Much of the promotion for The Legend Of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom has focused on the sky; Link able to ascend to the Sky Islands, by rewinding various objects, plus taking to the skies in hand-made flying machines. However, as well as the skies, I believe we’re going to explore a secret underground network of caves, which could turn out to be the new shrines. Today I want to take a closer look at the potential for caves, check out the evidence so far from trailers, look at the UI, plus look closer at one of Link’s new abilities that will allow us to escape from caves quickly, and that’s Ascend.
Before we get into it today, let me know in the comments what you think about caves and the prospect of going underground, and let me know what you think of Link’s new Ascend ability.
While much of Tears of the Kingdom’s trailers has focused on Link in the sky, skydiving, exploring the sky islands, and battling various Zonai Constructs, there’s also the prospect of expanding Hyrule below ground as well as above ground. One of the biggest criticisms of Tears of the Kingdom, one that personally I don’t share, is that it looks like Breath of the Wild DLC. The Sky Islands are going going to be like a whole new map to explore above Hyrule, but I think Nintendo is going to surprise us all and reveal underground caves too.
Looking all the way back to the very first trailer we saw in 2019, Link and Zelda were seen exploring underground. This was an expansive underground area, and ultimately they found Ganondorf’s corpse, in what looks to be some kind of Malice Battery. At the time this was all we had to go on, and the rumour mill was swirling with theories that the new Legend of Zelda adventure would have a large portion of the game set underground. Given that most trailers since have focused on the Sky Islands, or Link travelling across Hyrule, talk of the underground settled down. But with the latest gameplay trailer revealed, theories of a secret underground cave network have surfaced once again.
We’ve seen Link in caves throughout the trailers. In the E3 2021 trailer we saw Link battling against an enemy attached to the wall, with a flame thrower on his left arm. He’s surrounded by rock and there’s dirt on the floor. In the Official Trailer 2 we have a couple of clues. First, Link is running away from a large Hinox, then we see Link later fling an explosive with what looks to be a crafted weapon. This is definitely underground as you can see stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
The recent gameplay reveal also showed us a fair amount of caves, which are going to work hand in hand with one of Link’s new abilities, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First of all I wanted to have a look at the clues in the UI. In the recent gameplay trailer, Eiji Aonuma showed off Link’s new abilities, but he also showed off a fair amount of the UI, which gave away more details, without Aonuma actually spelling it out. We can see icons on the map which look like little doors, and some of them have a tick next to them, probably indicicating Link has completed these caves.
If these ticks do indicate the caves are ‘complete’, then it could be these caves are the new Shrines in Tears of the Kingdom. We haven’t seen Shrines mentioned or shown yet in the trailers, and there’s a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest The Zonai are going to be the providers of the technology in this game, rather than the Sheikah. Zelda has the Sheikah Slate, according to the promotional artwork, and it wouldn’t make much sense for us to rediscover the Shrines all over again, so we’re going to need new locations to discover in Tears of the Kingdom, and caves fit the bill nicely.
In the gameplay trailer Link goes into a huge cave to demonstrate on of his new abilities, and that’s Ascend. Ascend allows us to travel upwards and through solid matter, as long as there is a ceiling. This is demonstrated to us in a couple of ways in the trailer, first of all through a relatuvely thin ceiling, on what looks to be a ruin structure. Then, Link glides off that structure, into a cave, where a Zonai Ranger Contruct appears to be tending to some plants growing near the entrance. Link then Ascends, up into the ceiling and through a good few meters of rock, appearing to swim through solid matter. It was a pretty jaw dropping moment from the trailer, opening up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to underground exploration and puzzle solving.
Link certainly spent a lot of time ‘swimming’ through the solid matter. It’s not entirely clear at the moment if there’s a time limit associated with this. For example, in Breath of the Wild when you are swimming you use stamina. When using Ultrahand, a battery icon appears on the screen and drains when the vehicles move, or the motors are turned on for the fans. I didn’t see anything in the UI to indicate Ascend would essentially run out… and that’s a pretty scary thought, Ascend running out midway through Acending a large hill, and being trapped in the dirt.
In Breath of the Wild we spent a lot of time climbing, walking and running up hills and mountains. Nintendo want to make this process easier by allowing us to Ascend, through the ground and up, until we appear back on solid ground. Our new Ascend ability will allow us to escape caves quickly, and also find new pockets that maybe otherwise hidden, or inaccessible.
While Ascend is going to be very useful for getting up hills, and maybe even mountains, it’s the potential for puzzle solving that really gets me excited. If caves are going to be the new Shrines, then they are going to be filled with environmental puzzles. We had 120 Shrines in Breath of the Wild, and one of the joys of the game was exploring, finding them and then solving the puzzles with our rune abiltities. I have a feeling that the combination of caves, Ascend and other abilities like Recall are going to do the same all over again.
While I am excited to explore the Sky Islands and skydive from great heights down to Hyrule, a secret underground network of caves gets me super hyped too. Looking at the evidence we’ve seen, I think caves are going to play a major part in Tears of the Kingdom, and Acsend is going to help us travel to, from and through them with ease.
Let me know in the comments what you think of the prospect of caves and underground areas being included in Tears of the Kingdom, and let me know what you think of Ascend.