I’ve played a lot of Warriors games over the years; Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi, One Piece Pirate Warriors – I could go on. But Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity might just turn out to be the best of them all.
Set for launch exclusively on Nintendo Switch on 20th November, I’ve been hands-on with the first two chapters of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. In that time I feel like I’ve travelled everywhere; from the grassy Hyrule Field to the sandy dunes of Gerudo, and even up Death Mountain. It already feels like I’ve had a grand adventure, and I’m only just getting started.
For those not in the know, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is actually a prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, hands-down one of the best games available on the Nintendo Switch. And while its gameplay is dramatically different, it has the same wonderful visual style and comparably rousing score. Being a prequel, you don’t need to have played Breath of the Wild to appreciate it, though it does help. Either way, it looks like it’s set to tell a epic tale in which the heroes of Hyrule stand against a dastardly evil that threatens to destroy it.
Those said heroes include Link, of course, as well as Zelda and a handful of characters that Breath of the Wild fans will already be familiar with. Daruk, Revali, Mipha, Urbosa and Impa eventually all stand by your side, each offering their own flavour in combat. And there are bound to be more as I venture beyond the game’s second chapter. Rather handily you can take up to three characters into battle, and can instantly switch between them with the d-pad, or issue them commands to take control of the battlefield.
The gameplay itself is your typical Warriors affair; you move around the battlefield completing objectives, and along the way there are hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies to defeat. No matter which character you choose, you have access to simple standard and strong attacks, which can be mixed to perform combos, and when a meter is charged you can perform a flashy screen-clearing special attack. On the defensive side, guarding lets you nullify most enemy attacks, but when taking on formidable foes it pays to dodge their blows at the last minute. Get it right and time will slow down, allowing you to follow up with a powerful flurry rush.
One of the benefits of performing flurry rushes, aside from doing a considerable amount of damage to an enemy, is that it quickly wears down their defences. While small fry are easily taken down with basic combos and attacks, bigger enemies that you can lock onto have armour gauges. Break it down and a prompt will appear to perform a weak spot attack, which does huge damage. There are more tricks up Link and co.’s sleeves when it comes to dispatching your adversaries, too.
Each character has their own unique skill, for example. Link can whip out a bow at any time, take aim, and then release a bevy of long range shots. Urbosa, on the other hand, can charge up lightning, then release it on her enemies. Rune powers are available to all characters, too, allowing them to freeze enemies in time, create ice blocks and more. These rune powers are particularly useful when fighting bosses, as they can be used to counter their most powerful attacks. And to round things off, numerous elemental rods can be acquired to cast spells.
Between the battles, an expansive map lays out all your options before you jump into the next. If chapter two is anything to go by, you’re given some leeway as to what order you complete some story missions, and there are plenty of side-missions you can also jump into if you wish to power up your characters and gain useful items and materials. Dotted around the map are an ever-increasing number of requests, too, which you can fulfil if you have the required resources. Doing so will reward you with useful things such as recipes, allowing you to boost certain parameters in battle, and even open up new services such as a blacksmith. It’s there you’ll be able to sell any surplus weapons you’ve acquired, or fuse them to make them stronger. And in case you’re wondering – no, weapons don’t break in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
One of the high-points of my time spent with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity so far has been piloting Divine Beast Vah Rudania. Anyone that has played Breath of the Wild will know how gargantuan the Divine Beasts are, so taking control of them is an exhilarating experience. I steadily made my way around an admittedly linear map, bombarding my enemies with balls of magma, trampling on them, and unleashing a powerful beam when things got a little too hairy. It makes for a nice change of pace, and also gives you a taste of their immense power. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to taking control of more.
Whether you’re a fan of Warriors games or The Legend of Zelda, you’d be wise to keep Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity on your radar. And if you’re a fan of both, I’d be getting very excited indeed. From the few hours I’ve already played of it, I get the feeling that it’s going to be something special. It’s kept me engaged more than any other Warriors game I’ve ever played, that’s for sure; its gameplay just feels that much deeper. And with a grand story to follow, this might just be the action game to play into the wee hours while wrapped in a warm blanket this winter.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity launches on Nintendo Switch on 20th November 2020.