Review – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, you had one job. One job that defined and justified your entire existence. Deliver on one the most interesting parts of Breath of the Wild, and for me one of the most interesting tales in the franchise. Tell the story about how one hundred years prior, prophecy and tradition finally failed Hyrule. About how everything went Crisis Core: Legend of Zelda Edition. It would have been an epic tale of failure, death, and yet ending with a ray of hope. This was the game we expected, this was what the game was explicitly marketed as. Without getting into specific spoilers though, this is NOT the game we got. Still, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity delivers in other ways and is easily the most fun and varied Warriors game ever. 

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Silent Knight is actually a really cool title.

I’m not going to touch on the plot specifically. If you played Breath of the Wild, then you know it already (but also don’t). And if you haven’t played Breath of the Wild, what is wrong with you? Go play it! Just know that, despite some major plot twists, this is still one of the strongest stories in the series for me. The characters and interactions are well-written and fun. Link is in top form here, an absolute badass. For once, he absolutely earns his status as gaming’s premier swordsman. Cinematics are well shot and beautiful, with some amazing fight scenes. The voice-acting is… well, it’s better than BotW’s, that’s for sure, and doesn’t bring down the experience. Still there are some choices made here that just bring the whole thing down for me. I’ve come to terms with them, but it could have been more.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Anyone who doesn’t think Baby Sidon is adorable has no heart.

However, the same can absolutely not be said about the rest of the game. It may be a Warriors game at heart, but it suffers from almost none of the standard Warriors game pitfalls. The game’s roster plays incredibly different from each other. To the point where switching characters was troublesome, because they were so unique you had to relearn them on the fly. Yet each of them were also still fun with some really inventive designs. Between standard combos, unique character talents, and a full range of unique Sheikah Slate abilities, each character has way more of a toolset than your standard Warriors game character. It will be almost impossible to go back to other titles where 90% of the roster is the same, but at different speeds.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Something especially great is the level of destruction in each level. This is something Breath of the Wild 2: Electric Boogaloo needs to add.

Then there’s the maps. Gone are the grid-based designed maps of old, made up entirely of fields, corridors, and square forts that all felt the same. For me, this was probably what burnt me out on Warriors games faster than anything else. Not so here. One of the most celebrated parts of BotW was its map design, and it’s clear that was taken to heart. Each map is a unique creation, organically shaped around the location, filled with interesting landmarks and designs. Verticality is used well and forts are no longer all copy-pasted squares but rather unique locations shaped in the map. Bokobolin tree forts, lakes teeming with Lizalfos, they vary in design, size, and shape. The only issue is that they may be TOO good for a Warriors game, with not enough reason to properly explore these fantastic locales.

Revali, still as charming as always.

The final core pillar of a Warriors game is combat and enemy variety. And this is another example where Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity runs laps around its predecessors. The combat system is a blend of Warriors scale with BotW mechanics that just works. Playing as Link feels all kinds of right, and I think many will stick with him just because of how comfortably familiar he is. Still, everyone else is just as fun, and despite playing differently, still feel just like BotW. It’s bizarre and hard to explain, but really Koei Tecmo have just outdone themselves here. It just feels right, which when dealing with a prequel for one of the most awarded games ever is an important thing and difficult thing to pull off.

The entire menu system of every other Warriors game has been condensed into the world map, and it somehow works super well.

Enemy variety is the other half of this coin and really the bow on top of this Musou present. Everyone from Breath of the Wild is here in Warriors game numbers. Lynels, Bokobolins, even incredibly annoying Octoroks. They all act and play just like they do in BotW, which further helps this game’s legitimacy. It also puts boss fights on a whole other level, as they’re in the same style as BotW and that game did not hold back difficulty-wise. As a matter of fact, the whole game feels a lot harder and slower in general. I had to really pay attention to the map and enemies around me, because with so many unique monsters with unique mechanics it could be easy to get overwhelmed. It made battles so much more satisfying, because you aren’t just button mashing through crowds of fodder.

No grinding shrines for hearts this time.

I legitimately both love and hate this game. I love it because of everything it does right (basically everything it does), and how it feels like more Breath of the Wild on an epic scale. But I also hate it because of what it does with the plot, and what it could have been. Granted, I’ve come to terms with the latter and it’s one of my favorite Warriors and Zelda games. But still it could have been more, which is the damocles sword that every prequel faces. Still, if you’re a fan of either franchise then this is really a must buy. Especially since the wait for Breath of the Wild 2 is taking forever, this is something to help tide you over. If only to see a version of Link that’s not just some random fairy boy, but a cool, skilled, professional who fights like a beast.

Graphics: 8.0

The game looks even better than Breath of the Wild using the same art style. There’s some minor performance issues, but nothing major.

Gameplay: 9.0

It’s just so fun, mixing an amped up version of Breath of the Wild‘s combat system with fields of enemies Warriors style delivers an epic war experience.

Sound: 8.5

If you loved Breath of the Wild‘s soundtrack, but wished it played more and included a few more classic tracks, then this is the game for you.

Fun Factor: 8.0

While a story decision is incredibly divisive, I can’t deny how fun the core gameplay experience is, way more interesting than any other Warriors game.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is available now on Nintendo Switch.