Breath of the Wild spinoff nails the aesthetic, misses the point
Every character also has unique takes on the four runes Link wields in the original game; that is they can throw bombs, summon ice, stop enemies in place or magnetically attract metal objects. But there’s no exploration or puzzle-solving here; mostly the runes are used in boss battles where you’re directly shown which one to use and when thanks to icons appearing above the bad guy’s head. This is emblematic of the game’s approach in general; an awful lot has been carefully pulled from the original game, but it’s only ever implemented as set dressing.
Breath of the Wild is one of my all-time favourite games, and it is awesome to run around in a series of huge battles involving the various familiar races and factions all acting and interacting authentically to the source material, especially since you get to see so much more of Mipha, Urbosa and others who only show up briefly in the original game. But the excitement of seeing things I loved in a new context was essentially the high point of my experience with the game, and I found the narrative in particular pretty disappointing.
I was expecting a prequel, but instead I got something absolutely beholden to what came before; slavishly obsessed with mining the events of the original game for as much referential content as possible. Pretty much every person from the original game is included (despite this being 100 years prior, some of them are slightly younger but most are exactly the same because of magic or ghosts), but I don’t feel like I learned anything new about any of them.
Many of the story aspects that aren’t very predictably derived from the original game border on nonsense, thanks to time travel and the insistence on injecting so many elements of the original game, and don’t fit neatly within the Breath of the Wild narrative to this point. And while cutscenes are gorgeous, the quality of the writing and delivery often doesn’t stack up either.
Purely from a gameplay perspective Warriors fans know what they’re in for. It’s an entertaining power fantasy with lots of bad guys and explosions, heaps of different characters to learn and all sorts of diversions on the side to power up your teams and weapons. It’s can be very repetitive and doesn’t always run smoothly when there’s a lot going on, but if you love that grind you should be just fine.
My main problem is that for all of Age of Calamity’s painstaking adaptation (even the map looks and sounds like the original game), it lacks almost everything I loved about Breath of the Wild. It’s a skin deep approximation with the aesthetic and characters the only thing intact, mostly concerned with turning the existing areas into linear bombastic shooting galleries and sword fights, which you could argue is directly opposed to the freedom and exploration of the original. And all that would be fine if the story or themes were meaningfully expanded here, but they aren’t. It’s entertaining, but it mostly made me want to stop playing so I could pick Breath of the Wild back up instead.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is out now for Switch.