Game Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Release date: 2020
Version played: Nintendo Switch in 2020/2021

Ostensibly a sequel in name only to 2014’s Wii U hack and slash title, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a 2020 musou/hack and slash game for the Nintendo Switch. Taking place 100 years before Breath of the Wild, and telling the story of the Calamity War frequently mentioned in that game, players take control of Link, Zelda, and numerous other characters from the Breath of the Wild universe as they battle the malevolent force, Calamity Ganon across battle grounds in all of Hyrule. Following on from My Early Thoughts, truthfully not a lot has changed.

+ I will never get enough of this musou gameplay. Cutting through swathes of enemies and finishing campaign levels with a kill count – sorry, “KO Count” – in the thousands is always a joy. This is the main deal breaker for most, so if you don’t like musou games, you probably won’t like this. But holy heck, I sure do. Even the boss battles required some skill, and not just the button mashing you may expect
+ overall, every character has their own benefits and pitfalls – except for the infallible Link, because I don’t think I’d have finished the game so quickly without his powerful weapon skills. I love the changes made to Zelda, and her being an action hero in her own right is great to see, and something I do hope continues in the upcoming Breath of the Wild sequel. The more unexpected characters also bring a lot to the table, with some combos and skills that are hard to master, but ultra powerful when you do
+ the story was really engaging, even as someone who never completed Breath of the Wild (but knows fully of the story by being with someone when they played it). This is set 100 years before that game, so there are call-forwards and references to future events, but it is still a self-contained story overall. But don’t think that just because you’ve played Breath of the Wild you will know what to expect
+ including my replaying of lots of side missions and a small handful of main story missions for item rewards, I completed the main story in about 45 hours. I am still eager to continue the side activities and ensure I’ve completed everything, however, so this may end up being a long game

– put simply, the Switch hardware means this game just don’t play as well as it could. Not just the occasional framerate drop, but I’d rather cut through hundreds of enemies at a time, not just a few dozen. If there’s a Switch Pro being released, as is rumoured, this game would get a lot out of that, otherwise it’s time I revisited my “Nintendo hardware is interesting but simply not powerful enough” rants from the years of the Wii and Wii U
– the handful of levels when you control the Divine Beasts in all their pre-Calamity glory, are at best frustrating attempts at something new, and a waste of time at worst. The Beasts are clunky to control, and despite getting KO Counts in the thousands in just a few minutes, they don’t feel as Divine as the story makes them out to be
– this negative might be more on me, but gosh the game controller vibrated a lot (I was using an official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller). I know you can toggle vibration on or off in full, but I’d have liked to just make it go at half tilt instead. Often times the vibration was louder than the game sounds

Should you play this game: As I said after My Early Thoughts, not a lot was going to be able to dissuade me from enjoying this. As more combos were unlocked and enemy counts increased, the game did suffer more from the hardware limitations, but if you can look past that then this is a can’t miss for muso fans, and might be a good entry point for currently not musou, but Zelda fans.

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