Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) spin-off and the second title in the Hyrule Warriors collection. Released in November for the Nintendo Switch, it’s a prequel to BotW that takes place 100 years before, although in a different genre.
The opening scene unveils Hyrule on the verge of collapse and a friendly mini guardian who goes back to the past to avoid the succession of events that lead to destruction.
We start with Link and Impa trying to defend the castle from several hordes of bokoblins. By jumping from one character to another, you must defeat enemies with multiple powers, attacks, and combinations of techniques. Much to everyone’s astonishment, Terrako, the mini-guardian, shows up to help the team.
Instead of the usual free open-world navigation, the story is segmented into chapters that correspond to the map’s specific areas. In each one, you have to complete a set of goals. Besides, you get experience and level up, allowing you to choose new areas with a recommended levels.
Link and Impa are the first two playable characters, but you will unlock more characters as you progress, including the Divine Beast champions. Each character is unique and has its own attacks and combat techniques; even Zelda, who has always been the helpless princess, now emerges as another narrative agent.
The combat is so fast-paced and intense that you barely have time to explore between attacks, except with a second visit. Of course, there are still some exploration elements, but it’s not that relaxing journey into nature that BoTW has accustomed us to. Nevertheless, loving this different approach to Legend of Zelda is inevitable, as Age of Calamity managed to preserve enough elements found in BoTW, resulting in a harmonious blend, just like an orchestra, that gives us that familiar warmth of returning to a glorious game.
There is indeed a great deal of serious fighting, but the narrative side is also compensated with involving cutscenes that contrast with plain text-filled loading screens at the beginning of each chapter.
What felt great about Age of Calamity were the BotW mechanics and references: Korok hunting, cooking (or the mix of ingredients that sometimes resulted in dubious substances), and the slate’s powers, which are the same and are available early in the game. It was also wonderful to witness how Age of Calamity helped answer questions that BotW raised.
Multiplayer Mode is available as local and cooperative with one more player in split-screen, but the gaming experience is much better with just one player.
Since it’s such a powerful game, it’s naturally faster-paced than BotW, which means being able to finish it in 20 to 30 hours (or even more, depending on your dedication). Even if the action is repetitive, I didn’t feel that it took anything away from the game because it connects well with the other elements of the game, such as the story.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is asking (screaming) to be run on a new console when it comes to quality and performance. In BotW, one of the first games on Switch already had some performance problems in some areas; in Age of Calamity, these problems are harder to ignore. The graphic quality was clearly reduced in favor of performance, but that does not mean there are no flaws. Since there are so many elements in each scenario (enemies, decoration, etc.), you can see continuous frame drops.
I’m not a huge fan of this genre, in which these “free-for-all” games are released in between main titles; they cram all the characters together to button mash until the next relevant title. It was the same with Fire Emblem Warriors. While it wasn’t a bad game, it didn’t captivate me at all, as the elements that made me fall in love with the main series were admittedly absent. I understand it’s a good way to recycle assets into a different concept, but it’s rarely something that pleases me.
However, Age of Calamity felt quite different. You still don’t have that exploring feature and missed that dearly. But it takes you to the same scenario, with a higher action concentration, as it would be expected in the Hack and Slash style.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is intense and addictive, has a soundtrack that does not disappoint, and, despite the setbacks in performance, it’s s the game that will keep you entertained until the BotW 2 is released.