It’s rather harder to survive the early game, I found, in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom that it was in Breath of the Wild. There are many more enemies, they’re stronger, your weapons are weaker, and there’s a lot more kinds of enemies. I got killed over and over in the early going, while I could engage small groups of Bokoblins pretty easily in BotW. And if you encounter a cluster of Gloom Hands while you still have only four hearts, you’ll probably want to teleport away from there if you can’t immediately climb up out of reach. (What are Gloom Hands? You’ll know them when you see them.)
I wrote up a list of tips for the early game in a MeFi thread, and I realized hey, that’s the kind of content I should be putting here! So here they are. There’s minor early gameplay spoilers here, necessarily.
There is probably little here you couldn’t get from the gaming bigsites, Kotaku and its ilk. But my belief is, if you get this information from someone small, it feels a lot more like a friend is passing along some advice they gained. And after all, the people who have the strategy guides and help articles on those sites probably had the advantage of having completed the game during the press embargo period. I assure you, I had no early access.
- Shrines, each giving you a short puzzle to solve for an upgrade orb, are even more important here than in BotW, because the monsters are harder and you need those hearts. There’s a bunch of shrines around the new town in central Hyrule. Unlike the first game where people could dedicate their character all to stamina, I think you’ll find that hearts are more useful in the early game.
- If you have full hearts, you will nearly always survive any hit with at least a quarter-heart left, but you have to have full hearts. If you get bodied by an unexpected attack and left with a quarter-heart, immediately eat something that brings you back up to full to regain that protection (not too hard when you only have four hearts), then get away from it.
- BotW had an unexplained mechanic where you gained invisible “experience points” as you killed enemies, but they didn’t improve you, they improved the monsters. That’s why the easy, low-health red versions of monsters like Bokoblins and Moblins, and the slightly easier basic Lynels, became rare in BotW after awhile. As you defeated monsters, the world would upgrade foes to blue, black, and eventually silver versions (gold in the Master Mode DLC). I think it’s likely that TotK has a similar process, so by avoiding conflict while you’re weak, you also keep monsters manageable for a while longer.
- On the other hand, the Fuse power lets you get stronger weapons a bit earlier. And bomb flowers, as attached to arrows, seem a bit stronger than the bombs from the Bomb Rune in BotW. (Certainly, it’s easier to kill yourself with them.) It’s satisfying to send a bomb flower into the middle of an enemy camp. Bomb Flowers are one of the most useful things you get out of caves (and, eventually, from exploring the Depths).
- As I’ve noted, it’s possible to miss the Paraglider quest and make the early game much, much harder. Many shrines in particular expect you to have the Paraglider. To do the quest to get it, you have to head to Hyrule Castle at the beginning and talk to a certain NPC who’s at the end of the path after the gate.
- To improve your armor, you have to get the Great Fairies out of their flower buds, which takes more than a cash payment in this game. It seems to be a lot easier to miss important subquests in this game. The quest you need to start upgrading your armor requires that you go to the Lucky Clover offices in north-western Hyrule, near the Rito village, and talk to Penn. (Penn is terrific, BTW.) That’ll start you getting a music group back together (it makes sense in the story), which involves some building with Ultrahand at each step, but just doing the first step opens up the first Great Fairy and lets you upgrade your armor a bit, which can be a huge aid. Note though, in addition to the ingredients, the G.F.s also charge you a bit of money for each upgrade.
- Money is rather harder to come by. As in BotW, most of your cash comes from selling gemstones. And as in BotW, a lot of those rupees end up getting spent on meal ingredients and arrows. The problem with selling gems, though, is that you’ll eventually need them to upgrade some of your armor.
- Getting your battery improved takes ages it seems! You need 100 crystal charges for each extra bar, not each extra battery. At first, the only way to get those is in chests of 20 in the Depths and bought 10 at a time for Zonaite in that one store in the tutorial sky area. If you want to improve your battery faster, there’s a place to exchange it faster in the Depths beneath Kakariko.
- But I’d hold off on exploring the Depths until you’ve built your hearts and stamina up a bit. The rewards you get for exploring the Depths are (other than the Bomb Flowers you find) mostly different from those you get from exploring the overworld and sky. There don’t seem to be any shrines in the deep underground, so you won’t get hearts or stamina that way! Instead you mostly get Zonaite, which you won’t even have a use for at that stage, and some chest contents that have armor and 20x crystal charges. Also you’ll need a lot of brightbloom seeds to explore the Depths to any great degree, which you’ll find mostly in caves in the overworld. Be sure to hold onto that Zonaite though, you’ll be wanting a lot of it eventually….
- In the Depths, you’ll find these strange frozen-in-time dark figures, each carrying a weapon. When you examine one, the figure vanishes, leaving the weapon behind. What isn’t obvious at first is these are undecayed weapons. Don’t just use them as-is though, fuse something to them to make them even stronger and more durable.
- When you find the Abandoned Central Mine in the Depths, don’t leave it until you find the researchers had the (easy) boss fight. There’s something very important there.
- The most useful, relative to both power and frequency with which you find them, item I’ve found to glue to your stuff is Bokoblin horns, especially those from black Bokoblins. I’ve got a ton of those, and they provide a nice strength bonus. Remember you can sort your materials by how much power they’ll give you if you fuse them to weapons, it’s a good way to see what you can use effectively without being in danger of running out of them quickly.