The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Embraces the Horror
In the lead-up to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, we have yet to see much of it, which is weird for such a massive release from Nintendo. While what we have witnessed seemed like it was leaning into the openness and creativity from Breath of the Wild and expounding on it. So over the past week, I have been surprised over and over again by how much it embraces the fear of the unknown. So before I dive into it, I want to put a little bit of a spoiler tag. While I won’t be touching on the story outside of the first hour, I will be talking about mechanics that have yet to be mentioned before. So if your goal is to go in completely blind, now’s your chance to turn away.
So during the opening sequence, there is this overarching feeling of dread as Zelda explains this environmental smog known as Gloom. How it’s been affecting people, how people are getting sick from it, and as we learn about it a bit more, we are met with this overly creepy mummified creature shown to us in the trailers. So after an incredibly terrifying introduction and the literal life-threatening injuries Link suffers, we are set loose in its opening area.
After Tears of the Kingdom‘s opening area, which serves as this game’s plateau from Breath of the Wild, teaches us mechanics like fuse being able to attach items and weapons to other things in the environment. This mechanic plays heavily into the overall gameplay, but where it fits in with what I want to talk about is when we are in the sky in Hyrule.
When you first get up really high into the sky of Hyrule, you will notice these red caverns in the ground. If you glide or run over to them, they are oozing and smoking with this omnipresent red smog and surrounded by Gloom covering the ground. However, if you are brave enough and dive down these cavernous holes, you will be met with quite possibly the scariest thing in a Zelda game yet.
When you first touch down, it is complete darkness. All you can see are some torches off in the distance, with a really eerie soundscape. It reminds me of the Lake of Rot from Elden Ring, minus all the rot. In these depths under Hyrule is where the most stressful bit of gameplay happens. You will need to attach a light source to your arrows to light your way unless you want to walk very slowly with a torch. But there is a downside to this if enemies down here see your light-up arrows, it will not only draw their attention, but they will snuff that light out, leaving you in perpetual darkness. There have been moments of me running away from a swarm of depth enemies, which are incredibly beefed up versions of their overworld counterparts with Gloom emanating off of them, when one of them stuck behind just to out the light leaving me trapped surrounded by enemies not knowing what else was around, it led me to have this fear that I have never had present before in a Legend of Zelda game before, and it was enthralling.
Secondly, there are a vast amount of caves and offshoots to explore in Hyrule this time around, and in each one of these caves, there are treasures aplenty, be it in the form of ores, cooking ingredients, enemies, or even just more Zonai items to use with our handy fusing tool. Some even creepier secrets await Link in these caves. One cave I had entered, with almost no enemies and a chest just sitting up on a ledge off to the right-hand side of the cave. Little did I know that this was a trap. As I went for the treasure, this weird sorrowful battle music started playing, and then I saw it, some Gloom in off to the side, but this was different; this Gloom was moving. Then seven hands sprung forward and started chasing me, grabbing me and drowning my hearts away with Gloom damage until I was dead. Just like its predecessor, Tears of the Kingdom can be rough going for the first few hours, and there is joy in that. Not only that, but the sense of exploration is back, if not for a darker overall vibe to the world. I haven’t even mentioned just how creepy the returning Blood Moon is, but some secrets I want to save in hopes that go explore them for yourself.
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