Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Zelda lovers are set to return to Hyrule when Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity releases on November 20th, 2020. If you simply cannot wait that long, have no fear. Nintendo is offering a demo of the first chapter available right now via the Nintendo eShop. After taking the demo for a spin, here are my first impressions of this upcoming sequel.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of CalamityHyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 20, 2020
Developer: KOEI Tecmo Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fighting
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

A new adventure for Nintendo Switch

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity may not be the proper sequel at the top of fan’s lists. Naturally many more are eagerly awaiting the next direct chapter to follow up 2017’s Breath of the Wild. Still, something is better than nothing in my opinion, and I’m on board for any excuse to play as Link & company.

Technically, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a sequel to Hyrule Warriors. This is a hybrid spin on KOEI Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors franchise. Essentially it’s a massive hack-and-slash adventure crossover featuring Zelda mechanics, settings, and skins.

Nonetheless Age of Calamity also serves as a prequel of sorts to Breath of the Wild. It is set 100 years prior to that game. As such, it tells the story of the “Great Calamity” that ultimately leads to the events of the latter. In that regard it’s the first game to expand on the BotW storyline.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

A so-so start out of the gate

The Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo makes a strong impression right away to be sure. Unfortunately it’s probably not for the reason one would hope. Visually, the demo performs quite poorly.

I find the initial frame rate of the demo pretty shocking. I’m almost never among the first to complain about a little frame dip here and there. However, here it’s painfully apparent. We are talking noticeably significant frame drops. On top of this, I’m also seeing poor quality textures and waffle patterns constantly.

I tried switching to handheld mode next. Often performance increases when transitioning from the big screen to the Switch itself. To my surprise, any improvement is pretty minimal. The same issues are still apparent, even in the less demanding handheld environment.

I have to admit being taken aback a bit. A few performance issues are one thing, but these are jarring enough that I actually asked myself why a developer would even release a demo like this for such a noteworthy upcoming title. If anything, it seems to have the potential to do more damage than good.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Things improve with the flow of the battle

After the initial surprise wore off, I began to dig into the rest of the demo. Luckily, becoming immersed in the gameplay itself will likely improve most opinions. If you can chalk up this initial dip in performance to the demo itself, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity still shows some promise.

Over the course of the demo you can play as three different characters. Link, Zelda, and Impa are all available at some point throughout this first chapter. Each character has their own unique combat skills and abilities.

I’m spending most of my time with Link and Zelda as I enjoy their combat style best so far. Link can slash with a sword, rain down a flurry of arrows, and use his Sheikah abilities to launch bombs, magnetize metal objects, and more. Zelda digs even further into Sheikah-compatibility with standard attacks that blend the slate’s familiar powers.

I think the combat is done really well, and once I get lost in it I find the game highly entertaining. The best part is that all the elements borrowing from Breath of the Wild are smartly done and have a level of familiarity. Freezing enemies in stasis, magnetizing an opponents metal weapon—all these root themselves perfectly in the physics that made Link’s first adventure on Switch so enjoyable.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Overworld elements

After completing the first combat missions, players get a taste of the overworld portion of gameplay. The map opens up in a very familiar style. Here players navigate icons marking not just upcoming missions, but also side tasks involving cooking and the like.

Completing these side tasks involves delivering collections of items that drop during combat. This is how players ultimately obtain new recipes, items, and overall boosts to assist in the next fight ahead. Everything about these in-between tasks add up to the more familiar Zelda-like RPG elements of this mash-up.

At the end of the day, what really excites me about the package as a whole is how well Breath of the Wild is incorporated. Every aspect of the game is a clever idea for implementing the elements of Link’s mainline adventure into this spin-off.

So many times in the course of playing the demo I find myself thinking “Oh, the way they brought that piece in, that’s brilliant”. Everything trademark of BotW, from cooking to side quests to visual presentation to weapon selection and much more is neatly spliced into the DNA of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Hyrule Warriors: Age Of Calamity releases on November 20th, 2020

I came into the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo looking forward to the full game release, but it took nearly the entire length of this preview to confirm my excitement. After enough time digging into the intense combat and overworld mechanics, I can say that I want to spend more time with the game. I love the strategy and the feel of battle, especially the sheer variety in Sheikah powers and unique abilities available to each character.

Furthermore, I think the integration of Breath of the Wild is done exceptionally well from what we are seeing so far. So many elements ring with familiarity. I think the developers are doing an excellent job of finding interesting ways to blend gameplay rather than just shoe-horning concepts in.

Still, the framerate and overall visual performance of the demo is an issue. I really hope this is just a stumbling point that restricts itself to the demo itself. If this level of quality carries over to the final release, there’s no doubt that it’s going to cause a stir among gamers.

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Dave Neufeld
Dave is an avid gamer, a musician/songwriter/recording artist, and an ardent reader with a degree in the Classics but a love for comics too. When he's not gigging with the band or pulling books at his local comic shop, he can usually be found gaming on any platform, from consoles to PC to his self-built personal arcade cabinet.