The Legend of Zelda spin-offs have provided mixed results in the past. The infamous Link’s Crossbow Training has become a joke among Zelda fans, despite its excellent use of the Wii’s motion controller and its being one of the bestselling games in the franchise. The most notable spin-off game is Hyrule Warriors, which released back in 2014 for Wii U. It had issues but provided a fun fan-servicey experience. The Zelda series has changed drastically over the last few years since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild though. The same could be said for the spin-off scene, as Koei Tecmo has collaborated yet again with Nintendo to create a prequel to one of gaming’s best open-world adventures, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
The game is brilliant. It managed to subvert all of my expectations with its bold narrative choices and refined gameplay. Age of Calamity is definitely worth playing as it excels in so many different areas. I’m going to talk about five of these elements that resonated with me during my experience.
Divine Beast battles
This is a divisive one. I’m quite active in the online Zelda community, and there are various opinions surrounding the game’s Divine Beast battles. Whether you love or hate them doesn’t really matter, as they provide a significant shift in perspective. Breath of the Wild‘s narrative, albeit vague, introduced us to the concept of the Divine Beasts. I found them to be interesting but really wished that they were further explored. Luckily, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity not only expands on them in a narrative sense but actually allows you to pilot them as well.
Divine Beast battles are scattered throughout the main campaign and can sometimes be accessed in the game’s side missions. They provide massive, action-packed set pieces where you wipe out as many foes as possible. You get to pilot all four of them as well, each with their own play styles. My personal favorite is probably Divine Beast Vah Medoh, mainly because my favorite character, Revali, is the one who pilots the eagle-like machine. They’re a lot of fun and provide a change of pace from the rest of the game. It is extremely satisfying to use your special attack to shoot a laser beam of mass destruction at hordes of enemies.
A revealing story that fleshes out the characters
No spoilers here, but the story in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity seems predictable on the surface. Nintendo has been advertising the game as a prequel to the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Although that is true for the most part, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity manages to throw in some unexpected moments throughout its campaign. However, the most exciting part about Age of Calamity‘s story is definitely the growth of the game’s characters.
Seeing familiar faces is a real treat as you are able to properly connect with them this time around. Breath of the Wild was a fantastic game, and I’ll always praise it for its dynamic open-world setting. My only real criticism will always be that the game struggled to allow the player to connect with its characters and story. The game’s lore managed to spawn a ton of fan theories on the internet, and I’ll imagine that Age of Calamity will do the same. Revali in particular has a lot of character development in Age of Calamity, growing into a warrior and comrade in arms.
Essence of the wild
Everything in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity manages to rework or reference elements from Breath of the Wild. Unlike the previous Hyrule Warriors, the game manages to implement more mechanics from a mainline Zelda title. This results in an adventure that feels different from the normal hack-and-slash gameplay that the Warriors series is known for.
Link is able to equip a variety of weapons that control differently. For example, the spear is quick and allows him to send a flurry of attacks against his opponents. I’d even say that Age of Calamity does a better job at differentiating the weapons this time around. Cooking, a map system, and even perfect dodging translate into Age of Calamity. I loved being able to explore a world I’ve already sunk hundreds of hours into from a different perspective.
Music in video games is extremely powerful, and the Zelda series has consistently good soundtracks. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild broke franchise conventions not only in its design but also in its music. Most of the audio heavily relied on the world’s ambience, so music was hardly present in the game. It only appeared during combat, unique moments, and while exploring towns.
Meanwhile, Age of Calamity delivers a more energetic and urgent soundtrack to fit the gameplay style. There are some great compositions here, especially the battle music.
Age of Calamity‘s gameplay refines everything from its predecessor. The original Hyrule Warriors was a great game but didn’t really have enough depth to offer fun replay value. Grinding the adventure mode was sometimes monotonous and easily became repetitive. However, Age of Calamity‘s gameplay ensures that each character feels unique, providing them with special actions in their move set. Fighting stronger enemies is as thrilling as it was in Breath of the Wild, with your being able to time your dodge to initiate a Flurry Rush. I found that the side content felt more meaningful as well, offering opportunities to truly improve your party.
If you have yet to play Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, I hope that these reasons have encouraged you to give it a go. The game is a wonderful romp through a familiar Zelda world, and I can easily recommend it to Zelda fans new and old. After playing Age of Calamity, I am planning to return to Hyrule in Breath of the Wild to see if it changes the experience at all.
Now that Age of Calamity is out in the wild, the long wait for the highly anticipated sequel to Breath of the Wild continues.