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‘Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity’ by Koei Tecmo Games: Game Review

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an adventure filled with sublime graphics, fitting music, and fast-paced hack and slash battles.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a fun battle game designed for a diverse range of play styles. The game, developed through a partnership between Koei Tecmo Games and Nintendo, is available now to play on the Nintendo Switch.

Age of Calamity functions as a prequel to the popular Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildas you play through Zelda and Link’s first battle for Hyrule against Calamity Ganon. Filled with familiar images from Breath of the Wild, Age of Calamity is a great mix between an established plot and the flashy hack and slash mechanics from the Hyrule Warriors franchise.

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The plot of the game kicks off with the reveal of the time-travelling little Guardian determined to save the life of Princess Zelda. The game then revolves around uncovering the mysteries of the little Guardian and its effects on the world – such as controlling Guardians and encouraging dormant towers to burst from under the ground – at the same time as the characters are desperately fighting against overwhelming hordes of monsters.

When Breath of the Wild was released it might’ve been difficult to picture how the small groups of monsters Link easily defeats managed to overtake Hyrule at full strength, but the 1000 vs 1 Koei Tecmo battle style of Age of Calamity does well to express the scale of the war.

Age of Calamity is filled with many callbacks to Breath of the Wild, from the art style to the familiar music, with inclusions such as item collecting, cooking, and shield surfing. There are many fun aspects of the game, but it also has its own drawbacks. So before you dive into the world of Hyrule from 100 years ago, here’s some things you need to know.

Hyrule Warriors AoC Screenshot

An aesthetic to match

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity pays homage to its plot predecessor in many ways, but most obviously through its similar look. The graphic style matches Breath of the Wild’s design on all fronts. The game is filled with Sheikah symbols and the unique Guardian design just like Breath of the Wild. The ‘ancient’ aesthetic of the Guardians that flows into the 2D aspects – such as the map – reappears in this game and looks just as cool as the traditional art styles it was inspired by.

Your characters automatically collect items from fallen enemies and gain loot after a difficult battle, which can be used in cooking or to give to other people as materials just like in Breath of the Wild. The familiar little notifications will tell you what you’ve collected, or you can view them after the battle. After unlocking the Hylian Blacksmith Guild, you can also upgrade your weapons by fusing them.

The music composers of Age of Calamity took strong influence from the soundtrack created by Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai for Breath of the Wild. However, Age of Calamity’s composers – Kumi Tanioka, Reo Uratani, Ryotaro Yagi, and Haruki Yamada – included many different styles within the soundtrack to turn the iconic Breath of the Wild sounds into an adrenaline-pumping battle song befitting the new title.

Age of Calamity also evokes the unique sounds of the Sheikah slate, monster calls, and battle sounds of Breath of the Wild. The original voice actors also make a reappearance to embody their characters once more.

A play style fit for Champions

Beginning with Link, players will battle against the Calamity with important characters such as Zelda, Impa, and the four Champions. A large part of the game mechanics is the ability to switch between characters in battle, which is helpful for multiple reasons. If you’re low on health and struggling with a particular fight, you can switch between characters to let the game’s AI take over while you get back into your groove.

Character switching is also helpful when you need to be somewhere on the map quickly and another character might be closer than whoever you’re fighting with. It’s also just fun to switch up characters so you can play with multiple styles and level them up more equally.

The characters all have different fighting styles and moves, so there’s a large range of options – however it can be a little challenging to determine the move set for a new character in the middle of a heated battle. That being said, this is definitely a game where you can get through the first few levels with a fair amount of frantic button-mashing, as long as you’re able to stay on task.

A strength of hack and slash games like this is that they allow you to get used to the move sets and character quirks as you go along. The game introduces you to the basic fighting mechanics almost immediately, throwing you into battle with Link against a horde of Red Bokoblins to start off.

You can choose what difficulty mode you play on from the beginning, and the levels are short enough that if you fail one, it doesn’t seem like a huge loss to start again. Each level also isn’t strictly linear, with most including tasks that you can complete in any order. Each challenge by itself isn’t too difficult to complete, and you can always try again.

