MetalFRO's Blog

Posted on Jan 8th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Hyrule Warriors, Age of Calamity, Legend of Zelda, Nintendo Switch, prequel, sequel

On October 20th, 2016, Nintendo revealed what was to be their next console. Known up to that point as the 'Nintendo NX' in gaming media circles, the Nintendo Switch was officially unveiled to the world. The very first game to be revealed was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not only had it been in development for some time, to be the final hurrah for Nintendo's flagging Wii U console, but was also to usher in their new console, as part of the launch line-up. As we know now, not only did the Switch change Nintendo's console fortunes around, after the market failure of the Wii U, but this latest entry in the storied franchise has also turned out to be the biggest selling game in the entire series. Nintendo revealed a direct sequel to the game in June of 2019, but in the interim, details were revealed about a forthcoming Hyrule Warriors game, focusing on the events leading up to The Great Calamity. On November 20, 2020, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was released.

Beginning on the Wii U, with the original Hyrule Warriors release, this is a melding of Nintendo's Zelda franchise, characters, locales, and story details, with game play straight out of Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors series of games. Now with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, Koei Tecmo takes the reigns to try and fill in the story gaps for the events leading up to The Great Calamity, beyond the fragments you get through Link's memories, and NPC character and story exposition in Breath of the Wild. The original Hyrule Warriors was a fun idea, taking familiar characters and settings, and creating a wild mash-up of various Zelda timelines, crossing over multiple games, story threads, and canons, to make something unique and interesting. Age of Calamity takes a completely different approach, trying to actually be part of the overall Great Calamity story, and given that Nintendo published it in Western territories, may be considered canon in this particular fork of the Zelda timeline.

Playing as Gerudo Champion Urbosa is one of the game's sublime pleasures.


I'm going to preface my opinions by making 2 key statements. First and foremost, this is only my 2nd "Muso" style game, the first being Fate Extella: The Umbral Star on Nintendo Switch, which came out in the months after the console's launch. I enjoyed it well enough, and felt like it was a good experience, despite a few qualms I had with the game. Second, I haven't finished this game yet, so at present, this write-up is based on around 8-10 hours of game play, and I don't know how much game I have yet to play, but judging by the map screen, I'm likely not halfway into the experience yet. With that out of the way, here's my take so far.

Right off the bat, I need to state that there's a huge contrast between the large, lonely, open world of Breath of the Wild, and the overall isolation the game uses to its advantage, to the very populated Hyrule that Age of Calamity brings to the table. Of course, this was going to be the case, as there would have been a lot more people in the world, prior to The Great Calamity, but it's worth making that distinction up front. Also, while it should go without saying, the combat in the game bears little resemblance to that of Breath of the Wild, save for a couple things Koei Tecmo tried to cross over, such as incorporating the Flurry Rush technique. Rather than each encounter having relatively high stakes, characters in this game feel mostly over-powered, able to mow down lots of enemies at one time, which is a standard in the other Warriors games, from what I understand. As you play, you earn various combos with which to dispatch your foes, though they're all pretty basic, with the Y button acting as a light attack, and X acting as a heavy attack, and utilizing a combination of light attacks, ending with a heavy attack (or two), to complete a combo, and deal the right amount of damage or area of effect. At first blush, the combat wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it would be. Part of that may be because these encounters feel far less impactful than those in Breath of the Wild. After a while, however, it started to click with me.

I like that there's a fair bit of story exposition in this game.

There are some things from Breath of the Wild that Age of Calamity tries to incorporate, to tie the games together a bit more directly. Among those are collecting various items while playing the game, such as random foods, monster parts, and weapons. Some of these items can be used to fulfill small "supply stops" on the map, which can help strengthen characters in game, by granting them an extra heart, or an additional move in a combo. These supply stops, along with small combat and training missions, can be found on the map, which mirrors that which you saw in Breath of the Wild, with obvious changes specific to the needs of this game. As you select missions in the game, you either transport there, as you would using the Shiekah Slate, or if it's a mission encompassing multiple characters, you all jump off the top of the ancient Shiekah tower, and paraglide to your destination, which is a nice touch. Completing certain side missions can also yield you fully cooked food, which you can eat before missions, to boost certain stats, as well as rupees you can use to buy items, and purchase weapon upgrades, along with paying for training to level characters up quickly, rather than fighting some missions over and over.

One of the story elements that is new, and is a bit of a focus, is a tiny Guardian robot, a diminutive version of the larger Guardian robots you fight in the ruined Hyrule. This little Guardian apparently traveled back in time to help warn Zelda and her cohorts about The Great Calamity in some capacity, though a tiny R2-D2 with beeps and whistles isn't going to convey much information. However, this little dude's presence gives all characters access to the runes on the Shiekah Slate, which means all characters you play as will have access to Remote Bombs, the Stasis ability (stop an enemy dead in its tracks for a few seconds), Cryonis (freezing enemies by creating a random block of ice from the ground), and Magnesis (magnetic power to grab enemy weapons and wield them against your foes) at any time. It changes the open function of those items in Breath of the Wild, and necessarily limits their functionality here, though the implementation works fairly well. Oh, and the tiny Guardian shows up as an icon on the map screen, from time to time, to point you to a suggested side mission, whether that's to gain the items you need to fulfill another supply stop, or guiding you to the blacksmith, to upgrade your weapons.

