Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity slashed its way onto the Nintendo Switch after a surprise announcement this September, blending the frenetic hack-and-slash gameplay known in the Warriors series with characters and themes first introduced in 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Rather than positioning itself as a sequel to the original Hyrule Warriors, originally released on Wii U, Age of Calamity does what the Champion’s Ballad DLC could not; provide a meaty prequel to one of the best video games ever released.
As efficiently as Link shooting an explodable barrel to wipe out a group of Bokoblins, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity quickly showcases its deep connection with Breath of the Wild, with a similar UI, sound effects and overall tone making you feel right at home in this version of Hyrule. During many battles, you’ll do a double take as you recognize areas that were painstakingly recreated for this game. This attention to detail really shows how closely the Breath of the Wild development team worked with Koei Tecmo to provide a story and game set 100 years before Calamity Ganon descended onto Hyrule.
It would be all too simple to say that Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity plays well “for a Nintendo game.” With polished, fully voiced cutscenes and environments that look noticeably better than Breath of the Wild, Age of Calamity is a vast improvement that aids in immersing you into the world and gameplay. With how beautiful and detailed the game is, later sections in the game — or any time playable champion Urbosa unleashes her lightning special or a Divine Beast is piloted— have noticeable lag. This slowdown is something to expect with more graphically-intensive games on the Switch, and rather than frustratingly taking me out of the game, it unintentionally illustrated the scope and scale of the impending destruction Hyrule was facing with hordes of enemies.
Breath of the Wild shattered all expectations for a Zelda game with its gameplay, physics and mechanics, and the way it broke down mainstays of the franchise in favor of innovation. One major criticism was a lack of storytelling or real emotional weight behind the Calamity that struck 100 years prior to the game. Though Hyrule Warriors doesn’t innovate on the same scale, it takes the threads of storytelling introduced in Breath of the Wild — plus a little ‘timey wimey’ mischief — and weaves it together for an engaging story worthy of a mainline entry into the franchise.
Through enjoyable written side quests, humor-injected cutscenes and the introduction of new characters (here’s looking at you, Baby Guardian), we’re treated to a story that enriches its source material even further. Though there are some areas where the conflict with Calamity Ganon could’ve hit harder with emotional beats, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is brimming with enough personality to make up for any missteps, making it a worthy entry in the Zelda canon.
As a fan of the original Hyrule Warriors and Breath of the Wild, my expectations for how Age of Calamity would play were high. Clocking 30 hours into the game, it’s impossible not to want to continue exploring the far reaches of Hyrule through replaying previous scenarios as various unlocked characters to see their unique gameplay styles shine. Age of Calamity does a fantastic job balancing the linearity of the first Hyrule Warriors game with the choose-your-own adventure storytelling of Breath of the Wild. Though some quests seemed rinse-and-repeat, I broke up the monotony by trying out new characters and sharpening my skills.
With expectations high to paraglide back into this version of Hyrule, Age of Calamity delivers with an engaging cast of characters, mechanics combining (and improving on) both source games, and endless hours of fast-paced, large-scale combat keeping you on your toes. With plenty of charm and a story-focused take on what happened 100 years before Calamity Ganon attacked, it’s clear that Age of Calamity is more than just a salve to ease the pain of waiting for Breath of the Wild’s sequel.
And that’s the Borderline Bottomline for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Review Written by Nate Pressler