One of the finest games ever released is 2017’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch launch title featured a wide-open world that was barely recovering from a cataclysmic event a century before the game began.
Players control Link, a warrior who has been in stasis for the intervening 100 years, who awakens after healing from mortal wounds he incurred in a decisive final battle. Upon awakening, Link takes up his sword and shield and sets about freeing Hyrule from the specter of Calamity Ganon, a world-ending force who has been locked in Hyrule Castle with Princess Zelda.
One of the biggest lingering desires for most players after the credits rolled in Breath of the Wild was just a bit more time in the world of the game. It’s the sort of game that’s best on the first play-through. While playing through it again is fun, it’s the discovery and exploration that makes it so magical. Once you’ve found all of Hyrule’s secrets and solved all of the game’s puzzles, it’s hard to forget them in order to appreciate discovering them all over again.
Return to Hyrule
In that way, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity rolls the clock back on the first game in more ways than one. In a literal sense, the game is set 100 years before Breath of the Wild, focusing on the Champions, the four heroes who fought alongside Link in the war against Ganon. The game’s story explores Hyrule before it was so utterly destroyed, with the doomed plot adding weight to the gravity of Link’s battle against the forces of evil.
Breath of the Wild is a story told through a melancholy filter: the heroes of legend died long before the game begins. You only hear of their actions, and never get to see the destruction. Age of Calamity allows you to play through the war, seeing just how mighty Link and the Champions were in their prime.
Koei Tecmo has created a joyful, high-flying, and intense action game in their classic Musou style. The gameplay is distinct from a classic Zelda title, with a focus on battling huge hordes of enemies and over-the-top combat animations. While Breath of the Wild is laser-focused on Link’s solitary, quiet adventure, Age of Calamity is a nonstop action movie, constantly pulling your attention across massive maps teeming with enemy forces.
Managing your forces, responding to the enemy, and switching between the numerous playable characters is all immensely satisfying when your battle plan comes together.
The combat might seem simple at first blush, but that easy-to-pick-up gameplay belies a surprisingly deep set of interlocking systems. Notably, while the premise might sound a bit overstuffed, blasting enemies by the hundreds never grows old: instead, it only reinforces how much you feel like a champion of this world.
Koei Tecmo has a clear love for the original game, and Age of Calamity functions as an incredible prequel to one of the finest video games ever made. If you’re a Nintendo fan who’s looking for another great game for your Switch, then this is the one for you. Returning to Hyrule feels, in many ways, like returning home.