[Review] Hyrule Warriors : Age of Calamity (Nintendo Switch)
素晴らしい (すばらしい), Subarashii, sorry to weeb out here. I had trouble expressing how great this game is. I was dumbfounded initially playing Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity. Not because I am a huge fan of the legend of Zelda. Rather because I am a huge fan of the Musou (Warriors) games in general.
I feel as though Zelda Musou (Hyrule Warriors AOC) is a true love letter to the fans of both the Musou and Legend of Zelda franchises. It’s hard to explain but Subarashii is the right word to use to describe this game. It’s excellent, bringing the best aspects of musou of old and combining it with this beloved game series.
It’s shocking to see that Koei Tecmo has distilled the essence of musou whilst retaining the Legend of Zelda flair. Age of Calamity is a prequel to Breath of the Wild, which is set a century before the events of the game. Meaning you get to experience the story of the Champions before they were killed by Calamity Ganon. You also get to play as them, each has their own unique move sets and weaponry tailored to their characters and personalities, set out in Breath of the Wild.
Before we discuss the gameplay itself, I must mention that the music in this game is breathtaking and at times, eerily beautiful. Specifically referencing the track that plays between battles on the world map. Their emotion present in that one track, I couldn’t help but cry, it made me remember the champions from BOTW and the fact that they didn’t make it.
For fans of the previous Hyrule Warriors game, it’s good to mention that the music is more orchestral to match the theme of Breath of the Wild. So no Dynasty Warriors-style heavy metal or guitar riffs. Some tracks are sampled from Breath of The Wild, but you be happy to know that a lot of it is original. In addition to that, sound effects are being reused from BOTW.
That’s not the only thing coming from BOTW, the Game’s UI, a lot of the assets and textures are from the previous Zelda game, as you can imagine. It just works, I was worried that crafting systems and cooking won’t work in a Musou game. And yes, because of the nature of the game you can no longer throw random food items in a pot and cook a meal, but Food is still an important part of the Age of Calamity.
Unlike musou games of old, the stage isn’t littered with floating dim sum, whenever you KO an enemy or break a pot. Instead, you can cook between battles on the world map, or find food items in chests during battle. I love this system because you don’t need to rely on what is on the battlefield, you can prepare for an upcoming battle by creating items and food that may give you a boost or restore health on demand. This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a Warriors game.
In battle the game is a lot more complex, using different button combinations to activate special abilities quickly. Abilities that return from the breath of the wild such as Cryonis and remote bombs. However, these abilities have been adapted to fit a hack n slash playstyle. Cryonis summons a pillar of ice from which you can jump and deploy your glider, or perform an aerial attack. If an enemy is in a body of water you can use cryonis to freeze the enemy and attack. As a fan of the Warriors games, I find it odd that you were never able to jump in Hyrule Warriors. The B button is used for a dodge/dash move. Although with Cyro you can perform a wall jump and attack,
Abilities differ slightly depending on which character uses them, for example when using magnesis, Link can use magnetic energy pull magnetic objects like in BOTW, however, while using Impa you summon a huge sword made from scrap metal objects to perform a heavy attack with. Further adding another layer of strategy in a game genre that doesn’t usually demand strategic gameplay.
Battle in Age of Calamity at its core is like the 1st Hyrule Warriors game. Use of special abilities to break an enemy’s guard, then pressing X to perform a finishing move. But certain gameplay mechanics are modified from BOTW, such as the destructible environment to gather resources or the parry system. There is no weapon changing system mid-battle unlike BOTW, the game opts for a character switching system akin to the original Hyrule Warriors. Honestly, I prefer it, I wasn’t a fan of weapons breaking mid-battle. And the character switching is pretty seamless, it’s not jarring compared to the original Hyrule Warriors.
The move sets in this game are pretty simple to get pull off as you might think, but they are incredibly flashy and mind-blowing. Yes, a lot of it may have been inspired by Dynasty Warriors Characters such as Zhao Yun and Zuo Ci, but never the less it’s fantastic. Impa specifically is one of my favorite characters to play as, because her moveset is amazing. The ability to summon doubles of the playable character has always been attractive to me in games like Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors, it’s why I love playing as characters like Cao Cao or Hattori Hanzo in those games.
I’ve also noticed that Link’s shield surf attack, although from BOTW, may be an indirect reference to Sima Zhao, as the button combination is the same.
In my opinion, it's all very theatrical and to be honest it’s that musou energy that we were lacking in BOTW’s combat.
Compared to the previous Hyrule Warriors, there may seem to be a shortage in characters, however, what the game lacks in quantity, it sure makes up for in quality. Each move set has been created from the group up, using the champion's unique abilities at its core, making for a more meaningful gameplay loop. Many of these abilities have been mentioned and referenced in BOTW, so seeing them in action, only adds to the wonderful personalities of the champions. In addition to that, there are a decent number of characters whom you can play as including Hetsu. Surprisingly Hetsu is fully voiced along with the rest of the cast of characters. Don’t get me wrong, it is a bit odd playing as Hetsu, summoning Koroks and having them drop rocks from above. But it put a smile on my face and so it’s a welcome addition.
The map is very interesting. The only other musou game I’ve seen it in is Warriors All-Stars. You can select missions from the map, as well as side quests, which can help expand your moveset, unlock additional heart containers, and procure some new weapons and materials. If you are one to get straight into the action and experience the story, you can choose to view the story missions as chapters in a list. I don’t see why you would want to do that, because the side quests are pretty beneficial, especially in the later game.
Side missions can be a bit boring earlier on, only because you rely on them to get more combos in battle. It gets a bit repetitive, however later on in the game after meeting all the champions you gain access to some truly fun and challenging side missions. There are missions in which you can pilot one of the 4 Divine Beasts, making you feel like a god while you defeat myriads of bokoblins. And missions that do challenge your skill as a warrior, one that stood out to me was defeating 40 enemies whilst instant death is turned on. Sounds easy but you are one bokoblins club away from regretting all the choices that lead you to choose that mission.
The game’s story is incredibly heartfelt and truly a sight to behold. However, due to the poor lighting effects and low-resolution textures, the immersion is broken at times. Luckily, I’ve only noticed the textures during pre-rendered cutscenes. During core gameplay, it isn’t noticeable. Although there are occasional frame rate dips. Especially on stages like Hyrule Field, in which more objects are appearing on-screen, such as individual blades of grass, trees, and other destructible objects.
In my previous reviews, especially Musou reviews, I mention that the small changes are often the most impactful. I still stand by that because to me not only do I see and experience an amazing game, but I am also looking at what this game is adding to the genre. Because of these crossovers, we are seeing more people being introduced to the Hack n Slash genre, and I’m optimistic to see how Koei Tecmo are going to use what they’ve learned here in the future mainline Musou games (Dynasty/Samurai Warriors).
Because of that, I am more than happy to give this game a 9/10. I know I keep on saying it a lot when reviewing Musou games, but Koei has outdone themselves. At the moment, this is my all-time favorite Musou game, it made musou exciting, brought a lot of new things to the table while keeping the legacy of previous musou games alive!
9 / 10
+ Heartfelt story
+ Beautiful Character Designs
+ Easy to pick up and play, especially for newcomers + Welcomes Changes to the Musou Formula
+ Excellent soundtrack
- Occasional dips in frame rate - Low/poorly upscaled textures in docked mode
This review covers Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Nintendo for providing me with the opportunity to play this game. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is now available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.