Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demonstrates that Koei Tecmo’s Warriors franchise really can be used to offer exciting new story beats in an already established lore and world. Taking place 100 years before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Age of Calamity showcases previously unseen events, the development of relationships between the game’s cast, and much more. Everyone who played Breath of the Wild probably knows the outcome of the battle already. However, the game does an excellent job of surprising you with moments that come out of nowhere. You’ll just have to deal with some choppy performance issues along the way.
Satisfying narrative presentation
The narrative presentation in Age of Calamity is impressive, with some of the best storytelling in the franchise. Cutscenes look remarkable and the voice acting is top notch, with every voice actor from the original title reprising their role. Sean Chiplock’s performance as Revali is just as good as the first time around, as he delivers his lines with the character’s cockiness effectively.
The characters in general shine in this game, having clear ambitions and interactions with other characters that carry weight. Link is still mute and often has a blank expression on his face, largely intended to be the player’s avatar as is typical in the Zelda series, and whether it is effective will vary from player to player. However, the interactions between other characters are more interesting. We see the initial bitterness between Revali and the other Champions and how they change and develop from there. This is also true for the other main characters, and it brought joy to my face with every interaction.
Also, there’s a new time-traveling “Egg Guardian” whose little beeping noises and funny relationships with the other party members provide some of the cutest moments in the entire campaign. I strongly believe that we should petition for a game all about the little Egg Boi.
Breath of the Wild‘s art style was one of my favorite aspects of that game, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity retains the pseudo cel-shaded/water-color aesthetic, looking as beautiful as it did in the original title. Occasionally the graphics feel a little washed out due to the resolution the game is running at, but it’s hardly noticeable.
Unlike Breath of the Wild, which had little music and relied on the ambience of the world, Age of Calamity has a more energetic soundtrack. It uses or adapts some of BOTW‘s music, but the new tracks are brilliantly crafted. I could listen to a lot of these tracks for hours, and the world map theme especially screams out adventure.
Although the game looks great, performance issues poke through more than I would have liked. Frame rate is as problematic as it was in the demo, but the design of missions attempts to mitigate this where possible. Nonetheless, sometimes it became frustrating to get hit by attacks that came from out of nowhere. Normally I do not really pay attention to a game’s frame rate, but now and again I battled against a low frame rate instead of the enemies themselves.
Still a big world
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity builds upon the classic Warriors gameplay style to accommodate mechanics seen in Breath of the Wild. Combat feels more engaging to experiment with. Link controls as you would expect him to, using a multitude of weapons featured in Breath of the Wild. There are a lot of combos to master, and it even gets to the point of feeling overwhelming. One of the more complicated characters is Impa, whose fighting style feels unique and tricky to understand at first. Impa along with Urbosa managed to become my personal favorites after a few rounds of experimentation.
The game offers a training area to attempt to refine your skills, which is great for learning a newly unlocked combo. Each character can also utilize their Sheikah Slate to activate familiar runes such as Stasis, Remote Bomb, and more. Age of Calamity‘s roster of characters includes whom you’d expect, like Link, Zelda, Impa, and the four Champions, but there are a few extra oddballs to discover too.
Each character can be equipped with a variety of weapons as well. The customization options are wonderful, especially for Link. He can equip most of his arsenal from BOTW and swap out his current armor set (which is purely cosmetic in Age of Calamity). Some weapons feel more powerful than others, which will come down to the buffs applied to them. The game’s Blacksmith allows the player to combine weapons to add bonus effects to them and to level weapons up.
Other services are available to the player as well, such as an area to train your party and level them up. Unlocking these services feels like a gradual process and will require some form of grind later down the line. Most of them are unlocked through quests, where you give resources to the citizens of Hyrule to upgrade a variety of available assets.
In-between the game’s plethora of battles, you are put onto a map screen cut right from Breath of the Wild from which you can decide your next move. Hyrule: Age of Calamity is packed with a ton of meaningful side content in addition to the main story missions. Advancing the story or doing other activities are both worthwhile investments. An issue that I’ve always had with the Warriors series is the sheer amount of pointless filler content, which was also a source of frustration in Hyrule Warriors on Wii U, but that’s no longer the case here.
All of the iconic locations are intact, with new ones to explore as well. However, although the side missions reap beneficial rewards for the player including combos, health upgrades, and more, they do start to wear thin after multiple playthroughs. Sometimes the game decides to throw more interesting challenges at you, but I wish these had a bigger presence. Although, the main story presents a new gameplay mechanic at one point that will leave fans potentially shocked in a good way.
Battles themselves in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity are a massive improvement compared to those in the first title. They don’t feel bloated, mainly because of the changes made to the keep system. In this game they are called outposts, and you capture them in certain scenarios to increase the defense of your forces. Unlike in the original Hyrule Warriors, they are rarely used as a requirement for progression. Sometimes they are there just to increase your KO count and also reward you with resources to upgrade various tools. However, the biggest change comes in the form of larger enemy encounters; previous Warriors games had made them feel more like an annoyance compared to a challenge.
Taking down larger foes such as Moblins and Lynels feels satisfying, and pulling off a Flurry Rush is just as useful as in Breath of the Wild, if not more so since it can destroy an enemy’s defenses and leave it vulnerable to a finishing attack. There is still a present issue regarding these enemies being a simple blockade for progression and little else, but I didn’t really mind wiping them out with over-the-top combos.
The previous Hyrule Warriors had terrible AI, and unfortunately Age of Calamity has a similar problem. Enemies are significantly better this time around, but the issues lie with the party members. Throughout the game you’ll be able to send three characters onto the battlefield to swap between. This has always been an excellent feature as I can strategically pick whom I want to send into battle. However, when you’re not playing as one of them, they tend to stand around and do nothing. When I swap over to one of these imbeciles, their health has been depleted and I am then subsequently required to waste my healing item on them.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity delivers on its promises
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity does an excellent job as a prequel to Breath of the Wild. From having one of the best narratives in the Zelda series to delivering improved gameplay and more meaningful side content over the first Hyrule Warriors, everything is spot-on, even though the action is occasionally slowed down by a God-awful frame rate. The performance isn’t a massive hindrance, but your sensitivity for such things will affect the fun factor. Nonetheless, Age of Calamity is worth every penny, and I’d recommend it to any hardcore Zelda fan.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to spend some more time with my precious Egg Boi.