The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been my favorite game of all time since the moment I watched Link run out of the Shrine of Resurrection onto the mountain cape, surveying the great expanse of Hyrule beyond him. It is one of the most effective calls to action in gaming, managing to accomplish that with a single panning camera shot and the simplest of score. I firmly believe that there is art intended for certain people, fitting into your interests and what inspires fulfillment in the one experiencing it. I can in no capacity pretend to be unbiased in evaluating Breath of the Wild, so I will not attempt to.
So it’s no surprised I was immeasurably excited when they announced a sequel to Hyrule Warriors, much less a prequel to Breath of the Wild, detailing the fall of Hyrule and war of Calamity. We know so little about prior to the Calamity other than a few glimpses outside of the conversations in Link’s memories, so I’d welcome any extra content, especially if it’s a whole new game. I am aware that Age of Calamity is just intended to tide fans over as the sequel to Breath of the Wild will take longer yet, but that doesn’t change that I thoroughly enjoy experiencing this world, and I’ll take what I can get. Me being a shameless shill aside, I played the demo, and how does it stack up?
I played the first Hyrule Warriors, and I liked it a lot. It had a surprising amount of creativity in its writing and worldbuilding, even though it was technically only a fanfiction meant to contextualize putting Zelda characters from three different timelines in the same place ad beating the snot out of each other. However, the gameplay of Warriors games is repetitive, and that can weigh the game down significantly. It’s fun and flashy, watching the rows of monsters fly away at a single power move, but Hyrule Warriors has a frankly absurd amount of content, and it’s difficult to fill that up with the same hack-n-slash combat.
Luckily, that isn’t all Warriors has to offer, it isn’t simply defeating a room of a hundred enemies, but a map of thousands. Racing across the map, switching characters on the fly, and capturing posts and forts does a lot to make the game feel more dynamic and snappy. There is a lot to be said for the gimmick of watching a Zelda character fight classic monsters from the series and using items like bombs and different kinds of arrows. Reskinning an otherwise typical Warriors game helps a lot when the aesthetic flash and pomp of the series is so important to them to begin with. Plus, Age of Calamity mixes this up by introducing unique elements like the runes of the Sheikah Slate all being useable in combat.
Now, I could go on about gameplay for 5,000 words, but I was taken aback to realize that they were actually including a story. The opening scene of Age of Calamity features that cute Star Wars droid-esque Guardian from the poster traveling back in time on the night of the Calamity. Now, time travel is not exactly new ground for Zelda, but it does feel novel for the concept to be brought unexpectedly into the story of Breath of the Wild. Pardon my excitement, but the ramifications of this are massive. Are they attempting to retcon the Calamity in preparation for the sequel, or was this droid time travel just a futile last ditch effort? I understand that it’s difficult to make a story with tension when you know exactly where every character is going to end up, but I also don’t know if Age of Calamity can afford to disrupt the story of the upcoming game. Maybe it’s just a bit thrilling for there to be a level of uncertainty in the plot of a Zelda game.
Age of Calamity is also leaning much more heavily into the voiced characters, which I think makes sense with the renewed focus on story. Besides, the voiced characters helps humanize them further, and when the majority of your cast is going to die by the end of the story, it better serves to the engender sympathy in your audience. Besides, it gives me better reason to proclaim that Purah is best girl and that any declaration to the contrary is one of war.
With that in mind, my overall impressions of Age of Calamity are positive thus far. The exploration that made Breath of the Wild a masterpiece seems like a strange companion to the beat-em-up combat of Warriors, but ones that get along nonetheless. It feels as though the developers have made this an organic extension of what has come before. As this is merely a first impressions and not full review, I’ll refrain from giving this a numbered score, though I still strongly recommend playing the demo to find out if this style of game is for you.