Let’s start with a bit of honesty, when Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was first announced earlier this year I had zero interest in the game. Just like the majority of Switch owners, I’ve been holding out for a Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel so the announcement of this spin-off come prequel came with a bit of resistance from yours truly.

Then everything changed. Once I played the free demo my inner Dynasty Warriors fan rose up inside me like a musou phoenix and I fell in love with Age of Calamity. That was only after an hour or so of gameplay though so how does the full game hold up? And is it worth picking up if you’re looking for a fix before the inevitable Breath of the Wild sequel?

My first impressions before playing the full game

Firstly I love the visuals and art style in this game. Having this addition of Hyrule Warriors set in the BOTW world means we are treated to the same visual style as the open world classic, just with less freedom and the different elements found throughout Hyrule are limited to particular levels.

Every part of this game from the locations to the enemies is taken straight out of BOTW and it looks absolutely gorgeous. From the moment I first laid eyes on AoC, I’ve felt that sweet nostalgia of what is arguably my favourite Switch game to date. That nostalgia comes at a cost though.

With AoC taking so much from BOTW, it often left we wishing I could do the things I could in that world. Even after hours of gameplay I still find myself trying to climb surfaces and jump off ledges with my paraglider only to be hit by invisible walls. I get that this game is trying to be something completely different and you can’t expect that level of freedom in musou games but I still couldn’t help but feel handcuffed at times. It’s lucky then that AoC completely nails it when it comes to the type of gameplay it’s trying to present.

The Dynasty Warriors one vs a thousand style combat that Hyrule Warriors offers up is addictive, satisfying and does what it sets out to achieve by making you feel like a god on the battlefield. Although I was just having a moan about some movement restrictions on the map, the polar opposite of that is how overpowered you are in comparison to BOTW’s more difficult combat and I love it. Yes I love what’s come before but being able to turn my brain off and annihilate the same enemies which have previously caused me headaches was a lot of fun. Especially when the combat is this stylish and exciting. Don’t be fooled into thinking this game is easy though, the gameplay may feel like a walk in the park at first but once you start hitting big bosses there is definitely a challenge to it that is hard but fair.

Every character (of which there are many) has their own distinctive fighting style which will change depending on your choice of weapon. Some characters will obviously be more enjoyable depending on what style of combat you enjoy but the variation here means every player will find a handful of characters you won’t be able to stop using. For me it’s Revali, Urbosa and Impa. These three are my go-to fighters who I feel indestructible when using and although a lot of the fast paced action feels like button bashing, I feel like I’ve really mastered their styles and it feels good.

Having said that, the game does a fantastic job at encouraging you to regularly try out every character. Obviously you’ll have to control every fighter at some point due to story reasons but outside of that there are mini side battles that are exclusive to one certain character where you have a chance to really get used to their gameplay. There’s also a really handy upgrade system that allows you to spend in-game currency to level up your team to the level of your highest character. Yes this does kind of feel like cheating but it also means that Zelda and Daruk haven’t been left behind at level 6 because I’ve been neglecting them and encourages me to still try them out from time to time.

As many of you will know, the story takes place before the events of Breath of the Wild and tells the story of Zelda recruiting the four champions and their divine beasts to try prevent Calamity Ganon’s destruction of Hyrule. There’s a lot going on here including a time travelling guardian which I couldn’t help but feel raises some questions which always arise when a story introduces time travel. I don’t want to say too much more due to spoilers but I will say that I’ve really enjoyed the story and it gave me a good enough reason to jump into the games excellent gameplay, even if it had some questionable moments.

Regardless of the hit and miss story we still get some excellent looking cutscenes which are voice acted to perfection by the same cast as BOTW. These scenes are unsurprisingly full of joy and charm but unfortunately we don’t get as many as you may think. Quite a lot of the story is told in storyboards with a narrator explaining the current situation and where the team is heading which then usually leads into one of the above mentioned cutscenes. This may sound like a negative but in reality it only serves as a way of cutting out travel time and getting the characters to where they need to be asap so the games fast pace never loses momentum.

Even the map itself is designed to get the job done as quick as possible. Every mission, training area and shop is just one fast travel button press away on the Hyrule map we all know and love. Sure this plays back into feeling restricted in what is usually a massive open world sandbox, but it works perfectly when all you really want to do is jump back into the action as soon as possible.

Overall I’ve massively enjoyed my time with AoC. Having my exploration of this gorgeous world taken away from me does sting but it’s quickly soothed with stylish and exciting combat that makes the game an instant classic despite its sometimes questionable story. A great variation of playable characters and tons to do with them makes this game well worth your time if you’re a fan of both Dynasty Warriors and BOTW. However if you’re just a huge fan of the latter and are looking for a fix to see you through to the unannounced sequel then maybe try the demo first to see if this style of gameplay works for you. For me personally I’ve had a hell of a time with it and haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face as I continuesly try to drive my KO count as high as possible in every map.

I give Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

8.5/10

If you like the sound of Age of Calamity and have decided to pick it up then you can do so in this Amazon link below. It won’t cost you any extra and just gives us a little kick back to help us continue doing what we love to do.