REVIEW: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

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Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity | Zelda won't give up
Title Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Developer Omega Force
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date Nov. 20, 2020
Genre Action-adventure, Hack-and-slash, Musou
Platform Nintendo Switch
Age Rating Teen
Official Website

Back in 2017 when the game first released, Breath of the Wild absolutely blew me away. I loved the return to adventure the game elicited, the hours and hours of simply exploring a variation of this world I’d grown up with. Uncovering koroks, discovering dragons flying through mountains, that ditty whenever I stumbled on a shrine – it recreated the spirit and heart of the original game I’d loved as a child and gave me that same sense of wonder thirty years on. So, I was stoked to return to this version of Hyrule in a slightly different way with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and to have the chance to see how such a forlorn, beautiful world came to be. That’s not exactly what I got by the end, but it was still a grand old time.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity | story card

The game’s plot, in a nutshell.

Much like its predecessor on the Wii U, Age of Calamity takes the characters, locales, items, and enemies from the Zelda series and drops them smack dab in the middle of a Warriors game. It’s fun, frenetic and a huge departure from the quieter, more methodical, exploration-based gameplay of Breath of the Wild, but it’s also a chance to experience the world and characters in a new light. The original Hyrule Warriors managed this as well, though on a broader series scale than Age of Calamity, but I found the latter’s focus on a single world more refreshing. Set 100 years before Breath of the Wild, Age of Calamity is a sort of alternate-universe retelling of the events that lead up to Calamity Ganon’s resurrection and subsequent conquest of Hyrule. The game opens during the fight with Calamity Ganon’s forces, when a tiny Guardian is jostled awake in a storeroom somewhere in the castle. After opening a portal, it’s swept back in time to before Ganon awakens, offering our champions another go at defeating evil incarnate before it’s too late. It’s an admittedly silly premise, but the game is so sincere in its portrayal of the inhabitants of this world and their desire to save the realm from Ganon’s blight, that I didn’t mind the time travel shenanigans all that much.

The best part about this game is definitely having the chance to spend some time with Zelda, Link, and the Champions. In Breath of the Wild, you only get short snippets of time with them, giving the game a nostalgic, melancholic feel for what’s been lost. Here, they’re alive, boisterous and ready for a fight, and each of them is endearing in their own way. Urbosa is a strong, steady hand and a font of wisdom for Zelda when she’s troubled; Mipha is quiet and calming, raising everyone’s spirits when they’re low; Revali is arrogant and brash, but loyal beneath the facade; and Daruk is loud and affable, and a shield when the party is in danger. Each Champion gets enough screen time and their own sets of missions to help draw out their personalities, and they’re a fun group to be around. Newcomer Impa also gets a decent amount of characterization, compared to her Breath of the Wild counterpart. She’s a bit stern but steadfastly loyal to the royal family, and a competent ninja to boot. Even Zelda and Link benefit from some added characterization, which is great, because Age of Calamity is basically Zelda’s story of overcoming hardship and finding the person she wants – and needs – to be. I love her. Link’s devotion to her is readily apparent even without dialogue, and I love the little asides that show how much he loves to eat and goof around with others.

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Gameplay wise, Age of Calamity plays almost exactly like Hyrule Warriors with a few tweaks. While every character has their specialties and individual move-sets, everyone has access to the Sheikah Slate’s gamut of gadgets, just like Link did in Breath of the Wild. This creates some fun scenarios where you can stop charging enemies in their tracks with an ice block, or freeze a group of them with Stasis and deal delayed damage. The Sheikah Slate’s abilities are also used to counter boss’ special attacks, giving your Champion an opening to do massive damage. A nice feature is that almost every character’s use of the Sheikah Slate is different. For instance, Urbosa and Link summon an ice block in front of them, but Revali drops ice from the sky. Zelda default attacks with the Slate and uses all of its tools to damage enemies on the battlefield, though her attacks are by far the weakest. Still, she was one of my favorite characters to use, as well as Urbosa, Revali and Link. I was a little bummed that I found Impa less interesting to use, since she was my favorite character in Hyrule Warriors. Urbosa ended up feeling the most like that version of Impa for me. I hated playing as Daruk, and Mipha was just sort of okay. Still, the game found plenty of reasons to force me to play everyone at least a handful of times, and most missions were short enough and varied enough not to overstay their welcome.

