Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity takes place before the events of Breath of the Wild, charting the rise of the kingdom’s ancient evil, Calamity Ganon, being revived. Instead of a simple retelling of past events, the game follows a tiny little Guardian as it’s whisked back in time in an attempt to help Princess Zelda and her companions overcome the impending threat.
The narrative still follows the same overarching story as told by the flashbacks in Breath of the Wild, but as with any story involving time travel, it basically has a free pass to rewrite events and for better or worse, that’s exactly what happens here.
I’ve been struggling with my feelings about Hyrule Warrior’s story. Breath of the Wild is one of my favorite games of all time and even though it had minimalist storytelling, the tale of the fall of Hyrule and its Champions really stuck with me. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity basically erases all of that. I do understand that these are two separate games, but with this being a prequel, the past and present are intricately intertwined, and with the sequel on the way, it’s hard to tell if this has any implications for the future.
I can’t go into too much detail without veering into spoiler territory but I was disappointed that this game chose to go the safe route, even using silly time travel shenanigans to achieve it.
To make matters worse, there is close to no character growth for the four Champions which I find absolutely baffling given that they play such a huge role in the story. This game does little to add to the overall world and lore that I often found myself tuning out during some cutscenes. Even the new villain does little else than show off his maniacal laugh to remind us that he’s the big bad of the tale. As frustrating as I found the narrative at times, Hyrule Warriors does one thing right that almost makes me forget about all the other issues, and that’s it’s portrayal of Zelda.
I could write an essay about my frustrations with how this series constantly relegates Princess Zelda to the sidelines or pushes her into the damsel in distress role but here, she’s front and center and quite frankly the star of the entire game. I would even argue that this is her story above everyone else.
Zelda has a dormant power that she has to awaken in order to defeat Ganon, and for a large portion of the game she laments her weakness and inability to do so. I started to think that yet again Link would end up being the hero, but she’s the one who ultimately saves the day. There even comes a point where she leads an army to reclaim her home and is at the forefront of it all. Everyone ends up following in her shadow for a change and it was an absolute breath of fresh air.
I want more of this going forward and I’d be totally okay if a time comes where we end up playing as Zelda instead of Link.
When it comes to the meat and bones of the gameplay, it fares so, so much better than the story and that was the driving force that kept me playing. At its core it’s a typical Musou game where the main gameplay loop consists of running around a map killing hundreds upon hundreds of identical looking enemies.
It may sound monotonous but it’s not; it’s an absolute blast. The fun comes in learning how to play as each character. Link for instance can equip a variety of different weapons ranging from a short sword to a spear which completely changes up his moveset. Impa on the other hand can summon up to 8 shadow clones to fight alongside her for maximum chaos. There’s a few characters you can unlock later on that I don’t want to spoil but they’re among the coolest I’ve experienced in any Musou game. The lack of online co-op stings a bit but at least there’s the option for local split-screen co-op.
While the genre gets a bad rep for being somewhat of a mindless button masher, games of its kind have come a long way. Age of Calamity in particular is a bit more thoughtful in its approach to combat, especially on Difficult mode. Each character has a unique move and special attack alongside the 4 Sheikah Slate Runes from Breath of Wild: Magnesis, Cryonis, Bomb and Stasis. Timing your dodges and knowing when to attack or use a Rune is key to emerging victorious and I found the overall system to have way more depth than I expected. Even outside of combat there’s quite a bit to do as well.
After every mission you’ll see a ton of icons pop up on the world map. Some of them will be side quests which also mostly revolve around killing a bunch of enemies only with certain time or character restrictions, others will be requests that require different kinds of materials. Completing these is actually how you upgrade your characters with extra health and new combos. You can also upgrade weapons that you acquire after missions as well as learn a variety of different recipes.
There’s even a special quest line that appears after you complete the game. While it doesn’t have something in the way of an Adventure Mode like the previous Hyrule Warriors games, there’s enough here to keep you hooked for a long time.
There were a lot of concerns about the framerate after the demo was released and it seems that it’s been largely addressed with the final build. The framerate is not completely locked all the time but for the most part I didn’t run into any major issues, at least none that detracted heavily from the overall experience. In fact, the game looks pretty nice as well with some special effects really popping on the screen. The OST itself is a bit more serious this time around. It’s thematically fitting, sure, but I miss the crazy rock themes of the previous game.
Last Updated: November 18, 2020