Tears of the Kingdom Rarely Lets You “Fail”Games Features The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Note: My editor just informed me that you can wiggle things free from being stuck together in Tears of the Kingdom, which I would’ve loved to know three days ago. The point still stands, even if this specific example doesn’t.
Let me tell you the brief anecdote of a shrine I encountered in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Forward Force, one of the earliest possible shrines to bump into in the Central Hyrule region, is all about getting a ball into a hole. There is a likely straightforward and logical series of answers to the gauntlet of rooms you go through, but I don’t know it. Instead, I know the ass-backwards and moronic things I did to get through the rooms. And it worked, which is what makes Tears of the Kingdom a brilliant game.
In the first room, a car is all but made up for you out of four tire devices and a platform connected to them all. All you have to do is activate the tires, grab the ball with Ultrahand and hold it above you as the makeshift car ferries you across lava and into the next challenge. I immediately fucked up by glueing the ball to the car, not remembering that the whole point was to get this thing intact back to the main room. It had worked so far though so I kept going. Upon entering the second room, I was immediately stumped by a set up that I still can’t decipher. Much as I love puzzle games, I’m uniquely bad at puzzles. The fact that my ball was attached to a car only made this more difficult to suss out, as there was almost no way to ensure the whole contraption fit the parameters needed to be carried to the next part of the level. So I once again improv’d, attaching a slab to the side of the car in order to extend its reach just enough to get on the top platform and Ultrahand it up to myself, bypassing the entirety of the puzzle laid out before me. By some stroke of luck, the stupid idea worked and I was on to the final step.
Reader, if you’re at all picking up what I’m putting down, then you already know that I defied all known Zonai logic and rules to clear the last room. A body of running water ostensibly split into three lanes by metal grated walls was placed there for me to hypothetically make a craft to carry myself and the ball to the end goal. Instead, I erected a makeshift bridge on one one lane while I literally perched my ball car on the walls in the middle lane, using its left wheels as a hook to hold it in place. Finally, I used Ultrahand to lift it to the very end once my bridge was complete. Like I said, moronic.
At last I looped back to the first room with the ball indent in the floor, and I plunked my ball vehicle with a slab sticking out of it right in. Basically the only thing I did make sure of was that I could put approximately half the sphere in, since that’s all you really need to trigger the switch and open the door or activate whatever mechanism it’s tied to. And so I left my abomination in that hole, collected my blessing and got the hell out of there. I’d done it, I utterly fucked up the entirety of my way through a shrine and came out on top. I also consequently could not wipe the grin off my face the whole time.
Tears of the Kingdom almost refuses to let you outright fail. This is an extension of a similar philosophy players found in Breath of the Wild, though that game and its tools had to be admittedly stretched to fit it more neatly. It immediately blows the doors wide open to players, invites them to play, and even defy that simple directive to do essentially whatever the hell you want. No matter how mundane or extravagant the fantasy, Tears of the Kingdom is always primed to make it a reality, and in doing so, it kind of eliminates the notion of any fail state. Instead, every “failure” is a chance to innovate, turning every would be ending into an opportunity to force a solution how you see fit. Sure, there are intended ways to do these shrines, and I’ve done plenty within those narrow confines, but the greatest victory is using my own head and ingenuity to triumph. Whether you’re a genius engineer or some idiot with far too powerful tools, Tears of the Kingdom has already proven that playing to your own beat is better than anything it could’ve prescribed or mandated. And that, folks, is truly freeing and wonderful to experience.
Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.