Tears of the Kingdom's Depths are an addicting deviation from the usual Zelda adventure

Charting Hyrule's underground map is a huge part of where Tears of the Kingdom both carves part of its unique identity and pays homage to the past.

Image by Nintendo

Among all the Shack Staff playing through The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and adventuring our hearts out to bring players the best guides we can, I’ve become a bit of a Depths guy in my own journey. I like that area a lot. It’s where the game went from new-and-improved Breath of the Wild to an all-new and fascinating adventure for me. Why? The Depths both plays off of a familiar Zelda trope, but also provides a gameplay experience like little else we’ve seen in the Zelda franchise.

What are the Depths?

If you venture along the main quest in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, you will eventually meet Josha in Lookout Landing and she will introduce you to the concept of Chasms and the Depths. When the Great Upheaval sucked Hyrule Castle into the sky alongside a wealth of further land and ruins, holes in the ground opened up. Absolutely caked with Gloom that drains the health of anyone standing in it, these holes became dangerous subjects of study by Purah, Josha, and the Survey Team trying to sort out the mysteries of Hyrule’s newest problem. With some careful exploration, they learned there’s a land underneath Hyrule, absolutely brimming with ancient secrets, but also some of the game’s most potent threats.

Just so you know, we’re not talking about some fiddly cave or a one-off dungeon that you finish and never come back to. Tears of the Kingdom’s Depths are an area that is just as large as the ground-level Hyrule map itself. It even features its own system of checkpoints, special locations, and plenty of quests and discoveries to find. Follow the main quests of Tears of the Kingdom for long enough and you’re sure to be back down there frequently, but at the very least, you should spend some time getting Autobuild and the Tunic of the Depths for just how helpful they are throughout the game.

Stretch into the darkness

Story and environmental context aside, it took me exactly one trip down to the Depths to decide I wanted to stay there forever. It’s not just that it’s different in the way it challenges your knowledge of playing Zelda, but that challenge is also an absolute blast. You see (or more accurately, don’t see), the Depths is shrouded in near complete darkness. The only thing you can see without assistance are Poe spirits glowing with their blue flame, outlines of Gloom puddles here and there, and the dim glow of giant vegetative bulbs. Watch your step without light to guide you because the Depths features massive changes in terrain that could have you walking off a steep cliff if you’re ill-equipped.

So, how do you deal with that? With light, of course. There’s a resource in the game called the Brightbloom Seeds. You can take one in hand and lob it like a grenade or strap it to an arrow and shoot into the dark. Wherever it lands, it will activate and light up a section of the Depths. This is how you begin safely charting your path forward. But of course, that isn’t the only way. Those giant bulbs you’ve no-doubt seen are Lightroots. They are your checkpoints, making for some of the most important goals in the Depths. They are like Shrines without challenges or collectible awards attached. Once you activate one, it will act as a checkpoint, but that’s not all. It will also light up, removing a large portion of shroud from your map of the Depths and casting light over the entire affected area. In essence, these become the anchor points you strive for down there.

Link flying to a Lightroot in the Depths in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Source: Nintendo

Making you stumble in the darkness wasn’t good enough for Nintendo, though. The Depths are also infested with creatures that all do Gloom damage if they hit you. And that’s every creature. You thought a Lynel was bad? Wait till you find one encased in stone armor that will reduce your ability to heal if it hits you. That’s kind of the mystique of the Depths to me. Everything down there is bristling and prepared to kill you in ways that make the overworld of Hyrule feel like a relaxing jaunt. You have to be specially equipped to delve deep into the Depths and even if you are, survival is still a tough order as you go deeper. But oh, how freaking satisfying it is when you overcome the trek to a Lightroot.

