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The gaming world was forever changed in 2023 with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. It soared high above other great titles like Baldur's Gate 3 and Alan Wake 2, solidifying its place as one of the all-time greats. This remarkable achievement not only speaks to the game's own quality but also to the excellence of its predecessor, Breath of the Wild. Both games have left an indelible mark on the Zelda franchise, standing proudly among its finest offerings.
While Tears of the Kingdom shares similarities with Breath of the Wild, it also introduces some crucial differences, particularly in its focus on technology. In the 2017 game, Sheikah tech took center stage, while Tears of the Kingdom shifts its attention to the enigmatic Zonai. Technology serves as an interesting narrative inclusion, driving the sense of progression, but perhaps breaking away from its reliance on technology could bring significant benefits to the next installment.
Breath of the Wild's awe-inspiring open-world design owes much of its success to its refusal to spoon-feed players all the answers. It's a stroke of genius that encourages trial-and-error exploration, with surprises around every corner. Sheikah technology is scattered throughout the game, with shrines and the Sheikah Slate providing familiar gaming elements. However, the way technology is integrated often feels like a means to an end rather than an essential part of the Zelda lore. It's seldom explained in detail, merely serving to introduce conventional gaming elements in a familiar manner. While presenting it as ancient technology was a feasible approach, there are other, more seamless ways to achieve the same effect.
In reality, there are alternative justifications for these inclusions without relying on technology. It feels peculiar in Breath of the Wild or Tears of the Kingdom when Link seeks shelter from the rain in an abandoned house or stable, only to pull out a magical device with a screen to document his adventures and provide information. The presence of technology creates a tonal disconnect, and presenting these conventions in a more grounded way could elevate the overall experience and establish a more consistent tone.
This isn't to say that the next Zelda game should limit Link to sticks and Deku nuts for survival, but adopting a more humble focus could inject fresh energy into the series. Games like Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker, with their lesser emphasis on technology, have garnered their own dedicated fan bases due to their distinct styles.
Tears of the Kingdom immerses itself fully in technology, as the Zonai race left behind a trove of resources and devices, giving the 2023 game a sense of advancement over its predecessor. Considering this is the second form of technology established in this Zelda timeline, the next game will either need to introduce yet another technological advancement or delve deeper into the Zonai lore. Alternatively, it could drastically reduce the reliance on technology and explore how Link and his companions navigate a world without it.
Games like Far Cry Primal have shown that there's immense fun to be had when the gimmick is the absence of technology. While this may seem like a far-fetched comparison, it highlights the fact that mechanics emphasizing less futuristic elements can be just as enjoyable and revitalize a familiar format. Zelda may be far from the tech-crazed settings of Night City in Cyberpunk 2077 or the Normandy in Mass Effect, but toning down its emphasis on technology could yield significant rewards. By doing so, it can forge its own path, distinct from the looming shadows of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom.
Franchise: The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Released: May 12, 2023
ESRB: Rated E for Everyone 10+ (Fantasy Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes)
How Long To Beat: Approximately 59 Hours
You can find the game on the Nintendo eShop, GameStop, or Amazon. Get ready for a technological journey like no other!