Why Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Could Be Bigger Than Elden Ring

The trailers for Tears of the Kingdom have done a great job by showing a whole bunch of details, but framed with very little context. We’ve seen Link and Zelda exploring the underground, Link exploring Hyrule above ground, as well as exploring the sky islands high above the ground. Today I want to look at how big the map will be when it comes to Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and perhaps it could rival and even surpass arguably the best open world game out right now, and that’s Elden Ring.

Before we get into it today let me know what you want to see from the Hyrule map in Tears of the Kingdom. Do you think we’re going to go underground, and what impact will the sky islands have on exploration? Also, how many maps do you think we’ll have? Share your thoughts in the comments with the community.

Over the past few months much criticism has been thrown at Nintendo for Tears of the Kingdom looking like DLC to Breath of the Wild. Fans have been wondering just how different this game is going to be, given we’re going to be epxloring the same Hyrule map we had in Breath of the Wild. Nintendo have been keeping much of the detail about Tears of the Kingdom very close, releasing details only when they have to and teasing fans for months, even years at this point. However, I think there’s enough evidence to suggest we’re getting much more than Breath of the Wild DLC, and our next mainline Zelda adventure could take the crown of best open world game away from Elden Ring.

The latest trailer from Nintendo showed off the most amount of clues we’ve seen related to the size of the map and the open-world we’re about to explore. We’ve seen the sky islands before, but this trailer showed off vehicles and hinted to a vehicle crafting set of mechanics, which to me indirectly hints at a very large map. Breath of the Wild’s map was large, however, fans are expecting more when it comes to a sequel, and Nintendo knows this. This is why I believe the Zelda team will use underground and overground in new ways, plus maybe we’ve even have a dark world or ‘another world’ to visit as we progress through the game, completely switching things up entirely.

The role of the map in open-world games

The map plays an important role in open-world games, when it comes to expanding the player mind and giving them a sense of scale. We saw this in Breath of the Wild, where we start out on the Great Plateau, but we can see other places in the distance, and soon we find out anywhere we can see, we can get there. By playing through the Great Plateau, we get our skills and tools for us to be able to take on pretty much any challenge in Breath of the Wild. The Great Plateau was a fantastic tutorial area because you got a little taste of the different areas Hyrule had to offer, all wrapped up in a relatively contained zone. Once you solve the first few shrines, you grab your tools, then it’s off to discover everything else Hyrule has to offer. You can see pretty much everything, but it’s only through exploring that you’ll really get a sense of what the world is about.

Elden Ring took a different approach to revealing the map to players. When you are in the first area, Limgrave, that was all you could see. That map was bigger than some maps in other games. The element of surprise and wonder was deployed very successfully, for example you’d be exploring Limgrave, you might find a portal, and all of a sudden be teleported to another part of the map, where the enemies hit super hard and you feel like the rug is pulled from under your feet. As you progress through the main story in Elen Ring, the map keeps getting bigger and bigger and you wonder if it’s ever going to end, it feels like the map will keep on expanding. Just when you think it can’t get any bigger, there’s an underground reveal which blow your mind, and it’s a lesson that many in the Zelda team hopefully took note of.

Tears of the Kingdom Map (or maps)

Tears of the Kingdom is releasing in a much different era of open-world games, compared to when Breath of the Wild released. Back in 2017, there were a few open-world games, but now the competition is much hotter, especially given Elden Ring released in 2022 and raised the bar for open-world games as a whole. There have been a number of significant uplifts over the years; The Witcher 3 introduced meaningful sidequests that could have been part of the main story, Breath of the Wild took exploration to a new level, then Elden Ring raised the bar again with size, scale and surprising the player.

Bringing this back to Tears of the Kingdom the most recent trailer gives us a good indication of different area of the map. Hyrule on land will likely stay the same shape, but it’s going to be modified when compared to Breath of the Wild. For example, Hyrule Castle is now floating in mid air due to all the malice that poured out of Ganondorf’s Corpse. It’s highly likely other areas of the map will look similar, but be changed in some yet-to-be-known way.

Underground hasn’t been showed off too much, but we’ve had clues that this could be a big part of Link’s adventure. We have seen Link and Zelda traveling undeground in the first trailer, when they find Ganondorf’s corpse. In the latest trailer we have a couple of shots which are potentially underground. We see some Bokoblin’s mining, also Link using what looks to be a crafted weapon, similar to some kind of cannon. Given the impact of Elden Ring’s underground, I would imagine Nintendo have taken note of that… Whether they would directly copy that concept and put it into Tears of the Kingdom remains to be seen.

The sky islands are the other main playspace we’re going to have to explore, and from what we’ve seen in the trailer, this looks like it’s going to be another huge area to explore, an inter-connected land of floating islands high above Hyrule. Its so vast that Link has to fly between these islands, and we can see from the key artwork and the trailers Link standing, surveying the huge landscape infront of him, as well as using incredible flying machines to get to where he needs to be. This all adds up to a huge world to explore, whether it’s on a modified Hyrule land, underground in caves, or high above Hyrule among the clouds and in the Sky Islands.

How this all ties together remains a mystery at this point. We know for sure about two of the locations or “maps” – one being Hyrule on land and the other being above Hyrule in the sky. That itself would be huge, and a massive difference from Breath of the Wild. Underground hasn’t yet been confirmed, but we’ve seen clues pointing to the existence of underground. Before the latest trailer, I wasn’t 100% sure this was going to be a thing in Tears of the Kingdom, but now we’ve seen the latest trailer I’m much more confident we’re going to travel underground as well as high in the sky.

This all adds up to a very exciting time as we all look forward to The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom. Elden Ring raised the bar, and I fully expect The Zelda team to further raise that once again, and we could be on the cusp of another open world master piece. I for one, am very excited indeed.

Let me know what you think about Tears of the Kingdom, how big the game is going to be and specifcally how bug the map will be, share your thoughts in the comments.

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