Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo, Nintendo
Genre: Hack ‘n’ Slash
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: 12
Release Date: 20/11/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Welcome To The Age of Calamity
Those of us who have played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would have seen that the fantasy world of Hyrule was in a bad shape. Monsters roam the land and the once great cities are now reduced to ruins. Breath of the Wild attributes this strife to a cataclysmic event called The Great Calamity, and it’s something that players heard about throughout their adventure. Sadly we never got to witness this apocalyptic event first hand in Breath of the Wild. However, this is all going to change thanks to Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
Before I go any further. This review will refrain from any major spoilers. However, minor plot details maybe are given away. Read at your discretion!
The new game developed by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force takes us back in time to roughly 100 years before the events seen in Breath of the Wild. The once-proud cities still stand and grand armies stand ready to defend the world from its enemies. Whilst the Age of Calamity hasn’t yet reached Hyrule, it’s only a matter of time, and we get to witness the downfall of this world. Yes, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a prequel to Breath of the Wild but, it couldn’t be any different.
Warriors of Dynasy
To understand the core gameplay of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity you have to look at the long-running franchise – Dynasty Warriors. Dynasty Warriors (and its many spin-offs) is a hack-and-slash game where it’s defined by the player taking part in grand scale battles. You’re not just fighting one or two enemies, but hundreds at a time. It’s quite thrilling to play as a single hero whose objective is to turn the tide of these massive battles into your side’s favour. Legend of Zelda has received the “Warriors” treatment before. Back in 2014 Zelda fans were treated to the original Hyrule Warriors. Hyrule Warriors was a massive dose of fan service that mashed the two iconic franchises together in spectacular fashion. Whilst Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity offers more of the same, it’s on a much more ambitious scale.
The interesting thing about the Breath of the Wild universe is that it’s as far removed from Dynasty Warriors as you can get. Breath of the Wild built its open-world on quiet exploration and restraint. Whilst Dynasty Warriors is bold, brash and full of bravado. In a literal sense, Breath of the Wild feels like Indiana Jones while Dynasty Warriors is more like Avengers: Endgame. Surprisingly, both mashed together settings work extremely well for the majority of the time.
Naturally, the biggest reason to play Hyrule Warriors is for its story. Nintendo being the crafty so-and-so’s that they are, have added quite a lot of lore into the game. For Zelda fan’s there’s quite a lot to dig into, and you’ll almost certainly come away learning something new. There’s also a lot of narrated cut-scenes and moments which grab your attention to whats going on. We’re also treated to some nice twists and turns which drives the experience home.
Ocarina of Combat!?
The core principles of what you do in Age of Calamity is on par with both the original Hyrule Warriors and Dynasty Warriors. That’s to say that we’ll often find ourselves running around large environments, hacking and slashing away at hundreds of enemies. Age of Calamity periodically ups the tempo with some battles featuring thousands of enemies, that’s how grand of scale these battles often feel. The bad guys we fight are mostly grunts. They’re dumb and stand around in large groups waiting for us to come and whack them. It would be almost comical if it wasn’t for the various bosses that are intertwined with them.
Bosses, as you’d expect, are a bit more intelligent and can do some serious damage if left unchecked. The strategy to winning these battles often comes from how you manage the chaos unfolding around you. In addition to being a soldier, we also act as a de-facto General, as we command our party of Hero characters around the map. It’s great fun to see these mighty warriors rampaging through mobs of enemies, with swords clashing here, there and everywhere.
Occasionally, these battles will throw a curveball and introduce a special objective. These objectives can range from; completing a certain activity in a time limit or escorting a mission-critical character through a tough spot. Whilst combat is mostly different from that seen in Breath of the Wild, some similarities remain. Breath of the Wild introduced a new physics-based style of combat to the world of Zelda with its runes. These powerful tools would allow you to temporarily freeze enemies or fire powerful bombs at them. Age of Calamity plays with this formula by making certain enemies susceptible to certain rune powers. Think of it as a cut-down RPG and you’re on the right tracks.
Using various attacks also adds a strategy element to the combat. It’s great fun smashing into mobs of enemies to then send them flying with flashy special moves. With Age of Calamity, there’s a lot of spectacular scenes to enjoy that boils down to how we as players fight. More so when we think of who we fight as…
Though series stalwart Link remains the primary protagonist, the early chapters of Age of Calamity are all about assembling your team. To sweeten the deal, each champion we recruit, we also get to play as. Each one has their playstyle that fits into the Dynasty Warriors-style that’s bubbling just below the surface.
Whereas Link is your more traditional melee fighter, Revali can fly above the battlefield to rain arrows down from above. Urbosa on the other hand uses powerful electric-style attacks, Princess Zelda, however, is the more interesting fighter. Zelda doesn’t directly fight, instead, she uses the Sheik Slate to attack using runes. The variation of characters and fighting styles goes a long way to shake the monotone nature that games of this genre often produce.
Another addition to the Age of Calamity roster is the Divine Beasts. These colossal machines were first introduced in Breath of the Wild. During certain periods we’re able to take the reigns of these giant war machines. Unfortunately, these moments amount to simple turret missions, with uninspired gameplay and cumbersome controls. There are also some added side missions which also feel uninspiring. These missions mainly boil down to killing a certain amount of enemies within a time limit. It’s a shame as with the wealth of characters and lore behind both Age of Calamity and Breath of the Wild, these missions could have offered some interesting things to see and do.
Breath of the (not so) Wild
The glaring thing about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is that it’s not Breath of the Wild. The vast open exploration and sense of adventure seen in Breath of the Wild is sadly not in Age of Calamity. Whilst we go to some interesting places and the battlefields are humongous in scale. We simply travel to them by clicking a button. It’s hard not to miss that open-world aspect which breathed a much-needed addition to the franchise.
From a technical standpoint Age of Calamity plays fairly well. The majority of my time playing the game was with the Switch being docked and it played great. Sure there was the odd slowdown and a bit of screen tear but it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven. The biggest issues come when playing in handheld mode. Playing handheld feels like your pushing the Switch’s limitations. Visuals are blurry and there’s a hell of a lot of slowdowns, more so when a lot is going on, on-screen. There’s never a point where the game becomes unplayable but it’s noticeable.
A Link To The Past
Technical aspects aside, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is quite fun to play. Sure it’s not Breath of the Wild and players coming into the game thinking that will be sorely disappointed. Whilst both games are vastly different some aspects that made Breath of the Wild such a success remain. We still get the beautiful locations and varied characters, but with a grand scale, battles to contend with. On the surface, Hyrule Warriors doesn’t feel like a Zelda game, but deep down its core principles remain the same.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity via the Nintendo eShop by clicking here