Tears of the Kingdom depths
Screenshot by Destructoid

Tears of the Kingdom’s Depths are both enthralling and terrifying

The deep void beneath Hyrule brings a fresh kind of horror to Zelda

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The first time I went down into the Depths in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I figured it would be a fairly straightforward experience. I had seen the glimpses of it in pre-release footage, with some lights staving off ever-present darkness, and figured it would be a neat side venture. A curiosity to explore, when my interest fell away from the overworld of sky islands.

Boy, was I wrong. The Depths aren’t just another location in Tears of the Kingdom. They are a massive addition, a second-half rounding out the world above. And the Depths bring a new, fascinating, terrifying kind of horror to the Zelda series.

Note: Mild location spoilers for the Depths will follow, but I’ll try to avoid any story-related spoilers.

An early side quest directs you to explore the Depths, as part of unlocking the camera function for the Purah Pad. Heading to the designated gloom-hole and leaping in, I felt good as I fell. But then I kept falling, and falling, and falling. It might have been seconds, but it felt so much longer.

Screenshot by Destructoid

This is the first great thing Tears of the Kingdom does to emphasize just how deep the Depths really are. Above ground, you can get a firm sense of height and space. If you’ve been following the main quest, you’ve already blasted Link out through the top of Purah’s Skyview Tower and fallen back down. You might have even encountered a hot air balloon or two, and you certainly have context for how high up the sky islands are.

So when you’re met with a comparable plummet heading down into the Depths, it emphasizes how far down this world is. The vertical scale is brought into stark relief. But where you could see for miles above ground, all that waits below is a deep, inky void.

Made in an abyss

It’s amazing what the absence of contextual information does for the Depths in Tears of the Kingdom. It hits me every single time I plummet back down through a chasm, and I’ve done it many times now. Hearing the musical cue, sounding like the blare of a brass horn, it feels like sensory overload. You cannot see where you’re going to land. You can’t see anything.

Usually, I’ll pause to launch a Brightbloom Seed, affixed on an arrow, down into the void, like dropping a glow stick down into a cave. “Surely it will land soon,” I keep telling myself, as it flies further and further down until a little speck appears. And I really hope it appears on solid ground, and not a giant puddle of gloom.

Screenshot by Destructoid

And once you touch down, it’s like a different world. I’ve been trying to figure out, since last Friday, what the Depths remind me most of, and it’s not just a deep cave. It’s the ocean. There are times, walking through this world, peering into a thick wall of nothing, working around strange plant life that it feels like I’m walking on the sea floor. Inhabitants aside, the actual Depths feel hostile.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Depths also house tons of gloom, high-level enemies, rough terrain to navigate, and plenty of other surprises I won’t note here. Those that can live down here are not your average above-ground foe.

A new expedition

Every trip here feels like a journey or expedition. I’m expending resources I’ve built up above ground, whether its good weapons or utilities like Brightbloom and Sundelions, to delve deeper. And yet, it’s all interlinked.

The Depths are the best place to find some good resources. Zonaite, Bomb Flowers, and more all lie around down here. Treasures lay hidden in old ruins of whoever came before, and lived deep below. Massive pillars, signaling how deep structures dig into the earth, end up being paths for Ascent and new ways of navigating into the overworld.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Little details, like shrines being linked to lightroots, help solidify this feeling of connection across the different elevations of Hyrule. It’s honestly baffling that Nintendo kept the Depths so under wraps compared to the sky islands. But this new underground brings a new dimension to Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda series is no stranger to horror, whether that’s a game about creepy masks and moons crashing down, or Link being transformed into a wolf, or even the ReDeads in Ocarina of Time. (The nightmare fuel of every child of that generation.)

The Depths are terrifying, but in a different way. It’s the vast expanse. The imposing emptiness. The feeling that Link has become untethered, without anchor, floating into the maw of anything and everything. Even as I slowly work my way through the Depths, capturing lightroots and trying to install the Hyrulian version of a night light, it feels like I’m just staving off the darkness. Light can only push the shadow back so far, and the shadow is always waiting.

Screenshot by Destructoid

It’s an incredible addition, one that certainly puts any questions of how much Nintendo added to Breath of the Wild‘s Hyrule to rest. The Depths are terrifying, and I cannot wait to go diving back into them again later tonight.


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Author
Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.