There was an instance where I was way in over my head while exploring down there. There was a Lightroot I was targeting, but an errant Lightbloom Seed arrow I sent flying over the edge of a darkened cliff mere feet from me informed me that the Lightroot was positioned on the top of a treacherously high cliff overlooking a very low valley with little to no easy paths up. I was already stretched thin, but I pushed this far into the dark. I needed this Lightroot. I assembled any machine I could to get enough elevation up there. I used Tulin’s wind, most of my firewood, and a ton of fans and balloons to rise, and even then just barely sailed from one side of a canyon to a spot high enough on the other side of the canyon to desperately climb the last bit of cliff and reach that stupid root. It was a triumph that made me cheer out loud when I climbed over the edge of the cliff and saw my victory before me. Countless players have likely run into all sorts of challenges throughout our adventures in Tears of the Kingdom, but I’ve had very few moments that were ever so uncertain and ultimately so personally rewarding.

A White-Maned Lynel in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Source: Nintendo

Of course, the Depths isn’t just a place of personal glory and challenge either. It’s also bristling with treasures both common and very hard fought. For one, the Depths are one of the only places I know of in Tears of the Kingdom that are a reliable source of Bomb Flowers, which are some of the most powerful weapon components throughout the game. Take a pile of Bomb Flowers against the vicious Gloom Hands and they will be too busy on fire and dying to grab you. Engaging with the Poes in the Depths is also how you get the Tunic of the Depths in a jiffy, which protects you from Gloom damage - a must-have if you ask me. There are also unruined weapons in the Depths that feature greater durability and components like Zonaite and diamonds that can be farmed down there. The balance is it’s very hard to find Brightbloom seeds down in the Depths. Once you run out, you’ll have to cut back and amass your stock once again if you want to keep exploring. It’s also hard to find Rupees down there and there are no Shrines to increase your strength. It’s like a whole different economy.

By far, however, some of the greatest treasures you will find in the Depths are Schema Stones. Once you have Autobuild, most mines in the Depths will contain a Construct or two that have Schema Stones for you. These supply pre-made machine blueprints that your Autobuild can assemble even if you’ve never built them before. Imagination and ingenuity are your greatest strength in Tears of the Kingdom with Ultrahand, but these are keys to some truly helpful machines in terms of offense, traversal, and overall utility. Simply put, thoroughly spelunking the Depths will make you richer and stronger when you come out if you should survive. I constantly used it to farm weapons, components, and money and it made me feel overpowered every time I stepped foot back in the sun.

A theory if you will

The Dark World in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Source: Nintendo

I could go on about how much I love the gameplay of the Depths in Tears of the Kingdom, but I think it’s fascinating for another reason. I think it’s the return of a famous concept we’ve had in Zelda games past, but not in major capacity since A Link Between Worlds. I’m talking about the concept of a Dark World. In previous Zelda games, the Dark Worlds were usually a parallel dimension of Hyrule overrun by Ganon’s forces. They featured much more dangerous challenges and an entirely different topography to explore. They also featured a wealth of riches and secrets for brave adventurers to discover.

Yes, I realize that the Depths aren’t set in a literal parallel dimension, but figuratively they kind of are? It’s a section of the game which is just as large as the already massive overworld map of Hyrule. Moreover, it’s full of ruins, overrun with Ganon’s minions, featuring an altogether different challenge from your quest on the surface, and it’s filled to the brim with secrets and treasures. It even features a subsection of Hyrule lore that is otherwise unknown to the aboveground denizens of Hyrule - signs of a what was once a whole different civilization… much like the Dark Worlds in games like Link to the Past and Twilight Princess.

A Poe Bargainer Statue in the Depths in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
Source: Nintendo

That's all cool, but the more players are exploring the underground of Hyrule and comparing it to the overworld, the more they are discovering that locations and unique structures in the Depths correspond with those found above ground. You know those Lightroots? Many of them correspond with Shrines found in the ground level of Hyrule. Some claim the Goddess Statues that increase your hearts and stamina also correspond with the Poe Bargainer Statues in the Depths. Towns seem to relate to Mines you'll find down there. There is so much we still need to discover about the Depths, but so far these features are also similar to Light World and Dark World topographical relationships we've seen in previous Zelda games.

When you look at it this way, the Depths easily feel like the newest evolution of the Zelda franchise’s Dark Worlds, and I think it’s by far the best they’ve come up with.

