The New 'Zelda' Uses the Same Old Map, and That's Amazing News

It's not like you'd finished 'Breath of the Wild' anyway

  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom launches on May 12th. 
  • It uses the same map as 2017's Breath of the Wild, with new floating Sky Islands.
  • The new game is even freer and more open-ended than ever.
A screenshot from the trailer video for 'The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom."

Nintendo's upcoming Zelda game uses the same map as 2017's Breath of the Wild, which is just about the best news possible. 

Like a familiar neighborhood after you've been away for a few years, Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom might technically be the same place, but your existing familiarity with its layout makes any differences even more stark and delightful. Plus, who has really explored the whole Breath of the Wild version of Hyrule anyway? The new game, launching on Switch on May 12, might take place in the same world but adds new ways to interact with it and even reveals a floating world above. 

"It's pretty cool to be able to re-explore the same places in a fresh new game because I absolutely loved the world of Zelda BotW. There's something nostalgic and comforting about revisiting those familiar landscapes and seeing how they've changed or evolved," Michael Hereford, editor of Inverse Gamer, told Lifewire via email.

The More Things Stay the Same

Technically, most of Nintendo's Zelda games take place in the land of Hyrule. In the past, it felt very different from game to game because the technology of the consoles at the time allowed for big leaps in both scope and gameplay mechanics. For example, 1991's A Link to the Past introduced Dark World, a parallel version of the regular Light World, which you could flip into to access new areas. 

A screenshot from the intro video for "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom."

And 1998's Ocarina of Time was not only the first 3D Zelda game, but it introduced a time travel element. You had to move between past and future Hyrules to solve the quest, and of course, 3D meant we saw the world from a radically new perspective. 

Tears of the Kingdom, then, is just following this established path where the same world gets reimagined every time. And this time, it looks absolutely fantastic. 

Open Ended

Breath of the Wild's gimmick allowed players to freely explore the entire world right from the start instead of guiding you along a fixed path, unlocking new sections as you completed the previous ones. This means that speedrunners can race through and finish the game in under 24 minutes, but it also means that you can forget the game's quests altogether and just wander through its beautiful, diverse, and interactive landscapes for hours at a time.

Tears of the Kingdom expands on this idea. Now you can not only freely explore but also pick up all kinds of objects, from logs and sticks to abandoned turbines and swords, to chunks of meat you have hunted down, and start putting them together. 

Breath of the Wild lets you combine and cook found ingredients over a fire to create food and potions. Tears of the Kingdom lets you combine any objects you find, as shown in the gameplay video. You can put a sword on a stick to make a longer sword, for example, but you can also combine many found objects to create vehicles and even flying machines. 

And you can make these combinations on-the-fly, in a much more intuitive manner than cooking up potions, which always seemed like an essential but dull chore to me. 

A screenshot from "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom."

This new ability is called Fuse, and it looks more exciting than the other big news in Tears of the Kingdom, the floating Sky Islands. These islands add genuinely new sections to the map and look amazing, if a little vertiginous. But I'm really excited about going out into the familiar Hyrule, encountering all the changes, and using Link's new powers to traverse it in new ways. 

"For my part, I enjoy retracing my steps in the world of Zelda BotW; it's thrilling to see how different zones within the game universe transform in response to the time of day or atmospheric phenomena. Furthermore, I am always on the lookout for new hidden treasures," software designer, technology writer, and self-confessed Zelda fanatic Matt Kerr told Lifewire via email. 

Indeed. Getting tired of Breath of the Wild's Hyrule is like getting tired of the outdoors.

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