Here’s Why I Believe Game Developers Should Take Inspiration From Tears of The Kingdom



Story Highlights

  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the latest title in the famed franchise. It’s climbed the ladder to become the fastest-selling Zelda game with over 10 million copies sold in just three days.
  • The experience of Tears of the Kingdom hinges on its masterfully crafted gameplay systems and open-world physics. These elements greatly contribute to its immersion and enjoyment factor.
  • Nintendo Switch is the only thing that holds Zelda back from being greater. Despite this handicap, Nintendo was able to deliver a game that puts most contemporary titles to shame.
  • Game developers need to be more ambitious and take risks. If the goal is to make money, going the extra mile to craft a title that actually radiates charm and quality will bring in the cash.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom hit the shelves over two weeks ago and it’s already achieved myriad milestones. Is that really a surprise though? Since the day Nintendo revealed Link’s next adventure, it has been one of the most highly anticipated exclusives for the Switch. Three days into its release and Tears of the Kingdom had sold over 10 million copies. That’s a gargantuan achievement. 

To put it into perspective, Elden Ring sold over 13 million copies approximately three weeks after its launch. It’s not exactly a comparison when you think about the facts. Zelda is a name as old as time and new IPs, even if it’s Elden Ring, can’t quite measure up to that level in the same manner. By no means is this supposed to downplay FromSoftware’s achievements, it just adds a bit of perspective to the topic.

Tears of the Kingdom is the sequel to 2017’s Breath of the Wild. While it takes place in the same Hyrule that we’ve been traversing for almost six years, it expands on it in more ways than one. People often think that making a sequel is easy since you have the groundwork laid out but there are added burdens on those entries that often end up challenging a developer’s creative capacity.

So then, how did Tears of the Kingdom make itself stand out? In what manner does it differentiate itself from Breath of the Wild? And how is it that a game released for the Nintendo Switch, a piece of hardware that can be considered a relic, dunks on most of these modern contemporary titles despite its lack of AAA hyper-realistic visuals and 60 FPS?

It’s by providing an answer to the crux of many, if not all, of the problems that plague modern gaming. 

Tears Of The Kingdom: Art Direction Vs Graphical Fidelity

It takes minimal effort to misconstrue another’s words, especially on the internet. To clarify, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom isn’t the only game that provides the answer to the issues the industry faces today. In some way, there have been several titles that have presented a solution despite cranking up their visual fidelity to the max. God of War Ragnarok, Hi-Fi Rush, and Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales are some examples.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom is an example of why art direction is important than graphics.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom is an example of why art direction is more important than graphics.

But when it comes to the genre of open-world games, unfortunately, the list gets too short. I can never see the recent Assassin’s Creed games or titles like Horizon Forbidden West as a true portrayal of the genre. All games are designed by humans but titles like that feel contrived. They’re restrictive, cluttered with unnecessary baggage, and put you on a linear path in an open world while providing mediocre rewards for exploration.

Meanwhile, they keep pumping up graphical fidelity to the stratosphere and beyond. In doing so, not only do they neglect gameplay systems and design but they also overlook the concept of art direction. This concept is, by no means, limited to open-world games. In my opinion, the problem is that developers tend to prioritize visual fidelity over art direction when the latter is an amalgamation of several factors, including visual fidelity.

It’s the marriage of creativity and imagination with technology that really takes the visual presentation to the next level. YouTuber Bricky made a video on the topic explaining why art direction is crucial and should be prioritized. Ever since The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom launched, people have been insulting it by calling the game a PlayStation 2 title. Fellow gamers, when was the last time you played a PS2 game?

Shadow of the Colossus, Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, ICO, etc. It’s easy to keep the list going but the point is that these games didn’t have hyperrealistic graphics yet they had the charm and still hold up well to this day. This is a product of art direction and cohesion. Polygons alone will not get you that end result. The Callisto Protocol is one example of this as it excelled at visuals but failed at everything else.

It’s shocking how blinded these people are by their own hatred and jealousy over the success of Tears of the Kingdom. It’s no secret that the Nintendo Switch is ancient hardware and needs a successor. The device and its games have been falling behind due to its technical limitations. However, the developers continue to maximize the visual presentation of their titles in order to provide us with a pleasing experience.

The moment I jumped off the tutorial Sky Island in Tears of the Kingdom, I was struck with the same feeling of awe as when I first opened the gate and set foot in Elden Ring’s Limgrave. A world stretching as far as the eye could see with a proper and meaningful elevation of landmasses, flora and fauna, overworld bosses, and the great Erdtree in the distance. The majority of the open-world games don’t hit you like that.

When we talk exclusively about open-world titles, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom once again signifies the importance of design, setting a tone, and cohesion. Only when all elements are in perfect harmony can a world truly feel alive. Hardware limitations and the like are nothing but excuses that developers use to cut corners and slack off. It’s a factor, yes, but by no means can it not be overcome.

Taking still screenshots for a game that’s pushing the limits of the Switch and comparing it to the broader space and the graphics debate is flawed. With the Switch, Nintendo isn’t competing on grounds of graphics. And when you put all the pieces together, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom actually looks pretty damn good in more ways than one, especially when you’re moving through Hyrule.

