When Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was first announced, I was a little skeptical. I loved Breath of the Wild, even if it wasn't my favorite Legend of Zelda game. A prequel sounded cool -but musou games are a mixed bag. I'd never played the first Hyrule Warriors game, even though Geek to Geek's Troytlepower adored it (read about that right here). Most other Dynasty Warriors-like games have been a miss for me. So would Age of Calamity be any different?
The answer is yes…and no. While I still much prefer the musou-like games of Dragon Quest Heroes 1 and 2, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is still pretty great. It's also familiar in both the best and worst ways possible.
Age Of Calamity's Story & Characters Are… Fine. They're Fine.
Breath of the Wild was great, and I liked that we finally got a Zelda game more focused on character development and story. But by a lot of fantasy game standards, BotW‘s story was still a little underdeveloped. I thought maybe Age of Calamity would be different. After all, it promised a chance to get to know the Divine Champions before their downfall.
It was a promising concept that doesn't quite deliver in Age of Calamity. Without revealing too much about story, let's just say that most characters still feel underdeveloped – even though they're actually alive this time around. It feels like a wasted opportunity for sure, but maybe that's because Age of Calamity's focus is on combat – and not story.
Age Of Calamity Is All About That Combat
Yeah, I'm a bit disappointed that the story of Age of Calamity isn't better than it is. And I'm equally disappointed that the characters still feel underdeveloped. But the combat is the priority here. Link, Zelda, Impa, and a host of other (and surprise) characters take on hoards of bokoblins and other famous Zelda enemies by the droves.
The combat can get a little tedious, especially if you don't just ADORE musou games like Hyrule Warriors. However, there's something thrilling about taking down a hundred enemies with a ladle (yes, Breath of the Wild's wackier weapons are still very much included). The tediousness of battle has some interludes – cooking, exploration, and even treasure hunting – so there's other things to do besides fight.
There's even battles from inside of Divine Beasts. It's a little clunky (it kind of reminded me of rolling around as Starkiller Base and destroying planets at the end of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens), but it's also extremely satisfying. It's one of the many surprises Age of Calamity has in store for its players.
The Breath Of The Wild Connections Are Thicker Than Daruk
If you loved Breath of the Wild, you'll probably love Age of Calamity. The Sheikah Slate is back and better than ever, allowing Link and others to use its many powers to kick butt. Koroks are also back, although I hope finding them all results in something better than the Golden Poo in BotW. You'll also find plenty of recognizable locales – albeit BEFORE being turned to ruins by Calamity Ganon.
It's great seeing younger versions of characters like Impa (there are others, which I won't spoil here). Although, it's a little strange that everyone is either killed by Calamity Ganon, frozen in time until the events of Breath of the Wild, or somehow manages to be alive and thriving 100 years later. But whatever – fan service is fan service, and fans will love it.
Age Of Calamity Has A Zelda Problem
The Legend of Zelda has had a bit of a Princess Zelda problem, especially lately. The series just can't move past the whole “powerless princess” schtick, and it's a real shame. Even in Age of Calamity, when Zelda is taking down bokoblins by the dozens, the game's cutscenes focus on how powerless and weak she is.
Like, WTF, Nintendo? I was just using Zelda to mow down moblins with my Sheikah Slate and now you're telling me Zelda has to be escorted in the next mission because she doesn't know how to fight? Yes, this really happens in the game. Yes, it doesn't make any sense. And, yes, it's a weird example of the many ways Nintendo doesn't understand how to handle Zelda as a character.
It also proves why we'll probably never get a playable Zelda in a mainline (i.e. non-musou) Legend of Zelda game. It's a glaring flaw in both the character and the gameplay mechanics. The game spends countless cutscenes telling me Zelda can't fight, but between those cutscenes I'm using Zelda to…um…fight. And there's never any explanation for this, which makes it both awkward and stupid.
Age Of Calamity Might Divide Fans
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FOR AGE OF CALAMITY FOLLOW
I saved this part for last, because it's got some spoilers. So, if you don't want spoilers, just end this post early or scroll down about two paragraphs to avoid it. All right, you've been warned. Let's jump in!
The plot of Age of Calamity is all about time travel. Our BB-8-with-spider-legs Guardian travels back in time to try to prevent the events of Breath of the Wild. No specific spoilers or anything, but the ending essentially creates ANOTHER Zelda timeline. Do we really need another timeline? Answer: No, we do not.
The story and timelines of The Legend of Zelda have always been convoluted, and we didn't really need another one to keep track of. Even Nintendo's official timeline makes no damn sense. I'm not sure (but suspect) this is due to set ups for Breath of the Wild‘s sequel. Maybe once that game arrives, we'll see how well Age of Calamity‘s time-travel tropes fare. Either way, I suspect fans will be divided on both what it means (and whether or not it's well-done).
I mostly enjoyed the time I've spent with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, although I didn't love it as much as I expected to. The flaws in the game are mostly flaws with the series itself, and Breath of the Wild fans should love this musou prequel. Since the game is considered canon, it'll be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
Geek to Geek Rating: 3.5/5
An early review code of this game was provided to the author.