A brief review of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom and the problem of navigation

I’ve played Windwaker, Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild, and now I’m starting Tears of the Kingdom. I’ve played over 100 hours of BoTW, and I liked the game, but always had trouble navigating around in the world. I would joke with my wife about needing a guided GPS to help get me places. I really thought after 7 years that Tears would be different. I thought at least the map would be easier to read. Instead it’s harder and with floating terrain more complex. Now there are sky islands and looking at the map it’s nearly impossible understand the topology. I can’ t easily tell what is above or below another land mass.

My biggest struggle with the game is knowing where to go or how to get there. It’s not fun trying to figure this out, it’s draining. I understand that it’s an open world and it’s designed to be an adventure and exploration, but it’s exhausting, and frustrating. Right now I’m still in the beginning part of the game, I have fuse for both weapons and other items. I was making some progress, I found one of the floating squares and attached a few fans and floated to another sky island. After exploring it, I could not take the square back down to the previous island and I couldn’t find anything on the island that would make me progress. I attached the fans pointing down this time and quickly realized that the squares do not float down even with 4 fans pointing down. I ended up throwing myself off onto the starting island. I couldn’t find water, so I jumped knowing I would die, I landed on the ground and died. At least I was moving on. I quickly realized that I had no idea what to do next, and didn’t know where to go. I’ve never been good at direction, and couldn’t remember what I had done and where I had been. This became a big frustration after running around and not finding the next thing to progress the game.

Had there been a path showing my previous steps, I could have looked and seen where I’d been and followed my previous path or go somewhere new. I ran around for a long while as my left thumb started to hurt, and just got more frustrated. I finally gave up and took our dog on a walk.

When I run around looking for the next thing to do, I’m burning physical energy. I get physically tired and feel emotionally burnt out.

Skyward Sword had Fi, and the guidance stones. (Or maybe the stones were in Windwaker?) They gave direction and I could choose to ask and they told me the next thing to do. It was a huge relief. Even if I could not find the thing they told me to do, I knew I was at least doing the thing to move the game forward. I don’t remember Windwaker much, I know I loved that game and didn’t have the kind of frustration I’m having with ToTK or BoTW.

I don’t think Tears of the Kingdom was made for someone that has a bad sense of direction.

This may be a big ask, but I know there are three things that would have helped. A map that better illustrates the topology. Maybe something like color coding for different elevations. As the map goes, it’s quite hard to read and It seems vague. Two, something in the game that helps advise on the next thing to do or a physical direction to go. It doesn’t have to be a Fi like character that I believe frustrated people, but something that I could turn to for direction. Something to cater to people that need help, and could be ignored for those that don’t need or want help. Finally, an option for a path history. Lines or tracks on the map that show where you’d been. I think this would have helped a lot.

I know I could look things up outside the game. To be honest I don’t even know what I’d search, but I didn’t want to leave the game to figure out how to get around in the game.

There is so much that I’ve enjoyed so far, exploring caves, finding cool items and learning to fuse. Shooting enemies from a far with arrows, finding cool new weapons. I want to continue to experience this, but struggling with navigation is huge stumbling block. I’m not far into the game and really feeling discouraged.