Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Review
Developer: Omega Force, Koei Tecmo | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Action | Platforms: Nintendo Switch | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity might not sound like much on paper. After all, it follows in the footsteps of 2014’s Hyrule Warriors, a fun if unsubstantial hack-and-slash affair like most other Warriors games. However, dismissing Age of Calamity as a mere spinoff would be a colossal disservice. At its core, Age of Calamity is a full-scale, purebred Zelda game. Not only does it shed new light on series lore with its engrossing cinematic storytelling, but its inventive combat mechanics and hugely diverse character roster add meaningful depth to the traditional Warriors gameplay formula. A treat for longtime Zelda fans and action game aficionados alike, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a Zelda unlike any other that shouldn’t be missed.
Developed by Koei Tecmo, you’ll find everything you’d expect to get out of a Warriors game in Age of Calamity. You’ll control legendary heroes and venture out into vast maps to face massive hordes of enemies, using simple two-button combos to wipe out hundreds of foes at a time. Yet Age of Calamity takes this simple gameplay loop and wraps it in ideas lifted straight out of Breath of the Wild that is sure to please fans– and not least of which being its original storyline.
Perhaps unusual for a Warriors game, the story is one of the main appeals of Age of Calamity. Set 100 years before Breath of the Wild, it recounts the events leading up to the fall of Hyrule and the return of the primordial evil, Calamity Ganon. While you’ll already know most of this story if you’ve played Nintendo’s open-world masterpiece, Age of Calamity offers new insights into the history of Hyrule by putting the spotlight on characters that previously went underdeveloped.
Featuring more than two hours of beautifully rendered cutscenes, Age of Calamity is rich with character interactions and new story details. While it doesn’t drop many bombs that radically shake up the story, it offers a welcome opportunity to see fan-favorite characters exploring a world untouched by the inevitable apocalypse to come. The narrative instead focuses on character development, allowing players to see firsthand Zelda’s struggle with self-doubt or the Champions’ rapport with each other in vivid detail.
Age of Calamity is not a straightforward prequel, however. Its opening cutscene introduces a time travel element, indicating early on that the story won’t always stick to the blueprints laid out for it by Breath of the Wild. Suffice to say that while Age of Calamity starts out loyal to its source material throughout roughly its first half, it eventually strikes out in different directions. Whether this bold narrative approach satisfies or disappoints players will all come down to expectations: if you simply want a new story featuring your favorite characters in greater depth than before, then Age of Calamity will fit the bill. You won’t be so lucky if you simply wanted a game to fill in the gaps of Breath of the Wild.
As important as the story is, it’s not the main thing that will occupy your return to Hyrule. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity offers dozens of hours of intoxicating hack and slash action, pitting you against thousands of foes at a time and giving you the tools to whittle their numbers down with spectacular ease. While that description is par for the course in any Warriors title, Age of Calamity comes fitted out with ambitious gameplay mechanics lifted directly out of Breath of the Wild that add new levels of depth and excitement to the action.
Every character in the game comes armed with a full slate of sheikah slate abilities, including the ability to stop enemies in their tracks with Stasis, rip metallic objects out of opponents’ hands with Magnesis, and send enemies sky-high with remote bombs. These are only a few of the many aspects of Breath of the Wild that appear in Age of Calamity: you’re also able to perform flurry rushes, cook meals, and even shield surf. These mechanics add a new layer of depth and versatility to every combat encounter, allowing you to dynamically switch up your strategy and discover new ways to vanquish familiar foes.
One common criticism often leveled at Warriors games is that they might have a huge roster of playable characters, but they all feel the same to control. Thankfully, Age of Calamity steers clear of this pitfall. Not only do you finally get the chance to play as beloved characters like Revali and Urbosa, but each fighter feels completely distinct from the rest. Every character as their own gimmick that gives them a completely different playstyle from the others. Link is your standard swordsman who can also wield bows and arrows, spears, and two-handed weapons; Revali can fire bows and fly high in the sky, essentially giving him two different move sets; and Urbosa can harness the power of lightning in her melee attacks, shocking entire crowds of enemies with a single slash of her sword. This is just a small sampling of the diversity you can expect from Hyrule Warriors’ ragtag band of heroes.
There isn’t a single bad character in the game, which is an admirable achievement considering how surprisingly broad its roster is. While the playable lineup doesn’t reach the same heights as the original Hyrule Warriors, there are still many more characters than might be expected at first. Each one of these fighters is lovingly brought to life with unique move sets that reflect their personality and style, meaning that simply unlocking new characters is
There’s no denying that Warriors gameplay can get repetitive. After all, there’s only so much variety you can squeeze out of endless one-versus-one-thousand showdowns. However, these robust mechanics and diverse characters make Age of Calamity consistently engaging from start to finish. It’s always exciting to try out a new character and use their unique strengths to plow through every obstacle. Age of Calamity adds even more variety to the mix with a handful of levels where you get to control the Divine Beasts in what are essentially first-person shoot’em up stages. These sections can feel a bit rough around the edges thanks to odd camera angles and poor visibility, but they introduce a great power fantasy and serve as a welcome break from endless hacking and slashing.
Age of Calamity will keep you occupied for many hours to come, too. The main story will take about 20 hours if you’re blitzing from one story mission to the next; however, there’s so much to do beyond the main campaign. From simple fetch quests to training missions, there are many varied objectives to pursue around the world map, enough to keep you busy for many dozens of hours before seeing everything through to the end.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as Age of calamityhttps://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/hyrule-warriors-age-of-calamity-switch/ is, it does suffer from one major issue: performance. Perhaps it’s to be expected that the Switch would struggle to keep up with the insane amount of moving parts in every stage of the game, but it’s still a shame that it struggles to achieve 30 frames per second. And even when it does manage to hit that benchmark, it rarely stays there for long. It tends to hover around the mid-to-upper 20s for the most part, but can dip to even greater depths and turn into a slideshow during more intense scenes. Thankfully the serious framerate issues were few and far between enough that they didn’t negatively impact my playtime, but they are nonetheless a serious problem – especially for such a fast-paced action game.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a Zelda game through-and-through.
Even if the performance leaves much to be desired, nothing can take away from the audiovisual splendor of Age of Calamity. It’s a truly beautiful game that is almost identical to the original from a visual perspective, complete with the exact same cel-shaded art style and distinctive UI. Seeing Hyrule reimagined in its pre-Calamity state is truly something special – wandering into a Castle Town that hasn’t been razed to the ground is a wonderful feeling. The game is filled with little visual tributes to Breath of the Wild, demonstrating the amount of thought and care that went into making this release a worthy addition to the Zelda universe. The glorious high-octane soundtrack, filled with intense remixes of music from Breath of the Wild, is the perfect complement to this sensory bliss.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a Zelda game through-and-through. From its UI to its battle mechanics, this latest collaboration between Nintendo and Koei Tecmo seamlessly blends the Zelda universe with Warriors gameplay to create one of this year’s finest action games. Add its engrossing story and a hefty serving of fanservice to the mix, and Age of Calamity makes for a worthy prequel to one of the greatest games ever made.