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A day ago, Nintendo surprised fans by dropping both a new trailer and a downloadable demo for “Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity,” its latest installment in the Legend of Zelda franchise. The trailer previewed some new characters and features, including the appearance of Sheikah scientists Purah and Robbie; and the first look at the Divine Beasts. With three weeks left until the release, this is a huge tease for fans excited about the game.

Following the spoiler-free rundown of the demo, here’s a more in-depth discussion of what the first chapter of “Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity” shows us, and what that could mean for the complete game in its release.

“Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity” is available for physical pre-order on Best Buy for $59.99! Order now and get it by release day on Nov. 20 with free shipping.

WARNING: this article contains major spoilers for the “Age of Calamity” demo released by Nintendo. If you want to avoid those, check out the spoiler-free article here!

Time travel

The demo opens with a generously long cutscene that introduces the entire premise of “Age of Calamity” -- but surprisingly, the game doesn’t begin with the build-up to the Great Calamity. Instead, you’re dropped immediately into the battle with Ganon and the Guardians, just when Zelda realizes it’s up to her to hold off Ganon from destroying Hyrule. Seeing as “Age of Calamity” is supposed to be a prequel to “Breath of the Wild,” this was unexpected -- but all the more when the white mini-Guardian (seen in trailers and preview photos) suddenly opens up a portal that transports it to the past, to when the monster hordes are beginning their attacks.

There are also subtle but significant differences in some of the images in the cut scenes. For example, there are not one but two Champions on each Divine Beast in the legend tapestries, which carries some very interesting implications. Will there be multiple champions? Are we looking at something closer to “Avengers: Endgame,” or to “Rogue One?”

The Zelda franchise has featured time travel in games before, but for “Age of Calamity” specifically, it introduces some interesting possibilities. Could it be that Koei Tecmo is creating a new timeline entirely, branching off from the original events, with a wholly different endgame that is not “Breath of the Wild?” Could it lead into the still-unknown "Breath of the Wild 2?" Or is this a Greek tragedy-esque timeline in which attempts to avoid one’s destiny ultimately lead you to fulfilling it?


Once the cutscene ends and the main story begins, the game doesn’t go easy on you. Link is dropped into a mission to control a Bokoblin infestation, meaning you as a player dive right into action. Along the way, the game presents you with on-screen prompts for relevant button combinations used in attack and defense, both for your weapons and -- after you acquire it from a young Impa -- the Sheikah slate.

It’s a little much to take in, especially if this is your first musou-style game -- meaning hack-and-slash action, ala "Dynasty Warriors." It’s a little overwhelming to keep track when there’s a hundred Bokoblins coming for your head, but it gets easier the more you play.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Gameplay Link
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Gameplay Link 4Gamer

The game style is as predicted: each mission is contained within one map/zone, in which Link and his allies must clear several objectives in order to ‘beat’ the level. Areas have bosses; in the demo, there’s Moblins and Wizz Robes. Characters pick up spoils, weapons, and assets along the way, which they can use to upgrade themselves, or which Link can use for side quests. There are plenty of elements from the “Breath of the Wild” gameplay incorporated into “Age of Calamity.” So far, fairly straightforward.

There are a few lingering issues in the demo, however. The frame rate in particular is glaring, with the action looking ‘glitchy’ in some sequences, such as explosions or camera pans. Link’s running is also awkward, particularly when he starts speeding up. And unlike in “Breath of the Wild” where Link can climb up and interact with objects around him, this time, the most you can do is wall jump or break down boxes. It’s a big shift from “Breath of the Wild,” so know there’ll be some adjustment.

Playable characters

The “Age of Calamity” demo introduces you to three different playable characters in the first mission alone. Link is clearly the first, and your starter. Along the way, you unlock both Impa and Zelda. Swapping between different playable characters is simple, and you can give limited commands to your allies if they’re in other areas of the map. This allows you to pick which character you feel is best to complete the given objective, or swap when your current character is struggling.

Unlocking the different playable characters also shows you the different ways each character can use the Sheikah runes. As teased in previous trailers, the manifestation of each rune depends on the character using it. The Sheikah Slate also acts as Zelda’s main weapon when fighting.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Gameplay Zelda
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Gameplay Zelda Nintendo

What’s next?

The demo ends after the player completes four missions, and previews what’s up next for Link, Zelda, Impa, and their newly-adopted mini-Guardian. Four major markers appear on the map -- one for each Champion, the same ones in “Breath of the Wild.” King Rhoam ends the last cutscene by reminding Zelda that her duty as Princess of Hyrule is the priority, and not the analysis of the little walking Guardian egg.

It’s important to note that the last mission that the player has to clear is against a Guardian gone rogue -- meaning Ganon is already starting to turn Hyrule’s armies against them. There’s a very 'beginning of the end' feel to the game even in the first chapter -- but again, because of the time travel element, it’s hard to predict how the story will go. So far, it’s clear that Zelda will begin recruiting the Champions (namely Mipha, Daruk, Urbosa, and Revali) to their cause.

After that? Who knows. But we’re all excited to find out.

The “Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity” demo is available for free download from the Nintendo eShop.

Pre-order your copy of “Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity” on Best Buy before release on November 20. Pair it with a Nintendo Switch with Red/Blue Joy Cons ($299.99)!