NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Review

Fans of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have been anxiously waiting for a sequel ever since it was released in 2017. While it looks like we still have at least a couple of years more, Nintendo did surprise fans this past September by announcing a prequel game arriving just in time for the holiday shopping season. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity takes place one hundred years before Breath of the Wild and expands the lore about how the four champions were chosen and the rise of Calamity Ganon. Instead of adopting the open-world exploration of Breath of the Wild, however, it uses gameplay from Hyrule Warriors, making for a fun, but unexpected experience.

The game opens as Hyrule Castle is under attack from the resurrected Calamity Ganon and the ancient Guardians are laying waste to Hyrule. A tiny, never before seen Guardian, which has been dubbed the Diminutive Guardian, sees the destruction and opens a portal to travel back in time before the castle’s destruction. The Diminutive Guardian makes contact with Link and Zelda at the beginning of the Age of Calamity as a group of monsters attack the castle. The game shows us the events leading up to Calamity Ganon’s resurrection. The story is simple enough, but I have a feeling fans will be divided over the Diminutive Guardian and the time travel elements of the story. My best advice is to not rush to any snap judgments and play the game’s main story before you decide if this works or not. Although I do have a feeling that Nintendo will start marketing the Diminutive Guardian the same way Star Wars markets Baby Yoda and Marvel markets Baby Groot.

Following the gameplay style of Hyrule Warriors, Age of Calamity is a hack and slash game that largely ditches Breath of the Wild’s exploration and puzzles. Instead of a large, open world, each stage is confined to one map with limited paths where you’ll encounter hoards of enemies from Breath of the Wild like bokoblins and lizalfos. You’ll even take on Master Kohga and the evil Yiga Clan, as well as face boss monsters like Lynels and Hinoxes. Boss characters don’t require much strategy aside from carefully timed dodging of their attacks in order to open their weak point gauges and start really pounding on them. While the game is largely focused on combat, there is still a small amount of exploration that can be done. Each stage has Koroks, weapons and treasure chests to discover, just as you could find in Breath of the Wild. While it’s not immediately clear what finding Koroks does in this game, as the story progresses, you find out just how useful these little guys are.

The further into the game you get, the more playable characters you can unlock. There are subtle but noticeable differences in the way each character handles, too. Mipha isn’t very strong until you level her up quite a bit, but she’s fast and her special moves replenish health as well as damaging enemies. Daruk is an absolute tank but he’s slow. Urbosa is great for taking out large groups with her lightning attacks. And Revali can take to the sky and shower foes with a barrage of arrows. I wouldn’t say any character is really better than others, but each one has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, so players’ favorites will depend on their own preferences in terms of playstyle. There are even moments where you can pilot the Divine Beasts. These things are enormous and a bit cumbersome but their attacks are devastating and great for causing a little bit of destruction.

In Hyrule Warriors, there was a main campaign story mode and a series of adventure maps containing optional side quests. In Age of Calamity, everything exists on one primary map, making it easier for players to deviate from the main quest if they want to take on side missions or earn new weapons and items. These side missions are where you’ll acquire new cooking recipes, learn combos, and attain better items and weapons. Just like in Hyrule Warriors, you can fuse weapons to gether and enhance their stats, but unlike Breath of the Wild, your weapons won’t break! And yes, cooking returns in Age of Calamity, but it’s handled much differently. Instead of tossing a bunch of foods into a pot and hoping for the best, you’ll learn various recipes and at the start of each mission, you’re given an option to cook a dish that will enhance certain stats for the mission, such as increasing how much experience you can gain or decreasing how much damage you take from enemies. Some of these side missions are as simple as collecting a set number of ingredients and bringing them to a designated location, while others are short combat missions where you have to do things like capture outposts or defeat a certain number of enemies in a given time limit. Just to make sure things don’t get too boring, a lot of these missions have specific handicaps like only letting you use certain characters or weapons, so if you haven’t been leveling everyone up, you may have a tough time!

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is exactly what you’ll expect if you’re a longtime fan of the Legend of Zelda series. It’s the story and lore of Breath of the Wild mixed with the fast, action-heavy gameplay of Hyrule Warriors. Is it going to appeal to everyone? No. But this is one of the best new action games I’ve played all year and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.