Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a return to the beloved lore of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but this time with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors. Does it live up to the hype of Breath of the Wild, or is it just a gap-filler for eager BOTW fans? Here’s our review of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity!
If I could go back in time and play any game again for the first time, it would be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With its vast open-world expanses, thrilling legends and enticing gameplay, I find myself coming back to it, over and over again. I’ve found every Korok, danced through every shrine, even dabbled in speedrunning challenges from time to time. Point is, I love Breath of the Wild.
If you too loved Breath of the Wild, the newly released prequel, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a great stopgap until the release of the long-awaited sequel. If you weren’t a fan of the game, or if you were hoping for an advancement on Koei Tecmo’s flashy hack-and-slash gameplay, you’ll be disappointed.
But if you’ve been dreaming of walking the plains of Hyrule Kingdom again, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is that and so much more.
The (Age of) Calamity Narrative
This isn’t the first time there has been a Zelda re-skin of traditional Dynasty Warriors gameplay. 2014’s Hyrule Warriors felt like a fan-service cash grab, with very little in the way of narrative or cohesion. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a big step up. To create a prequel to a game that was so beloved, both critically and commercially, is an ambitious goal. Age of Calamity is set 100 years before the vents of Breath of the Wild, giving players a glimpse into the lore of Hyrule.
I never wanted to leave Hyrule in the first place. Fortunately, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity gives me the chance to learn more about the characters that I loved and lost in the original. The chance to play through the catastrophic events that led to victory is a bittersweet premise, and one that I enjoyed torturing myself with.
Every soft smile and every line of dialogue has this sense of deep sadness to it. Of course, if you played Breath of the Wild, you’ll know the enormous price each Champion has to pay. Watching the enormous Shiekah towers tearing up the ground and each Champion learn to pilot their Divine Beast was a welcome insight into a story I love. It almost felt akin to discovering your favourite film has director’s commentary.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has a time-travelling narrative, with a mini Guardian robot called Terrako who I would DIE for. Unfortunately, the game never really GOES anywhere with this idea. Starting in the catastrophic Hylian war, this egg-shaped friend travels back in time to warn Zelda. It’s left ambiguous whether this is ACTUALLY a prequel, or yet another offshoot of the already-confusing Zelda timeline. This led me to expect that Age of Calamity would deviate from the tragic Breath of the Wild timeline, which meant I struggled to engage with the plot at points.
What’s the Gameplay Like?
One thing that is instantly striking is the amount of love for Zelda Koei Tecmo has put into Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Familiar elements, like Koroks in obscure hiding spots, Link’s ‘hyah’ and status-impacting cooking all show up, alongside the iconic hack-and-slash gameplay of Dynasty Warriors.
Like all good Dynasty Warriors games, the combat lacks any sense of nuance or skill. You button-mash, and hope for the best. But for the first time ever, I actually found myself enjoying it. There’s a certain charm to the little details that have gone into making this feel like a Zelda game, and it’s something I appreciate a lot.
Each character you unlock has various unique combat styles, all which you can learn to master. You start off with Link, who has a variety of swords and clubs to his disposal. Link is quickly followed by Impa and Zelda, who wield magical runes and symbols. The four Champions can be unlocked in any order, all of whom have unique play styles. There are a few secret characters to recruit in the post-game, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you.
If, by some miracle, you actually pull off combos and in-depth techniques, there are fewer things in life more satisfying. Watching a horde of Moblins fly across the screen and disintegrate into nothing unleashed a primal instinct in me. I brutally cut down enemies without a second thought to see the big numbers flash up on screen. As someone who cried when I accidentally killed a fox in Breath of the Wild, the change is startling.
How Are the Age of Calamity Graphics?
Breath of the Wild is, graphically, one of the best games released on the Nintendo Switch.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity looks and feels exactly the same. Running across Hyrule Field felt like hugging an old friend. God knows 2020 needs more of that feeling.
It’s not quite open-world, unlike Breath of the Wild, but Koei Tecmo has never disappointed with its massive playing fields.
The biggest issues I came across was the performance. Playing on a docked Nintendo Switch, Age of Calamity struggled to keep up with the intense battles, the myriad of effects and the sheer amount of action on screen. Especially in detailed environments like Zora’s Domain, the lag made it almost unplayable at times.
Combine the frame rate issues with the choppy, pop-in textures, the loading times for more enemies to spawn and slow, unresponsive controls, the game suffers the same fate as its predecessors. For a series that markets its 1vs1000 gameplay, it’s a shame that Age of Calamity buckles under its own weight.
One of my favourite parts of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is the co-op mode. Surprisingly, the game tends not to struggle when displaying in split-screen mode, which meant my Player 2 and I could spend hours beating up enemies and trying to out-do echo other with ridiculous combo moves. It was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had in a Dynasty Warriors game.
As is common with these hack-and-slash games, there’s a lot going on on-screen all at once, which might be overwhelming or confusing for some players. The button mashing can also feel frantic and unstructured at times, which, when facing down a large enemy, can be anxiety-inducing.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is by far the best Dynasty Warriors game on the market. It perfectly plucks on the heartstrings of Breath of the Wild fans, fleshing out fan-favourite characters with unique combat styles that keep the game feeling fresh. Unfortunately, as with many Koei Tecmo games, the camera controls, combat and performance are choppy and, at times, overly simplistic. But if you’re looking for a fun game to play with someone else, with tons of post-game content, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a great way to spend some time before Breath of the Wild 2 releases. If you’re not sold, try the free demo!
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was released Nov. 20th on Nintendo Switch.
The game was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch, the platform to which it is exclusive. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was provided for review by Nintendo.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo