Many years ago, Minecraft confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not a creative or creatively-motivated person. I'm a numbers man, and I find little to no joy in designing and building things for the sake of it. If you give me a sandbox with a bunch of materials, but no set goal or challenge, I'll quickly get bored and walk away. Animal Crossing feels like chores to me. I like Terraria, but only for the dungeon-crawling. I like Satisfactory, but I don't like Factorio, though both are great games. So you can imagine my response to all the Ultrahand shenanigans in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
I think it's great that people have the tools and freedom to make wild stuff like Armored Core mechs and the Korok Space Program, but I instantly knew that I would never engage with Link's newfound building powers beyond the minimum required to solve puzzles. Lo and behold, that's exactly what I've been doing. And has that hurt my enjoyment of Tears of the Kingdom compared to Breath of the Wild? No, not really.
We don't do that here
When I find a stranded Korok conveniently located next to a supply cache that may as well come with a big sign that reads "Build a wagon you idiot, you buffoon, you colossal waste of neurons," I will, at the absolute most, attach two wheels to a large plank and rig it up to my horse. That's if I can be asked. Folks, I will spend minutes manually dragging a Korok across an entire field instead of building a proper vehicle, making regular pit-stops to fend off the wolves and bokoblins who are understandably wondering what the hell I'm doing. I see you mad lads building fighter jets and Ford Rangers to move a forest fairy a whole 50 feet and I feel like Khabane Lame.
Just last night, it was clear I had to build some kind of boat to give myself a staging platform in order to pull a few treasure chests out of a lake. Oh god, I thought. Mandatory building. Okay, Austin; you can do this. The programming wizards at Nintendo would've cringed at the vessel I prepared: a sail attached to one (1) plank which I operated with a leaf tied to a stick. Just call me Francis Drake.
But guess what? I still got the treasure chests. Sadly, one of them only contained a worthless rocket which will gather dust in my inventory for the rest of time. Side note: I appreciate that Fuse only works with one thing, because if I had to thoroughly DIY my own weapons, which are my closest companions on this quest to beat Tears of the Kingdom as an utter caveman, I would probably lose my mind.
Those Zonai caches dotted around the depths? Ignored. The gacha machines spitting out dozens of contraptions? They may as well be empty apart from the winged gliders and cooking pots – you know, actually useful stuff. Any robot parts dumped into the gacha pit are better off as Fuse fodder. And I see you heretics out there using spinning Ultrahand abominations to defeat bosses, and while I applaud your ingenuity, last I checked monsters were still weak to swords and arrows so I think I'll stick with those, thanks.
What Zelda is and can be
Tears of the Kingdom, for me, is about puzzles, combat, and above all, exploration. I did not need or want Nintendo to add a whole engineering sim to the formula that worked just fine for Breath of the Wild, but that side of the game isn't hurting the puzzles, combat, or exploration. If anything, the fact that Tears of the Kingdom was able to introduce this layer of complexity – which we are still just scratching the surface of – without weakening any other element of the experience is another design feat to add to its already monstrous list. I'm not into it, but Ultrahand machinery can exist for the people who like it. As long as I can discover and fight stuff, I'm good. That's all I want from a new Zelda.
And it's not like I never use Ultrahand or actively dislike it. The cursor system is a bag of fiddly bullshit that's crying out for a mouse and keyboard, but it is fundamentally a fun and technically impressive way to interact with a game world. It just has to have the right framing for me. Most shrines, for example, ask you to move or assemble something or other, and I genuinely enjoy Ultrahand in that setting – small-scale, limited resources, clear challenge.
Shrines are the no-nonsense physics questions to the world's open-ended prompts. Cross-check my entire inventory with a bunch of wood to figure out how to get a Korok up a mountain? I sleep. Use little hot air balloons to get a stone ball from one part of a shrine to another? Now we're talking. That's a puzzle. That's something I can engage with. Ask me to solve, Nintendo, but do not ask me to create, because I do not care. And that's the best part: I don't have to!