One thing to note is that you don’t have to beat every single enemy in order to complete the levels, so feel free to ignore some of the small fries!

Each character has simple moves as well as multiple combos depending on how they fight. It’s easy to unlock your power moves – they’re both visually appealing and effective in battle. When fighting one of the more satisfying moves is the ‘Weak-Point Smash’ which comes about after you destroy a mini-boss or boss’s hexagonal “Weak-Point Gauge”.

They not only look cool, but allow you a couple of seconds to regroup after a concentrating on one enemy.

As you level up, more combos are unlocked through completing requests in the map screen. There are moves more suited to decimating a large amount of low-level enemies quickly, such as Link’s shield surfing or Zelda’s walking bomb attack, and there’s also moves suited to fight against stronger enemies like Impa’s explosive barrel and Urbosa’s lightning.

Hyrule Warriors AoC Screenshot

Each character also interacts with the Sheikah runes in different ways – you’ll figure these out through the prompts you receive in the first few levels. Each rune is useful for interrupting or countering enemy attacks, depending on how you use them.

  • Cryonis: the ice helps in blocking enemies from getting to you, and you can use it as a way to lift yourself into the air to use the paraglider. It’s also useful in stunning an enemy who charges at you for a few seconds so you can give them a good bop on the head.
  • Remote Bombs are very versatile. They can be used to disperse large crowds of low-level enemies, destroy infrastructure that the monsters are using, as actual weapons against bigger enemies, set off larger explosions, breaking a shield formation, or even used against enemies that are charging towards you.
  • Stasis is great for freezing nearby enemies to give you a breather and to pile on damage while you have the chance. Definitely handy if you need a quick getaway.
  • Magnesis not only digs up treasure chests, but also allows you to swipe away nearby enemies and use metal objects as weapons.

If you’re confused about any of the mechanics, you can check out the tutorials. You can access these when playing through challenges by pressing ‘-‘ and accessing ‘Tutorials’ through the ‘System’ menu.

Age of Calamity also provides a two-player mode where players can work together through split screen after the introductory level. Players can work together to complete tasks and battle enemies from opposite sides of the map with this mode.

The screen is split horizontally in two-player mode, and is where some of the problems begin to show.

The not-so-good

Overall, the gameplay of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is well done, if a little fast paced. The game, despite the inclusion of a good background to the Breath of the Wild storyline, is primarily a hack and slash battle game, which doesn’t suit every gamer’s tastes.

The particular style and fast-paced motions can be a bit dizzying at times, and there’s always a lot of stuff happening on the screen very quickly. The challenges by themselves aren’t hard, but there are some things that are just missed due to the chaos or just general confusion when playing a level for the first time, but that improves with experience.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of everything on the screen or the map, and some of the dialogue is missed due to the need to concentrate on the fights. The in-game map itself is also a little complex and takes some time to get used to, but the main map opens up gradually as you progress through the game.

Hyrule Warriors AoC Splitscreen Screenshot

The biggest issue with the game is probably the two-player split screen mechanics. The screen is already very chaotic and full of characters and enemies when playing alone, so when the screen is split horizontally, it’s very hard to concentrate.

There’s also some lagging when playing two-player, where almost every confusing thing gets even more complicated. Switching characters also becomes more complex when two people are playing.

Unless you’re very used to playing games like this in split screen, it can become very frustrating and takes away enjoyment in the game. It’s probably best to stick to solo mode, at least when playing the first time around.

Despite some issues, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a very enjoyable game with great graphics and fighting mechanics. It’s interesting to see the portrayal of each character 100 years before their first introduction in Breath of the Wild, and there’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction that comes from just plowing through a horde of enemies. I favour shield surfing myself, as I’ve found there’s nothing quite like blazing through a crowd of Bokoblins in a flash of blue light and disintegrating monsters.

Some players might be dissuaded by the endless hordes of enemies, the dizzying pace, or the split-screen mechanics, but if you can get past those, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is definitely a game to see through to the end.

 

Find out more about the game here, and take the chance to download the free demo of the game if it sounds like something you’d like to try out!