Go, now! You are the knight to Princess Zelda. I trust that you understand your duty. My daughter… protect her.
Developed by: Omega Force
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Length: 31 hours (74 hours for completionists)
If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you’d know that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of my favourite games of all time. Even 3 years after its launch, I often fight the urge to experience it all over again. That is, until Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity launched last November and filled the Link-shaped void in my heart — temporarily.
Taking place 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild, Age of Calamity tells the story of the Great Calamity and the Champions that united to defend against it. Moments that were teased in Breath of the Wild, including Zelda’s internal conflict and the recruitment of the Champions come to life alongside some incredibly fun PvE combat. Here’s what I loved about it.
A love letter to fans of Breath of the Wild
Let’s begin with the obvious: Age of Calamity is nothing if not a tribute to Breath of the Wild. As a prequel you’d expect this to always be the case, but it’s a finer balance than you think. Age of Calamity not only adds to the original plot line seamlessly and meaningfully, it also curates the elements that made Breath of the Wild iconic and uses them as building blocks for their world.
Think shield surfing as Link through hordes of Bokoblins, or finding Korok seeds hidden around the map. What about being able to fight as young Impa, or use a hefty tree branch as a weapon? In every aspect possible – from design, combat mechanics, locations, and even clothing – players of the OG title will be able to find something familiar and nostalgic in their play through.
One of my favourite references are the game’s combat abilities, which features all four Sheikah Slate Runes from Breath of the Wild (Magnesis, Remote Bomb, Statis, Cryosis). To Breath of the Wild players, these abilities and their reactions will be more than familiar, but there is a twist: Each character has a completely unique set of reactions to the Runes that changes their combat style.
For example, Link’s Remote Bomb functions exactly the way it does in the original title (i.e. he simply throws bombs at the enemy), but Zelda’s Remote Bomb manifests as a giant walking bomb which the player can control, and Impa’s Remote Bomb appears as a tornado which later explodes in fiery destruction. Besides this being a great combat mechanic overall, it also adds some much-needed freshness to the game for old players.
As for its story, fans new and old alike will be glad to know that the game provides a surprisingly in-depth look into the events of the Great Calamity, while adding more personality to the Champions who are – frankly – the best parts of these games. In fact, what gaps Breath of the Wild suffered in its story, Age of Calamity offers in bulk with lengthy cutscenes during each main quest. Even if you’re not usually a musou gamer, these cutscenes are definitely worth the play.
In-depth gameplay that’s genuinely a great time
For a musou game, Age of Calamity packs some serious punch. For starters, it boasts a lengthy 31 hours of gameplay, but this number is more than doubled when you complete all of the game’s side quests — and boy, there are plenty.
Quests tend to vary from 5 to 20 minutes each, with main quests being some of the more lengthy and interesting battles in the entire game. Typically, you can bring 2-4 characters into the battlefield with the sole intent of spreading your characters across every corner of the map, making the game part strategy, part action. There is a real urgency attached to this mechanic, too, as troops across the map will be forced to retreat if you don’t aid them in time.
Side quests are equally as fun as main quests with the benefit of variety when it comes to quest goals. From fighting Lynels and cooking-related quests, to Hair Width Trials (i.e. take no damage at all) and character-specific challenges, I’m working my way towards 74 hours and it doesn’t feel like much time as passed at all.
It helps that side quests also play a pivotal role in levelling up characters and weapons, unlocking new combat moves, and well, unlocking more side quests. Especially if you’re a player that finds joy in the grind, side quests are perfect to earn more money, weapons, and ingredients which you can use to accelerate your character’s level by paying money, fusing weapons to create more powerful weapons, and unlocking more recipes for food!
But if you’re not keen on side quests, don’t worry — they’re optional just like Breath of the Wild. In fact, players who seek a bit more challenge can attempt levels higher than their character’s. (I personally wouldn’t, but you do you, dude.)
Ability to play with any combination of characters you like
Age of Calamity starts you off with everyone’s trusty steed and tutorial character, Link, who attacks with a sword and has every ability he had in Breath of the Wild. However, it doesn’t take long for the story to progress and introduce more characters like Zelda, Revali, and Urbosa into your roster.
Like in Breath of the Wild, learning how to play these characters feels completely natural as a player. There are base controls which you learn playing Link and can easily apply to all the other characters. The game also shoots you indications mid-combat to trigger a special attack, or which Rune attack is best against an enemy.
Although there are certain missions that lock you down to a character (for story reasons or others), you’re otherwise free to build any team that you want. Of course, Impa is the superior choice according to me and most people (see: able to clone herself 6 times to deal 6x the damage), but you can get through the game with the best combination for your playstyle.
Verdict: Absolutely get this game if you’re a Zelda fan — or if you want to try something new!
As a Zelda fan, it feels like this game’s developers were fans of Breath of the Wild, and it couldn’t have translated any better into Age of Calamity. Players of the OG title will love basking in the references in design, characters, and even combat mechanics; yet its core musou-styled combat and varied character roster makes gameplay interesting enough for both new and old players to enjoy.
But if you prefer a game that’s a little cuter, read my review of Link’s Awakening here. Until next time, keep shield surfing!