If 2014’s Hyrule Warriors was a celebration of The Legend of Zelda franchise and its legacy, then Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is the same for Breath of the Wild, and so much more. On the surface, it’s a simple hack and slash musou game that anyone can pick up and enjoy – especially Zelda fans – but after peeling back its numerous layers, it becomes clear that Age of Calamity is an experience entirely unique from its source material while sporting the same fantastic design philosophies and concepts that made it special.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is set 100 years before the events of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, during the infamous Great Calamity that sets the events of the game into motion. The narrative is first and foremost about Princess Zelda and her Champions of Hyrule, as they conquest against the Calamity’s forces to stop Ganon’s return. Without spoiling too much, it’s a joy to see Hyrule and the people that inhabit it in an entirely different light.
The different races have their platoons in full force, the Champions are in their prime, and the discovery of the Sheikah Slates and related technology is exciting through the lenses of younger versions of Purah and Robbie even though we’ve been exposed to it all before. Age of Calamity has an excellent sense of world-building, and a tone that’s in stark contrast to Breath of the Wild’s more dystopian and isolating feel. While you might think you know what you’re getting into, there’s a few twists and turns throughout Age of Calamity that have exciting prospects for the future of the franchise.
If you’ve played a musou title before, then you mostly know what you’re getting into with Age of Calamity. You take control of a few different characters as you charter your way through a battlefield, slaying hundreds upon hundreds of foes with over-the-top attacks. The original Hyrule Warriors did a great job of marrying the tried and true musou gameplay loop with typical Zelda conventions and hallmarks. While Age of Calamity doesn’t cover an entire franchise, it homes in and focuses on what separates Breath of the Wild from its predecessors.
Every character you unlock as you progress through Age of Calamity’s core adventure feels unique from another, and accurate to how they’re portrayed in Breath of the Wild. Each character has access to a light and heavy attack which can be combined for combos, a special attack unique to them, and a Sheikah Slate. It doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but all of these parts intertwine and connect with one another to create a satisfying and cathartic gameplay loop. The special attacks are wide and varied, from Link being able to fire off his bow in the middle of a combo, to Impa’s ability to mark enemies with Runes that she can detonate, creating a clone of herself that fights with you for each Rune detonated. Each one feels suited to their respective characters and provide a layer of complexity that keeps the game from getting stale.
The same can be said for the Sheikah Slate, which features all of the main functions from Breath of the Wild. While you can use in in and around combat like you would in BotW, the most intuitive use is being able to counter specific attacks from boss enemies. Whether you’re using Cryonis at the last second to create a wall for them to run headfirst into, freezing them with Stasis, or sending a weapon back their way with Magnesis, it’s all incredibly satisfying and rewarding to pull off.
There’s also a few segments in the campaign where you take control of the Divine Beasts as you lay waste to thousands of Ganon’s minions and their outposts. At first, it provides a welcome break from the standard hack and slash fair, and the spectacle of it is something to behold, but they quickly grow repetitive, and awkward controls don’t help in keeping them an engaging affair. While they’re few and far between, and most of them are optional, they stick out when the rest of the experience is consistently enjoyable.
Upon completing the introductory missions, you’re greeted with a recreation of Breath of the Wild’s map screen, which fills up with activities and help requests as you progress through the campaign. Fulfilling help requests by supplying resources will unlock new combos for your characters, shops, weapons, food and more. There’s almost always something to work towards as you play, and countless challenges that you can take part in before or after you finish the main story. It might get a bit repetitive by the end of it all, but there’s a wealth of content for those who want to keep playing.
One area where Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity really struggles is on the technical side of things. Visually, the game looks gorgeous in both handheld and docked modes, it mimics the almost water-color art style of Breath of the Wild perfectly and captures all of that alongside its fast-paced action. Unfortunately, the Switch just can’t keep up with how many enemies are on-screen sometimes. The game usually runs and a stable 30 frames per second, but it’s not uncommon to see it dip well below that when it gets hectic, and it’s jarring to say the least. Hopefully, this is something that can be alleviated at launch via a day one patch, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker to begin with.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER. WE LOVE BRINGING YOU THE BEST GAMING AND TECH BARGAINS. WE MAY GET A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE SALE THROUGH AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIPS
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, is a defining example of what you can do with musou games in the right situation. Not only does it shine Breath of the Wild’s enjoyable characters in a new light, but it also provides a new lens to experience Hyrule through. It’s an experience that is as much musou as it is Breath of the Wild, but integrates ideas from both, and melds them in interesting ways that’s guaranteed to please fans of either game type. If you’re a fan of Breath of the Wild, or musou games in general, Age of Calamity is well worth your time and attention, even if the Switch sometimes struggles under its ambitions.
A Worthy Prequel To Breath of the Wild
Bevvy Of Unique Playable Characters
Flashy, Enjoyable And Relatively Deep Combat
Tons Of Content To Tackle For Those Who Want It
Replicates The Same Visual Wonder of BotW With Its Own Style