Game Theory

Tears of the Kingdom’s Sky Islands Double Down on a Beloved Breath of the Wild Feature

Look up.

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Sky Islands
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Breath of the Wild has no shortage of content for players to explore. Perhaps the most prominent are the game’s shrines, self-contained puzzle dungeons. There are more than 100 of them scattered throughout the game.

The March 28 preview for Tears of the Kingdom showed off a number of exciting new abilities for Link. But the sequel’s intriguing sky islands were also explored in detail for the first time, and they could be the successor to Breath of the Wild’s Shrines.

Shrines were such an important part of Breath of the Wild for two reasons. First, they always rewarded the player with the essential Spirit Orb time that could be used to upgrade the number of hearts or size of the stamina wheel Link had. Second, shrines were standalone arenas that asked players to fully use the tools at their disposal. Breath of the Wild is all about manipulating the physics of the world for your benefit, and shrines openly encourage you to play with the game's systems to succeed.

There are 120 shrines in Breath of the Wild!


With shrines being as important as they are to Breath of the Wild, it stands to reason they will show up in Tears of the Kingdom. There is one problem: Tears of the Kingdom takes place in the same world as Breath of the Wild.

Based on footage from trailers, it appears that the large parts of the Hyrule map from Breath of the Wild are largely unchanged in Tears of the Kingdom. While there are indeed differences, much of which has to do with smaller details across the map, the overall landscape is remarkably the same. So, all those shrines from Breath of the Wild should theoretically be right where we left them, which would be pretty boring to revisit.

This is where the sky islands come in.

The biggest change to the map is that Link won’t be confined just to the ground, but will be able to explore an entirely new realm in the sky of Hyrule. These sky islands have been the subject of many story theories, due to how they resemble The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’s map. However, thanks to the March 28 Tears of the Kingdom showcase, we could have a better idea of the purpose of the islands.

Sky islands aren’t all huge land masses.


Crucially, the gameplay showed that the sky islands are true to their name — islands. The sky of Hyrule is not a massive new map to explore, and the islands are not extensively connected. They seem to be dotted around the map in small clusters. Link was shown running around one such cluster that only has two or three individual small islands. These dedicated little areas act as the perfect replacement for shrines.

Each little island offers up a confined space to explore that could have a specific goal like the shrines in Breath of the Wild. They aren’t as confined as the shrines, but this leaves room for more variation in how players explore the islands with the new suite of skills Link has. Some structures can be seen on the islands but have not been explored in the footage, so it is possible that these structures contain similar obstacles seen in shrines.

Sky islands also come in different sizes, with some being much larger and having bigger buildings. This opens up the possibility for varied experiences, similar to how Elden Ring’s dungeon variation allowed for more unique encounters across a long playtime. Whatever secret the sky islands hold, players won’t have to wait long to discover it for themselves, as Tears of the Kingdom releases for Nintendo Switch in just under two months.

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