We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Tears of the Kingdom one year on - is it really the champion?

Yes. Yes, it is. But let's take a look at why, and if there are any improvements that could be made to one of the best Legend of Zelda games ever made.

TOTK anniversary - characters surrounding a pink birthday cake on a yellow background

Let’s get something out of the way first. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is amazing. Following on from Breath of the Wild is no easy feat, but by Jove, they did it. But… is it really that good? As the game passes its one-year anniversary, we take a look at the reception, performance, and achievements of Nintendo’s smash-hit RPG.

By this point, we’re all aware that the Nintendo Switch is by no means a powerhouse when it comes to performance in games, but it’s held up well over its lifetime. This is important to remember as we need to temper expectations for a giant, 100+ hour, open-world game. Even with the hardware limitations, though, Tears of the Kingdom excels at so many things.

Breath of the Wild is absolutely one of my favorite games. In fact, it’s nestled safely in my top three, and to say I was worried about Tears of the Kingdom not living up to my expectations is an understatement. Thankfully, my fears were put to rest within the first couple of trailers. The setting for the game is much the same as BOTW, but darker in a way, and has more NPCs around to speak to.

The main story touches on things that I wasn’t massively aware of in the Zelda lore – the Zonai, for instance – while also bringing back favorite characters like everyone’s beloved Prince Sidon and the zany Purah, now in adult form. Heading back into the areas I know so well is bittersweet. Kakariko Village feels like home, but this time around, there’s a gigantic stone ring on top of it. The same can be said for all the settlements you visit, even Tarrey Town, our very own DIY project.

TOTK anniversary - Link piloting a stone stucture toward a giant enemy

At no point do you get bored in TOTK, that’s for sure. There are so many quests to take on, plenty of lost koroks to save, and endless contraptions to build with the Zonai tech littering Hyrule. I didn’t expect Nintendo to go above and beyond the runes from BOTW, but here we have the ability to make any ridiculous thing we put our mind to, including korok torture devices, flying machines, and literal tanks.

Anyway, without writing another version of a Tears of the Kingdom review and waxing poetic about how great it is, let’s turn our attention to the few areas where Link’s latest adventure falls short. While there’s a resounding ‘yes’ when one asks whether Tears of the Kingdom really is that good, there are some hang-ups that players still have, all of which are very valid and worth looking at.

I, personally, have two main gripes with the game. One – it doesn’t look as good as I’d expected. But then again, the Switch isn’t really built for such things, is it? The issue is that BOTW and TOTK look almost exactly the same despite being seven years apart, with plenty of advances in technology in between. It almost feels that, in places, it looks slightly worse than BOTW, probably due to the bigger world and newfangled gadgets Link finds attached to his arm.

Two – good heavens, let me keep a weapon for more than five minutes. I don’t enjoy having to constantly fuse enemy body parts to a sharp stick I found, or gluing a bomb flower to a shield every other battle. The novelty wore off quite quickly, especially when I realized that the durability doesn’t necessarily match how much effort I put into obtaining or crafting the item.

TOTK anniversary - Ganon smiling manically against a dark sky

I just thought of a third gripe, actually – what on earth is with that face that Ganon pulls during a cutscene? You know the one, where he looks like a kid with a birthday cake coming at them. Though, apparently, this seems to be a trend for Ganon across the series.

Some other complaints I’ve seen since day one are that the Depths are very same-y, you spend a bit too long on the sky islands at the start, and that TOTK and BOTW are very similar. In regards to the last point, what did you really expect from a direct sequel?

However, there are certainly some unfinished thoughts in the game. Like, without resorting to profanity, where the feathers is Kass? Where did he go? You can’t just have Penn, one of the new Tears of the Kingdom characters, say “Oh, he used to live here” and then not elaborate on where he’s gone.

I’m aware that we’re not getting any DLC or updates (thanks for repeatedly pointing it out, Nintendo), but it feels like some things were left on a cliffhanger, leaving us wondering what certain things are or where our favorite birds went. We don’t necessarily need a DLC, but there’s definitely room for one despite what devs say (cough, to add master mode, cough).

TOTK anniversary - Link and Penn standing in a wooden structure in front of a table

I would also love it if we got some insight as to what on Rauru’s green earth the Poe-collecting statue is, along with more info on its ginormous counterparts in the Depths. There’s no explanation for these, yet Link runs around placing their huge eyes back into their sockets. I can’t just accept that they exist, I must know who, what, why, and when!

Additionally, while the game’s story is good, it does feel a little disjointed in places. This is mostly due to the fact that you can uncover the hidden memories in chronological order, or, most likely, in a totally random order. Once you’ve unlocked them all, it comes together as a nice retelling of past events, but, unfortunately, the first one I found was essentially a big spoiler.

Sure, you’re supposed to go find Impa and then follow them in order, but no one’s doing that. The game promotes free exploration, so, really, the memories should always appear in chronological order no matter which location you find first, otherwise you risk accidentally ruining the story for yourself. But hey ho, I suppose it all gets revealed anyway.

Now, I do have a confession to make. I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and bought the game digitally at midnight after playing the first half an hour at the game’s launch party. But after putting 90 hours into it over the space of the next fortnight, I haven’t actually finished it. I know, I know – it’s blasphemy. But it’s not because the game is bad. If anything, it’s because I didn’t want it to end.

TOTK anniversary - Link jumping onto a platform in mid air with clouds, a volcano, and floating structures visible

Getting squishy for a moment, I got Breath of the Wild at a pretty sucky time in my life, and escaping to Hyrule made it better. Going back to Link, Zelda, Teba, and Riju felt so welcoming that it was almost overwhelming. What I’m fumbling around saying is that Tears of the Kingdom does a truly excellent job of continuing Hyrule’s legacy while keeping the charm of the first game, but changing it just enough that exploration and discovery are exciting and new.

While the gripes I and many other players have with the game are valid, a few frame drops and unanswered questions can’t dampen the shine of it at all. And, if you somehow haven’t yet, you should definitely play it – or finish it, if you’re like me.

If you do decide to head back to Hyrule, we’ve got guides on the Tears of the Kingdom shrines, Tears of the Kingdom maps, and all the Tears of the Kingdom amiibo that can unlock some new outfits for you. Well, happy birthday to you, Tears of the Kingdom, and may the adventure continue.