An unexpected adventure

An activated Lightroot lighting up the area in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Source: Nintendo

Ultimately, I became addicted to exploring the Depths of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Every time I went down there, I challenged myself to stretch my resources as far as they could carry me, to fight enemies far stronger than I would find anywhere else, and to overcome a unique test of resolve and ingenuity that is found only down there. I’ve very much enjoyed the main adventure in Tears of the Kingdom, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sulk a bit every time I had to leave the Depths and go do other “normal” Zelda stuff to get stronger. Whether my Dark World theory holds true or not, the Depths in Tears of the Kingdom are a masterfully designed deviation from much of what we’ve seen in the series so far. They are a unique challenge I crave to conquer, and even when the day comes that I’ve unraveled its every secret and charted every corner, I will still cherish my journeys and triumphs in the darkness where only the light of my Brightblooms could guide me.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
    • reply
      June 2, 2023 11:02 AM

      ARE YOU GOING TO RELEASE A TRAILER FOR YOUR REVIEW?!?! What’s the hold up here?!? I want the official shacknews.com take of this amazing game!!!

      • reply
        June 2, 2023 11:30 AM

        We certainly appreciate the enthusiasm! We weren't part of the early review process for Tears of the Kingdom, so we're taking our time and putting together a well thought-out review. The review is absolutely going to happen though.

        • reply
          June 2, 2023 11:33 AM

          WTF?!? TMWTB is a major NTDOY holder and shacknews.com doesn’t get an advanced review?!?!? MIYAMOTOSAN!!!!!

          • reply
            June 2, 2023 10:55 PM

            What it means is we're going to take our time with it and truly explore this as fully in-depth as we can. The review won't be here tomorrow, but it will be out eventually.

    • reply
      June 2, 2023 11:37 AM

      I was initially scared of the Depths, but I'm a little addicted to them as well. The worst part is running out of arrows forcing me to go back above ground to scrounge some up. :D

      • reply
        June 2, 2023 11:40 AM

        You can throw the light thingys. Go to throw your weapon, hit um something on the dpad to pick from your inventory

        • reply
          June 2, 2023 11:47 AM

          yes. hold R to throw a weapon and hit Up on the directional pad to bring up your inventory and select what you want to throw (careful with the bombs!)

        • reply
          June 2, 2023 11:49 AM

          Yep! you can just chuck a Lightbloom like a grenade. You can actually throw any component by holding the right shoulder button like you're going to throw a weapon, then holding up on the D-pad while you're wound up to open your component menu. You'll switch to the component.

          You can only lob anything about 10-15 feet, but it's better than nothing when you're fresh out of arrows.

      • reply
        June 2, 2023 9:39 PM

        I do tend to burn through arrows down there, but I haven't run out yet. After my first visit I stocked up on heavy weapons to more easily kill a particular mini boss. I've charted most of the area for hyrule field and I just now completed the initial story quest to get you down there.

        I general I'd say that's my favorite part of the new Zelda. Not the depths themselves, but I felt the original game needed natural caves and real dungeons to explore rather then just these austere shrines to complete. With TOTK we're getting that in spades.

    • reply
      June 2, 2023 11:48 AM

      I beat the game and the game was enjoyable I didn't like the depths. YMMV but throwing light seeds every twenty seconds isn't really appealing to me. Gloom damage is just annoying and finding trees isn't as fun as finding shrines (even though a tree tells you where a shrine is)

      A lot of mountain walls in the depths where you keep throwing light seeds thinking you can climb it or get around it but have no idea since it's entirely black.

      • reply
        June 2, 2023 11:55 AM

        I think it's fair to feel frustrated with how unforgiving and tedious the Depths can be. The rewards and the discoveries are what kept me going through any tedium I felt.

    • reply
      June 2, 2023 7:34 PM

      The 9 Zonaite Reddit Hover Bike is the perfect Depths exploring ride with a giant bloom attached to the front of your steering stick. Low power draw and very easy to farm mats or just pay the Zonaite fee.

      • reply
        June 2, 2023 9:40 PM

        Oh man, attaching a giant bomb to it seems obvious now. Geez.

    • reply
      June 3, 2023 3:39 AM

      The depths are definitely made for vehicle exploration. I think the whole area is like a way to test and flex your vehicle building skills and the frequent parts supply depots are helpful with that

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