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Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity walks the line between being a prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and being a user-friendly, hack and slash game. It accomplishes this by setting you up against seemingly countless enemies that pose no real threat (for the most part), while delivering a story that any Zelda fan will feel compelled to invest in.
This review won't go into a lot of detail about the gameplay mechanics as they were covered extensively in our preview, but those familiar with Koei Tecmo's previous Musou-style games - as popularised by Dynasty Warriors, and including the first Hyrule Warriors - will be familiar with the hectic combat Age of Calamity has in store. There are some grander additions, such as piloting the four Divine Beasts from Breath of the Wild, and a fluid system for changing between your party members in the heat of battle. Basically, Age of Calamity is no slouch in the gameplay department.
That's not to say it's incredible. As delightful as Age of Calamity can be, it can get a bit dull at times. Just mindlessly eliminating waves of evildoers, especially on the game's longer levels, has a tediousness to it. There are some challenging moments throughout the campaign and they do feel great, but they're in low supply. On the whole, it's still a lot of fun, just not a game you'll likely want to play all day.
What will really keep you hooked is the story, and Age of Calamity nails this. The epic yarn doesn't just bring together Link, Zelda and Impa - a trio that will be no surprise to any fan of the main series - but also the four champions from Breath of the Wild. All seven of these characters are playable, and each one has their own distinct playstyle. Revali flies about levels, raining down arrows on the unfortunate enemies below, while Mipha wields water as a deadly weapon.
Characters control similarly, so getting to grips with a new face is easy enough, and they're all capable of using the Sheikah Slate's powers. These abilities - stasis, cryonis, magnesis and remote bombs - are as fun as they are useful. Also, all characters are able to wield fire, ice and electric attacks, which are gained by beating enemies like Wizzrobes. Again, this makes each character feel familiar even if you've just unlocked them.
Back to the story, and while I won't spoil any of it for you, what I can say is Age of Calamity sure does have some feels. Those familiar with the backstory of Breath of the Wild will have an idea what I'm talking about, but otherwise I'll just say this: seeing our heroes battling against overwhelming odds is hard to take. There are moments where their turmoil hits home, and those hits hurt.
I've always wanted a Zelda game where we see the forces of evil in full swing, unhindered by tiny dungeon chambers and a lack of processing power. A game where the sheer scale of what's against you is fully on show, and Age of Calamity is the closest I've ever come to getting that. In this respect, I can't praise Nintendo and Koei Tecmo enough.
The problem is, the type of game Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is waters down this immensity. It's jarring to see enemies, who are billed as lethal and intimidating, get their asses handed to them in a single combo, even when you play on a harder difficulty. Like I say, that's the territory when dealing with this genre of hack and slash games, so maybe this story should have been saved for a traditional Zelda title?
I stress again that Age of Calamity is a lot of fun, and I encourage any Zelda fan to play it. It can be a nice change of pace from the sometimes more gruelling experience of playing through a traditional Zelda game. Its direct approach is the perfect remedy to some of the drawn-out quests the mainline series has served up in the past (I'm looking at you and your stupid Triforce Pieces Fetch Quest, Wind Waker!), and its arcadey feel makes it perfect for shorter play sessions.
While it isn't perfect, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity proves its value by serving up one of the most epic tales Princess Zelda has ever starred in. There's a magic within this game's story, reminiscent of Ocarina of Time, and that's something to cherish. The relatively simplistic gameplay may detract from the overall impression, but that won't stop me playing it again.
Pros: Feels like Zelda, epic story, easy to pick up
Cons: Gameplay can feel tedious after a while, not as challenging as it could be
For fans of: Hyrule Warriors, Dynasty Warriors, The Legend of Zelda
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was played on Nintendo Switch with code provided by Nintendo. The game releases for Nintendo Switch on November 20th, and there's a demo playable now, progress on which carries into the full game. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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