Playing Tears of the Kingdom is rewiring my brain

Anyone who has managed to clock in hundreds of hours The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild since its release in 2017, we have a deep understanding of how you can develop a constellation of habits and preferences over time that ultimately shape your individual play style. In the same way that there was no one “right” way to proceed Breath of the WildThe game’s story gave you the freedom to figure out how you wanted to move through the world, and those two things alone made it unlike any other Zelda title in the franchise.

The same can be said Tears of the Kingdom for a variety of reasons, ranging from how much bigger the game’s Hyrule is to all the new weapons and vehicles Link has at his disposal. But after years of tearing and traversing Breath of the Wildone of the most fascinating things I’ve experienced while playing Tears of the Kingdom has a distinct sense that the game’s developers know exactly how I’ve played in the past – and they want me to change my ways.

As comfortable as I eventually grew up with Breath of the Wild on the Switch, those early days of playing it on the Wii U for the first time and being surprised by how fragile the vast, open world was made me feel like I was a lot informed about how I dove into the game. Breath of the WildHyrule is a beautiful, magical place, but also very dangerous for Link when he first awakens from his centuries-long slumber without armor and armed only with the Sheikah Slate.

Link to Hyrule at the start of Breath of the Wild.

Now playing, it can be fun taking out groups of Bokoblins and Moblins using thin tree limbs made deadly by the experience that comes with spending countless hours learning to dodge and parry with just the right timing. When I first started playing, however, all over Breath of the wilderness, from the controls to the way running felt was so new and unfamiliar that I often reflexively hit the plus button to give myself a chance to get my bearings – especially when battling monsters.

Like it Tears of the Kingdom, Breath of the Wild has made it possible for you to equip new swords, shields, bows and arrows with just a combination of the left and right direction and ZR buttons. I really didn’t to have to open the full inventory menu whenever one of my boomerangs broke or the Master Sword ran out of energy. But in the heat of battle, I liked doing that, because it always felt like the best way to make the best choice about which weapon to draw next – and because trying to switch items on the fly with the directional buttons was the tended to end with me making foolish mistakes shortly before I was killed.

Breath of the Wild didn’t always encourage me to use all the directional buttons, so I didn’t

Even long after I started playing in Pro mode and got used to wearing armor strong enough to keep me from collapsing instantly when a monster took a solid hit, I often forgot what the left one was. – and right directional buttons could do, because getting inventory mid-fight had become such an ingrained habit. Apart from the upward direction, which pulls up the Sheikah Slate’s carousel of runes, Breath of the Wild didn’t really encourage me to use those other buttons so I didn’t, and at first I assumed that playing Tears of the Kingdom would be a relatively similar experience.

But the key to mastering it Tears of the Kingdom, which feels strangely clunky when you first pick it up, builds a new set of muscle memories for the Switch’s buttons that activate all of Link’s new powers, such as Fuse. What’s been interesting to me is feeling how in real time Tears of the Kingdom‘s emphasis on opening small menus quickly has slowly but surely changed the way I interact with a world I thought I already knew quite well.

Link using the Fuse ability.

It’s not just that Tears of the Kingdom in fact requires you to regularly pull out the Purah Path’s new, improved carousel of powers, as they are vital tools for tackling Hyrule’s obstacles. It’s also the fact that the game’s merging mechanic gives you an instant and delightful sense of satisfaction when you use it – all the while encouraging you to use your weapons, eventually breaking them, and then starting the whole process over again. Although Fuse isn’t quite the innovation that it is Breath of the WildThe durability that haters hoped for, it does offer you a way to make your most precious Tears of the Kingdom guns last longer, which ultimately led to me feeling much less precious about them.

So much of it Tears of the KingdomLink’s appeal lies in the way Link’s new powers turn Hyrule into a DIY toy store of sorts where combining random objects results in the creation of a wide variety of playful, silly, and sometimes very cool rated weapons. of E10-plus for fantasy violence. It’s still fun when you come across a particularly powerful or useful-looking sword while digging through ruins. But it’s often just as, if not more delightful, when you take the chance to fuse two random things together and discover that the end result is as deadly as it is cleverly designed.

In my experience, the latter is one of the bigger reasons why I don’t try to keep myself tied to powerful guns as much as in Breath of the Wild – because I can always make more. And because I can almost always just make more of it something in the middle of battle as long as I have one unfused item and there are usable monster parts off the ground I find myself not hitting the plus button on my Joy-Cons as much as I do with Breath of the Wild.

The material carousel that pops up while simultaneously using Fuse and shooting an arrow.

In the beginning it was not so clear to me how much Tears of the Kingdom‘s new mechanics affected my behavior in the game. But as I cleared my first dungeon, it dawned on me that I wasn’t using the inventory to pause and work my way through combat, because Tears of the Kingdom did an excellent job of pulling me out of my head and into the action unfolding in the moment.

That said, I’ve also found myself dying, much more than I remember when I first learned Breath of the Wild – not just at the hands of monsters, but through all sorts of accidental, self-inflicted injuries. However, even that doesn’t bother me like it used to because of its thoroughness and dexterity Tears of the Kingdompushed me to change things by stepping out of my comfort zone.

If I really start thinking about how Tears of the Kingdom makes me forge weapons from sticks and body parts in the middle of a fight or cook food compulsively just because I’m embarrassed to have portable stoves in my pocket sometimes feels like the game is bit by bit rewiring my brain to better understand how to make it to get the most out of it. And as wildly restless as I could feel about that, I also can’t deny that it’s making Tears of the Kingdom harder and harder to put down, which is exactly what I want from a game I plan to complete in the near future.

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