We had our first extensive look at Gameplay of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom this week, and while it largely focused on Link’s new fusion abilities, a returning feature set the internet on fire as soon as it was confirmed: weapon durability. But while people were arguing about whether or not Breath of the Wild’s breakable weapons are any good (spoiler: they are, and we went into depth about why in the latest episode of NVC), I’m much more worried about the future of another system that will probably return, because let’s face it, Link’s cooking skills need to be sharpened.
While not explicitly shown during gameplay footage, all the telltale signs of the kitchen are back: Link had an inventory full of ingredients (some of which he was more concerned with tying into his weaponry than roasting) and that Characteristic wide cooking pot could be seen over a campfire in a cave that was briefly visited. There’s evidence that the food system could have been expanded as well, as a pot symbol in the UI now seems to be occupying “up” on the d-pad in the same way that you quickly select your weapons and shields.
That’s cool to see, because I have a serious love-hate relationship with Breath of the Wild kitchen. It’s a surprisingly deep system packed with fun experimentation and some really powerful benefits if you know what to throw in a boat. It also made me worry about all the little tidbits I was sucking into my back pocket while exploring Hyrule, with items I overlooked at first suddenly becoming worth their weight in rupees once I realized what they could be used for.
However, the way you actually interact with your cooking options in Breath of the Wild sadly falls short of its full potential. It’s evidently insane that the only way to cook is by slowly navigating his messy inventory, individually placing up to five items in Link’s arms, closing them, and then physically placing them in a pot, and Hylia won’t let him add the wrong item or lose the boat and have to start all over again. at least you can skip most of the cooking scene that plays every time, but making more than a couple of meals at a time is a painstakingly slow process.
It’s also crazy to me that there isn’t a way in-game to track what combinations you’ve already tried and what the results were, especially given how many ingredient options you have. I actually love that you can find signs at different stables with meals for you to try to make, but it’s crazy that your options are to basically memorize them right away, or write them down manually if you want to keep that recipe long term, and as long as you can take a picture, the album isn’t exactly designed for easy browsing, either.
On top of that, as much as I loved experimenting with different ingredient combinations to find interesting results, this system eventually becomes pretty easy to crack. While the idea of mixing and matching up to five items is lovely, the truth is that you only need to use one when it comes to your healing and stamina options. Once you’ve increased your stats enough, putting any item that increases your max health or stamina into a pot (for example Hearty Durians or Endura Carrots) will result in a meal that gives you a little a little extra boost while fully recharging your natural max. That eliminated a lot of the “best” late-game cooking options for me, which can make the processing of roasting a bunch of individual carrots even more tedious.
The way I see it, Tears of the Kingdom has a chance to smooth out a lot of the bumps in a system that I ultimately really like. Let me sit by a campfire, open a cooking menu, and select individual ingredients to more quickly discover what their combinations result in. Better yet, save the meals I’ve already prepared in a cookbook and let me cook quickly. again (or in multiples) if I have the ingredients on hand. The problem of how food scales once you’ve been around for dozens of hours is a harder problem to solve, and I’m not going to pretend I know how to do it, but even improvements to the way you interact with a cooking station are something I I’d take over gun repair any day.
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We haven’t seen much of Tears of the Kingdom yet, but this week’s game left me extremely optimistic. I imagine there are still big surprises waiting, but the fact that his fusion abilities and Ultrahand already seem to power the way players experienced (and even exploited) Breath of the Wild gives me hope that Nintendo can do the same. with cooking. Because if we’re going to be able to strap a piece of meat to a sword and beat bokoblins to death, the least we can do is make it medium rare.