Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Impressions
Yesterday, Nintendo launched an extensive demo for their upcoming Koei/Omega Force collaboration Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. It’s the follow-up to the original Hyrule Warriors, and the full game launches on November 10th exclusively for the Switch.
If you decide to download the ~1.6 gigabyte demo, you can experience the opening hour-or-so of the full game, and your save file carries over if you decide to purchase the title. That’s really cool, and the sort of thing I’d like to see more of in the future. Proper demos are a somewhat- bygone tradition, but this one shows there’s plenty of life left in the concept.
Age of Calamity has little to do with the original Hyrule Warriors, instead drawing direct story connections to Breath of the Wild. If you’ve played that game, you’ll have a more immediate understanding of the lore, characters, and items present in this new Warriors game, but if you haven’t you should still be able to catch up thanks to the surprisingly involved cutscenes that help this to be a standalone adventure.
The previous Hyrule Warriors game had a slightly simplified story, with basic character grunts and on-screen text doing most of the plot work. Here though, there’s a fully-presented tale with cinematically directed cutscenes, full voice work, and multiple little connections to the Breath of the Wild canon. I was surprised at how much story was present in this demo, and it seems like more money was spent on the plot here than in most other games in the Warriors franchise.
Gameplay-wise, this is firmly a Dynasty Warriors title. It’s a game about sprinting around vast battlefields and fighting hundreds of enemies, but then occasionally you’ll open a Zelda chest or cook some food. Each of the demo’s three playable characters has a weak attack, a strong attack, and the ability to chain together numerous different combos with different timings of said attacks. They also have unique attacks befitting their character. Link can pull out his bow, whereas Impa can generate magical symbols she can then absorb to create a magical clone of herself. The characters play vastly different to one another, and the combat is intense, deep, and fast and fun to play. In fact, Impa is one of the most interesting-to-play characters I’ve ever seen in almost twenty years of mashing my way through these games.
The shoulder button shortcut menu from Dynasty Warriors 9 and Warriors Orochi 4 returns here, but this time it’s where your items and your Sheikah Slate abilities live. These return from Breath of the Wild, and let you do things like freeze enemies in place, attack them with elemental abilities, or use a magnetic power to pick up big metal cubes and pummel opponents for a while. They don’t seem to be used for any puzzles so far, but that’s fine as the Warriors franchise has always been firmly combat-focused.
The demo includes two full-length levels and a number of small sidequest challenges. You’ll access all of this through an open hub map that also inadvertently serves as a skill tree of sorts. Some of the map icons take you to levels or challenges, whereas others simply open sub menus that allow you to acquire abilities or items by spending resources. Like some other recent Warriors games, it seems like there’s plenty of loot depth and RPG-style customization here…as long as you’re not afraid to dig into some menus.
Visually, this is probably the best-looking Warriors game on the Switch. Unlike Fire Emblem Warriors, it doesn’t have any performance options, so you’re stuck with a slightly juddering framerate that seems capped around 30, and the resolutions the developers have chosen. The game is packed with special particle effects, dynamic shadows, and well-animated characters that don’t seem to have taken major visual cutbacks compared to “next gen” Warriors games.
As a result performance chugs frequently during intense battles. I found the game playable, but I also spent hours playing the dramatically-worse launch version of Dynasty Warriors 9, so I’m a little bit biased when it comes to this franchise. If you’re looking for perfect performance in either handheld or docked mode, you might want to wait for the long-rumored Switch Pro.
After this game was surprise-announced last month, it became one of my most anticipated games of the year. I declared its predecessor the best Dynasty Warriors game of 2018, and this one makes great strides in visual quality, combat complexity, and RPG depth. If you’re a Breath of the Wild fan looking for something to tide yourself over till the sequel comes out, you might be disappointed; this is a Dynasty Warriors game with Breath of the Wild visuals and not the other way around. However, if you’re looking for the next great entry in the Warriors series with that same hint of Nintendo magic that made the last entry so great, this seems like a safe choice.
Happily, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can just download the demo and find out for yourself! I was already game to play this on day one, and the demo only made me more eager to see the full game.