Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
By: Roberto Nieves
Developed by: Omega Force, Koei Tecmo Games
Published by: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
The biggest risk is not taking one, and in the video game world, sticking to what is tried and true is oftentimes for the best. Risks could mean alienation from players or separation from an established title. One recent example was the outrage of Metroid Prime: Federation Force on the Nintendo 3DS, which drew the ire of the most loyal fans of the Metroid base. Regrettably, this rage discourages any attempt at breaking grounds into new territory and what could be new and breathtaking becomes mundane and uninspired.
In the case of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the game was a solid, strong first-person shooter, with an emphasis on combat and co-op play. Alas, that rage would forever seal the fate of the franchise. It's important to take risks, and games such as Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity are examples of risk-taking done right.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity takes place 100 years before the events of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Calamity Ganon has decimated Hyrule, and the darkness has snuffed out all life. In one desperate act of fleeting hope, small Guardian ventures into the past to warn the Hyrule Monarchy of the impending threat. A young Link answers the call, along with Princess Zelda and the warrior, Impa. Together, they set across a mammoth adventure to assemble the Champions of the land and summon the mystical weapons known as the Divine Beasts.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a "Musou" title, which is Japanese for action. Musou games follow the distinctive trait of having over-the-top action spectacle, set against a large, fluid battlefield, where objectives change at a moment's notice. Recent examples include the Dynasty Warriors franchise, including Fate/EXTELLA LINK and Berserk and The Band of The Hawk. Musou games typically feature absurd attack patterns. One basic attack can hurt and slay dozens of enemies at once. For Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, players are thrust onto the battlefields of Hyrule, fighting many hundreds of enemies at once.
Each character in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is distinct in their abilities. As a knight, Link has the basic attacks of using his sword and shield to fight enemies. Players progress through the story, unlocking more characters and their unique fighting styles. Mipha uses her water powers and trident to strike foes, and Rivoli uses his flight abilities to strike from above. Each character has their own set of attacks but are woven together to form several other attacks.
In combat, players access shrine powers. These powers are key to defeating enemies and gaining the upper hand. The blue shrine power throws an explosive water bomb that can destroy large groups f enemies, but each character uses it differently. Princess Zelda can tap into the element, but Zelda employs a remote drone that disperses the power and can be controlled by the player. Likewise, Zelda lobs each bomb individually. Once used, the Sheikha tablet refuels until it is ready again. Additionally, each character can use elemental powers, such as fire and electricity, though ammunition must be procured in the field.
On certain levels, players gain access to a Divine Beast, a giant weaponized fortress designed for destruction. These moments break the monotony and repetition associated with Musou games by putting players behind the seat of a giant, hulking fortress.
Between battles, activities and sub-missions are made available. The activities focus on helping a citizen of Hyrule, and their problems can be solved if you have the right amount of materials which are collected from battlefields. Sub missions give players the chance to learn new moves and level up. These missions are smaller and quicker than the main campaign missions but are important to gather new movesets.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is large, epic, and grand in scale. The gameplay is exceptional and truly opens Nintendo players and Zelda loyalists into another chapter of grand action. Every battle feels incredible, with frenzied but controlled chaos. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity uses the same cel-shaded visuals from Breath of the WIld, making each moment visually explode onscreen.
It's a distinct experience, having a tremendous amount of action and a different visual style, but it works tremendously and, despite the action, still feels like a Legend of Zelda experience. It a different take from the adventuring of previous titles but a welcome change and exploration of Zelda's lore and mythos. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity works extremely well in its action and gameplay, and it exceptional for both fans of Zelda and newcomers alike.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is, regrettably, held back by one flaw, and that is technical performance. At times, when the action becomes incredibly intense, the game chugs into the lower framerates. This becomes a significant distraction that momentarily breaks the immersion in the experience. This is, by no means, a broken feature, on par with the myriad of problems plaguing the XIII remake at the moment. I'm certain that there will be patches that help fix these issues, including improving the framerate and loading times.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an unexpected surprise for what has been a whirlwind of a time in culture and gaming history. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity features an excellent degree of action-infused gameplay that is perfect for anyone, even new beginners to the genre, while also providing an incredibly enjoyable time for action experts.
For Zelda fans, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a fantastic way to explore more of the myth behind Breath of The Wild. It is also a great place for those unfamiliar with the original story to start. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity breaks the barrier of putting Musou games into the front and center of the gaming marketplace, and therefore, raises awareness of other such games in the genre.
With the release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the Musou genre has been given a huge boost, and hopefully, many will see more games like it, such as Attack on Titan 2. Whether this is the first time venturing into Hyrule or a familiar adventure, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an excellent action game worthy of anyone with a Nintendo Switch.
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