When The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched in 2017, I found it pretty overwhelming in scope and complexity. To some extent, that feeling is still pretty pervasive in its sequel, Tears of the Kingdom. The game is all about trial and error, learning as you go, and finding your own way without a ton of guidance. That’s half the fun of it, but if you want a few pro tips to help you on your way to saving Hyrule, let’s go through some things I wish I’d known before starting The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
In a game like Tears of the Kingdom, it’s natural to want to start exploring immediately after finishing the long tutorial section. However, it’s really important that you do at least a little bit of the main quest before heading out and finding your own fun, because the early main quests on Hyrule’s surface will give you some tools that will make everything that follows much easier. The most important thing you’ll miss if you don’t play any of the main quest content early is the Paraglider. This handy little item is on the main questline, but it comes after the game really opens up its world to you, so you could miss it. Sure, it’s possible to navigate much of Hyrule without it, but moving on without the Paraglider makes the game much harder for no real benefit.
One of my earliest examples of “fucking around” and “finding out” while playing Tears of the Kingdom was when I put a Flame Emitter on a cart while playing in handheld mode. On the small screen, I didn’t realize that I’d flipped the item around and it was not facing away from me and my construction. So when I activated it, the flamethrower was directed straight at my cart and, more alarmingly, myself, burning me alive. Since then, I’ve made it a point to test out every vehicle I make before getting on them.
Tears of the Kingdom’s Ultrahand mechanic is pretty incredible. It’s simple to use and lets you create some really impressive engineering feats. However, one thing I had a lot of trouble with is rotating items as I suspended them in the air. The game only lets you rotate things on the x and y axes, but because an item stays in the same position it was in when you use Ultrahand, it can sometimes be difficult to get its position right. I struggled with this for a few hours before realizing that pressing ZL while rotating resets the item’s orientation. You may still have to rotate it a bit on the axes, but it will make that process substantially easier.
Most of us put our Switches on standby mode when we step away from a game, but if you close out Tears of the Kingdom or save and reload, your Ultrahand-built constructs and their components will reset. This means that if you fuck up and drop your construct down the side of a sky island, reloading your previous save won’t bring it back. If you’ve got the pieces to remake it near you when you save, it’s just a matter of building it back up. But regardless, Tears of the Kingdom does make it hard to maintain your creation if you’re interrupted for whatever reason. So it’s good to be aware of this before you try to save and reload to solve a problem.
The Zelda series is full of scary shit, and that continues in Tears of the Kingdom. But this game has several enemies that are legitimate jump scares because they blend in with the environment. From the Battle Talus waiting under enemy strongholds to the Mimic Trees that look like any other tree you pass by in Hyrule, nowhere is safe in Tears of the Kingdom’s map. Be on your guard.
You would think one of Tears of the Kingdom’s main collectathons wouldn’t need spelling out, but because I didn’t initially realize that I was meant to reunite the Koroks who had been separated from their friends until I reached Hyrule’s surface, it probably bears telling people. I thought the little guy was just directing me to where I needed to go! I didn’t mean to abandon him in his time of need, and I also didn’t have the Ultrahand mechanics down just yet, so I didn’t realize I could pick up the tiny king. It’s the definition of a Thing I Wish I Knew Before Starting, because I would have absolutely not left that Korok kid to die alone had I known about the mechanic.
The Potential Princess Sightings questline is one of the most involved in Tears of the Kingdom. Near Rito Village, Link visits the Lucky Clover Gazette, Hyrule’s local paper, to investigate supposed sightings of Zelda, who has been missing in action since the game’s opening. There are two major advantages to doing this 12-part questline that make it worth bee-lining to. First, it has a pretty good reward in the Froggy armor set. This top, pants, and headpiece give Link some slip resistance, which makes it easier to climb surfaces when it’s raining. This was a pretty big frustration in Breath of the Wild, so it’s nice that Nintendo included some ways of mitigating that in the sequel. But besides the travel perk, Potential Princess Sightings is a great way to see a lot of Hyrule. It was one of the first things I did, and following the Gazette’s reporter around the world meant I passed by plenty of Shrines to activate and Skyview Towers to gather map data. Doing this early just makes doing anything else in Tears of the Kingdom easier.
On that note, there’s a lot to do while running around Hyrule, and you might not want to prioritize shrines while you’re chasing a bird reporter around the map. However, every time you see a shrine, it’s worth walking/climbing/swimming to it in order to activate it. Even if you don’t want to go in and solve the puzzles, shrines are the primary means of fast travel in Tears of the Kingdom, and it’s worth flipping the switch so you can teleport back to it later. After finishing Potential Princess Sightings, I’m fast-traveling around the map to do some shrine cleanup, but I wouldn’t have been able to do this as easily had I not taken detours between quests.
