My favourite Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom temple is a hole in the game

Exploring the Forgotten Temple in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a disorienting experience. It’s a setting that exists in the previous Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, but it feels different. The mostly empty temple space throws the essentially subtractive nature of the temple into sharper relief.

The game’s other Temples are precision-engineered puzzle boxes made up of symmetrical paths to sub-objectives and challenges with relatively clean solutions. The Forgotten Temple feels like the designer reached a colossal hand into one of those temples and tore out the fittings without looking, leaving it blank. The space rebuffs curiosity while carrying an air of menace; it almost feels like a maze.

While Tears of the Kingdom is the act of excavating the pleasing linearity of certain older Zeldas from the dirt of Breath of the Wild, the Forgotten Temple feels like a part of the game where the process has begun to move into reverse. Zelda at large is one grand cycle of forgetfulness, and Tears of the Kingdom continues this pattern. Each game introduces narrative fixtures as if for the first time, and savouring their stories is a pleasing ritual, not a journey.

As a direct sequel, Tears of the Kingdom overwrites Zelda’s trick of forgetting itself by restoring large swathes of the world map from Breath of the Wild, its geometry often immediately familiar underfoot. The forgotten temple in the new game is a place you remember, however transformed. It’s an important escalation in the ongoing debate about whether Zelda is best thought of as an endlessly modified fairytale or a rambling chronological epic with different games corresponding to different eras.

Tears of the Kingdom also walks an intriguing line with its object-crafting elements, which again rely on “forgetfulness,” but also aspire to permanence like no other Zelda game before. For all the rhapsodising about the freeplay potential of Ultrahand and Fuse, the God-like crafting machines that allow players to create their own puzzles, it isn’t quite enough to shake the sense that something is missing from the game. Perhaps it’s just that when one begins to see the seams and moments that don’t quite fit the design style they’re used to, it’s hard to ignore them altogether.