The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a game that took the entire gaming world by storm. The open-ended gameplay moved the series in an exciting direction and influenced the industry as a whole. No doubt many were left wanting more. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity holds the promise of expanding further on the events preceding BotW.
Timing of Story
Age of Calamity takes place 100 years before Breath of the Wild. This is during the time frame when Hyrule’s entire kingdom was devastated by the malevolent force known as Calamity Ganon. Fittingly, this cataclysm was known as the Great Calamity. When the story opens, signs of this event’s arrival are popping up. An example is an increase in monsters in the countryside.
Seeking to prepare for this prophesied disaster, Hyrule’s Princess Zelda sets out for the kingdom’s four great regions. Her goal is to recruit four champions to pilot the Divine Beasts. These huge mechanical weapons are essential in thwarting the Great Calamity. Zelda’s adviser Impa, and Link, a knight serving Hyrule castle, accompany her. Shortly after starting their journey, they come upon a small autonomous machine. It seems to have come from a dark future where Calamity Ganon has decimated the entire kingdom. Will this development bode well for their future, or is this just a vision of events set in stone?
Story segments in the game occur during the main missions with fully voiced scenes showing developments. Text screens featuring narration are also shown both before story missions and in the middle of them. Both methods work well to give background into what the characters are up to at that point. Seeing the scenes featuring the characters from BotW is a real treat for fans of that game. They give much more development to the champions than the occasional flashback scenes in that game. You will likely find that the game’s plot is one of its main strong points.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a hack-and-slash game. It is in the same vein as Koei Tecmo’s famous series Dynasty Warriors. It is the second such spin-off of that series to appear on Nintendo consoles. You have a team of characters available to use to battle hoards of enemies on large mission maps. Each character has a different playstyle, allowing many different ways to mow down foes. You can access tutorials from the System menu to walk you through the intricacies of the game’s combat system if needed. Anyone familiar with Warriors games will know what to expect here. Though Age of Calamity will likely be much more appealing. This is due to its vast cast of fan-favorite characters and its ties to BotW. The gameplay itself is more than enough to keep you engaged as well.
Like any hack-and-slash game, Age of Calamity‘s gameplay revolves around combat. Combat occurs during the game’s many missions, both in enemy outposts and the roads and scenery in-between. You fight with light attacks and heavy attacks. Combining different numbers of light attacks with a heavy attack at the end deals combos unique to each character. More complex, longer combos can be unlocked as you complete side missions. Landing hits on enemies builds up your special attack bar. This enables you to use a special attack once it fills.
Making a return from BotW are Sheikah runes, which each have different effects and are used differently per character. Remote Bomb damages enemies and depletes their weak point gauge and Cryonis does damage and freezes enemies in water. Stasis stops enemy movement and Magnesis attracts metal objects and hits enemies with them. You can also use elemental rods, which are especially useful against enemies vulnerable to their element. For example, using a fire rod attack against an ice-aligned enemy.
Using these attacks is sufficient for vanquishing a vast majority of the game’s enemies. However, more formidable enemies will also be encountered. Luckily there are a few combat elements that help to defeat these foes. First, you’re able to lock-on and dodge their attacks. Dodging at the perfect time will allow you to unleash a flurry rush. This depletes their weak point gauge, leaving them open to a powerful counter-attack once drained. Combat against these stronger enemies is a welcome break from the mindless destruction of lesser monsters. You’re able to use more tactical approaches and actually feel like some technique is needed.
Some missions feature combat while piloting one of the Divine Beasts. These sequences significantly switch up the combat method. You’ll find yourself hundreds of feet taller and in command of devastating energy weapons. What these battles have in common with regular combat are the normal and heavy attacks you use. In addition, there is also a special attack meter to build up, which allows the use of a beam cannon that can quickly turn the tide of battle. These battle sequences are quite fun. Even the mass slaying of monsters you usually take part in on missions pales in comparison to the amount of destruction you can do with the Divine Beasts. Ice beams, magma cannons, and lightning barrages are at your fingertips during these fights, and unleashing elemental fury is a great experience.
The adversaries you’ll find in Age of Calamity are brought straight from BotW. Bokoblins, lizalfos, and keese are just a few of the recognizable enemy types in the game’s battle maps. Their attacks are also almost identical to what you’d encounter in that game. You will discover different elemental variants of these enemies throughout the game as well. These kinds of enemies are fought in large numbers and pose little threat individually in the face of your devastating attacks. However, some of the series’ more notoriously rough enemies also return here, namely lynels and hinox. You will need to dodge their attacks and attack appropriately with runes and special attacks to survive your encounters with these foes.
You may be surprised by the sizable roster of characters in Age of Calamity is. Most are unlocked throughout the story, while a few can be unlocked by completing specific side missions. No two characters are alike in any way when it comes to how they move and fight. Each also features their own unique combat mechanics. For example, Daruk’s strong attacks leave behind magma ramps that he can use to either launch attacks from or detonate to damage enemies. Weapon type also differs between each character, so characters also vary in how far their attacks reach.
In addition, you’re able to send individuals you take into battle to different points of the missions map. This makes it easier to tackle other objectives on opposite sides of the map simultaneously. This leads to many possibilities regarding combat strategy. Don’t be afraid that your favorite character won’t be as viable as others either. Every character in the game has their own strengths in battle. No particular character shines significantly brighter than others. At least if you’re willing to learn how to use them to their fullest potential. Only the characters you bring on missions gain experience, but there is a service that brings your benched characters up to par. So don’t be afraid to use whoever you want.
