We got our first extended glimpse at The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom gameplay this week, and while it largely focused on Link’s new fusion abilities, one returning feature set the internet ablaze as soon as it was confirmed: weapon durability. But while people were arguing about whether Breath of the Wild’s breakable weapons are good or not (spoiler: they are, and we talk in-depth about why on the latest episode of NVC), I am far more concerned about the future of another likely returning system – because let’s face it, Link’s cooking skills need sharpening.
While not explicitly shown during the gameplay video, all the telltale signs of cooking are back – Link had an inventory full of ingredients (some of which he was more concerned about strapping to his weaponry rather than roasting) and that signature wide cooking pot could be seen over a campfire in a cave that was briefly visited. There’s evidence the food system might have actually been expanded as well, since a cooking pot symbol in the UI now seems to be occupying “up” on the d-pad in the same way you quick-select your weapons and shields.
That’s great to see, because I have a serious love-hate relationship with Breath of the Wild’s cooking. It’s a surprisingly deep system full of fun experimentation and some seriously powerful buffs if you know what to throw in a pot. It also got me to actually care about all the little bits and bobs I was vacuuming into my back pocket as I explored Hyrule, with items I overlooked early on suddenly being worth their weight in rupees once I realized what they could be used to make.
However, the way you actually interact with your cooking options in Breath of the Wild falls regrettably short of its full potential. It is patently insane that the only way to cook is by slowly navigating your cluttered inventory, individually putting up to five items into Link’s arms, closing out, and then physically dropping them into a cooking pot – and Hylia forbid you add the wrong item or miss the pot and have to start all over again. You can at least skip most of the cooking cutscene that plays each time, but making more than a couple meals at once is a laboriously slow process.
It’s also nuts to me that there’s no in-game way to track what combinations you’ve already tried and what the results were, especially given how many ingredient options you have. I actually really love that you can find posters at different stables with meals for you to try making, but it’s wild that your options are basically to memorize them immediately or manually write them down if you want to retain that recipe longterm – and while you could take a photo, the album isn’t exactly designed for easy browsing either.
"I have a serious love-hate relationship with Breath of the Wild’s cooking."
On top of that, as much as I loved experimenting with different combinations of ingredients to find interesting results, this system eventually becomes fairly easy to crack. While the idea of mixing and matching up to five items is charming, the truth of the matter is that you only need to use one when it comes to your healing and stamina options. Once you’ve boosted your stats enough, putting any single 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 bit of an extra boost while also completely refilling your natural max. That flattened out many of the “best” late-game cooking options for me, which can make the processing of roasting a bunch of single carrots even more tedious.
As I see it, Tears of the Kingdom has an opportunity to smooth so many of the bumps in a system I ultimately really like. Let me sit down at a campfire, open a cooking menu, and select individual ingredients in order to more quickly find out what their combinations result in. Better yet, save the meals I’ve already made in a recipe book and let me quickly cook them again (or in multiples) if I have the ingredients on hand. The issue of how food scales once you’re dozens of hours in is a harder problem to solve, and I’m not going to pretend I know how to do it, but even just improvements to the way you interact with a cooking station is something I’d take over weapon repair any day.
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We haven’t seen much of Tears of the Kingdom yet, but this week’s gameplay left me extremely optimistic. I imagine there are some big surprises still waiting in the wings, but the fact that its fusion and Ultrahand abilities already seem to empower the way players experimented with (and even exploited) Breath of the Wild gives me hope that Nintendo could 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 with it, the least we can do is make it medium-rare.