Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom shrines restrict how we play the game

Tears of the Kingdom: The Legend of Zelda It’s like an enormous playground where you can cause chaos like kids. Link’s new powers and items allow him to build everything from torture devices for Koroks to skateboards. Couple that with the sprawling, diverse world of The Witcher 3. Tears of Kingdom The game offers players a variety of ways to explore its world. This freedom, however, comes with certain strings attached: Players need to complete dungeon-like shrines to upgrade Link, and it restricts how people play the game — for better or worse.

Link has two major stats Tears of KingdomLink’s stamina and hearts determine how far he is able to run, climb or swim. These two statistics play a major role in determining how each player experiences the game. It is easier to manage routine activities such as fighting or exploring with more hearts. You can be killed or survive in one blow, or glide and climb to your destination. Although there are ways to budge around these constraints — upgraded armor can up Link’s defenses and Zonai devices can help Link explore — by and large, these two stats deeply impact a player’s ability to get up and around Hyrule.

An image of Link running in a shrine in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. He is holding a claymore with a rock fused to it.

Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

You can only upgrade your traits by beating mini-dungeons, called shrines. After beating a temple, you will receive a Light of Blessing. Four of these can be spent on a part of the stamina wheels or a container of hearts. Each shrine functions like a tiny dungeon with a small puzzle — or series of puzzles — to solve. Some shrines have a number of puzzles to solve, but none are as long as a temple.

There’s much to love about this particular system. Some of these shrines serve as tutorials to teach the players new ways to interact with their world. In order to avoid a massive information dump at the start of the game about every Zonai gadget, the players are encouraged to gradually incorporate knowledge as they complete dozens and dozens shrines. It is important to do this in Tears of Kingdom because you don’t start out knowing how to use all the items or how to make complicated machines using Zonai devices. On top of its functionality, it’s also flexible. You can skip a shrine if you find it difficult. There are so many shrines that skipping some here and there won’t break your stats.

However — given you aren’t some sort of tricked-out speedrunner — this system also restricts how you can play this open-world adventure. Two of Link’s vital stats are tied to completing shrines, which can feel inflexible for players who are more motivated by exploration. When you first start, Tears of KingdomI was enthralled by the dark caverns in the Depths. It was fun to explore and I enjoyed the thrill of seeing big bad monsters lurking around in the shadows. While I was enjoying my time in the depths, I had to force myself to complete shrines. Link’s health just wasn’t cutting it, especially given that the gloom found in the Depths can temporarily steal hearts.

I don’t think the developers should get rid of shrines, or that shrines are bad. But the current shrine system restricts how people can enjoy the game because it’s a de facto requirement for anyone who wants to add to Link’s hearts or stamina wheel. When players aren’t given the same kinds of rewards for activities like exploring the overworld, it makes it harder to play the game with only exploration in mind. Similarly, if someone is more interested in building cool Zonai machines or just wants to turn Hyrule into a horse simulator game — or isn’t interested in shrines for any other reason — they’re out of luck.

A zoomed out image of Link climbing a mountain in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. There is vast scenery beyond him, including a shrine.

Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

Previous Zelda games rewarded additional exploration by allowing players to collect heart pieces in chests throughout the overworld — a feature absent from Tears of Kingdom. Some adventure games offer no-die, no-damage mode where the player can simply run through the game world. Nintendo’s developers, on the other hand are adamant that all players must solve shrines.

The critics of such an idea may be right to point out the fact that dungeons form a key part of Legend of Zelda. It is only the sheer size and scope of Tears of Kingdom The idea of a unified world has surpassed this one. The Legend of Zelda Breath of WildNow is the time to act Tears of Kingdom Zelda’s potential was dramatically expanded by its sandbox-based mechanics. Zelda explores. Zelda builds ridiculous robots. Zelda cooks and collects. It’s dressing Link up in cute outfits and taking photos. Zelda’s goal for many may not include completing the dozens or shrines.

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