If you’re anything like me, then The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bewitched you the moment you laid eyes on it. As I’ve stated in a previous article, it was the game that gave me enough confidence to enjoy Zelda games when I didn’t think I could, and it was accessible enough to let me see it through to the end.
I squealed with excitement at Nintendo’s announcement of a follow-up, and like many, I’m hoping that the events follow those of the first game. I was incredibly surprised when I learned that another game set in the Breath of the Wild universe was coming, and even more surprised to find out that it was set 100 years before the 2017 game. However, this game was not an ordinary Zelda game, nor was it developed by Nintendo. It was a game that belonged to the Warriors, or “Musou” franchise, and would be developed by Koei Tecmo. Nintendo properties had made their way into Warriors games before, with Fire Emblem: Warriors and Hyrule Warriors earning much praise from fans of all three franchises. I have not played either, but I have heard that the Fire Emblem and Zelda Warriors games are great, even for those who are not enamoured with the repetitive formula of Musou games.
Having played Breath of the Wild, the story for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has already sort of spoiled itself. It takes place 100 years before Breath of the Wild, so you already know how the story ends: Ganon takes control of the Guardians and Divine Beasts, the Champions chosen by Princess Zelda are defeated, and Hyrule falls into ruin. Of course, the demo isn’t the whole game, but unless there’s a huge twist, I’m not counting on a surprising story.
We see in the opening cutscenes that a small, egg-shaped variation of a Guardian who is truly too cute for words has travelled back in time and encounters Link and a much younger Impa as they face some monsters. The baby Guardian saves them, and accompanies them on their journey.
Link, Zelda and Impa bring the precious Egg Baby to some more familiar characters, Robbie and Purah (Who is.. older? Younger? Players of Breath of the Wild will know what I mean), Sheikah researchers who wish to uncover the secrets of the baby Guardian. It is interesting to see Impa’s personality show in her younger self, and to watch Zelda and Link interact, given their history in Breath of the Wild’s memory cutscenes. I wonder if their relationship will develop in this game, or whether Nintendo has chosen to keep that for the sequel.
While playing this game, it wasn’t hard to completely forget that this wasn’t just Breath of the Wild with a new combat system. The art style, colour schemes and character models have been all but lifted from the 2017 game, and seeing Hyrule like this is a new light is refreshing. Everything from the blades of grass, to the enemies’ bumbling walk, to Link’s beautiful sideburns are perfectly styled and animated. It is also pretty sweet to be able to see more of Princess Zelda and hear her voice, as she was more of a faraway background character in the last game. I don’t have a single complaint about how this game looks, and it sounds just as good.
This is where things get interesting. Musou/Warriors games usually follow the formula of, “beat all of the enemies within this space and then move onto the next space”. Age of Calamity is no different, with the spaces being large fields or smaller outposts. Oftentimes, there is a larger enemy, such as a Moblin, that you can lock onto and fight. The baby Guardian grants you the ability to use different Sheikah Slate runes, the same ones as in Breath of the Wild: Magnesis, Cryonis, Stasis and Bombs. There are light and heavy attacks, with each character being able to enact combos. As you fight, your special meter raises, allowing you to unleash a special that can weaken larger foes’ defenses.
The demo allows you to play as Link, Impa and Zelda, with each of them having different playstyles. Personally, I enjoy Impa’s gameplay the best. As you move throughout missions and defeat enemies, you collect parts and rupees, just like in Breath of the Wild. This loot can be used to unlock special bonuses through quests on the map, and can result in an extra heart for one character, or increased combos in another. Weapons can also be won and collected, and may be fused with each other to form stronger weapons with special abilities, such as increased damage at full health. I like these RPG elements, and the sense of progression they elicit.
Overall, I’m having a blast with this game. I like being able to level up characters and weapons, and having a variety of playstyles to master. The familiar art style is comforting, and the new ways to send Link and co. into combat is an amazing alternate perspective on Hyrule. Even though I believe I know how the story will go, seeing Hyrule the way it was before the Calamity came is something I always wanted to do. I can’t wait to explore the enormous map and find out what ruins in Breath of the Wild looked like 100 years before. Despite the game mostly consisting of hacking up hundreds of enemies, the objectives given to you keep the game fresh. Not often does a demo make me this sure that I want a game, but this one definitely did that.
VERDICT – “Loved It”
Rating scale for games, from best to worst:
- Loved it
- Liked it
- I mean… it’s aight
- Just… don’t.
- Certified trash, burn immediately