During an early preview session, I got my hands on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom ahead of its release in May. My time with the game was broken into two parts, showcasing Sky Islands and Link’s inventive new abilities. I walked away fascinated by how Fuse, Ultrahand, and Recall elevate the creative sandbox established in Breath of the Wild.
Need an Ultrahand?
The majority of my hands-on time with Tears of the Kingdom was spent on Sky Islands, discovering the various foes and puzzles found on the floating land masses. The island I started on was relatively close to another, smaller Sky Island. A railway connected them in air. A Korok told me that he had been separated from his friend, whom, was on the neighboring island. Using Link’s new Ultrahand ability, I grabbed the Korok’s backpack and attached him to a minecart and placed it on the tracks. After attaching a couple of fans, we sped across the rails and the Korok was reunited with their pal. This was also how I learned that the elusive Korok seed collectibles are back in Tears of the Kingdom.
It was during this sequence that I also got a better idea of what it’s like to assemble and operate constructions made with Ultrahand. The various parts (fans, rockets, controllers, etc.) are called Zonais. While I was given a decent inventory of them to start, I collected additional Zonai by depositing a new mineral resource into a large mechanism that resembled a gumball machine. It was pretty charming.
It felt like there was no limit to what I could make with Ultrahand. I built a hot air balloon that could be manned with a flight stick, a rocket-propelled eagle, and a Frankenstein hybrid that covered all methods of travel and required precise timing to operate. It was also reassuring to see that there was a feature that streamlines the building process with Ultrahand.
This also opens the door to even more hilariously awesome emergent gameplay moments, a staple of Breath of the Wild. One puzzle tasked me with retrieving a large, heavy stone from one Sky Island and transporting it to another one just a short distance away. After carefully crafting vehicle that could safely transport me to the island and back, the demoist showed me that I could have simply used Ultrahand on an impossible-to-miss floating dial, which would have created a path for me to walk across. We shared a laugh.
It’s these moments that show off how Tears of the Kingdom is building on the foundation of Breath of the Wild to create an ultimate sandbox, where there are seemingly endless ways to go about completing any given task.
Sky Island getaway
The potential for player creativity in Tears of the Kingdom is also inspired by Fuse, which lets you attach just about any object to Link’s weapons and shields. While fighting a group of Constructs, I attached a fan Zonai to my shield. Everytime I raised my shield, the fan would activate, blowing away enemies, allowing me to have some crowd control as I managed multiple foes at once. When attaching a Topaz to an arrow, my enemies were met with an explosion of electric discharge. Not every Fuse combination is going to be some devastating weapon of destruction – some of them provide a boost to durability and attack power, and others just look funny.
Near the end of my demo, I faced off against a boss called a Flux Construct II. Composed of several large cubes, this boss took on many forms as it tried to wipe me out: a large humanoid figure, a platform of boxes, and even a cube that slowly rolled from side to side. The process of identifying this boss' combat patterns and weaknesses was a fun exercise in experimentation and thinking on the fly. I felt rewarded for trying out of the box approaches against the enemy.
While I didn’t have enough time to finish the fight, it felt like a eureka moment when I realized that one of the best methods of attack against this new boss wasn’t an attack at all. In fact, I’m confident that you could probably destroy a Flux Construct by cleverly manipulating its parts with Ultrahand.
Even the PR folks supervising my demo, who had already watched multiple other journalists play through the same encounter, were glued to the screen during my fight with the Flux Construct, actively theory-crafting about ideas to try and ways to experiment with Link’s abilities.
An upward dive
Link’s new Ascend ability was one of the more interesting tidbits from the TOTK gameplay video hosted by Eiji Aonuma, and I found that it had some interesting gameplay applications during my demo. One Sky Island had a broken railroad that connected it to an island diagonally adjacent to it. After a couple of failed attempts at trying to epically jump the gap using a rocket-powered minecart, I noticed that the island above was casting a shadow near the edge of the island I was standing on, there was a slight overlap.
I made my way to the shaded area, looked up, and was able to use Ascend to shoot straight up and get onto the island. When fighting the Flux Construct, Ascend allowed me to quickly get a vantage point where I could safely rain arrows. It’s not as flashy of a power as Fuse or Ultrahand, but it’s one that completely changes how you examine every environmental puzzle or combat encounter.
With Recall, Link can rewind the timeline on a specific object, an evolution of the Stasis ability from BOTW. Recall came in handy when I was trying to raise a concrete dam in order to let the water out and reveal a chest at the bottom. I also learned that Recall can reverse the movement of a mechanism created with Ultrahand, regardless of the placement of its fans or rockets. Recall was originally shown off as a way to reach Sky Islands. While I didn’t use it for that during my preview, I experienced a new way to access the sky, but can’t go into specifics.
Tears of joy
Nintendo is clearly doubling down on emergent gameplay in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Breath of the Wild introduced us to a sandbox full of possibility, and Link’s new abilities in TOTK are essentially dumping a bucket of shiny new toys into that sandbox. While I got a kick out of coming up with my own concoctions and puzzle solutions, I’m sure I’ll be blown away by what the community does with these new tools.
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Ultrahand and Fuse are game changers in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
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