Europa is what Tears of the Kingdom would feel like if Link were all alone, forever

Something about Europa is undeniably devastating. At first I was too distracted to tell, ambling about a lush green meadow and gazing out at the watercolor panorama of grass, stone, and the vault of blue sky overhead. With a dreamy soundtrack playing as I climb ledges and glide over mossy hills, Europa feels like a peaceful reimagining of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom – this time, without the Bokoblins.

As I gather page after page of left-behind notes, though, I read and realize that this Europa demo is a lot more than that. It tells the story of the last human child on a terraformed planet, located somewhere nearby Jupiter, by way of notes penned by his father. It’s a serene yet deeply saddening experience that left me very close to tears for all the best reasons.

Time and place

Europa

(Image credit: Future Friends Games)

As I platform around this quiet new world, all alone save for the robot-like gardeners tending to the wildlife, I’m struck by the innate sadness of it all. As beautiful as Europa is, it seems to have been left to rot by the humans who never woke up to it. Moss-covered and creaking with age, sentient structures not unlike Tears of the Kingdom’s Constructs are busying themselves with odd tasks as Zee trots about. These beings are described by Zephyr’s dad as a new species, one that “mimics the biodiversity of old Earth”. Now, they’re sleepwalking through their duties despite no humans being around to instruct them.

Some gardeners buzz about Zee’s head inquisitively, shaped like giant gray pieces of wrapped candy. Others cower and retreat into their shells, like much larger sea snails. Whether they once had reason to fear or be fond of humans isn’t clear, but Zee doesn’t seem to mind either way.

I, the player, can sense something going on here. I can tell how intrinsically bittersweet it is, seeing such a beautiful place blossoming around the failures of humanity. But Zee can’t see that, because he’s just a little boy. He bumbles along sweetly, marveling at this placid place that means him no harm. Aside from the odd false landing here or there that caused me to crash into the ground indelicately and, ahem, “start again”, it seems very hard to die out here on Europa. There are no enemies lying in wait, no horrors immediately apparent. You’re just a child soaking in a world of wonder.

Lonely planet

Europa

(Image credit: Future Friends Games)

Europa places me in a strange limbo. I never quite feel at peace despite the calming lull drawing me in, and more than once I tried to attack a harmless gardener in case it struck first. I journey ahead cautiously, and find nothing to fear except the unknown. I collect crystal stars to help me glide higher for longer, powering the little jetpack-like contraption strapped to my back that lets me navigate in these non-quite-zero-gravity environments. I don’t even need one of Link’s trusty gliders to get around, since all little Zee needs to do is hold out his arms and leap. It’s a magical world with untapped potential, both for something greater and for something altogether darker.

Will Zee make it back to Earth in the full game, or will he find companionship out there on Europa? I know that there must be something sinister at work on Europa itself, and some reason why this child is the only human left. It creates an interesting duality: my reluctance as the player feels so contrasted to Zee’s childlike awe that it makes me immediately protective of him. 

Melancholic, hopeful, and instantly enchanting, I found very little wrong with the Europa demo. Admittedly I’m not the best at platforming games, my clumsy nature was mirrored through the joysticks all too easily, but something about Europa makes it feel okay. I’m just a little kid who’s all alone in the world, unearthing the secrets of a people that mysteriously vanished. I guess it’s okay if I stumble here and there. 

Check out what else Future Games Show has in store this summer.

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