There are plenty of moments in gaming where you lose it all, and have to go on despite your new-found vulnerability. Whether it’s washing up on the shores of Guarma in Red Dead Redemption 2, entering the final stage of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with no rings, or being stripped a large percentage of your health in Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons, developers like employing late-game restrictions on you in order to mess with your understanding of the world – and really test your abilities without all those supplementary bells and whistles you’ve come to rely on.
But some games do it differently. They give you a ‘taste of power’, instead: introducing you to the world as an extremely powerful character, usually with an over-potent weapon or ability, and put you in a position where you can’t lose (even if you try). Sometimes, developers think they’re being clever by letting you ‘preview’ elements of the game that are yet to come, but more often than not, this trope is just a bit… hackneyed… at this point.
There’s a very video game-y term for this phenomenon, and it’s listed on the Giant Bomb Wiki as ‘Abilitease’. TVTropes goes for the more layman-friendly ‘taste of power’. You can also categorise things like the Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood opening similarly; here, you slowly lose all your hard-won gear from the previous game in a cart-and-horse chase, being forced to start anew and research new things. A nice macguffin to tie into various systems and teach you the value of collectathons, or something.
The primary purpose of developers doing this is to teach you how to play – and that’s exemplified in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. In the opening few minutes, you’re cast as Link, Master Sword in hand, looking every inch the hero he was at the end of Breath of the Wild (which takes place an unspecified amount of time before the events of TotK). All you need to do is wander around and slash your sword a few times, and the game kicks off properly. Everything is taken away from you.
There’s no on-going sequence here that makes you feel powerful; there’s no tease of what’s to come, some 60 hours later. No, instead, we’re given a few glorious seconds of hero-dom before it’s all taken away (again) by a big bad with world-ending powers. Stripped nearly-naked and plonked into a dungeon (…again) you’re tasked with setting out, saving the girl, and saving the world. It’s not drawn-out, it’s not protracted, it doesn’t hamstring you from the game proper.
A lot of games fall down on the whole ‘taste of power’ thing because they’re overzealous with it – it happens in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, before Death comes and pilfers all your gear, handily spreading it out throughout the castle. In Darksiders, you start off with all eight Lifestones, and then have to go out and get them back. Persona 5 gives you an end-game version of Arsene to play with before taking you back to the beginning of everything, and South Park: The Fractured But Whole even pokes fun at this trope by introducing you to the game as the kids role-play as fully-powered fantasy characters before Cartman decides they’re all playing as superheroes, now, and must start again from scratch.
A lot of these games draw out the bit for a bit too long and – whilst it often works as a narrative tool to outline what’s at stake – it can be aggravating as a player. It also, sometimes, works against tutorialising; teaching you how to play with high level spells and gear instead of the starter weapons and crap you get nice and early.
In Tears of the Kingdom, this intro crawl is mercifully short, and serves only to contextualise Link and Zelda’s place in the peaceful-but-gloomy starting state of Hyrule. You kill literally two things with your fully-powered Master Sword before being unceremoniously booted back into greenhorn territory, naked and shivering and ready to explore the fractured, floaty world of Hyrule in 2023.
And that’s what we’re all here for, really, isn’t it?
Buy The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom
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