Nintendo has revealed 10 minutes of gameplay footage from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and we might be slightly jealous. In the video producer Eiji Aonuma directs Link to glide, climb, and fight monsters just like we saw in Breath of the Wild, but he also rewinds time to ride a fallen boulder up to the sky, fuses a stick and a pitchfork into a fancy new polearm (stickfork? I’ma go with stickfork), and utilizes his Ultrahand to freely craft some logs and a propeller into some kind of Hyrulian fanboat.
Nintendo being Nintendo, we may never get to play Tears on PC (except perhaps after some future emulation project), but it’s exciting to think about what kind of impact these sorts of gameplay systems might have on the genre. After all, we might not have had Genshin Impact’s free climbing and wind glider if it weren't for Link’s last adventure. After today's reaction to TotK's fusion system, some devs are already going out of their way to make sure that everyone knows they didn't copy it.
In the trailer, Aonuma sees a giant boulder falling from the sky and heads over to check it out. He hops on top, and using his time rewind, makes the boulder float back up in the sky. This won't be the series' first outing with time travel, as it played a role in both Ocarina and Majora's Mask, but it will be interesting to see what kinds of tricks we can get up to with it. Maybe we’ll get some super sweet combat rewinds like in Prince of Persia, or maybe Link will get stuck in a timeloop like… well, like just about every game that came out during the pandemic (I’m looking at you, Returnal).
Of the systems present in the trailer, the most interesting might be the fusion system. It seems to offer an incredible array of options—in the trailer, we saw a rock and a stick, a shield and a mushroom, and a bow and a leaf (some folks are already very excited to see what kinds of trouble they can get up to with "meat arrows"). This appears to be at the core of a lot of TotK's gameplay, with the bad guys taking part in the fun. While Link uses his rockhamer to bash a couple guys, another one uses a big plank fused with a pole to blow him off a sky island.
Which brings us to one of the absolute coolest things we saw in the trailer, and part of why my brain is spinning with the possibilities. After getting knocked off the island, Link skydives down in a sequence that will be familiar to anyone who’s launched into one too many games of Fortnite or Apex. Back on level ground, however, he is not to be deterred. Showing off the free crafting system of the game, we see him create a makeshift skyship out of some boards, fans, and a sail.
One of the most important contributions BotW made to the open world genre was its traversal—we had been stuck on roads, horses, and waypoints for most of our lives in games like Skyrim and Red Dead 2, but Breath let us freely climb, hang glide, surf, and swim our way around a world packed to the brim with stuff to find. It wasn't the first to include those traversal options, but was one of the best. Vehicle building and item fusing promise even more emergent shenanigans that we probably won't mind seeing show up in PC survival games a few years from now.
Breath of the Wild is credited with inspiring a number of open world games that came after it—Immortals: Fenyx Rising, for instance—and whether Tears of the Kingdom has the same influence is yet to be seen. If the trailer got you in the mood for open world adventuring, we really liked Tchia, which Chris said in his review has "the open world exploration and stronghold invasions of Far Cry 3 but with Breath of the Wild's glider and a protagonist you'll actually love."