There’s something to be said for a game that’s so popular it’s managed to sell more copies than actual consoles to play it on. We’re talking, of course, about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One can only imagine that some folks ended up with games that they weren’t able to play, but either way, Breath of the Wild is practically the definition of a modern classic and remains a must-play for Switch owners.
Now it’s got its own Musou-style spinoff in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the second Zelda-themed hybrid between one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises and Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors, following the original Hyrule Warriors, and it’s worth a look for fans and newcomers alike.
Age of Calamity is a prequel story to Breath of the Wild, taking place before Calamity Ganon lays waste to Hyrule. We follow Link and company, including the pilots of Breath of the Wild’s Divine Beasts, as they strive to keep the land safe. The most important part of the plot is that somehow all these weapons you’re using to beat up baddies don’t break these days. That’s a pretty big deal. You’d think there’d be more focus on that.
Age of Calamity wears its heritage on its sleeve – it’s the same sort of mix between the Musou and Zelda series that made the original Hyrule Warriors such a hit. At one point you might be beating up hundreds of baddies while at the next you might be solving some Zelda-style puzzles. These are two great tastes that taste great together even if you’d think it would be pretty weird, like shrimp and chocolate. Try that sometime, by the way, see how it goes.
Combat is pretty much what you’d expect from this kind of game: mash buttons, kill thousands! There’s something to be said for the degree of variety offered by Age of Calamity’s characters as they’ve each got their own gimmicks to spice things up a bit. Bird-warrior Revali can flit about in the air and attack from the skies, for instance, while Princess Zelda can use remote explosives to battle from a distance; each character plays in a fashion that’s just unique enough to make them feel special and you’re bound to have your favorites.
The cast and selection of weapons is a little more limited than the previous Hyrule Warriors, particularly if you consider the massive amount of content added by the Legends release. It’s a little difficult to compare the two in terms of how many options you have. On the other hand, that also means there’s plenty of room for growth over time as DLC is eventually released for Age of Calamity. You’re also able to control the Divine Beasts yourself from time to time, but this ends up feeling like a gimmick more than anything; it’s fun, but in small doses, as the Beasts control in a goofy fashion and are only available in certain stages.
This new take on the concept implements some twists from Breath of the Wild, as you might expect. That includes a focus on crafting and item collection, so you’ll be collecting thousands of bits and bobs here and there in the midst of slaughtering foes. You can take these items and complete mini-quests on the world map to improve your characters’ stats and obtain new combos. Naturally, you can upgrade your gear to ensure your slaughter is as efficient as possible.
All of this together sounds pretty good and, generally speaking, Age of Calamity lives up to that promise. Unfortunately, the game is let down somewhat by its incredibly poor technical performance. The Switch just isn’t up to handling this game as we’d like. During more crowded or action-packed moments, everything turns into a slideshow. Some characters even have control issues at this point, such as the timing-focused Urbosa, so it’s not just an annoyance from a graphical point of view. Age of Calamity runs so poorly that one suspects it heralds the release of more powerful hardware sometime down the line. A Switch Pro, perhaps?
If you can deal with graphical stutters, though, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an entirely enjoyable take on the Musou concept that follows the blueprint laid out by the original Hyrule Warriors. There’s plenty to do, tons of enemies to kill, loads of items to collect and secrets to find. While the poor performance is definitely a disappointment, it’s not enough to keep the game from an easy recommendation, especially for those Breath of the Wild fans who want more of the story. Grab your favorite Hyrule hero and get to slashing.