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Anyone who’s spent far too many hours playing and replaying 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has certainly been itching for the recently announced sequel. What seemed like a never-ending wait was interrupted last September when Nintendo announced that content-starved fans would finally get their latest Zelda fix – but not the one they were expecting. Instead of the still forthcoming Breath of the Wild sequel, we were gifted Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a “prequel” to Breath of the Wild featuring many returning characters but a completely different style of gameplay. It’s obvious that a follow-up to the most acclaimed game of 2017 has gargantuan shoes to fill, so does it?
While the story takes place in the ‘Great Calamity’, the near-apocalyptic war oft alluded to in Breath of the Wild, the gameplay is something else entirely, for the simple reason that Age of Calamity is not a Legend of Zelda game, it’s a Hyrule Warriors game. This distinction might seem confusing given that Age of Calamity shares the world and characters of its predecessor, but it’s crucial in knowing what to expect. This is the second Hyrule Warriors title created by Koei Tecmo in collaboration with Nintendo, the first of which took the world and characters of Zelda and applied to them Koei’s signature hack-and-slash 1 vs 1000 gameplay.
So, what exactly is Koei’s signature style of gameplay? Koei developed their brand of hack-and-slash play in their long-running Dynasty Warriors series, and Age of Calamity uses this format to explore an alternate timeline to Breath of the Wild, where thanks to a mysterious time-travelling Guardian, Princess Zelda & Co have been granted crucial knowledge that gives them the chance to avert the post-apocalyptic future of Breath of the Wild entirely. In practice, this takes the form of a linear storyline and side quests in which you play as a multitude of different characters (eighteen in total) where achieving objectives usually means using the powers of each character and the Sheikah Slate to kill a requisite number of enemies and bosses.
That’s where the fun and challenge of Age of Calamity lies, the jacked-up abilities of each character allow you to cut through hordes of monsters like ploughing through snow. While the grind of cutting through swathes of monsters sounds repetitive, more and more elements of strategy and difficulty are introduced throughout the game, such as having to coordinate between multiple characters at once on the battlefield, time-limited levels, and more challenging boss fights.
The real achievement of Age of Calamity is creating eighteen total playable characters which all manage to feel distinct from one another, each with their own unique abilities, advantages, and drawbacks. Although, the steady influx of new playable characters perhaps continues for too long, with some of those introduced towards the end of the game a challenge to have to train up to the level of your existing characters.
Additionally, Age of Calamity provides a long and complex story that takes the world and characters of Breath of the Wild and gives them more depth and detail. The best example of this is Princess Zelda, who is now an even more engaging character who overcomes her immense self-doubt throughout the game to become a powerful and confident leader in a time of great crisis. While the hack-and-slash style of gameplay might not be for everyone, it does prove itself rewarding as the difficulty rises. Ultimately, its treatment of the story and characters proves Age of Calamity to be a loving tribute to its predecessor that still feels like an enticingly different experience.