Battle implements can be obtained by defeating enemies and opening found chests during missions. Be mindful that most of the weapons you find will only be for the character you are controlling at the time. You can strengthen weapons by fusing them with the same types of weapons at the blacksmith. This process is very similar to the ones seen in many mobile games. Many weapons also have runes attached, which give bonuses like increased movement speed or special attack damage. Fusing weapons transfers these runes to your weapon, leading to some powerful possibilities if you do it right. The freedom the game gives you to power up weapons with different runes is a positive aspect of the game. Luckily the game is quite generous in providing weapon drops to fully take advantage of fusion.
The map screen is where you select what mission to take on. It shares many similarities in look with Breath of the Wild. This makes sense considering the game takes place in the same setting, albeit at a different point in its history. Main missions unlock one at a time for the most part, but a multitude of side missions unlock after completing main missions.
Every region of the map has its own reputation system. Completing a certain amount of side missions in an area will fill its reputation meter, which awards you with an assortment of resources. You need these resources to complete specific side missions. The tabs at the top of the map make navigation a bit easier. The Services tab allows easy switching between vendors on the map who sell resources. The Chapters tab lists story missions you’ve completed, directing you to the point in the map where you can access them for replaying.
Something to expect is the gradual cluttering of the world map. Every completion of a story mission will unlock more and more side missions to do. You can focus on the main missions, but if you are a completionist you will struggle here. You may start breaking into cold sweats as the map slowly becomes bloated with missions. Typically, more content is a positive thing, but having missions spread out all over the map makes navigation difficult. The Services and Chapters tabs help a bit, but without a way to quickly find side missions, you’ll likely become overwhelmed.
You will find several kinds of missions in Age of Calamity. Main story missions are where you can further the story through doing combat missions. Side missions feature combat scenarios. These can entail defeating certain strong enemies, escorting an NPC, or racking up a certain amount of enemy kills under a time limit.
It’s important to utilize each mission’s map, found on the pause screen, to efficiently move your characters around to complete each mission’s objectives. This is especially vital if there’s a time limit imposed during the mission. As a reward for combat missions, you get rupees (the game’s currency), experience, and various resources and weapons. As mentioned, the staggering amount of side missions is daunting, but it is worth taking the time to complete as many as you can. They can yield some great rewards, like rare resources or even new characters.
You can find icons on the map that reward you with stat increases for certain characters (e.g., more maximum health) if you turn in specific resources found during missions. These are important to complete since they will make fights that much easier. Overall, the game’s missions are enjoyable. The story missions, in particular, are great. They show how the champions interacted with each other, and the story, in general, is a highlight of the game.
A neat feature that Age of Calamity has is the ability to play missions with two players. A second player can control their character with a separate controller. You can select this option on the map before starting a mission. Gameplay takes place on a horizontal split-screen. Horizontal split screen causes your view of the battlefield to be limited, which makes combat more complicated. Enemies will have an easier time sneaking up on you without you seeing them. The graphical quality also takes a noticeable dip while playing in this mode. The visuals become particularly grainy and the framerate takes a hit as well. To improve combat, you should use either a pro controller or a separate pair of joy-cons.
If you happen to have some amiibo, you’ll be happy to know that Age of Calamity allows you to scan them from the main menu for some rewards. Every day, you’re able to scan any five amiibos you have. Each scan will give you a small selection of common resources, which helps a decent amount with resource missions. This is a nice little feature and gives the popular collectibles a bit of utility.
Accessed from the map screen, the Gallery Menu contains a few different interesting features. You can view character profiles and they give details about each central character you meet. You can also view cinematic scenes that you’ve seen during the game’s story missions. This can be helpful if you want to experience one of Age of Calamity‘s more thrilling story scenes again. In addition, there is a section for playing music tracks you’ve heard during missions. You can also see all kinds of stats regarding your time playing the game, such as how many trees you’ve felled or total enemy KOs.
The visual style of Age of Calamity is almost identical to that of Breath of the Wild. The story scenes look like they could have come from that game. The same kind of colorful, smooth character models and environments can be found here. Where the games differ is when looking at scenery during missions. This game focuses on combat over exploration, so it does not have the same amount of draw distance as its predecessor. All the same, the graphical style is surprisingly crisp for a game that’s technically a spin-off.
Music & Voice Acting
The quality of music found in the game is also of particularly stellar quality. It is on par with any mainline Legend of Zelda game. Age of Calamity‘s extensive soundtrack features songs for every occasion. Some songs played during major fights impart a feeling of danger or tension. Others that play at heartwarming times give you feelings of nostalgia and contentment. Several will also be familiar to fans of the series. The songs featured in the game take you on a journey, much like the game’s plot. The music menu allows for an easy way to listen to your favorite tunes as well.
To say you will have plenty of things left to do after finishing the last story mission is an understatement. The game’s many side missions will take a considerable chunk of time to complete. You can also build up every character the game features. You do this by fusing good weapons for each of them and spending rupees or completing missions to boost their levels. There are also numerous hidden korok NPCs in every story mission map. This is a nod to BotW‘s hidden koroks. These will give you korok seeds, which are a required resource for specific resource side missions. Ultimately, all of these things are optional. However, they help provide the game with a lot of mileage even after the story’s done.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a very entertaining hack-and-slash title. The well-known, much-loved setting of Hyrule elevates the game in particular. Using characters you already know and love to lay waste to hoards of monsters is a gratifying experience. Even if you have no experience with the series, the combat gameplay is fantastic, and the way Hyrule looks and sounds works in every way.
The multiplayer component does not work as seamlessly, though. The graphical and technical hiccups of using a horizontal split-screen hold it back from being as enjoyable. The game may not be classified as a core entry in the franchise, but it often feels like it should be. Even as a game that plays in a significantly different way, Age of Calamity earns its place as a legitimate Zelda title by way of its substantial plot and sheer level of polish.
Final Rating: 9/10.