Tears of the Kingdom retains the open-world action-adventure gameplay of the previous Zelda game, Breath of the Wild (2017). As Link, players explore Hyrule and two new areas, the Sky, littered with floating islands, and the Depths, to find weapons, resources, and complete quests. Link can explore on foot or by climbing, riding on horseback, and using a paraglider.
New to Tears of the Kingdom are Zonai devices, which the player can use for combat, propulsion, exploration, and more. The previous game’s runes are replaced with five new abilities: Ultrahand, Fuse, Ascend, Recall, and Autobuild. Ultrahand allows the player to pick up and move different objects, and attach different objects together.
This can be used with the Zonai devices to create different vehicles or other constructs. Fuse allows Link to combine materials, equipment, or certain objects in the world to a shield or a weapon to increase its attributes and durability. For example, fusing an explosive object to an arrow will cause the arrow to explode on impact. Autobuild instantly recreates a device crafted with Ultrahand, automatically using nearby devices and objects if available, or if parts are missing, creating single use replacements at the cost of zonaite. Ascend allows the player to move upwards through solid surfaces. Recall can be used on an object to “rewind” its movement.
Shrines and Korok seeds return. When cleared, shrines grant players a Light of Blessing; when four are obtained, Link can use them to either increase the amount of hearts he has by one or expand the size of his stamina wheel. Korok seeds can be used to increase the inventory capacity of Link, allowing him to hold more melee weapons, shields, or bows.
The Depths, which are accessed via chasms on the surface, house a new threat, a goopy substance called gloom. Whenever Link comes into contact with or is attacked by enemies covered in gloom, his maximum number of hearts temporarily decreases one heart at a time. This affliction is removed only when Link returns to the surface or travels to a lightroot, a large light-emitting plant found in the Depths, to regain his maximum health.