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Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Breath of the Wild merger makes Hyrule Warriors one of the best games in style

Contrary to what many believe, style games Warriors offer much more than just the opportunity to defeat 1,000 soldiers per game. The strategic nature of the genre is revealed at the highest difficulty levels, forcing players to think about things like territory maintenance and unit placement.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity it goes further than that.

In his second venture involving the series Zelda, the studio Omega Force coupled the visuals and many mechanics of Breath of the Wild to the classic Warriors formula, creating a deeper and more immersive experience than many of his previous projects. And the game also takes advantage of the story of Breath of the Wild, although … well, we’ll talk about the story shortly.

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Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Disclosure / Nintendo

Despite sharing a name with the original Hyrule Warriors, Age of Calamity is much closer to Breath of the Wild than the game of 2014 – the one that was a Warriors game in the most traditional ways.

Threatened by an evil force known as Calamity Ganon, Hyrule depends on Princess Zelda and her loyal knight Link not to succumb to chaos. The two set out on a journey of knowledge across the kingdom, trying to find a way to prevent calamity while collecting new allies. On their way, however, they are forced to deal with armies of monsters and other opponents who yearn for Ganon’s rise.

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As in any Warriors game, the Age of Calamity levels take place on large open maps divided into conquerable territories and filled with hundreds of weak enemies and a few dozen formidable opponents. The game’s differential is the way the battles against the creatures of this second group take place: Link and his allies have, in addition to basic combos and one or another special attack of their own, access to the powers granted by the Sheikah Slate – a kind of ancient tablet that it is also very important in Breath of the Wild.

Depending on your opponent’s behavior, you can take advantage of these powers to paralyze and counterattack. If the enemy starts running at you, for example, it is possible to use Cryonis to create a block of ice against which it will crash, becoming stunned. Magnesis, on the other hand, can throw a metallic weapon back at whoever fired it – and so on. Once the enemy is off guard, you can attack them to finish off your protection meter and then make a powerful attack on a weak spot.

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The merger between Warriors and these Breath of the Wild mechanics has made combat a much more satisfying experience. Instead of trying to trap opponents in endless combos, you must watch their movements to find windows of opportunity. Also like in Breath of the Wild, dodging a last-minute charge slows down time and allows you to activate Flurry Rush – a sequence of powerful attacks. Using a shield to block an attack at the right time also creates a similar situation.

Clashes against more powerful enemies throughout the levels benefit a lot from the mechanics, but the ones who really shine in Age of Calamity are the bosses. With complex attack patterns and their own strategies, they wouldn’t do badly in a traditional action RPG – something that surprises, considering that bosses tend to be the weakest points of even the best Warriors games.

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Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Disclosure / Nintendo

But it’s not just the action that Age of Calamity relies on in the rich tradition of Breath of the Wild.

The diversity of scenarios and playable characters can be traced back to the 2017 game, just like the creativity of the brilliant soundtrack, which combines the most restrained notes from the Breath of the Wild ambient track with classic themes from the Zelda franchise. References are everywhere: Koroks can be found hidden by the scenarios, and the Warriors’ traditional character and weapon progression systems, which would normally be accessed by mere menus, are displayed here on the Hyrule map as if they were side-quests to fulfilled by Link and company.

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It is something that a fan of Zelda probably already anticipates at this point, but it is worth mentioning: even though it is a game with a completely different operation, Age of Calamity is the perfect game to dampen the anxiety for the Breath of the Wild sequel.

Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Disclosure / Nintendo

The recommendation tone is generalized up to this point, but it is not without reservations. The main one is in relation to the technical part: the Switch suffers a lot to run the game, which in the first phase already has difficulties in maintaining the rate of 30 frames per second. The performance drops are so common that the player ends up getting used to it after a few hours, and make one wonder if the title was not designed with a more powerful version of the hardware in mind.

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Fortunately, Age of Calamity is not one of those games that play badly simply because it is poorly programmed: the scenarios are always full of enemies and details, and even visual elements that could have been reduced, but were not to maintain the atmosphere similar to Breath. of the Wild, like the tall flammable grass of Hyrule Field or torrential rain in the Lanayru region.

The other problem is a little more serious, but requires some discretion: it is possible that certain people consider the following paragraph to be a spoiler.

The Age of Calamity narrative is not the one that the game’s marketing campaign wants you to believe the game has. Without going into more detail, but being suggestive enough for good connoisseurs to understand: “the Age of Calamity game is the only way to know first hand what happened 100 years ago ”This is a phrase taken from the game’s official website. And this phrase is not representative of the final experience.

What exists in Age of Calamity in terms of history ended up satisfying me a lot, especially in the final chapters. It’s a plot full of exciting moments and exciting cutscenes involving characters I love. But it is impossible to deny that the difference between what was promised and reality left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Disclosure / Nintendo

But the result is undeniably positive. Among the dozens of Warriors games I’ve played, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is my new favorite.

The game combines elements from many of the best games in the style – the diversity of characters from Pirate Warriors 4, the interesting progression systems from Dragon Quest Heroes II and the exorbitant amount of challenges from Warriors Orochi 4 – with mechanics from Breath of the Wild, and does it all in a natural and very cohesive way.

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It may not be the Zelda game we expected to end 2020, but anyone who prefers to see the glass half full will treat it as a pleasant surprise.

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