What would you do if you heard a great calamity was on the way? Nothing, probably. Where’s the evidence, a time traveling mini robot? Pfftt, you just want my data. Nobody would believe it. Thankfully this is a videogame free of narcissism with a cast of heroes, royals, and eccentric warriors who are keen for adventure. Enter the Age of Calamity.
(Zelda is visibly shaken by the watermark that Koei Tecmo decided to put on all of their Switch screenshots. So many scenes ruined. Nevertheless, all screenshots were taken on my Switch in docked mode.)
Age of Calamity takes an unusual path for a Warriors game. Rather than being a large scale celebration of a series with a huge roster of characters, this takes place in the universe of a single game, Breath of the Wild. There are many reasons to doubt the very concept of this game. Why does it exist? Where’s the diversity? What if I haven’t played this one single game? Why should I care?
As someone who has played and loved Breath of the Wild, I wasn’t even that hyped for this game. I threw it into an Amazon order with another game with a slight shred of guilt. Miraculously, Age of Calamity managed to exceed my non-existent expectations and impress me as soon as I started playing it. The introduction brings a sense of wonder with highly polished graphics and competent story telling, you can tell they put a decent budget and effort into this game from the start. I hadn’t played Breath of the Wild in more than a year and suddenly it all came back to me and I felt at home.
This graphical polish extends to the gameplay as you take to Hyrule Field and marvel at the hundreds of soldiers. By soldiers of course, I mean the blades of grass. Brave battlers of nature always ready to regrow and flourish again after every battle.
A staple of the Zelda series, delicious quality grass. It’s back and smells better than ever. Look at those blades sway beautifully in the wind, absorbing the light and looking equally fabulous in the shadows, showing off their command of nature with raw elegance.
…. huh, where was I again? Age of Calamity is a spectacular action game that turbo-charges the shiekah slate abilities from Breath of the Wild to craft an intense fast-paced combat system with a wealth of creative possibilities in combat.
The diversity in actions is a testament to the gameplay of BotW itself. Once you pick up a metal box with Magnesis and swing it around to knock 100 enemies on their butts, you’ll understand why they made this game. It brings the full force of exaggerated Warriors gameplay to this open-air moveset and shows how strong you can REALLY be with these powers.
What’s the roster like? Surprisingly fleshed out and fun. The cast of Breath of the Wild never really felt like a huge part of the game for me, since most of my time was spent alone eating mushrooms and breaking sticks. Now Age of Calamity has brought a new side of Hyrule to my attention with a bigger emphasis on the characters and events.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but the longer you play, the cooler the unlockable characters get. I was genuinely surprised and delighted a couple of times, it feels nice to kick arse with unexpected heroes. All-in-all the movesets, weapons and specials have enough diversity to justify this game’s scenario. Instead of having 100 characters with throwaways and clones, the 20 here are all extremely different and worthwhile.
Another strength of Breath of the Wild was the gigantic well-defined world map, and Age of Calamity utilises that strength very well for the main mission screen. The story chapters are the big attraction, but there’s a lot more blossoming outside. Dotted around the map are dozens of quests, challenges, shops and requirements to advance your abilities and grow Hyrule to fit your needs. The image above is extremely early in the game to avoid spoilers, but the more you play the more quests open up.
Certain quests will throb on the map if you already have the ingredients necessary which is a nice way to know what you can easily tick off. If you don’t meet certain requirements, you can hunt them down with a sensor that’ll tell you which places have the materials you need. The game gives you hundreds of things to do yet it never feels overwhelming because of the simple presentation, a great design accomplishment. I would often find myself about to stop playing… then doing one more quest…. one more quest… one more… these people need me damn it!
It’s a small touch but the quests have a nice little text narrative that creates a feeling of community. You can offer food to build up shops, and slay enemies to help someone get home safely. As a result of the community getting stronger, you unlock more weapon combos, hearts, abilities and items for your own use. It’s a nice feeling when everyone gets along and grows together.
Brand new to Age of Calamity are missions where you get to control the almighty divine beasts. These absolute units just destroy everything on the field with incredibly overpowered attacks. It’s so over-the-top that you can get tens of thousands of KOs in one level. It’s quite clunky to control though and gets repetitive real quick. Thankfully it doesn’t outstay its welcome and simply offers something new as a change of pace. It definitely suits the chaotic Warriors aesthetic.
While I think this game would still be a lot of fun if you haven’t played Breath of the Wild before, I honestly would still recommend playing BotW first. Every single level in Age of Calamity is modeled after environments that already exist in BotW. That might be it’s biggest major flaw, but the environments are so damn good anyway that it didn’t bother me, and they are spruced up with new scenarios, weather and effects. It’s very interesting seeing places in a different time period as well, if you’re a fan. It just might ruin the main game if you know too much about the landscape going into it, and lose that sense of exploration and wonder of not knowing anything. Definitely play Age of Calamity second if possible.
Another flaw would be the framerate, it dips to below 30fps occasionally and once or twice it became a slideshow for me. The stages and battles are so spectacular that I didn’t really mind too much. Most of the power of the graphics seemed to go into spectacular effects, detailed objects and a strong background presence and the large amount of events going on. This game also focuses more on one-on-one combat compared to Hyrule Warriors, and not so much on strategy and outposts. There’s the occasional interesting overworld puzzle to keep things interesting, and hidden chests and secrets to find. Hmm, what’s this?
Despite the “restriction” of having to cover one single game, the Warriors team have done a good job creating a wonderful combat system that shines on its own with a perfect blend of Zelda and Warriors elements. It also contains some great music with remixes from BotW and brand new compositions that reflect the sombre mood. Since BotW barely had any music playing most of the time, I found this refreshing. It made sense to have silence while exploring an open world and listening to nature, but a quiet Warriors game certainly would not make sense. It delves much further into the compositions.
The first DLC has just come out, but it seems a bit barebones to justify at the moment. I still have tons of sidequests to do on the world map after finishing the main story. If anyone has tried the DLC then please let me know in the comments what you think. A second DLC pack is out later in the year, and I’ll probably get both together if it looks good
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an extremely good game in it’s own right, and even better if you loved Breath of the Wild. As an overall package I think the first Hyrule Warriors has the best value, but Age of Calamity brings improved combat and a more streamlined and coherent quest system and story. It has certainly done enough to justify itself as an entry in both the Zelda series and the Warriors series. Let’s return to the original question, why does this game exist? The answer turns out to be a very simple one; because it’s fun to play.
Now if you’ll excuse me… I’ve got some gigantic books to read.