The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review – a masterclass in rewarding curiosity

Exploration and discovery have been key to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series since the first game in 1986 and its latest outing, Tears of the Kingdom, builds on the lessons of the past.

Much like its 2017 predecessor, Breath of the Wild, the new game is an open-world sandbox action adventure title, in which players can traverse the entirety of the game’s landscape with relatively few limitations. Protagonist Link once again sets out into the kingdom of Hyrule to find the missing Princess Zelda.

Encouraging exploration in open-world games is a common challenge in game design. Designers must evoke sufficient uncertainty for players in order to encourage their curiosity. Curiosity invites engagement, motivating players to explore and progress through a game.

Nintendo ran into this challenge while developing the vast open world of Breath of the Wild. During testing, players tended to travel from quest marker to quest marker with little deviation to explore the environment around them.

Their solution was to create a world which varied in height. As hills, mountains and towers obscure the player’s view, they are encouraged to climb or navigate them. Doing this gradually reveals what Nintendo calls objects of “gravity” – interesting and exciting locations that draw the eye and invite exploration.

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