It has been a relatively quiet year for Nintendo Switch owners, who have only seen two major first-party releases in 2020: Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Paper Mario: The Origami King. However, Nintendo might have something special up its sleeve with the release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
Age of Calamity is a Zelda-themed hack-and-slash game, similar to its predecessor on the Wii U, and inspired by the Dynasty Warriors franchise. While it may seem like a mere side game to fill the gap until the highly anticipated sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is released, Age of Calamity is far from a disposable spinoff. In fact, it is as polished and substantial as a mainline Zelda game. Here’s why Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is so much more exciting than your average spinoff.
The Breath of the Wild Story Fans Crave
The original Hyrule Warriors had a story mode, but it was not officially part of the Zelda franchise canon. Instead, it felt like fan fiction, bringing together characters from different eras. While it was fun, the lack of impact left the story feeling insignificant.
On the other hand, Age of Calamity serves as an official prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It offers a more focused narrative, set 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild. For fans hungry for lore, the demo promises a game filled with rich details that will shed light on Hyrule’s history.
Collaboration between developer Koei-Tecmo and the Zelda team is evident in the game’s cinematic cutscenes. The demo showcases exciting and epic scenes akin to those found in mainline Zelda games. The game has a high-budget feel, with sweeping camera shots over fiery battlefields and characters brought to life in a style reminiscent of Disney films. (Link even gains a time-traveling guardian companion that resembles the beloved BB-8 from Star Wars.)
Excellent Combat Mechanics
Musou games are known for their action-packed gameplay, allowing players to effortlessly slice through hordes of enemies. Age of Calamity continues this tradition by transforming well-known Zelda tools into devastating weapons capable of clearing entire battlefields with a single strike.
What sets this game apart is the diversity and intricacy of the combat mechanics demonstrated in the demo. Each character possesses a range of light and heavy attacks, as well as a powerful special attack, which can be unleashed once a yellow bar fills up. However, that is only the beginning. Age of Calamity introduces Breath of the Wild’s rune abilities into the combat system. This means players can throw bombs, freeze enemies in place, create ice blocks for defense, and use metal objects as weapons.
Furthermore, each character feels unique, creating endless possibilities for diverse playstyles. For example, Impa can absorb runes during battle, allowing her to summon multiple clones to fight in a wider area. This revamped combat system bridges the gap between Hyrule Warriors and Breath of the Wild, offering inventive ways to utilize characters and tools. By the end of the demo, I was left yearning for more, which is impressive considering the genre’s reputation for repetitive gameplay.
A World to Explore
Age of Calamity goes beyond pure combat by offering players a world to explore. As early as the first mission in the demo, I stumbled upon a familiar friend from Breath of the Wild: a Korok hiding inside a broken box. This unexpected encounter immediately made me slow down and fully explore each map, searching for hidden secrets.
And it is not just Koroks that you will find. The hour-long demo is filled with details that bring the game to life. One notable addition is the new navigation system, which allows Link to select missions from an overworld map, directly inspired by Breath of the Wild.
This map serves as the central hub for more than just battles. It is where you learn new moves, acquire more hearts, and level up equipment. It also integrates Breath of the Wild mechanics, such as cooking, blacksmiths, and horse stables, offering a wealth of activities to engage in. These extra features enhance the game, making it feel more immersive and connected to the Zelda universe.
This attention to detail is a significant improvement over the original Hyrule Warriors, which relied on complex menu systems that felt disconnected from the game’s theme.
With these enhancements, Age of Calamity has the potential to become a must-play game in Nintendo’s catalogue. So far, it feels like a more complete experience and makes a compelling case for Hyrule Warriors to become its own standalone franchise.
The demo for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is available now on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Progress made in the demo will carry over when the full game launches on November 20.
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