Bottom Line: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity returns to the sights, sounds, and characters introduced in 2017's Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and while it delivers many intense action sequences, the story promised is woefully shallow.
One of the best-looking Warriors titles available
Tons of content and characters to explore
The story is a huge letdown
Performance leaves a lot to be desired
Not much mission variety
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One of my favorite games in recent years has been The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo's open-world reimaging of the series was the shot in the arm that the 30-year-old series needed, updating classic gameplay conventions while introducing a slew of new ones. One of the new additions was the focus on story, and while it wasn't perfect, the snippets of plot found throughout Breath of the Wild was a welcome change.
Now, three years later, Breath of the Wild 2 is still in active development, and Nintendo has decided to satiate Zelda fans with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a game that acts as both a prequel to Breath of the Wild as well as a pseudo-sequel to 2014's Hyrule Warriors. But does it succeed? As a sequel to Hyrule Warriors, the answer is an enthusiastic yes. But if you were hoping for something that builds on the locales and characters introduced in Breath of the Wild, you're going to be disappointed.
What I love about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity takes place 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild, right at the start of the world ending event that dooms Hyrule. You're placed into the well-worn boots of Link, a knight sworn to protect Princess Zelda as she attempts to salvage ancient technology to fight back against Calamity Ganon while also trying to unlock her own sacred power. The first few chapters retread the story beats introduced in Breath of the Wild, except instead of the quiet vignettes experienced in that game, you are thrust into huge battles against hundreds of enemy forces.
|Category||Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity|
|Title||Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity|
|Players||Local, up to 2 players|
|Price||$60 (opens in new tab)|
If you're familiar with Warriors-style games, don't expect the formula to deviate too much here. The gameplay consists of hacking and slashing countless enemies and capturing outposts. But that's not a bad thing at all, as Warriors games always manage to make the player feel like an unstoppable harbinger of destruction, and that's no different here. The game does adopt the recent QoL changes made in Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, the other two Nintendo approved Warriors games. What you get here is one of the most accessible Warriors titles Koei Tecmo has ever made.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity review A welcome return to Hyrule
Much like how Hyrule Warriors was an open love letter to the Zelda franchise, Koei Tecmo really nails the game's presentation, thanks to the Breath of the Wild team's involvement. Characters look better than ever, and the locales of Breath of the Wild have been transformed into large-scale battlefields that look almost identical to many of the game's main areas. It's truly a testament to the game's watercolor-like art style that still shines years after its debut.
Unlike the first Hyrule Warriors, the game draws its wealth of content solely on Breath of the Wild, so don't expect any characters from other Zelda games to appear, or any original characters for that matter. Aside from the tiny guardian and the mysterious antagonist named Astor, there's hardly a face in the game we haven't met before. Pulling from just one game might be risky for a lesser franchise, but the cast still shines even though we don't really get to spend too much time with each of them.
More importantly, they're a blast to play with. Each of the 18 characters in the game has a unique move set that is full of personality. Whether it's Urbosa's graceful spins and lightning strikes or Impa's ninjitsu, character moves are loud and over the top, and clearing a screen of enemies with a ridiculous special move is endlessly entertaining.
What I didn't love about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
While the game is gorgeous to look at, you're sure to almost immediately notice the expense paid. Don't get me wrong, Dynasty Warrior games are not known to be technical showcases, and a slowdown is par the course, but Age of Calamity really starts to show the Nintendo Switch's age. It mostly holds together, but there are certain levels and moves that tank the frame rate to surprising lows. It's odd then that Koei Tecmo didn't opt for a performance mode like they did in Fire Emblem Warriors, which ran the game at a lower resolution but at a higher frame rate. A game like Age of Calamity would benefit from the option greatly.
In addition to the absence of a performance mode, there's a lack of mission variety. Fans of the original Hyrule Warrior's Adventure Mode will be saddened to know that the mode has been axed, and instead, you're completing challenges across an increasingly crowded map of Hyrule. Unfortunately, most of the challenges are "clear X amount of enemies within a time limit" or simply defeat a boss. The game tries to make up for it with levels that require you to pilot one of the Divine Beast, but I found these levels to be clunky and not very enjoyable. Without Adventure Mode's 8-bit Zelda façade, the lack of mission variety starts to become painstakingly clear.
I was also disappointed at the lack of cosmetics and fighting styles for characters that weren't Link. While you can customize Link in many different outfits, there not much else for the rest of the cast. Link also has a few different weapon styles you can choose from. Again, that's not the case for the rest of the roster. The previous game offered a few different fighting styles for characters, which helps to break some of the hack-and-slash monotony that these games are known for.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity review Much ado about nothing
My biggest complaint with Age of Calamity is the utter lack of a meaningful story. Age of Calamity was supposed to be a canon entry in the series that further explained the backstory that leads up to the world-ending event. I went in expecting a Rogue One type of story, where we'd see our heroes fight valiantly towards a bitter end. And the first few chapters seem to set that up, but at a certain point, the story shifts gears from a team of heroes marching valiantly towards their doomed fate to fan fiction involving time travel. It's always time travel, isn't it? What was supposed to be a canon entry in the series will now leave players with even more story questions and a handful of plot holes.
I knew not to expect Breath of the Wild 2, but if you're coming into Age of Calamity expecting a significant story or something that explores or expands on this version of Hyrule, you're going to walk away disappointed. Even more so if you've played Fire Emblem or Hyrule Warriors and realize it's almost the same exact plot. As cool as they are, the characters are still pretty one dimensional, and the voice acting still leaves a lot to be desired, particularly Zelda's performance.
Is Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity worth the trouble?
Your enjoyment of Age of Calamity might be determined by your expectations going into it. If you're expecting an action-packed, hack-and-slash game based on one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch, then you'll find a sequel that improves on the overall gameplay of its predecessor at the expense of added modes and mission variety. If you go into Age of Calamity expecting a story worth telling or an expansion of Breath of the Wild's characters, you're going to be disappointed, as the characters are just as flat as they were in the original game.
Breath of the Wild 2 might still be a long way off, but Age of Calamity reminded me of why I fell in love with the game in the first place. The art style is still gorgeous, and the world feels so alive; I just want to spend more meaningful time in it. But if you can see past the lame story and the glaring performance issues, you'll have a good time with one of the best Warriors titles to date.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a fun game, heavy on the action and not so much on the story. The gameplay loop is consistent, and plowing through hundreds of enemies as your favorite Champion is rewarding. I just wish that the story wasn't so underwhelming. I'd love to see the Zelda series continue to take chances and expand what can be done with these characters. I believe a compelling narrative is just under the surface, and I hope to see it in the next game. Until then, I'll be racking up my kill count on the fields of Hyrule.
Save Hyrule again
Action-packed but light on story.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is gorgeous and fun to play, but the story promised, and the technical performance leaves a lot to be desired.
Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. He likes playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.
I’m a little disappointed now. This is something I was really looking forward to. I will still pick this game up or maybe it will show up in my stocking but still a little disappointing. Thanks for the review.
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