Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Final Gameplay Preview

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is as vast as it is open-ended in its gameplay, encouraging creative solutions to every obstacle.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom is nearly here, seven years after its critically acclaimed, genre-defining predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, launched. Prior to release, GamesHub was able to get hands-on experience with a preview build of this blockbuster Nintendo sequel, and based on our initial impressions, it feels like the sky is the limit in this boundless, creative adventure.

Beginning the gameplay demo with only simple weapons and an inventory full of crafting materials, our hero, Link, initially seems under-prepared for this new puzzle and enemy-filled world of Hyrule. However, when these rudimentary items are paired with the game’s new, mysterious Zonai Devices – seemingly relics from the Zonai tribe first mentioned in Breath of the Wild – they become key ingredients to creating your very own weapons, shields, and tools.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom screenshot

New Abilities: Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, and Recall

These creations are productions of new abilities Link has at his disposal, like Ultrahand and Fuse. Both are focused on the act of combining objects – Ultrahand lets you craft vehicles and structures out of objects in the environment, and Fuse lets you combine weapons, items, and crafting materials within your inventory.

Need to get across a river with a strong current? Use Ultrahand to create your own raft out of fallen trees, powered by Zonai Fans. Want to deal some extra damage while defending against a larger enemy? Fuse a nearby explosive barrel to your shield, and let it explode in their face as you block their next swing.

Read: Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – New gameplay mechanics detailed

A new Tears of the Kingdom marketing campaign, aptly titled ‘You Can Do What?’, leans into stoking player creativity to overcome the game’s many challenges, and from our experience so far, the game is certainly conducive to open-ended, creative problem solving when tackling puzzles and problems at hand.

It really seems as if there is no one way to fix a broken pathway to your next destination, and you are really encouraged to think outside the box. For those who were fond of the sense of freedom that Breath of the Wild fostered, this increased open-endedness is likely to go down well.

In the preview build we played, ‘correct’ solutions could be well thought-out, but also extremely goofy. For example, you could use the Zonai Hot Air Balloon to float through the sky, avoiding a major combat encounter, or more interestingly, fuse the hot air balloon to your weapon for a new, ‘bouncier’ spear to fight your way in – whether this extra bouncy quality deals additional damage or knocks enemies back further is unclear, but it does make for a more amusing way to get through some Bokoblins.

Fuse also comes into play very well with ranged weaponry, with the game’s large assortments of random, collected materials each adding a variety of fun effects to arrows. Chuchu Jelly in its multitude of colours can create different elemental effects on impact, while certain flowers can shed light into a dark space when seedlings are fused to an arrow, and shot into the environment.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom screenshot

Experimentation with all of the weird and wonderful elements found throughout Tears of the Kingdom is likely to reveal even more new effects, and thankfully, fusing materials pauses time, allowing for you to stop and think about the best possible combinations for the situation at hand.

Fuse and Ultrahand weren’t the only two abilities given a major spotlight during the Tears of the Kingdom preview, with the new Ascend ability also put to good use. It’s a key ability that lets you leap into a ceiling and come out on the other side, which is incredibly useful in a map that features a high degree of verticality. The ability to pop your head back down before fully emerging through a ceiling – should your point of entry into a new area land you in a sticky situation – is particularly helpful.

Meanwhile Recall, one of the other abilities at Link’s disposal, allows you to send moving objects back to where they originated from. It comes in handy not only while forcing projectiles back at far-off enemies, but also for recalling seemingly lost Ultrahand creations or materials while exploring the floating landmasses of the Great Sky Island.

The risk of your well-thought-out creations seemingly falling off the face of the earth may vary depending on your adeptness, but Recall has you covered in these instances, regardless.

Futhermore, there’s also yet another ability that you’ll acquire at a certain point in the game which makes building structures and vehicles with Ultrahand even easier – but you’ll have to wait to experience it for yourself.

Zonai Devices

One of the most interesting new additions to Tears of the Kingdom is the aforementioned Zonai Devices. These Devices are collected from Zonai Device Dispensers, which look like ancient gacha machines and can be activated by inputting Zonai items – little fragments of objects from the Zonai tribe that otherwise don’t seem to have much utility beyond activating the dispenser.

Zonai Devices are dispensed at random, in little capsules that fit comfortably in your inventory. Once a capsule is opened and released into the world, it can’t be packaged back up. The devices are powered by Zonai Charge, a mana-like resource that Link can collect from defeating certain enemies. Extra charge can also be distilled into batteries, and added to creations for extended use. Once whatever unconventional contraption you’ve built is assembled, you simply power it up with a strike from your weapon.

Given a number of these devices, such as the rocket, have a high level of power behind them, placement is key to ensuring your newest creation moves you in the correct direction, or works in the ways intended. Trial and error is certainly necessary, especially given the random nature of obtaining Zonai Devices, and this adds a level of challenge and ingenuity to mastering the Ultrahand ability fully.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom screenshot
Image: Nintendo

Beyond the utility of the Zonai Devices, their existence within Tears of the Kingdom is interesting in its own right. The Zonai in Breath of the Wild are only seen through the abandoned architecture and ruins left behind throughout Hyrule, but are said to be long gone by the time the events of the game occur. While the preview didn’t show any further evidence of the Zonai, the tribe’s contribution to the world and story of the upcoming title could go beyond their powerful devices left behind in conveniently placed gumball machine-style dispensers.

With such a focus on improvisation and creative problem-solving, Nintendo’s next foray into the world of The Legend of Zelda has left a promising first impression, based on our initial preview. This version of Hyrule is a blank canvas filled with countless tools and possibilities that will hopefully let your imagination run wild.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases on Nintendo Switch on 12 May 2023.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Nintendo Switch
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05/15/2024 06:12 pm GMT

Emily Spindler-Carruthers is a journalist interested in writing about diversity and accessibility in gaming, and the ways in which video games can impact communities. You can find her @Sagef0xx on Twitter.