Out now for Nintendo Switch, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an all-action prequel to the events of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - one of the highest-rated video games ever released, and GAMINGbible's number one game of all time (please, do check out our Top 100, over here).
Based on the gameplay of developers Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors series - where a single player character faces off against thousands of enemies at a time - Age of Calamity shows what went down 100 years before the start of Breath of the Wild. Which is to say: a whole lot of very bad stuff, indeed, led by the emergence of series big-bad, Calamity Ganon. Bad stuff that you now get to play through - which is, cool?
It is cool, actually - as our review makes clear, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity very neatly pulls together a lot of loose ends that Breath of the Wild didn't go out of its way to make entirely obvious (the game was very light of touch with its story beats). And it does so while allowing Link, Zelda, and many more characters from BOTW cut loose against massive hordes of monsters. You want some fantasy gaming catharsis after a tough day? Step right up.
Age of Calamity is also an essential game to play before the release of the Breath of the Wild sequel, which was teased by Nintendo at E3 2019 and hasn't really been spoken about much, since. There are rumours that it's almost finished - but when GAMINGbible spoke to Zelda series project manager Eiji Aonuma, he was tight-lipped on anything to do with BOTW 2, preferring instead to talk about Age of Calamity's connections to BOTW.
"Many of the characters from Breath of the Wild who had a connection to the battle with the Calamity 100 years earlier are appearing in this game," he told us, ahead of the release of Age of Calamity. "Some characters only appeared briefly in Breath of the Wild, while others are new characters that are related to this yet-untold story. So I hope you will play and see them for yourself."
Those characters include the four Champions - Daruk, Mipha, Urbosa and Revali - who only appear in flashback cutscenes in BOTW but are fully playable in Age of Calamity, and they all have some exceptionally good unique moves. Plus, the game reveals a lot more about their homes, and how they came to be the pilots of the Divine Beasts, gigantic mechanical constructs that are hugely important to the plot (and gameplay) of BOTW. Age of Calamity also shows players a younger Impa, and lets them play as her, whereas she's an old woman in BOTW. She can create clones of herself in Age of Calamity to deal out truly punishing attacks.
Age of Calamity uses the same setting, the same version of Hyrule, as BOTW, but navigating the map is less about exploration and more about ticking off selected challenges and conquering key battlefields. It's more a case of progressing through traditional-feeling levels than it is being let loose in a vast open world.
Says Aonuma: "One of the challenges we had in making this game was how to apply the 'open-air' setting of Breath of the Wild to the level-based Hyrule Warriors system. The 'open-air' setting is conceptual in some ways, but it's also the very structure of [Breath of the Wild], so it's difficult to apply that directly onto the Warriors system.
"So, instead, we decided to keep the level-based system as it is while adding in a sense of three-dimensionality - by having terrain at different heights and having variation in how parts connect - and giving a sense of scale to the world. Also, by placing each level on a certain spot on the Breath of the Wild map, the level selection itself gives users the feeling of exploring a huge world."
This same Hyrule is sure to feature in the hotly anticipated Breath of the Wild sequel - but players wanting to dig deeper into its landscape, its lore and its people, are recommended to play through Age of Calamity. Its gameplay is wildly different to BOTW, but its story is so tied to Nintendo's greatest-ever game (right?) that anyone going into BOTW 2 without checking it out will likely be at a disadvantage. And when you're talking about a series as truly legendary as Zelda, knowledge is always power.
Read our full interview with Eiji Aonuma, Age of Calamity producer Yosuke Hayashi and director Ryouta Matsushita, on GAMINGbible.
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