The Magic Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom One Year Later Is In Experimentation

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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is celebrating its one-year anniversary today, May 12, 2024. Below, we look at how its playful sense of experimentation is still leading to new discoveries.

There is no single file for “wagon noise” within The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. At no point in your travels throughout Hyrule will you hear a single track that was meant to replicate the sound of creaking wood moving along a dirt path. That’s because Tears of the Kingdom’s audio system is designed to operate just like its complex physics system. Sounds that happen naturally in the world–wheels turning and hooves stomping, for example–come together just like the wheels and cart themselves. They create a harmonious sound that is made up as you play.

It’s a charming example that highlights what makes pretty much everything within Tears of the Kingdom fantastic. Major elements of the game, from moment-to-moment exploration to the clever physics-based crafting system, encourages player-experimentation and provides an amount of freedom that’s literally sky-high. For much of their adventure, players make things up as they go.

At first, Tears of the Kingdom may have felt less impressive after its predecessor, Breath of the Wild, inspired awe from players. However, the ingenuity of Tears of the Kingdom’s mechanics shined beyond that first impression and continues to show how deep the game’s possibilities are a year after its release. It’s something that even its developers have a hard time believing.

“When I first saw the prototype, I thought this was going to be a great game, but I also knew: This was going to be very, very difficult,” said Tears of the Kingdom lead physics engineer Takahiro Takayama, speaking at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. “I said to myself: Are we really doing this? Development is going to be chaos. The more I thought, the more I worried. I realized that sometimes, it’s important to have the courage to push forward.” Takayama then showed a montage of chaotically buggy clips from Tears of the Kingdom’s early development. “As expected, the world fell apart.”

Players have tried to manipulate every aspect of Tears of the Kingdom, whether it be to solve a puzzle, defeat an enemy, or create something absolutely beautiful.

Take Link’s customizable home near Tarrey Town, for example. Players have the freedom to place sections of the house, including water features, various rooms, and stairs, in whatever manner they please. People have created symmetrical masterpieces and modern marvels that feel straight out of contemporary Los Angeles. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Attach a few stone slabs together to create makeshift scaffolding and suddenly you have a way to make one of Hyrule’s only floating houses. After a bit of construction and plenty of Ascension use, Link’s house will literally sit in the sky, giving you an unobscured view of everything Tarrey Town has to offer.

It’s such a small segment of Tears of the Kingdom – all you do with your house is store weapons, horses, and take the occasional nap, anyways – but players have experimented with the entire Zonai device catalog in order to see what was possible with Link’s abode.

One of the first methods involved using Zonai rockets and hover stones to shoot Link’s house into the sky and then keep it in place by activating the stones. Players found that ending the construction phase of setting up your home left the house in the air.

It goes without saying that Zonai device experimentation is at the core of Tears of the Kingdom, but the structure of the shrine system puts those devices centerstage. And players’ thirst for experimentation is still leading to new discoveries. It was only one month ago that a player used one of the tricks in the book: If all else fails, blow it up.

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Standing on a floating island adjacent to the shrine they need to take the gem to, they attach a bomb, a rocket, and a prayer to the gem before using the Ultrahand to stand the contraption upright. They launched the rocket and activated the bomb’s fuse at the same time, hoping it would change the trajectory of the gem mid-flight. It couldn’t have worked better.

The gem flew up with the rocket before being thrown towards the shrine by the bomb’s explosion. A moment passed before the game automatically transported them to the shrine after the gem landed exactly where it needed to, in front of the shrine’s entrance. It was one of those moments that only feels possible in Tears of the Kingdom.

“I swear, it was my first try,” Redditor liftingrussian wrote. “I was just curious as to whether it would do anything.”

That curiosity is what Nintendo’s game so expertly engenders. While Tears of the Kingdom has a structured narrative, the meat of the experience is finding out what’s possible. Can you make a massive bridge of ice blocks by combining this longsword with a Frost Gleeok Horn? Absolutely. Can you glue seven gliders together and still fly them across the sky? Hard to say, but it’s worth a try.

Nintendo aimed to create multiplicative gameplay with Tears of the Kingdom, which it boils down to “sticking two things together to make something new.” It doesn’t matter what those two things are–or even if it’s 12 things–you’ll always find something entertaining that will push your experience forward when you’re experimenting with Tears of the Kingdom.

Players were finding new ways to take out Guardians in Breath of the Wild with amazing trickshots years after it initially launched. We will surely see players come up with new contraptions, new discoveries, and, above all, new experiences long past this first year of Tears of the Kingdom.