BENJAMIN TYTELL/SAGAMORE STAFF
I’ll start off by saying that the reason this is being published several weeks after the game came out is because I was too busy playing it to actually sit down and write this review.
“Hyrule Warriors, Age of Calamity” (AoC), is a Warriors-style or “crowd-combat fighting” game that was released on the Nintendo Switch Nov. 20, 2020. It takes place in a new timeline but in the same general world as 2017 Game of the Year, “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” (BotW) one hundred years before the hero, Link’s quest in that game. AoC blew me away with its attention to detail and the amount of love and respect it shows to its source material. It doesn’t just survive the transition into a new style of game, it also demonstrates what made BotW so great without sacrificing any fun.
There really isn’t a better way to put this than this: if you loved BotW, you will love this game too. Nearly everything I thought possible and more got carried over, making the whole thing feel like one giant easter egg.
AoC (no relation to the Bronx’s progressive representative) takes the “just throw it all in there” approach, where there is so much content that everybody will find something that they love about it and most will find a lot they love about it.
If you liked the map and the worldbuilding of BotW, then there are hundreds of material quests that each give the world of Hyrule a little more spice. If you liked the characters, then you get to see them for literal hours of fully-voiced cutscenery, and that’s not even including the personalized, written-out dialogue that takes place alongside the scenes and changes depending on which characters you chose to bring to battle.
Oh yeah, character selection. I don’t think I’ve unlocked every character in the game yet, but I can say for the ones I’ve found, not a single one feels similar to any of the others. It’s an impressive amount of diversity that I really appreciated, as even characters you’d think would be similar somehow play completely different.
They’re almost identical to the way I’d imagined they’d fight. For example, Link has a simple slashy technique which is easy to understand but works well. Daruk has an infinite shield, Mipha can heal herself and others and Urbosa summons lightning. Revali is a pain to control and has mechanics that imply that he thinks he’s better than you. Tens across the board. I can’t say I liked every character’s playstyle, but I can see how someone would. Except Revali. No one likes Revali.
It’s clichè, of course, but it would be tragic if I didn’t at least give a shout-out to the little things: things like a Korok (little leafy boys that give you collectables) appearing at the site of an adorable shrine quest in the Hebra region or the exact same musical cues that play when you clear an enemy camp and get their monster chest. I wasn’t aware that you could get nostalgia for a game that’s only three-and-a-half years old.
The attention to detail is oftentimes more subtle though, with one particular example being Mipha’s signature weapon, the Lightscale Trident. In AoC, its flavor text reads, “a spear of peerless Grace cherished by Mipha. Although Mipha specializes in healing abilities, her spearmanship is in a class all its own.” In BotW, the line reads “a spear of peerless Grace cherished by the Zora champion Mipha. Although Mipha specialized in healing abilities, her spearmanship was in a class all its own.” Notice the difference? Apart from a little more exposition in BotW with “the Zora champion,” the only difference is that the second is written in past tense, a calm yet grim reminder of what is at stake if you fail your quest.
With all of this content in the game, even though the combat remains relatively unchanged, it never managed to lose my interest, and believe me, I did the equivalent of trying without the intent. I will plead the fifth and not publish the number of hours I spent playing it over Thanksgiving weekend, partially because I don’t want the world to know, partially because I don’t want my parents to know, but mostly because I don’t want to know. Since the core gameplay is as entertaining as dropping giant frogs on your brightly-colored enemies, the attachment I had to the world from my time playing BotW was more than enough to keep me engaged for hours on end. There’s so much to do that even after beating the game I may never finish.
Not everything was perfect, but I can’t think of a single thing that’s so egregious that it ruined the experience. The sheer amount of stuff in the game means that if you dislike one aspect or even five there are likely so many more that you do like that those negative aspects are completely overshadowed.
There are only two and a half groups of people I wouldn’t recommend this to: those who haven’t played BotW and those who played it and didn’t like it. For people who haven’t played this style of game before and are apprehensive, I highly recommend downloading the demo. If you find the combat and gameplay SO UNBELIEVABLY AWFUL that it would ruin the experience then you are the half in “two and a half.”
AoC shows that sometimes sticking to your strengths is enough. The world “Breath of the Wild” created was so elaborate and incredible, and the gameplay of crowd-combat so inherently entertaining, that more focus could be put on building off of the base those two gave them instead of needing to take major risks.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kingdom to save.