The entirety of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom recently leaked online over a week ahead of the game’s May 12 release date. Now some players are making their way through it and streaming their journey for all to see while hackers comb through the game’s files for more clues. As a result, we’ve already learned a great deal more about Nintendo’s most anticipated Switch game of the year.
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Spoiler warning: We’ll be steering clear of story info below but obviously anyone who wants to go into Tears of the Kingdom with limited knowledge of what to expect should probably turn around.
One big takeaway so far is that Tears of the Kingdom is even bigger than any of the trailers and previews have indicated so far. While the main surface map is borrowed from Breath of the Wild, the floating islands and a sprawling underground region effectively expand the map across two additional vertical layers. There are also some welcome additions to the previous game’s formula as well as a couple of disappointments. Here’s what players have discovered so far.
The game starts with Link at full strength
You might have wondered how Link went from the powerhouse at the end of Breath of the Wild to being back to three hearts again at the start of Tears of the Kingdom. The answer is essentially that he gets Metroided. The game begins with Zelda and him (all 20 heart containers intact) exploring an underground tunnel only to discover the remains of dehydrated Ganon.
The demon king then swells back to life and creates a giant pit that Zelda and Link fall into. While the princess plummets to a mysterious fate, Link is pulled back through a portal by a magical arm. He then awakens in one of the floating islands with no powers and only a small bit of health, ready to set out on a new adventure.
Dungeons are confirmed, sorta
Probably the most requested feature missing from Breath of the Wild were traditional dungeons. Tears of the Kingdom appears to have five Temples and a sixth dungeon that consists of Ganon’s castle. Hackers have already datamined the layouts of some of these locations showing multiple levels. Similar to previous Zeldas, each temple seems to have an initial mini-puzzle area that leads into it.
Once inside, a special companion ability that corresponds to the Temple’s element helps players solve puzzles leading up to a familiar boss battle. I’ve seen parts of the Wind and Fire Temple streamed, and while they might not be as complex as some of the series’s more infamous labyrinths, they look a little more thematic than the first game’s Divine Beats.
There are still Shrines
Don’t worry, Breath of the Wild’s mini-puzzle sanctums have returned, and there are a bunch littered all over the map. Some players are saying there’s over 100, in addition to all of the sky islands and caves to explore.
The underworld map is massive
Hinted at in the launch commercial, Tears of the Kingdom features an entire area that’s deep beneath Hyrule’s surface. The map makes it look just as big as the overworld, in fact. Most of it is shrouded in darkness with Link lighting areas up as he progresses, but it appears to be sprawling. Only time will tell how populated it is with things to discover.
Companions help in boss fights
A new generation of champions will be helping Link this time around, and from the streams I’ve seen it looks like they’ll be present for at least some of the game’s boss encounters. Each one accompanies Link through their local Temple area, with a special ability that can be triggered to assist against the boss or solve puzzles. It’s not clear how much more involved they’ll be this time around, but it seems way closer to having an NPC ally along for the ride than Breath of the Wild’s champions did.
You can’t rush to the end
Breath of the Wild was old school in letting Link take on Calamity Ganon right at the start of the game if players decide to. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. As of yet I haven’t seen any footage of players managing to initiate the final boss fight right from the start of the game, and it appears while the Temples can be tackled out-of-order, the end of the game is off-limits until, well, the end.
There are some wild outfits
Tears of the Kingdom will have new weapons and armor, as well as a bunch of amiibo outfits. The Great Deity armor from the Majora’s Mask amiibo returns from Breath of the Wild, for example. But I also popped on one stream only to see Link running around in a giant Toon Link costume. It was ridiculous, super creepy, and kind of amazing.
Dragons are back
Players speculated about Breath of the Wild’s flying dragons after appearing to spot one in the back of a mountain range in some pre-release footage. Screenshots show they are indeed returning, though it’s not entirely clear yet what role they’ll play. In addition to Dinraal (fire), Farosh (electric), and Naydra (ice), there’s also a Light dragon and a Darkness one.
Gleeoks come in all different kinds
The three-headed hydras from the original The Legend of Zelda that fans spotted in the recent trailers do indeed come in several different forms. Reminiscent of Breath of the Wild’s varied Lynel types, players appear to have so far discovered electric, fire, and ice types, as well as baby Gleeoks and a tri-elemental one that mixes all of the types.
The music is low-key amazing
I’ve had various streams of Tears of the Kingdom on for much of the past 24 hours, and while there are occasional lulls just like in the previous game, something about the music overall feels on another level. Like the main theme song that’s an absolute banger, the tracks for exploration, boss fights, and other moments feel very distinct and full of personality.
Probably still no underwater exploration
One of the things players have been most hyped to uncover is full-fledged diving. Unfortunately, players don’t appear to have found any new items or abilities that let Link explore underwater in Tears of the Kingdom. No one seems to have actually beaten the game yet, so there’s always the possibility of something hidden late in the game. For now, however, it seems like Breath of the Wild’s lack of diving will carry over.
Your horses carry over
A Breath of the Wild save doesn’t seem to carry much over to Tears of the Kingdom, but players are reporting that your staple of horses will remain intact. And with the new building mechanics they’ll be more useful than ever. Link’s ultra hand can craft carriages and other horse-drawn vehicles. All that ranching in his past life is about to pay off.
You can’t pet the dogs
Some developers, even at big studios, have latched onto the “Can You Pet The Dog” meme in gaming. Not Nintendo. Six years later, Tears of the Kingdom adds and iterates on a lot of the previous open world game. Showing the pets some love isn’t one of them. Or maybe Link just hates dogs.