It’s always curious to see how a game franchise evolves from its inception to its sequels. Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U was very much a “What If?” kind of game that told its own story for better or worse. But with Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity, they went full tilt and tied it into arguably the best Legend of Zelda game ever made via Breath of the Wild. The result? Something fresh, fun, deep, and surprisingly emotional.
Game Name: Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Koei Tecmo
Release Date: 11/20/20
Don’t worry, I won’t go full spoilers here, and I won’t spoil the ending, promise. But we are going to get deep on certain other things like characters you can play as and such. So let this Urbosa glare be your last warning!
So let’s dive right into it. Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity is very much a game that delves into the time before the fall of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild. As you’ve probably seen by now, right before the fall, Zelda’s power awakens and activates a small Guardian (the evil robot legion from the main game) that travels through time to try and warn Zelda, Impa, the king, and the newly found Link (who has a much better introduction than the previous Hyrule Warriors game) of the impending Calamity to save the future.
What immediately makes this appealing is that while Breath of the Wild had a story…it wasn’t the focus at all. The world and your experiences were the focus. But here in Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity, we get a lot of the backstory to how things went down, as well as more insight into the memories that were shown in BOTW.
For me, this was a major highlight. Because we got to see many character interactions, for example, Urbosa and Zelda’s relationship was on full display here. You could see why she had her motherly influence and spirit in the memories we saw before. We also get to see Mipha and her feelings for Link and the hilarious spirit that Daruk has. Oh, and yes, Revali is still a jerk. What else would you expect from him?
The story does an outstanding job of progressing. At first, it’s just about figuring out the young Guardian droid; then it’s about getting the Four Champions and their Divine Beasts, then it’s about preparing for the Calamity. Then things start to go wrong, and after that…well…I promised not to spoil but let’s say that things get a lot more interesting than you might expect, and I mean that in a good way.
But, just as important as the story is the world itself. Because as noted, Breath of the Wild had a lot of depth, and you’re going to find that a lot here too. From cooking to paragliding to weapons management, loads of sidequests, the Koroks, and beyond – there’s a LOT of depth here. The game is much longer than the original, and that’s a good thing because completionists will love the challenges before them.
Plus, there are new elements here, like the focus on the Yiga Clan and the all-new character of Astor, who has a certain role to plan that you may or may not expect. And yes, he is indeed tied to Calamity Ganon.
Now, onto the gameplay. Like any true Warriors title, it’s a “1v1000” scenario where you’ll play as some of the various characters from Breath of the Wild and battle against enemies both large and small. All the classic Zelda enemies are here and the new ones from Breath of the Wild like the Lynels, the Hinox’s, and so on. There are even some unique enemies to face because of Astor when you get far enough.
Now, the original Hyrule Warriors game had a more straight forward approach to the level structure with you capturing outposts and saving Captains. But here, it’s a lot more diverse. There are levels where you capture outposts, but there are plenty of missions where you have to kill swarms of enemies and bosses quickly. There are defense missions where you have to hold an outpost so enemies can’t swarm it. There are escort missions at times, and missions meant to test your characters’ various skills in unique ways. For missions, you’ll be able to pick your character and do it on your own. Other times you’ll be teaming up with other characters to get the job done. They get REALLY creative here.
As you would expect, every single character on the roster (which is larger than you are expecting) has its own unique combat style. Link and Urbosa may both have swords, but they play differently by a large margin. Link is your standard fighter, Zelda uses her Shiekah Slate for rune-based attacks, Impa uses magic and clones to overwhelm foes, Urbosa can wield lightning, Daruk is slow but has a powerful shield, Mipha is a lightning-fast striker who literally surfs on the battlefield, and Revali prefers to attack from the air.
It’ll be up to you to determine which characters are best suited to your personal skills, so don’t be afraid to mix and match and try out new characters when they arrive. For example, my personal favorites are Link, Mipha, and Urbosa. They are easy to handle and very easy to do lots of damage, especially when Link gets the Master Sword.
Adding to the fun, each character can use the Shiekah Slate abilities, but each of them utilizes it differently. For example, Link hurls bombs at foes, while Zelda summons a bomb Guardians droid she can control. It’s important to test everyone out to see what they can all do and how they do it because it WILL affect your gameplay experience and how you advance.
Another major perk of Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity is the depth of the side quests and missions. The main missions are fun and can change your perspective on a dime, including shifting between the various gameplay styles like capturing, protecting, blowing up paths, and using the Divine Beasts. Those segments are fun, but they can be a challenge because of the size differential, especially when you need to wipe out enemies that look like a blip on your screen, especially in handheld mode. But overall, it’s fun.
The sidequests are meant to help you get materials and bolster your fighters. The more you do, the more activities are shown. You’ll be able to power-up your characters, get them extra hearts and special attack gauges, unlock new characters, and more! As you can see from my map below, the map is large. I took a screenshot of, and each marker means something big and small. Again, a completionist’s dream.
Obviously, there are some faults in the game; it is a Musou title, and having faults is part of the charm.
While there are plenty of great cutscenes to enjoy, I do feel they missed some opportunities. Such as further fleshing out the relationships between Link and Revali and Link and Mipha, or even Link and Daruk. We get some, but not all, and it kind of feels like the characters are left out as a result.
Add to that there are sure to be some angry notions toward parts of the story because of where it leads. No spoilers, but it will be divisive.
As for gameplay, certain elements are a bit…tedious. What’s more, while certain levels are tailored for certain characters to train and get good with, I feel there should have been more focus on that, especially since later levels force you to have multiple party members to do tasks. But for most levels, you can choose your best fighter (like Link) and go to town.
Furthermore, while certain playable characters are easy to wield in one form or another, others are a bit…overwhelming, or slow…or just hard to play as. Impa, for example, can be tough to control because of her various powers, and you’ll find yourself button-spamming more than anything. Daruk is slow and can be hard to wield if you’re not privy to his intricacies. Another hard one to wield is the Great Fairies. They are an unlockable character, and they are a pain to control because of their size on the battlefield.
Granted, you don’t HAVE to use all of these characters or the others that arrive, I certainly didn’t, but some extra balancing would’ve been nice.
Adding to that, as my co-hosts noted on the latest Nintendo Entertainment Podcast, the game is definitely one you should play in bursts. One hour to two hours max playtime per session. It’ll help you appreciate it without feeling like you’re just “grinding through” because it can get repetitive if you’re not careful.
But those complaints aside, I hope this Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity Review shows you that this game is not just fun but an adventure in and of itself. It took Breath of the Wild and added in its own style, its own flavor, and its own story to become something extraordinary and unique. I’m not saying that they should do this with EVERY Zelda game (and so far, they said that wouldn’t be likely to happen…), but for this one? It’s wonderful.
So choose your character and fight the Calamity that is Ganon. From what I’ve played, you won’t regret it.
Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity Review
Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity delivers on many grounds, delving deeper into the story of Breath of the Wild while also going and delivering a deeper take on the tale. Its combat is solid and you’ll have fun testing out the various characters that arrive to help you.
If you loved Breath of the Wild, you should get this game.