Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Tears of the Kingdom – Ability Presentation

Link looking at his corrupted hand

Here it is. The first actual "live" gameplay from Tears of the Kingdom, not some trailer footage, but actual gameplay with sounds, a visible HUD, and all that. And this roughly one and a half months before the release of the game...

Anyway, when they've announced this yesterday I was primarily hoping to see the new abilities in action and I got exactly what I wanted here – a showcase of Link's four new main "items", which replace the Sheikah Slate Runes from Breath of the Wild. Nothing more and nothing less. This was done quite delicately, so there are no real spoilers about the story, any potential dungeons, and so on.

We still don't even know how the game starts, but we certainly got some early game footage, as indicated by the low number of hearts and the very weak equipment. Most of the shown gameplay could even have taken place in what's potentially the game's tutorial area – a group of larger sky islands.

But they've shown us the most important thing: Link's set of tools, which are going to be the foundation of the new gameplay mechanics in Tears of the Kingdom. Like in Breath of the Wild, you will most likely get the four new abilities during the game's tutorial and then will be able to make use of them throughout the entire game as you see fit. The only major difference will be the abilities at hand (pun intended), so let's go through them one by one:


We've seen plenty of this time reversal ability in the trailers already, so we only got a short demonstration here with a falling rock, which can be used as an elevator with this new ability. It's essentially the replacement for Stasis, except that this "simply" rewinds the movement of an object in time. We don't know yet whether you also will be able to use this on other entities, like enemies, but it's a possibility.

Overall this is the only shown ability which falls a bit behind what we had in Breath of the Wild with Stasis. But I'm sure this will lead to some intricate puzzles nonetheless. It also appears to be different from the other introduced abilities, where it's the only one with a golden glow and a written symbol, which looks similar to the pins from the Collector's Edition... (Update: it is in fact the symbol on the right Joy-Con.)


It was funny how Aonuma immediately crushed the dreams of everyone who didn't want the breakable weapons to return, only to make up for it with one of the most interesting mechanics we've seen in a Zelda so far.

The Fuse ability is probably the biggest surprise of today, even though we've seen glimpses of this in the trailers already and there has been some speculation about potential weapon crafting based on those. But this is very sophisticated, because it lets you merge potentially all melee weapons and shields with each other, but also with materials and environmental objects.

Link with a gigantic pitchfork

So, for example, you can take a rock and put it on your shield to make it more sturdy and potentially also make the shield bash more dangerous. Or you can put a stick and a pitchfork together to create a very long weapon. There will be a massive amount of combinations, which really makes you think about what may be possible.

For example, you could potentially put Red Chuchu Jelly on a sword to make it a fire sword. The elemental Sheikah weapons seem to be gone and instead you're now using your materials to get the same effect. So, White Chuchu Jelly is now used to make ice weapons and ice arrows, potentially even ice shields (which is something that I wanted for Breath of the Wild), though like with the Puffshroom the use might be limited to just one in this case.

Note how in bow mode there is no arrow selection via the D-pad any longer, instead you still have access to your shield and also the materials in addition. That's most certainly because there won't be the different arrow types from before, but all the combinations with materials instead. So, Ice Arrows are now made from White Chuchu Jelly, as already mentioned. The homing arrows get made out of Keese Eyeballs. With that in mind, I believe that bombs will return as a classic item, since you don't have the Sheikah Slate Rune(s) any longer and this way they can be used to create Bomb Arrows.

Fuse is pretty much the answer to both the weapon durability system and the extensive material collection from Breath of the Wild. You can instantly "repair" your almost broken weapons by fusing them with something else, while none of your crazy constructs will last forever, so every weapon you find will still have value, even more so than before. If you don't have enough inventory space to carry around that fancy sword you just found, you can just fuse it with your current sword to make them extra deadly combined...

And this gives all of the materials that you are collecting finally a much needed usage. It's not that the materials in Breath of the Wild were completely useless by any means, but a lot of it was just for messing around, like the aforementioned Chuchu Jelly. And some of it was just used for cooking, selling, or upgrading your armor. But all of this stuff just got so much more valuable now. I will probably write a follow-up post on this, simply because of how amazing this ability is. There are so many ideas that come to mind here... It feels like half of the development time for this game probably went into covering all potential combinations.


No, we're not talking about the Nintendo toy from back in the day, though this is a nice reference for sure... The Ultrahand feels a bit similar to Fuse in spirit, where it lets you combine things. But this is more about putting objects together with a magic glue, while at the same time you can move objects around in the same fashion as with Magnesis, only that this works with any object.

It's how you will be able to make the different vehicles by attaching propellers and wheels to planks or whatever else you might find. The mechanical objects can then be activated by hitting any part of the glued together construct, where there is a limit for how long they can go, indicated via a battery. But this battery recharges automatically by turning the system off.

This felt a bit underwhelming after the demonstration of Fuse, but it's certainly a good follow-up to the crazy things that people were pulling off with Magnesis in Breath of the Wild. We don't know yet whether this will work with weapons and materials or not after putting them on the ground. If it does, then the potential will be off the charts, especially when used in combination with Fuse. Like, you want a car that has rotating fire swords attached to its wheels? Then you can have a car that has rotating fire swords attached to its wheels! Hopefully this will be the case and also make it easier to use items like the Octo Balloons.


There have been patents for this ability flying around for a while and I've been excited about this about this ever since, because this is a game changer on the same level as Fuse, even though Aonuma was probably underselling its value in the demonstration. It's so good to finally have the confirmation that this made it into the game as an actual ability, which can be used everywhere applicable, and not just some as some fancy effect for portals.

Link sticking out of the ground in a snow landscape

Ascend will completely change of how you will think about 3D spaces in games. Every ceiling will potentially become a way forward. It will let you return to the surface from underground caves and also move between floors in a dungeon. There are so many hidden secrets that could be established with this, like rooms that are otherwise completely inaccessible. I'm very excited to re-explore Hyrule with this new way of traversal alone.


This may be a translation error, because there is no clear plural in Japanese, but Aonuma said at the end that "there are even more new abilities", despite only showing Ascend afterwards. Plus, the way how Recall gets depicted differently indicates that there might be more abilities like that...

Naturally, there will probably be some additional goodies, like an amiibo rune. Maybe even something to take photos again, though this wouldn't be much fun for the second time and also not fit the new hand magic as well. Well, Link could a frame with his fingers, which would certainly be funny, but there is no device to store pictures on. Zelda has that. And something like Hyrule Compendium would be a nightmare with the fused weapons.

Anyway, I still hope that there might be more in terms of the core abilities. Not necessarily something that you get right at the beginning of the game, but some additional abilities that you will get from dungeons. There could be four main dungeons in total again, just like in Breath of the Wild, where each of them gives you a new rune for even more craziness. These abilities would need to be something that's helpful, but necessarily required.

One of those would without a doubt be the Hookshot, which was scrapped during the development of Breath of the Wild, but had its fans at Nintendo. Since the focus won't be on the climbing any longer, where the new Ascend ability is already proof of this, there is no good reason not to have a Hookshot, which lets you attach to any climbable surface. And this would be a good item that you don't necessarily need from the beginning of the game, but will be awesome to unlock later on.

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