The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has only been out for a few days, and players are already stretching the limits of what its Ultrahand system can do. From Korok-torturing crucifixes to trojan horses to NSFW robots, Ultrahand can clearly do a lot more than open doors or create simple vehicles. Tears of the Kingdom is a testament to how games that rely on the player’s creativity are so magical and how they quickly get ridiculous and go viral.
Tears of the Kingdom also stands in contrast to most other games that offer that type of player experience. Player creations like this are usually labeled as “user-generated content” and take center stage in creation-focused games like Dreams and Meet Your Maker, as well as more monetizable ones like Fortnite and Horizon Worlds. However, Tears of the Kingdom stands out as a tremendous single-player adventure, reminding us of the type of creative joy that only games can deliver.
The joy of creating
I’m not the best at creating things in Tears of the Kingdom, but even I have some fun anecdotes that have to do with my Ultrahand builds. I spent hours trying to build a complicated ramp for a ball in a Shrine puzzle, only for the simplest two-platform build to work way better immediately. Later, I made a little flying machine to bring a Korok to his friend, but accidentally fell off and was left watching as the Korok and vehicle crashed into the side of a mountain.
These emergent moments are pure, player-created fun. They tap into the same joy that building a tough base in Meet Your Maker or an impressive game in Dreams does, but do so in a more single-player-minded and focused way. Nintendo was clever in how it set limits with Ultrahand in Tears of the Kingdom. Like the Super Mario Maker games, the UI for using Ultrahand is very understandable, even if the controls can be a little clunky.
Most objects can be attached to one another. Still, in any given area of Hyrule or Shrine, there’s typically a limited amount of interactable items and Zonai devices at the player’s disposal that will help guide them toward the best builds. And, outside of those Koroks, it’s impossible to Ultrahand any living creature, preventing any more unsavory kinds of builds.
Tears of the Kingdom sets limits, but can still empower and entertain almost any player with its creation tools in the same way a game like Fortnite or Dreams can. People don’t choose between being a player and a creator; they have to do both. Having some fun Ultrahand-related anecdotes is unavoidable if you decide to pick up Tears of the Kingdom. But if you want to see the Ultrahand system pushed to its limits, you can look at Twitter or TikTok and see some pretty wild things.
The joy of seeing others create
Social media is teeming with tons of Ultrahand builds that are both funny and impressive. Of course, it’s hard to avoid the rampant forms of Korok torture, from crucifying them to launching one away with a bunch of rockets. Not even tied to any specific game objective, some players have managed to build Trojan Horses, a Gundam-like mech that can annihilate enemies, and a large wooden structure with a face and suggestively placed flamethrower.
Once again, Tears of the Kingdom achieves the same kind of user-generated content that metaverses like Fortnite and Horizon Worlds desperately want, but in a more refined and unrestricted way. Give players the tools to make things, and they’ll find the most off-the-wall ways to utilize them — and they have done that with Tears of the Kingdom. Plus, in a single-player adventure, all of the worries of moderation or surfacing the best creations are absent; people on social media will do that for you.
Watching these creations come to life online is one of the best parts of the Tears of the Kingdom experience. At the same time, there’s no pressure to match the more impressive creations of other players within your own adventure or no need to hope that your creation gains traction in the servers it’s unleashed onto. There’s no extra monetization layered within that, no peer pressure to only play or create with friends, and no battle pass that you could be spending more time grinding toward instead.
Tears of the Kingdom tasks everyone with being a creator in its purest form. Not everyone will be making a Gundam-like mech during their playthrough, but it can feel just as rewarding to Ultrahand some logs together to make a long bridge to cross a gap you didn’t think was possible to get across. It’s an enjoyable type of problem-solving only possible in games. Tears of the Kingdom provides the same kind of player-created entertainment you get from games like Minecraft or Fortnite, but in a much purer single-player form. You don’t feel like a cog in the user-generated content machine; you feel like the machine.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available now for Nintendo Switch.
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