The World Feels Alive In Tears Of The Kingdom

I’ll preface this by saying that even FromSoftware hasn’t delivered on the open-world physics front. It’s not that it has to or that it can’t but when you have a game like Tears of the Kingdom, you can’t help but look at every other contemporary open-world game and think about how far it could have gone had the devs added that little icing on the cake.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom isn’t a flawless game. I mean, it’s running on prehistoric hardware and constantly makes you see the same cutscene over and over again. Some people even think that its menus are guilty of breaking immersion. While I respectfully disagree with that sentiment, the point still stands. Regardless of its flaws, Zelda does countless things right. For example, physics.

Tears of the Kingdom features a strong physics system that elevates the immersion factor.
Tears of the Kingdom features a strong physics system that elevates the immersion factor.

I’ve played many open-world games over the years but one title I hold dear besides Elden Ring is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. CDPR somehow managed to craft a game that not only continues to stand the test of time but also delivers a rich narrative experience despite being formulaic. By no means is this game free of problems but its quality and polish can even give some new titles a run for their money.

Even with all that, the game didn’t do much in the physics department. Your actions throughout the game have no tangible effect on your surroundings. Swords that slice humans, monsters, and supernatural beings in half can’t cut a tree. Walking through swamps and grass doesn’t feel natural. Even Elden Ring suffers from that to an extent.

Is it necessary for a game to provide such features to the players? One can argue that it isn’t but then how do you create a truly immersive experience? Whenever immersion is brought up in a debate, people go all in on visuals and particle effects, yet no one talks about physics and how you as a player interact with the world around you. It goes without saying that an open-world game should incorporate a solid physics system for its own merit.

Tears Of The Kingdom And The Significance Of Gameplay

At the core of any game is its gameplay and the world it takes place in. People tend to overlook atrocious visuals & a bad story if the game plays well & the world constantly pulls you in. I’ve already stated that Tears of the Kingdom provides one of the greatest open worlds in the market but that’s not all. Nintendo understands the necessity of fun and engaging gameplay. If only they could translate that to quality-of-life features as well.

The abilities introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom are nothing new in theory. Quite a few games have implemented them in some way, shape, or form. What’s important is the way Nintendo adds its touch to these things. Ultrahand alone unlocks a new layer of creativity in solving problems while continually increasing the possibilities of player creations. 

I’m sure you’ve seen the stuff people have been coming up with since the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom. The first day was filled with wooden robots with great meme potential but soon after we were getting full warfare machinery. I’m impressed at how populated r/HyruleEngineering is with all of these ideas that continue to shock and amaze everyone on the internet.

I still only have 20 hours in the game but while the story continues to propel me forward, I can’t help but find myself interacting with the world and trying to come up with the best creation with what I’ve got at my disposal. Constantly failing at creating a flying machine is a joy you seldom find in gaming. It’s something you appreciate more and more after bad raiding sessions in MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV.

Fuse adds a whole new layer to combat in Tears of the Kingdom
Fuse adds a whole new layer to combat in Tears of the Kingdom

Another thing I really appreciate about Tears of the Kingdom is the nuance of Fuse. Weapon durability in Breath of the Wild wasn’t really a hindrance for me but it felt tedious. I feel the same way in the new entry too but with how Fuse allows me to basically combine anything to form a new weapon, using my mind can lead to a creation with both power and durability. Not to mention it looks pretty sick.

Modern Gaming Needs To Start Thinking Out Of The Box

As time continues to pass, games tend to fall deeper and deeper into stagnation in terms of gameplay innovations. Enhancements are either the bare minimum or just not good enough. While it’s true that you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, if you play it safe for too long, you stop reaching new heights and no one likes to play the same thing every few years. Ubisoft needs to take notes.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom takes sufficient steps to go beyond its predecessor in a way that’s both creative, and engaging, and embodies the spirit of gaming. It pulls you in similar to how Tango Gameworks’ Hi-Fi Rush managed to take us all by surprise and turned out to be a great game. While disappointing overall, the latest PlayStation Showcase gave us a detailed look at Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 gameplay.

Insomniac Games is really trying its hardest to make the best Spider-Man game ever and it shows. The combat is by far one of the most ambitious takes on the wall-crawler since Web of Shadows. I won’t say that Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time were boring, they weren’t at all. But they still lacked a touch of flavor that Web of Shadows had. Flashy combos, a wild Symbiote skillset, and wall & aerial combat. It was all too good.

Spider-Man Web of Shadows features the greatest combat seen in Spider-Man games to date.
Spider-Man Web of Shadows features the greatest combat seen in Spider-Man games to date.

Beyond the new combat, the underarm webs are back and it’s been a huge request by Spidey fans, me included, since the beginning. While not quite similar to the actual underarm webbing, it still looks cool, especially since it now serves the purpose of enabling flight. I’d say glide but with how Miles and Peter can use wind pressure to keep up the momentum, I’m just gonna call it flight or riding the wind.

Games in general need to start taking more risks and being ambitious. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is but one of the many recent examples that prove this point. If the goal of making games is to make money and please investors, then the product has to sell. A tried and true formula would sell but consumers tend to gravitate towards the shiny new gem. Inject true passion & creativity and you’ll have a great product on hand.

Here’s to hoping Nintendo puts as much effort and creativity into its next console so that the games can shine even brighter. Naysayers will always exist and you can’t please everybody but that’s not a reason to abandon your vision. 

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available on the Nintendo Switch. Read on to see why we labeled it an almost-perfect game.

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