are our (gently edited) impressions, misadventures, and pro tips from our first week with the game in hand.

Welcome Back to Hyrule

I had forgotten how much of the early part of these games is stumbling into big monsters and then just booking it away as fast as you can. —Kathryn VanArendonk

It’s feeding a real distractible energy. I keep trying to walk a straight line, then running off to the side every five minutes. —Nick Quah

Love that you can drop a weapon to swap it with one from a chest now. That, drawing your bow in bullet time only costing a specific chunk of stamina, and being able to carry around a cooking pot are all very big for me. —Jackson McHenry

I also like how you can access everything from the left d-pad now. (Do we still call them d-pads? I call it a d-pad.) —Melissa Leon

The hardest part of this game so far was the beginning where I was so used to having the BOTW paraglider that I kept yeeting myself to death and pressing X to no avail before I hit the ground. —James Grebey

Having played the game for between five and eight hours, I feel like I’ve barely done anything in it. I’ve hardly scratched the main quest. There have been several times I was certain I was getting past an obstacle the “wrong” way, but the game’s premise also seems to be that there is no right or wrong way. —Eric Vilas-Boas

Anytime I get a quest that stops my momentum, I’m like, “Okay, later bro, I don’t have time to find your horse or whatever, I’m going to that mountain.” —J.G.

I fought four Hinoxes day one. I felt like that was abnormal. —Craig Jenkins

On Shrines and Temples

The shrines are deranged. There’s so much verticality and vehicle building to think about LOL. —C.J.

The one that teaches you about rockets made me laugh out loud. —J.M.

There was one I spent ten minutes trying to figure out before I remembered I’d be getting a paraglider at some point. —E.V.B.

It’s very funny to go into a (very remote!) shrine and have the construct be like, “I’m going to teach you about sneakstrikes, press down on the joystick to sneak,” and I’m like, “I figured this out ten hours ago, but thanks!” —J.G.

Haha I got to “Proving Grounds: [Some Elaborate Thing]” and then three hours later found “Proving Grounds: Beginner.” —K.V.A.

Should this just be a live blog of the gaming Slack? Day 10: The Gang Makes It Into the Depths. —N.Q.

I got to the one where they take all your items and armor and was like, “I will take the waypoint but I am not dealing with this right now.” —J.M.

There’s one on the way to the Wind Temple that was just a big wall inside. The trip was already stressful enough. —C.J.

Fly, You Fools

N.Q.: The Depths stuff is so cool. Nice to see Zelda and Elden Ring stealing from each other.

E.V.B.: I haven’t gone to the Depths yet; question for those who have: Can you dive from the sky area into the chasms?

J.M.: Yeah seems theoretically possible. Though it helps to start out doing the quest chain of investigating stuff there.

J.G.: Yes. There was an interview with the devs where they said that was part of why they had the underground in the first place. Falling from the sky to the earth = fun. But, what if you could fall further.

The “trip” to the Wind Temple took me maybe a full hour beginning to end. So cold, so many sky trampolines. I’m in a love-hate relationship with Tulin. —E.V.B.

I found myself being attacked by the Yiga clan guy piloting a fighter plane, which was both exciting and deeply stressful. —J.M.

Was wondering how they were gonna top the epic map-unlocking sequences from BOTW, and the answer was “Hylian Cannonball Link.” —E.V.B.

I can’t stop launching myself into space. It feels so good. —N.Q.

Rocket Science

C.J.: I don’t use shields enough. The best use for a shield is sticking a rocket to it imo.

J.G.: What happens if you do that.

C.J.: You shoot up into the sky real quick and it gives out. I make a point to bring at least two to a temple now …

N.Q.: Shield rocket is great.

C.J.: …Where you could casually skip a floor.

E.V.B.: Nice.

Small Gripes

I need gems. I’m so poor in this game. Where’s all the rupees at? —J.G.

I’m still pretty annoyed by weapons breaking all the time, but it’s nice to fuse random shit together. I have so many meats on sticks to beat people with. —N.Q.

I’ve given up on the Koroks that want you to transport them places. They’re always in some crucial expanse. Y’all can wait. —C.J.

I find the erasure of all the Sheikah tech somewhat disappointing. The lack of the ice and bomb powers I don’t miss as much, given what they’ve been replaced with, but from a world perspective, it’s kind of a bummer to not have any vestige of the aesthetic that kind of dominated the first game. Like, I’d like to see an old shrine just sitting here or there as an Easter egg. —J.G.

I do miss summoning ice over water. I keep expecting to be able to swim much farther than I can. —J.M.

There’s almost enough bombs, if you spend enough time in caves — which hold blue gems you can sell for gear. There’s one in each cave somewhere, and your map marks the ones you’ve found. —C.J.

On Electioneering

K.V.A.: I like stupid presidential sign man.

C.J.: I want to help him, but they won’t let me.

K.V.A.: Why not?!!

C.J.: I’ve seen him maybe 20 times, and I never get the option to just fasten it to something stable.

J.M.: Oh you can’t fasten it! You just have to build something around it

K.V.A.: Yeah, just prop something up under there, and then be like “Hey, let go!”

C.J.: Wow, so I just flaked on him 19 times, nice.

Playing the Hits

J.M.: I will be getting this french horn player out of a pit.

K.V.A.: Man, fuck that french hornist.

J.M.: His accompaniment was NOT helping me try to figure out how to get him to go far enough vertically but also horizontally.

[One day passes.]

K.V.A.: I’m gonna be honest, I just left that french hornist in that pit.

I got a snippet of an eerie version of the “Hyrule Field” theme while riding around that was amazing. It’s great getting my horses back. —J.M.

Found a kid in a tree jamming along to the stable music on flute. Nailed it. There’s a lot of bards. —C.J.

Our Proudest Achievements

Can I contribute a blooper video lol? —C.J.

Realizing I could ascend through a Talus was thrilling. Really what I’ve learned is how many possibilities there are to mix and abuse the abilities, like launching one of the gliders by ultrahanding it and then reversing time. —J.M.

Horrified to discover there’s fake trees in the depths too. —C.J.

Really hope TOTK is alluring enough to perfectly captivate a 16-month-old. “Margot, look at this: Dada built a tank and then accidentally set himself on fire and died.” —J.G.

Built my first car — a stone slab with three wheels (accidentally dropped the fourth down a hill) all facing the wrong way. Every time I tried to move, I’d just do an awkward spin instead of going forward. —E.V.B.

My kids were watching me play the first Depths story and now they call it the “Stupid Robbie!!!!” mission. He does every single thing you tell kids not to do. They love him. —K.V.A.

I now need to take a break from this game — I strained my right thumb somewhat recently and I think I’ve overworked it again mashing “Y” for hours on end five nights in a row. —E.V.B.

Yesterday, when I was playing, I made my wife laugh when, upon things going horribly wrong causing something I’d built falling off a cliff, I earnestly yelled out: “Oh no, my machine!” 10/10 game. —J.G.

One Week in Tears of the Kingdom