Not quite the origin story we expected, but a fun divergence.
If you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you know that a major part of the story is a massive battle that took place 100 years prior that ended in the deaths of Hyrule’s Champions and Link missing in action. But while we get glimpses of these past events in that game, we never quite get the whole story of that battle and the events leading up to it. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity… is not quite that story, but it’s close enough to be entertaining in its own right.
During Calamity Ganon’s attack on Hyrule Castle, an old box in Princess Zelda’s study gets shaken loose. This box contains a mysterious diminutive Guardian who, upon realizing Zelda is in danger, conjures a portal and flings itself into the past in order to aid her before the battle gets too intense. Yep, we’re officially in timeline shenanigan territory here; this is not the precise tale of what happened during the Calamity, but rather a What If story showing how the scales would tip with a little extra knowledge from the future. If you were expecting the complete story of what happened 100 years ago, you may be a little disappointed, but even so, there’s still plenty of interaction between Link, Zelda, and the Champions, and I imagine that’s what you’re here for first and foremost. Besides, without the timeline shenanigans, you couldn’t even call this a Zelda game.
Age of Calamity utilizes the same general structure as Koei Tecmo’s other Warriors games: you control one or more powerful characters on a large battlefield, cleaving away large swaths of enemies to claim territory for your side. Though, the cool thing about Age of Calamity is that it incorporates elements from Breath of the Wild into the typical Warriors formula to make the experience a little more distinct. For instance, all characters have access to the Sheikah Slate’s runes, those being Remote Bombs, Stasis, Magnesis, and Cryonis. Each character uses them for different kinds of attacks, and if you deploy them at the right time against larger enemies, you can stun them for a few moments. When an enemy is disoriented, you can hammer away at their guard, and when their meter runs out, you can perform a weak point smash, a mechanic carried over from the first Hyrule Warriors, to deal a big chunk of damage. There are also items you can replenish on the field, including elemental rods and apples for a quick recovery, although for some reason these items don’t replenish between battles, which can be a problem if you use up all of your apples and can’t find any more.
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Speaking of food, though, you’ll accumulate your fair share of ingredients during combat, and outside of combat, you can pre-cook meals that’ll grant various stat bonuses. You’ll also get lots of assorted monster materials, which you can turn in to complete challenges on your map. These challenges reward you with more combos, hearts, special gauges, and more for your characters. As your roster grows, more of these challenges will dot the map, so I don’t think you’ll have to worry about running out of stuff to do. Incidentally, without spoiling anything, the roster is much bigger than I was expecting it to be. To put it one way, if you played Breath of the Wild, I don’t think you’ll have a problem with any of the inclusions here.
As with any other licensed Warriors game, how much enjoyment you get from Age of Calamity will balance between how much you like the setting and whether or not you mind a lot of same-y hack and slash gameplay. The combat works well enough, and on the harder difficulties even requires some actual strategy, so there’s plenty of fun to be had there. As for the characters, there’s some pretty entertaining back-and-forths between the protagonists, not to mention some amusing flavor text from completing challenges. If you enjoyed Breath of the Wild and don’t have a problem with Warriors games, you’ll definitely have fun with this one.