Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, Ollie looks back on how Tears of the Kingdom's launch hype on social media may have affected his own enjoyment of the game...
On May 12th, 2023, I, like countless other Switch owners, booted up The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom almost as soon as I was physically able and dove headfirst — quite literally, it seemed — back into the world of Hyrule.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks or so, I was in the midst of a total and all-consuming state of bliss. Finally, I was back in the world that I fell in love with in 2017 and it had changed just enough to keep me compelled and engaged all over again. Yet, as time went on, each play session felt less special, and my enthusiasm for the experience diminished until I stopped playing altogether.
Now, one reason is that I reached what I genuinely consider to be one of the most frustrating and poorly designed dungeons in Zelda history, and getting through this section took a good deal of tongue-biting on my part, but I won’t go into that here. The other reason is that I’d just simply had enough. I couldn’t even look at the game anymore, let alone play it.
How could this be? This is Tears of the Kingdom, for goodness' sake — Breath of the Wild 2! After I put it down for what felt like the last time, I could acknowledge its greatness and the significant improvements it made over Breath of the Wild, but I'd just had enough.
So what happened? At the time, I’d probably put in around 25 hours over the course of a few weeks, so it wasn’t like it had completely consumed my every waking moment. I didn’t really have anything else to distract me, either. Yes, I was still playing the Resident Evil 4 remake, but anyone who knows me is aware that this is just weekly business as usual. It was only when I went back to TOTK just a couple of weeks ago and started the game from scratch that I realised what had happened.
While the game itself remained the same, the monumental hype surrounding its release had completely died down. The world had, for the most part, moved on. Tears of the Kingdom dominated social media in the weeks following its release, but platforms were now far more concerned with the likes of Starfield, Mortal Kombat 1, and Cyberpunk 2077 (again).
What I realised was that I simply couldn’t escape Tears of the Kingdom back when it launched, even when I wasn’t playing it. It was everywhere. TV commercials, billboards, internet ads… But mostly, of course, social media. Fans were enamored with the game and were posting about it left, right, and centre. I can’t blame them, of course; there was plenty to talk about, and the game became the hot topic on Nintendo Life (naturally — the clue's in the name!) for several weeks as everyone on the team gradually peeled back its various layers. But on a personal level, I was drowning in it.
It makes me think back to the times when I was a child; specifically playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker during those early years of high school. I would get home each day, boot up the game, and just sink into it for a few hours before bedtime. The next morning, my friends and I would gather together on school grounds and discuss what we’d done and what we’d seen. It was glorious, but most of all, it was natural; an intimate talking point amongst friends. Seeing thousands upon thousands of people share their hot takes, videos, and anecdotes online on a daily basis was suffocating by comparison, and thanks to the very nature of the work I do, muting it or deleting social media felt like it was out of the question. What if I missed out on a game-changing update, some zeitgeist-defining Zonai build, or the birth of a meme?!
So when I revisited Tears of the Kingdom after some time away, without the constant background noise that accompanied its launch, I felt revitalised. I spent about three or four hours in the opening Sky Island section just mucking about, free from the pressure I’d put on myself during those first few weeks. No longer was I bogged down by fear of spoilers. No longer was I intimidated by the ridiculous contraptions being showcased online. I could just play the game at my own pace and on my own terms.
Needless to say, my enjoyment of Tears of the Kingdom skyrocketed on that second playthrough, and I’ve progressed much further than I managed on my first go around. I still think the temple-which-shall-not-be-named is atrocious given the sheer quality on display elsewhere, but I have to say, I’m otherwise completely in love with the game.
Going completely dark on any major game prior to or during its launch can be a difficult task in this day and age; the pace of new releases and the desire to keep up with the conversation and get involved before social media is crawling with spoilers has instilled a deep sense of FOMO that can be nearly impossible to shake. Yet if you have the means or the willpower to either block out some of the noise or simply wait until it’s died down, then I think you might find your experience to be substantially improved. I certainly did.