Impressions: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Demo

A Dynasty Warriors-meets-Zelda gameplay experience seamlessly woven into the world of Breath of the Wild.

By Angela Marrujo Fornaca. Posted 11/10/2020 01:12 Comment on this     ShareThis

Dynasty Warriors gameplay and the Zelda universe go surprisingly well together, as I found out back in 2014 when I played Hyrule WarriorsThe Zelda series is no hack-and-slash franchise by any means, but Link’s melee style of fighting is perfect for letting loose on hoards of Moblins, Lizalfos, and the like. I had a lot of fun running around maps and unleashing insane combos on wave after wave of enemies, and especially because the Hyrule Warriors character roster was so large, encompassing friends and foes from games across the franchise’s history, all of whom are NPCs in their respective games and had never been playable prior to Hyrule Warriors. This meant that Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force and Team Ninja had to develop, from scratch, fighting styles and move sets for characters like Impa, Darunia, Ruto, and so many others that Link has only ever engaged with via dialogue and in cutscenes, but that the player has never taken control of. And in my opinion, I think the development team did a fantastic job.

Omega Force and Team Ninja are back again this year with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the second installment in the Hyrule Warriors franchise (not counting the 3DS and Switch ports of Hyrule Warriors). This entry is a prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and focuses on the events of the Great Calamity, Hyrule’s great war 100 years prior to BotW against Calamity Ganon, which ultimately led to the collapse of the kingdom. A demo is currently available for download in the Switch eShop, so I sat down with it to get some first impressions of the upcoming game.

Age of Calamity opens to a scene of Link and Zelda fighting Guardians during the Great Calamity, Zelda’s power finally awakened and the kingdom under assault around them. Within a room in Hyrule Castle, a box on a high shelf falls to the ground, and a mini Guardian rolls out of it, with a personality and sounds that are reminiscent of BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Zelda’s power brings it to life, though it is unclear whether this is intentional or unintentional on her part. It jumps to a window ledge, taking in the horrifying scene of the castle town being decimated, the world around it in flames. Seemingly connected to Zelda, the mini Guardian hears her exclaim that she must protect everyone; with a nod of agreement, it creates a portal. A Guardian begins to attack the tower the mini Guardian is in, and aims its laser at the mini Guardian, which barely avoids the attack and gets launched into the portal.

In the next scene, King Rhoam is addressing the knights of Hyrule, among whom Link stands at attention; Calamity Ganon’s minions have begun to swarm across the land, and while the Hylians have unearthed and studied the Divine Beasts, Rhoam warns that they will not be enough to stop the impending armies of beasts coming to the castle. Your first task is to take out the monsters flooding Hyrule Field.

Age of Calamity plays very much like its predecessor, but at the same time doesn’t thanks to BotW-inspired mechanics that set it apart from the first game. The premise is the same: in each level, fight swarms of base enemies like Bokoblins or Lizalfos, encounter stronger enemies that appear mid-way through levels, like Wizzrobes, and aim to complete an overall goal or fight a strong boss. Link’s moveset starts off with some basics, like smashing Y for quick attacks and holding X for strong attacks, dashing by holding down B while moving forward, backflipping by pressing B while standing, dodging by inputting a direction + B. But just as in BotW, Link can use Runes in combat by holding down R and inputting one of four directions to use the Rune of the player’s choosing.

Using Stasis on enemies that like to do a charged up spin attack will stop them in their tracks; the Remote Bomb will have Link throwing a few bombs at a time while the player aims his throws; Magnesis takes weapons out of enemies’ hands; and Cryonis, when used while standing in bodies of water, will create pillars of ice that damage enemies around the player, and from which Link can jump off using his paraglider. While paragliding, Link can do a downward stab into the ground, causing damage to enemies immediately around him. The symbols for Runes will appear over enemies at times, to indicate that the player should use that Rune right away to cause damaging status effects. For example, throwing Remote Bombs at Wizzrobes at the right time will cause their weak-point gauge to appear, and the player should bash away to empty that gauge. Doing so will open the enemy up to a devastating strike with the X button.

Players can unleash strong attacks with A, once a meter in the upper left-hand corner is completely full (it fills simply by attacking enemies). ZR also lets players do a special move — Link’s lets out a volley of arrows, though I found this move to be really awkward and difficult to aim, particularly when trying to aim for specific targets in the distance, like explosive barrels.

Both Impa and Zelda become playable during the demo, each with her own distinct battle style. Impa has very ninja-like moves, and she can create copies of herself to help take out groups of enemies quickly. Zelda relies on the Sheikah Slate, using all four Runes to attack enemies. In all honesty, I hardly used Impa or Zelda during the demo; I prefer Link as a character and his fighting style suits my personality best, but I also just flat out didn’t care for the way Impa and Zelda handled. Impa was much more enjoyable to fight with than Zelda, who felt slow and more technical, but Impa had some confusing mechanics, including the Seals mechanic that she uses to create clones of herself (using ZR). Once a character is unlocked, the player can switch freely between characters in battle.

Once the overworld map opens to the player after completing the first level, you’re introduced to what will be the method of progression moving forward: the map is split up into multiple quadrants, with different missions available to select in each area. More missions open up as the player completes others, and each of your playable characters levels up with experience. Players earn weapons at the end of each stage, and they can be combined and leveled up at the blacksmith in the overworld. This game introduces a feature where Link, Zelda, and Impa can help Hylians in need across the land; click on an icon that appears to be one of the three characters’ faces and a dialog box will open describing the predicament of a local. With the right mix of item drops collected in battle (monster parts, fruits and vegetables, ore, etc.), Link, Zelda, or Impa can help that person, which unlocks good things for the player like an increase in hearts, new combos in battle, and more.

Couch co-op in this game is pretty fun. The split-screen is horizontal across the screen, which isn’t the best, but it works. Taking on enemies together, especially tough ones like Guardians, feels easier when you’re doing it as a team, but the fights still present a challenge without making you and your teammate feel too OP.

Age of Calamity tries its hand at voice acting in a Zelda game once again, and once again delivers mixed results. I didn’t hate Zelda’s voice actress in BotW, which I know was a point of contention for many players, and the same actress returns this time around to voice Zelda again. But Impa’s voice is just awful and completely doesn’t match the setting. She sounds too perky and modern, compared to the English accents of Zelda and the game’s narrator, and King Rhoam’s stately voice. Characters from BotW make appearances in Age of Calamity, including Robbie and Purah, but they’re 100 years younger and also suffer from the “let’s make them youthful and perky” trope. Robbie’s voice actor is arguably worse than Purah’s, but neither are great. Graphically speaking, however, Age of Calamity is beautiful and looks exactly like BotW, and only once did I experience any graphical slowdown due to the sheer number of characters on screen at one time (not even during co-op).

While I wasn’t super thrilled with the idea of Age of Calamity when it was announced because I’m really over BotW and wasn’t a huge fan of the game overall, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was a really solid, fun, entertaining experience in the demo. Omega Force and Team Ninja did a really impressive job of making this game feel like it really is set in the BotW universe; while the demo provides only a very small snippet of the story, I get the sense it’s going to be more fleshed out than the story that was written for Hyrule Warriors and will help clearly explain the events of the Great Calamity prior to the events of BotW. I’m looking forward to playing this game in-full when it releases on November 20.

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