When it comes to navigating open worlds, one of my least favorite things is when a map waypoint doesn’t direct me to my destination. Tears of the Kingdom sometimes falls into this trap, and it’s made a few quests real annoying. Oftentimes, NPCs will describe a destination to you with descriptions of its surroundings or the direction you need to go, but if you’re a visual learner like me, you would just prefer a bright, glowy yellow dot on the map. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but what you can do is open up the adventure log, which will often show you where secondary objectives are on the map with a yellow ring, as well as Link’s relative position. I just wish that information would always be included on the standard map.
Another way to make the most of waypoints is to make your own, which you can do both through the map itself by adding stamps, or by looking through your telescope (pressing the right thumbstick in) and marking whatever’s in line of sight.
Yes, I’m telling you to strip Link down to his horse armor if you’re trying to sneak up on someone. While Tears of the Kingdom might not have the most robust stealth mechanics in the biz, there are several instances where you’re required to get the upper hand on an enemy by approaching them from behind. This means crouching and moving slowly, but because Tears of the Kingdom uses sound (illustrated by the purple sound waves radar in the bottom right corner) in stealth, one of the quickest ways to make sure you’re being quiet is to remove some equipment. Pants and, by extension, shoes are some of the loudest things Link can wear, so removing them during a stealth segment will give you an advantage.
Another early example of me misusing resources was when I cooked several dishes that raised my cold resistance. I used one that gave me a few minutes to withstand the harsh, snowy weather of the Rito Village. Then, because I had more, I decided to eat one that wasn’t quite as powerful. I figured this would just add to the clock, but instead, it completely overwrote the initial, more-powerful concoction. Ingredients and time wasted. Now, I only use one food item at a time, lest I lose out on precious resistances and resources.
Link gets several new Zonai tools to play with in Tears of the Kingdom, but the Wings are quietly one of the best items you’ll pick up in the game. These babies will let you glide through the Hyrule sky without having to worry about your stamina by using the Paraglider. But they can sometimes be tough to use, because they’re pretty much just slabs without an easy way to propel them forward and off of the surface you place them on if there’s no track for them to follow. One way to get some momentum going is to use Ultrahand to lift them over the chasm you want to fly down, then bring it back to the ground. Stand on the wing, then use Recall to rewind its movement until it hovers off the edge, then stop the ability. The wing will then fall gracefully in the direction it’s facing.
You cross a lot of distance in Tears of the Kingdom, but the game doesn’t always autosave in the most opportune place. Even if it saves you just a couple minutes of time between the last autosave and your destination, always fall back on a hard save if you’re worried about losing progress, especially before a potentially tough combat encounter. I had at least one point where the distance between my autosave and a difficult fight was a solid two minutes of walking each time, so when I reloaded my save the second time I made a manual save just outside the cavern. I’m so spoiled by games that are always saving every time I turn a corner, that Tears of the Kingdom’s stinginess with autosaves has bitten me in the ass more than once.
None of the original rune abilities from Breath of the Wild return in Tears of the Kingdom, and one thing I do miss is Link’s ability to create giant ice blocks in the middle of the water. It was a handy way to cross big bodies of water, though the Skyview Towers have mitigated a lot of that for me as they let me drop from a great distance to almost anywhere on the map. But while Link can no longer create ice from nothing, the Fuse ability does let you put ice-based items on your weapons. This means when you poke your ice-tipped spear in the water, it creates a platform for you to stand on. If you ever find yourself stuck in the water without a way to high ground to paraglide off of, try throwing a piece of White Chuchu Jelly on your sword and walk to the shore.
More than a lot of games, Tears of the Kingdom is all about your own creativity, and the game encourages you to find your own bliss and solutions to its problems. Just because Nintendo has put a path forward for you doesn’t mean you’re at all obligated to walk it. There was a shrine where the intent seemed to be for me to move a cart onto a rail and pull it across using Ultrahand. All of this was in service to getting its cargo, an orb, to a port on the other side of the shrine. Instead of putting myself through the torment of dragging the cart any further, I just attached a long board to its wheel, then attached the orb to its tall end. Doing this put the orb within grabbing distance with Ultrahand, and I was able to easily carry it to the next room. I completely circumvented the setup the shrine left for me. Once you get out of the mindset that what’s in front of you is what you have to work with, the next dimension of Tears of the Kingdom opens to you. Don’t know how to get an orb to hit the target you need to progress? Try shooting a bomb arrow at it. See what happens.