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"Age of Calamity" is not your typical Zelda, and that's not a bad thing.

Ask any video game or Nintendo fan about “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and they’ll most likely tell you two things. One, that the game managed to define something completely new as the first open-world entry in the franchise and two, experiencing it fresh all over again would be something they’d be into.

So far, there’s still no technology that can make the second thing happen. Thankfully, “Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is here,” and it may be just as good, if not better.

Age of Calamity is set 100 years before BOTW, before Calamity ganon almost destroyed Hyrule.

Righting past wrongs

Set 100 years before Breath of the Wild (BOTW), the game takes you back to the event that basically led to the fall of Hyrule, ending with our silent protagonist Link waking up in a cave with amnesia. In ways more than one, this can be a double-edged sword. For one thing, it’s like discovering a director’s cut of your favorite movie, as the game allows you to spend hours with beloved characters that are either old or already *gulp* a spirit in BOTW. For many fans, the story of the champions is also one of the more stronger parts of the game before it. At the same time however, seeing that tale get the tragic ending we all know it will can be quite sad. Hearing the story told through BOTW is one thing, but living it in another game can be quite the downer, seeing as you become more attached to them only to see them fail in the end.

Of course, Nintendo fixes this with a twist we won’t spoil, but all that is icing on an already great Zelda cake.

Age of Calamity focuses on hacking and slashing your way through large battles, similar to Dynasty Warriors.

Paying homage

From the start, Age of Calamity makes it evident that it’s not a retread of BOTW. In fact, it’s as far away from the latter as possible. The second installment in Nintendo’s “Hyrule Warriors” series, the game takes a lot of element from the “Dynasty Warriors” franchise: you’re not fighting a few enemies and devising clever ways to defeat them, you play a hack-and-slash adventure where your hero is pitted against hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of foes in a massive battle. It’s brash, exciting, and straight to the point, in the way that if BOTW plays like a Studio Ghibli film, Age of Calamity is a Hollywood blockbuster.

And yet, it’s a great game, and manages to scratch an itch a lot of us didn’t know we had.

Gameplay-wise, the core of what you’ll be doing in Age of Calamity is similar to its contemporaries, albeit with a few twists in those formulas. You run your way around a large map, slashing your way through hundreds of comically dumb enemies and choreographed sequences before moving on to the next. It’s not just copy and paste however, as the combat offers much in the way of variety even in single characters, and the implementation of dodging and parrying adds another layer altogether. In Age of Calamity, flurry rush is king. The twist however, comes from the physics-based action introduced in BOTW, where you can use runes like stasis and remote bombs to fight enemies. Like BOTW for example, some enemies are more susceptible to bombs, adding a bit of strategy in the game.

One of the characters you get to play as is Princess Zelda, who uses the Sheikah slate to use runes.

And then there are the characters you play as. While BOTW introduces you to the champions by their stories and the memories that Link has with them, Age of Calamity goes the other way by actually letting you play as them. Each one has their own distinct feel, from Revali being able to fly and rain arrows from above to Princess Zelda attacking remotely with runes via the Sheikah Slate. Link, of course, plays as a traditional Dynasty Warriors-style melee fighter, albeit the most flexible. Additionally, the game also has turret-style missions by letting you use the four Divine Beasts, putting you in the shoes of the champions as they fought for Hyrule a century ago. Of course, not all of these land, and some characters are more robust than others. But all of them are still great additions to this spinoff, and help make the game have its own distinct identity.

Assuming you’ve already played BOTW and you’re already invested in its characters, the game also plays like a love letter to its source material, which means that a lot of systems, art style, mechanics, locations, and even Easter Eggs have been directly pulled from its predecessor. This means Link can shield surf, use Stasis to launch enemies into the air, use Octorok to polish up old weapons, and of course, parry Guardian lasers.

A more straightforward romp

The story, while told in a straightforward way from start until the end, also has some very poignant moments, including that of Zelda unlocking her own powers, how those powers pushed the king of Hyrule to push her toward her destiny, and how big of a toll that can take on someone, especially for someone her age. Seeing the champions in their heyday is also a joy, as well as Hyrule before it eventually got destroyed by the calamity.

Link plays as a traditional Dynasty Warriors melee character, and can still parry Guardian lasers.

Age of Calamity is also able to expand the world in other ways. Besides the cinematic story, there’s also a ton of sidequests that will litter the map as you unlock more of it, all of which serve as small nuances that help bring BOTW’s backstory to life.

For an experience that seemingly came out of left field, Age of Calamity works surprisingly well, and offers a wealth of content for Zelda fans that are waiting for BOTW 2. Of course, it’s no Breath of the Wild, and fans looking for such an experience will be disappointed. What it is however, is a distinct experience packaged in a Zelda game, meant to bring new fans while also providing more lore for Zelda veterans.

Sure, it stumbles a few times in its many battle ballets, but it has more than enough astonishing dances to satisfy and shine on its own.

“Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity” is now available for the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite, and you may get your copy from BestBuy here.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is now available for the Nintendo Switch on BestBuy.