Tears of the Kingdom Fixes the Most Infuriating Thing About Elden Ring
No build? No problem.
There’s very little punishment for dying in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. That’s a good thing because you will be doing it rather often.
The long-awaited sequel to 2017’s enormously influential Breath of the Wild doesn’t want to waste your time on backtracking or retracing your steps. If you get caught off guard by a gaggle of dancing pigmen or a centaur with a chip on his shoulder, you’ll respawn a short distance away — close enough to re-engage if you choose, but also free to avoid conflict entirely. Fast-travel points number in the hundreds and most of the shrines and caves in Tears of the Kingdom are conveniently bite-sized.
You can play Tears of the Kingdom for 30 minutes and make meaningful progress. Or you can piss away six hours to build a giant dude with a flaming dong. There are so many things to do and so many ways to do them.
But most importantly, despite all these distractions, you won’t feel like you’ve lost your edge in Tears of the Kingdom if you spend the weekend hunting for rare armor or spelunking in caves — or even if you put your Switch down for a couple of days.
The same can’t be said for 2022’s Game of the Year: FromSoftware’s expansive action RPG Elden Ring. Its vast world, non-linear storytelling, and bottomless well of secrets have a great deal in common with both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. It was one of the rare games to become a mainstream pop-culture obsession for months — like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Among Us. (And, presumably, Tears of the Kingdom.)
Here’s the thing, though: It’s awfully hard to come back to Elden Ring after taking a break because your skills will vanish faster than a Marvel actor’s abs once filming’s done.
While plenty of players devoured Elden Ring in its entirety, many others left their journey through the Lands Between unfinished. Perhaps they bounced off the game because of the intricate challenge of its combat, or because they lost valuable items and progress one too many times.
Though you can customize your character in Elden Ring to your liking, your ability to do so depends largely on your build, and developing a build requires you to grind souls, the in-game currency that you exchange for level-ups and stat points. It’s all very well and good to be told by Dark Souls fanboys that you “just” need to create a Bleed build, or a Rot build, or a mage build. But doing so requires a significant investment of time — and considerable skill.
Yes, you can fluke into finding powerful weapons, armor, and accessories at a fairly low level while you’re exploring the Lands Between. But your current stat levels may be far too low to actually equip these items without several more hours of grinding. (And you can only take down that sleeping dragon for a bunch of cheap souls once per playthrough.)
The opposite is true in Tears of the Kingdom, which prioritizes ingenuity and inventiveness in the early game in a way that FromSoft’s masterpiece doesn’t. The Fuse ability allows you to upgrade any weapon or shield using animal parts and other easy-to-find resources. Even some of the game’s most challenging enemies, like Gloom Hands, can be easily taken out with foraged resources like fruit and mushrooms. If you’re having a tough time exploring one area, you can usually find resources in another that will help you progress.
The game’s cooking mechanic, carried over from Breath of the Wild, can hide a multitude of sins. Do you stink at parrying? Just scarf some apples, whenever you want. No shirt in a snowstorm? No worries my dude! Munch on some chilis and mushrooms and be on your way.
In Tears of the Kingdom, you can easily find items to defeat enemies without rising to a specific skill barrier. Instead, the game rewards you for experimenting with its core mechanics. It isn’t a friction-free experience — the Game Over music will become a familiar lullaby — but your progression and enjoyment aren’t tethered to the quality of your build. Nintendo’s design ethos isn’t about making you feel like a bad-ass mofo, it’s about having fun — even if it might feel like “cheating” sometimes. And that comes through in every aspect of Tears of the Kingdom.
So if you loved your time with Elden Ring, but fell off it at some point, I’d urge you to give Tears of the Kingdom a try. It’s every bit as vast and full of surprises, but you can make meaningful progress in bite-sized chunks — and you don’t even have to “git gud” to do it. Just get some rockets instead.