The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, one of the most anticipated titles of 2023, has released to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The title already looks to be a strong contender for Game of the Year, like Breath of the Wild before it, as it successfully maintains the heart and soul of its predecessor while evolving it in the best ways.
Upon starting Tears of the Kingdom, players will immediately notice Link’s health and stamina are maxed out. It appears that at least these attributes were carried over from Breath of the Wild, along with the outfit Link’s Champion’s Tunic. However, not long into the game, Link loses his strength and many of his abilities, giving players the opportunity to “rebuild” Link from the ground up, as is the custom in The Legend of Zelda franchise.
Link Loses His Breath of the Wild Abilities at the Beginning of Tears of the Kingdom
The game opens with Link and Zelda venturing through the caverns beneath the ruins of Hyrule Castle, surrounded by a dark, misty substance that Zelda refers to as “gloom.” This gloom, she intimates, has apparently been making people ill, but it doesn’t seem to be concentrated enough to have any effect on the two of them. As they move deeper into the tunnels, the Master Sword begins to glow, signaling impending danger. Zelda suggests the danger is likely due to the ruins being neglected since the Calamity, but she simply cautions them both and encourages them to continue on.
Upon reaching the end of their expedition, they witness a turquoise stream of vibrant energy swirling up toward the top of the caverns. As they move closer, they discover the energy emanating from an ancient gauntlet attached to a lifeless corpse. On their approach, the gauntlet shakes and detaches itself from the corpse, dropping a small tear-shaped object with it. Zelda reaches down to pick up the object, and it begins to glow in her hand.
The corpse then reanimates, its bones cracking, until an explosion of what appears to be a highly-concentrated form of the gloom Zelda mentioned erupts from the corpse’s chest and lunges towards Zelda. Link steps in to defend her, Master Sword in hand, only for the gloom to surround his sword and arm, draining his life in the process. When the gloom attacks once more, Link strikes at it with his sword, but the sword shatters.
After a brief bit of dialogue between the corpse and the two heroes, gloom erupts from the corpse again, lifting the ruins of Hyrule Castle into the sky, and eventually sending Zelda into the abyss. Link dives after her, but he is unable to save her. Suddenly, the ancient gauntlet from before grabs Link by the hand and pulls him to safety.
Link wakes in an unfamiliar place, only to discover his gloom-corrupted arm has been replaced with the gauntlet. An unknown voice begins speaking to Link, informing him that his arm was beyond saving and needed to be replaced in order to not endanger him any further. Link then looks behind him to see the destroyed Master Sword stuck in the roots of a tree, and the game officially begins.
Sequels often struggle with coming up with creative ways to explain a hero’s loss of power and abilities, but Tears of the Kingdom successfully accomplishes it, providing more than enough reasoning and purpose to justify it. It’s also notable that the gloom reduces the player’s max health during regular gameplay, albeit in a much less dramatic and permanent way, so this opening serves simultaneously as a narrative tool and a hint for what’s to come as players explore more of Hyrule. From there, Link can regain his strength as he did in Breath of the Wild by collecting Heart Containers and Stamina Vessels, alongside learning new abilities thanks to the gauntlet he now wears.
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