General combat, outside of using the Sheikah Slate abilities, breaks down into two types: combos and special attacks. Alternating between X and Y attacks builds up combos to deal extra damage to groups of enemies. Once you defeat enough enemies, your character’s Special Attack gauge fills up, and pressing A unleashes deadly area-wide attacks that automatically bring up a boss’ guard gauge. Breaking the gauge triggers a special attack that does critical damage. Using RT, you can also invoke a character’s special ability. For instance, using RT fills Urbosa’s lightning gauge, infusing her attacks with electricity, increasing damage and possibly stunning enemies. Both Daruk and Mipha can summon magma and water, respectively, then trigger them to go off using RT. Zelda’s Sheikah Slate runes also have a delayed detonation. Revali’s special lets him fly in the air above most enemies’ range, dealing damage from above with his bow and arrows. Impa summons clones to help fight alongside her. And Link’s RT depends on which weapons he’s using. If he’s using a one-handed weapon, he’ll fire a slew of arrows; a two-handed weapon he’ll sacrifices hearts to unleash a powerful smash attack; and spears he’ll lunge forward at lightning speed, which can be woven into combos. Similar to Breath of the Wild, when engaging enemies, you can also activate a Flurry Rush by dodging their attacks right at the last second, slowing down time to deal extra damage. This will also automatically bring up a boss’ guard gauge. With the assortment of abilities and character play styles, I never found myself bored of combat, though combat encounters did admittedly begin to grow repetitive by the end of the game.

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The game breaks down into two major encounters: Main Missions, which advance the story and often take upward of 30 minutes to complete; and Side Missions, which often involve one or two characters of your choice and take about 3-7 minutes. These range from time attack trials to “kill a specific number of X,” to escort missions. Some are character specific to help you get a feel for that Champion. Main Missions often incorporate a little bit of everything and involve sprawling maps with multiple boss encounters and goals. They also have a bit more exploration, including finding koroks littered around the map. Some of the Main Missions even give you the chance to pilot the Divine Beasts, which while cool, also tended to be monotonous and slow. Both types of encounters allow you to pick up a variety of items, which can then be used to help unlock character traits, locations, and even helpful NPCs on the world map. For instance, one of the early unlockables was a weapon smith, who upgraded the assortment of weapons I picked up on the battlefield. Character faces dot the map, and finding the required items for those increase their amount of hearts, add an attack combo, or give them another special attack gauge. At the beginning of the game, the map had only a handful of locations I could visit, and by the end of my 37-hour run, it was absolutely littered with encounters, shops, and character progression items.

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Speaking of character progression, it also works similarly to Hyrule Warriors, especially in regards to weapons. Each weapon begins at level 1 and is imbued with certain attributes and skills. You can choose a base weapon and combine that with a secondary weapon, raising the base weapon’s level and/or adding the secondary weapon’s stats. You can only add stats at five level increments, though combining two weapons with the same attribute will give it a stronger boost. I found I tended to favor skills like attack speed and weapon range, but there were also useful skills like increased monster part drop rate or increased Flurry Rush damage. Overall, the game offers a lot of variety in the way you want to customize your weapons, catering to a ton of different play styles.

Read more about this action-packed Zelda spin-off on page 2 ->

About Leah McDonald

Leah's been playing video games since her brother first bought an Atari back in the 1980s and has no plans to stop playing anytime soon. She enjoys almost every genre of game, with some of her favourites being Final Fantasy Tactics, Shadow of the Colossus, Suikoden II and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Leah lives on the East Coast with her husband and son.


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