This little Guardian dude is kinda cute, unlike his much larger, more dangerous forebears.

I do have some issues I need to bring up. Because some of the areas you fight in are rather small, it means sometimes things get very cramped. Unfortunately, that means the camera in this game is quite broken, maddeningly so in some spots. Occasionally, you'll get stuck in a zoomed-in view of the action, and will need to find a way to move your character out of that space in order to reset the camera. Given screenshots and video I've seen of other Warriors games in the past, it seems like this formula works best for large, open arenas and areas. Since you're fighting in small towns and outposts here, trying to retake them from enemies, it often results in getting boxed in, and having no good control over the camera. Piggy-backing on that is camera control in general. Breath of the Wild offered a fairly robust camera view, which complemented its open world game play. That's obviously not the focus here, but the transition from that to this can be a bit jarring, particularly if you play them back to back, like I have.

In addition, some of the graphics look a little too "slick" to me. It's hard to explain, but the very unique art style that Nintendo chose for Breath of the Wild is one that I really like. Some of the textures appear to be toyed with a bit here and there in this game, to the point where sometimes, they feel a little over-exposed, or they don't quite mesh with the game world. It's not a huge issue, but it definitely took me out of the world a bit. Also, unfortunately, not all the voice actors made a return. Notably, the voice talents for Mipha and Daruk are not present here, so there's some continuity missing, particularly with Mipha's new voice actress being a lot more outwardly confident in her characterization, than in her original incarnation. Thankfully, Urbosa, Revali, and Zelda appear to all retain their original voice talent. I couldn't tell if King Rhoam was the same guy or not, as it's not perfectly clear. And Impa is obviously a different voice actress, since she's 100 years younger in this setting.

It's pretty awesome that you can play as Zelda in this game, with her commanding runes from the Shiekah Slate.

One thing to note about the story portions: some of these plot lines deviate from the flashback memories seen in the Breath of the Wild, as well as that game's Champion's Ballad DLC, which further fleshed out the origins of each champion being recruited to pilot their respective Divine Beast. Whether you see these things as a negative or a positive will probably be up to personal taste. I enjoy some of the alternate takes here, particularly in light of how they work in the group dynamic the game is going for, but at the same time, they feel a bit unnecessary, and even tacked on, just to flesh out the plot more, and give a different take on the origins of the champions. I prefer the original versions of these story beats, but these aren't bad. Your mileage may vary, depending on how strongly you feel about the original versions. Oh, and speaking of the Divine Beasts, it's kinda cool getting to pilot those, and take out hordes of enemies with the different attack types each Divine Beast can wield, though the controls for those can bet a bit wonky as well, with a combination of right thumb stick and motion control. It's not as intuitive as that combination in Breath of the Wild, and you may find yourself fighting with the controls a bit, as you wrestle between when it makes sense to use motion, and when to use the thumbstick, or when you can't do the latter at all. It brings down that experience a bit, which is a shame, because it should be a big highlight, given how much focus is on the Divine Beasts in the original game.

One thing I do have to complement is the music. While I'm a huge fan of the Breath of the Wild soundtrack, and love it to pieces, I get that it wouldn't make sense to just copy that soundtrack whole-cloth, and bring it over to this game. I appreciate the new takes on some of those pieces, with altered approaches, or slightly different motifs to complement the original melodies. Some of the music will be instantly recognizable to fans, and you'll be smiling as this reworked version plays, and other tracks weave a bit of their own identity, while still feeling close enough to the original music to make sense. There are a couple moments where the music doesn't quite fit in with the Zelda world, but generally speaking, it all works well here. Kudos to the team for breathing new life into some of the songs, and being respectful of the material, while also bringing something new to the table with a similar feel.

Yes, everyone's favorite walking tree, Hestu, is in this game.

When I first booted this game up, I was excited to get some new story beats, and jump into the action. After a couple missions, I was a bit underwhelmed with the combat, and felt the lousy camera really hampered my enjoyment of the game. After playing a few more missions, my initial disappointment was softened somewhat, by getting a better handle on this game's approach, understanding that it was going to be a very different experience than Breath of the Wild, which has become my favorite video game of all time. I'm trying to take this game on its own terms, rather than expecting it to reach the lofty heights of its predecessor. At this point, having unlocked many of the playable characters, and played a number of missions, I can say I'm enjoying my time with it. It's not the sequel I'm pining for, but for now, it will do as a fun stop-gap, to fill in a few story holes, and give me a little more context to the overall world of Hyrule. I'm definitely going to finish the game, and try to play each mission, though I don't know if I see myself coming back to this game over and over again, like I have with the original. Still, for fans of Link and Zelda's adventures, looking for a more action-oriented take on things, I'd say this is a solid experience.

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