As a massive fan of the original Hyrule Warriors (I own four copies and across them have put in over 900 hours of play), I was really excited to start on this and it was a rare situation where I pre-ordered a digital game such was my need to have it immediately. But, I was worried it might not live up to my hype. Did it?
Well, when I realised that the real “meat” of the first game, that is to say, Adventure Mode, didn’t exist in Age of Calamity, I was immediately worried. The story mode in Hyrule Warriors was good, but very short and made up only about 5% of the game time. To not have it here – at all – concerned me. Thankfully, it sort of is.
You see, Adventure Mode contained a number of maps with each square on the map being some sort of challenge. Defeat X enemies in Y minutes. Defend some character. Fight with a handicap. Take over the forts before something happens. Lots of that sort of thing. In Age of Calamity, these types of challenges are actually integrated into the map on Story Mode. They’re optional in terms of story progression, but essential if you want decent weapons, to level up, or to unlock more characters.
My 40 hours on the game so far did take me to the end, but about 25 hours of that was spent on side missions and I can see there are a good 20-odd more hours to go if the “percentage complete” is anything to go by. Still a good deal shorter than the original game, but not the 15 hours I was expecting.
Gameplay is more or less the same as before, but everything is Breath of the Wild themed. In fact, this game acts as a prequel to that game, telling the story of how Hyrule fell 100 years ago, only not quite – which I won’t expand upon for spoiler reasons. The bow, bombs and hookshot from the first game have been replaced with the stasis, magnesis and other powers of the Sheikah Slate, and of course the characters are those from Breath of the Wild rather than, well, Every Other Zelda Game. You also have some missions where you pilot the massive Guardians and wipe out thousands of enemies with them.
So it looks amazing, and plays amazing, but is it better than one of the best games of all time (i.e. its predecessor)? In theory, yes. It’s less repetitive, had a more coherent and fitting plot, more balanced and varied across characters, the weapon and skill levelling up is much improved and far less grindy, and some of those are perhaps reasons why it’s a shorter game – much of Adventure Mode was grind. Enjoyable grind, but grind nonetheless. That said, I don’t think it’s quite as good. It’s close, but you never forget your first even if it’s technically inferior.