As Nintendo showed off more of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in the run-up to release, a contingent of gamers whined about how it wasn’t a ‘real sequel’ because it was reusing the map from Breath of the Wild. I never agreed with this idea. Wonderful possibilities open up when developers are willing to reuse assets, and Tears of the Kingdom’s wells are a great example.

If you’ve visited a village or stable in Tears of the Kingdom, you’ve likely seen one of these structures, made from a stone base with a wooden top. At a glance, you might expect them to be shallow and filled in with dirt, as wells often are in video games. But approach any of them and you can drop down into an explorable cave. I met a character named Fera last night who is a big fan of wells, and she told me that there are 58 throughout Hyrule. She’ll even reward you with Rupees as you report back on each one you find.

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Sometimes these holes just open up into a cave with a pool of water, with maybe a chest to open. Other times? There’s a network of tunnels to explore. Beneath Hateno Village, for example, there are multiple interlocking tunnels connecting the town’s wells together in a subterranean spiderweb.

Link Inside A Cave In Tears of the Kingdom

And this is why the wells disprove the idea that Tears of the Kingdom isn’t a true sequel. Hateno Village was in Breath of the Wild. We’ve been there before. But, the network of tunnels beneath it is entirely new. So, while on the surface Tears of the Kingdom often looks the same, that familiar foundation allows Nintendo to (literally) dig deeper, building new ant colonies beneath old anthills.

That’s the analogy I keep coming back to because, when you’re running through the fields of Hyrule, it often does look and feel like you’re just playing Breath of the Wild again. You see many of the same enemies and landmarks. The map is shaped the same way. Your four main quests even take you to the same four cities you visited in BOTW.

But then you stumble upon a gaping black-and-red chasm in the ground and descend into the dark and mysterious bowels of the earth, where seemingly endless caverns await you. Or you run up to a tower, fire yourself into the air, and begin exploring the sky islands. The game has three separate maps, with the two new ones fitted to the one you remember like layers of skin.

Link Diving Toward Great Sky Island in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

But the wells are a reminder that Nintendo didn’t stop with three. The boundary between the surface and the depths is porous. If you’re willing to explore, the map is a fine hunk of Swiss cheese. Or, to keep the analogy going, if you look inside the hill, you’ll find teeming life in the hidden tunnels, all far more complex than they appear from above. From the ground, in fact, they just look like wells.

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