After Seeing Link’s Hovercraft, I Understand What Tears Of The Kingdom Will Be Like To Play

In the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom that debuted at this week's Nintendo Direct, Link uses a power that looks similar to Magnesis to fish a wheel out of a pool of ooze. The trailer then cuts to the hero of Hyrule riding on a vehicle using the same wheel.

The implication seems to be that Tears of the Kingdom will have a Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts-style vehicle construction system. In the next shot, Link is riding a makeshift hot air balloon. In the one after that, skateboarding on a hovercraft through the vast swath of sky separating the ground from the floating islands above Hyrule. That makes said implication extremely exciting indeed.

When I saw the shot of the wheel, the disparate elements we've seen of Tears of the Kingdom in the four years since it was announced finally clicked into place in my head. We've known that the game would include land-based gameplay on a map that looks pretty similar to the Hyrule of Breath of the Wild. We've also known that there would be gameplay involving floating islands in the clouds. We just haven't known how those two aspects of gameplay would interact.

In Breath of the Wild, Link can use his glider to soar from high to low, so that mechanic offered one possible solution for how he would travel between the sky islands. Link could also use Revali's Gale to leap high into the air in BOTW, and a powered-up version could have taken him from ground to sky. Looking outside the Zelda series, Elden Ring's map had gusty spots where you could jump, on horseback, to quickly scale cliffs. Tears of the Kingdom could have used any of those approaches, and still might. But, seeing the hovercraft in action presents a much more interesting picture of how we'll likely spend our time in the game.

But it raises all sorts of questions, too. The fun of Breath of the Wild was in figuring out how to get from one place to another. Link's weakness at the game's start drove the gameplay loop. You can't climb that cliff, so you a) explore to find a way around it, b) try to climb it anyway, c) track down a shrine to upgrade your stamina, or d) hunt for ingredients to cook up a stamina-enhancing potion. If you can build a hovercraft that can transport you to the floating islands, you have to assume it will also be capable of flying to the mountaintops. If Breath of the Wild's key struggle can be overcome that easily, what's left to do?

The developers at Nintendo aren't stupid and have likely spent much of the six years since Breath of the Wild launched attempting to solve that problem. Given the first game's love of all things breakable, there's a good chance that those hovercrafts aren't built to last. Link may be The Hero of Time, but he's no mechanic. If forced obsolescence (or, at least, entropy) is built into the vehicles, you would need to make each trip to the sky count. If you know that you'll need to repair your hovercraft after every journey, you would only make those trips when you really needed them or you would build collecting resources for repairs into your trips.

At first glance, the hovercraft seems far too powerful to add to a game like Breath of the Wild. That's why I suspect it isn't just an addition. It's likely central to Tears of the Kingdom's gameplay loop. If Link can fly to the tops of mountains, Tears of the Kingdom will likely introduce new peaks to summit.

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