Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Review – A True Action Adventure

    Title: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
    Developer: Omega Force
    Release Date: November 20, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Genre: Action

The original Hyrule Warriors is one of my favorite go-to games when I’m looking for an action game to spend a few hours in. So, when I heard Koei Tecmo and Nintendo’s newest installment, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, was coming to Switch, I was super excited but also a little worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. While Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity deviates from its predecessor in a few areas, it’s a wholly exhilarating experience and fits nicely within the world of Breath of the Wild.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity begins 100 years before the events Breath of the Wild. An unknown robot guardian escapes the invasion of Calamity Gannon and makes its way through a time portal to the past. Soon after its time travel, the guardian finds Link and Zelda and attempts to aid them in sealing Hyrule’s growing evil.

Every level has you fighting epic-sized battles across familiar Hyrulian terrain. Each of these battles is sizable even for a Warriors title standards and commonly features multiple scenarios and event changes throughout your struggle. On that note, mainstays of other Warriors titles like the one versus one thousand combat and taking over enemy keeps are all present.  However, so many elements are drawn from Breath of the Wild and repurposed in surprisingly effective ways.

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For example, Flurry Rush works the same way it does in Breath of the Wild. If you time a parry just right, you will open up a slowdown and window-of-opportunity to unleash some quick attacks. Cooking also makes a return, but this time, eating dishes before a level gives you stat boosts that last the entirety of a battle. You can also acquire apples to eat during battles to restore health.

The return of the sheikah slate is certainly the most well-implemented call back to Breath of the Wild. Each character can use the destructive remote bombs, time-freezing Magnesis, metal contorting stasis, and ice barrier Cryonis. Still, they can use their slate and items differently, which requires you to become familiar with everyone if you want to be more effective in battle.

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During encounters, larger enemies will telegraph an image of an item they’re vulnerable to before some of their moves. If you use the item during this moment, it will stun them and open up a wheel gauge that, when depleted, lets you perform a powerful attack.

There is a catch, though; your sheikah slate requires a bit of recharge time after each use. Not only does this prevent you from spamming items, but it requires you to think about the optimal time to use them. I constantly found myself using stasis when there wasn’t a telegraph to get some damage in, only to miss out on a better offensive opportunity soon after because the slate was still recharging.

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While Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity isn’t the only Warriors game to have these items and boss systems, it seems to have them more frequently with more variety. Still, enemies thankfully don’t have one weakness, and they will change up which item to use based on their attack. Besides keeping you on your toes, it makes these battles way more interesting.

Successfully exploiting an enemies’ vulnerability with an item is extremely satisfying. One of my favorite moments was seeing a weapon thrown at me, only for Magnesis to change its direction, hurling it back at them.

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Weapons obtained can be upgraded at the blacksmith. There are several different weapons and attack styles Link can master. These weapons are broken into a one-handed weapon with a shield, a two-handed weapon, or a spear. Specials and combos are different for each one. Luckily your weapons don’t wear down like in Breath of the Wild, so if you really want to fight your whole way through with a simple tree branch, you totally can.

Graphically and stylistically, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is nearly identical to Breath of the Wild. Upon a glance, both titles could easily be mistaken for each other. The only drawback with being so faithful to Breath of the Wild is that some environment layouts that worked in that game don’t always translate to a battlefield scenario.

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Fans who were used to monkey crawling over everything in your way may find themselves confined in the battlefields of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Most terrain works great, but there were a handful of dead ends and specific entrances that had me focused on my map instead of the main action. While not abundant, these moments were definitely awkward.

Performance-wise I rarely had any noticeable slow down except for an isolated incident on the last level. It should also be mentioned this was in handheld mode and really only lasted five seconds as expected; things did run better in docked. Even with huge numbers of enemies on the screen, the action was smooth and responsive.

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Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity allows you to play locally with a friend, which splits your screen in half, but unfortunately, like most other Warriors titles, you can’t play with someone online. Usually, it’s not an issue for me, but it would have been really nice to have the option.

Any issues I had thought I found were usually compensated by the sheer amount of fun I had mowing down enemy armies. Even the typically groan-inducing escort missions are somehow super enjoyable and require more strategy than frustration. Ordering my players to various parts of the battle and switching between them never became old. Bosses and larger enemies ganging up on you was equally frantic as it was rewarding to defeat.

The main quest is a sizable one and took me about twenty-five hours to complete. On top of that, as you progress, you unlock side missions, upgrades, and new playable characters. After some of these side missions are completed, even more, unlock, making sure there is plenty of gameplay besides your main quest.

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Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity excels at being both a lively and addictive Warriors title while also being a competent prequel to Breath of the Wild. The action highlights each playable character’s skills wonderfully while weaving in a strategy item system against bosses. Sure, some environments didn’t translate well to the action genre, but I can see myself returning to Hyrule again and again in this adventure.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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