Why you shouldn’t try to complete Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

complete zelda tears of the kingdom

Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom is brilliant, fun and awe-inspiring. It can also also exhausting. But what if you simply gave up trying to complete it altogether? 


It’s easy to forget how game-changing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was when it first arrived in 2017. It begins with Link waking in a cel-shaded Garden of Eden having no idea what he should do, except pick up that shiny red apple.

Previous Zelda games weren’t straightforward, but they were blessed with an accessible simplicity. Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, was structurally loose. Players stumbled on its mechanics in a different order from their friends. There were swords and shields and shiny new features, but no initial roadmap for success, bar finding the Master Sword and defeating Calamity Ganon. Nintendo’s desire to give players freedom turned into a dare to break the few rules that were there. Quickly, funny videos of people messing with the game’s mechanics popped up everywhere. Breath of the Wild made cheating – or at least, cheesing – acceptable.

We gamers are a spoiled bunch. We’ve come to expect every game to be bigger than the last, with a cohesive narrative, mini-games and customisation. Nintendo knows this, so its next Zelda offering had to up the ante.

Tears of the Kingdom isn’t just magical – it’s gigantic. Its developers built a vast vertical world to be tackled in any order with the help of a brand new set of Purah Pad toys. And they included cheesing as part of the game, by adding all the cheat/help modes from Breath of the Wild’s DLC to the base game. In a recent Game Informer interview, Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma was keen to state that this was purposeful, saying “cheating is fun!”

Credit: Nintendo.

But then they threw in what is essentially a creator mode, too. The possibilities for progression in TOTK are endless. It’s a stunning example of an emergent gameplay sandbox. It’s also almost no longer a game.

Howlongtobeat.com says the game takes 58 hours to “beat”. But what does “beating” mean when there’s no rules, too many options and cheating as standard? Fifty hours can pass with only a fraction of what the game has to offer being revealed.

For those first 50 hours (longer than the time it takes to roll credits on many other games) the gameplay is mind-blowing. And then something else happens, a deflation borne of knowing that there’s still so much to do. What’s the right way to complete this shrine? Will the game’s ending be spoiled if I don’t hurry up? Is this the correct order to do things? Will I regret ignoring this side mission on the way to completing something else? And that’s before succumbing to the expectations of making a Twitch speedrun.

One YouTube search shows that fatigue has set in. TOTK has become something unexpected from the Zelda series: intimidating. Emergent gameplay comes at a price. TOTK is too. much. game.

tears of the kingdom gameplay

Credit: Nintendo

TOTK designer Hidemaro Fujibayashi disagrees. In a recent Game Informer interview, he was asked if the team hesitated in creating such a large world, and whether that might overwhelm players. His response was circumspect:

“[we] had no hesitation. We really put into consideration…what players might want to do in this world, using that as ingredients to provide a calculation or formula to do this.”

Of course, there’s an easy solution to this first-world problem. If a game stops being fun, put it down, go outside and touch grass (the real kind, not the ultra green blades of Hyrule). Or go play something on another console with a nice linear progression.

Or, what about this: don’t even try to complete Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Maybe we’ve been looking at TOTK all wrong. There is no beating this game. TOTK is at least five different games that begin and end when the player says so. Rolling credits is only one game mode which can be done without enjoying half of what TOTK has to offer. Instead, the player should use this sandbox concept to create their own game. Players feeling overwhelmed or bored can tailor their experience, make their own rules and then stick to them.

It’s certainly easier than learning how to speedrun. And trying to find every secret, explore every inch and uncover every item sounds less like a game and more like a job. Even Aonuma agrees. In Nintendo’s ‘Ask the Developer’ series he advises players to “take their time and don’t just rush straight to the ending.”

One way to prevent TOTK fatigue is to imagine there’s a game mode choice on the title screen and choose a mode to tackle first. Here are some examples:

Combat Specialist

tears of the kingdom ending

Credit: Nintendo.

TOTK is a decent combat game when stripped of its other distractions. This mode gets players closest to rolling credits as it helps the player level up to defeat Ganondorf. By sticking to main missions and focusing on building strong battle armour and weaponry, Link becomes powerful in no time. In this mode, the combat guardian shrines are the most relevant. So consulting guides to find them isn’t cheating – it’s time saving! With numerous mini-bosses strewn around, there’s no need to search every corner of the map. Nor is there a need to take pictures, make friends or register horses.

The difficulty levels do spike as the game progresses, until suddenly everyone’s a white bokoblin, and the sheer array of enemies keep players on their toes. A combat specialist can become a Flux Construct farmer, then tackle a Lynel. And was that a three-headed dragon? In short: ignore side quests, go forth and murder everyone in sight… until the Blood Moon brings them back, obviously.

The Explorer

complete zelda tears of the kingdom

Credit: Nintendo.

At the other end of the scale, players can avoid combat altogether if they want. TOTK makes it easy to wander (or ride) through the world and do everything at a leisurely pace. Pure exploration is a gift, with the sky, land and chasm areas all offering something unique. Explorers can use each time they open the game to take a new and interesting path. Most travellers Link meets will offer a side quest. And every completed quest provides a reward, which could be a new recipe or a Bubbul gem. But if the quest is too hard, don’t do it, just Ascend out of that cave.

If Link hurtles to the ground from the sky he doesn’t have to return, there are very few consequences in TOTK. If the player encounters a shrine, enjoy solving the puzzle. If it’s boring, simply move on and help a character find their true love. Aonuma himself advocated for this mode saying: “It’s more fun with detours… as I started to go off on side paths, I realised… it’s a whole different game!”

The Creator

complete zelda tears of the kingdom

Credit: Nintendo.

The previous two modes almost don’t require the new Purah Pad techniques. But the Creator will want to test these to the full, especially Autobuild. The Autobuild feature is the most sandboxy feature of TOTK, transforming the game into Minecraftian trial and error. For those that love to make things, any problem can be solved with a nice machine. Need to defeat monsters? Build a multi-cannon homing device. Want to fly to that tiny sky island? Build a battery-powered superplane.

Creators will want to focus on defeating the Yiga clan strongholds (mostly in the chasms) so they can build cool toys and vehicles. And Creators will love those device dispensers. But it’s not just Autobuild. TOTK allows for multiple ways for Creators to express themselves. They can design and build their own perfect home outside Tarrey Town or create gorgeous new Hyrulian fashion. Or, with the help of a few devices, do something as amazing as this:

The Collector

tears of the kingdom ending

Credit: Nintendo.

Many (like me) want to hunt for every korok seed, decipher all the texts and explore every cave. This is possible but will take hours and hours. Collectors may never roll the credits and still put 300 hours into the game. There’s no real cure for this compulsion, except to thank Zelda for the many guide writers helping the Collector get the job done.

The Chaos Agent

complete zelda tears of the kingdom

Credit: Nintendo.

Hang on, isn’t TOTK supposed to be fun? Why not throw caution to the wind and screw all the rules. There’s no time for trial and error when Hyrule can be exploited for maximum carnage. Attach a korok seed to a rocket – that’ll teach the leafy terror to overpack before travelling.

Ascend into someone’s house and scare them stupid, build a wooden prison around Addison and his stupid leaning signs. Sell all Link’s hearts to an underground devil statue and replace them with endless stamina. Build a trampoline tower and bounce your way to the stratosphere. Then put three diamonds in a device dispenser, survive on volt fruit gloom stew and play hide and seek with the sages in a maze. Link works for us now.

Joking aside, Tears of the Kingdom is a gift. If it ever feels like a burden, just remember: there really is no wrong way to play.

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