Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an exciting prospect for die-hard Breath of the Wild fans, as it’s set 100 years before the events of that game, in the lead-up to the Great Calamity. That means we’ll get to see the Champions in their prime, we’ll get to visit a familiar but very different Hyrule and we’ll learn a whole lot more about exactly how Ganon was once more unleashed upon the world.
After playing the pre-release demo for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity – which you should play before you read this, incidentally – there’s some debate about whether this game will be in the Breath of the Wild timeline or represent a new split, as… well – SPOILER ALERT – time travel is involved. We’ll get into that shortly, but regardless, there’s a heap of things to be excited about for Breath of the Wild fans. 54 in fact!
(Oh, and please be aware – the video companion above was published before the demo became available, so we’ve obviously found out more since then. The written feature incorporates all the new info.)
1) It’s Official!
Age of Calamity is effectively an official prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that’s a huge deal. Yes, it’s a Dynasty Warriors-style game, but unlike the previous Hyrule Warriors games, the developers at Koei have been collaborating with Nintendo’s Zelda team at every step of the way, on game elements including gameplay direction, graphics, the world and all dialogue. That means that the Zelda team has approved how Age of Calamity will be handling the Great Calamity.
2) More Lore, Blimey!
From a story perspective there’s so much to explore here. Obviously I’m excited to find out who is pulling the strings behind the resurrection of Calamity Ganon, but I’d also like to know more about the background of the Yiga clan. Perhaps we’ll also find out more about what happened to Zelda’s mother, who passed away when she was only six. There are a number of important relationships between characters that can be fleshed out as well. Urbosa, for instance, is something of a mother figure for Zelda, while Link and Zelda, Link and Mipha, and Purah and Impa, all have a lot to potentially delve into.
And then there’s all the story wrapped up in Age of Calamity’s possible re-imagining of events. As we see during the demo, when Zelda’s power to seal Calamity Ganon awakens – just after Link has passed out, and all hope seems lost – the radiant light also wakes up a “diminutive Guardian” who uses a portal to travel back in time to a point before Calamity Ganon has arisen. Team Zelda quickly discover some images stored on it showing the devastation of the Great Calamity, and thus get a big heads-up about how things are going to go down.
Can they change their fates? Or will the outcome still (largely) be the same as what we were shown and told during Breath of the Wild? We don’t know, but this Guardian does seem be a source of uncorrupted Sheikah power that can help fight the spread of the calamity. It appears to be the reason that friendly playable characters are able to use Sheikah runes in battle, and it’s also able to power Sheikah tech, such as in the demo when it animates dormant Guardians to then target a corrupted Guardian Stalker. Of course, the reason there’s an evil Guardian Stalker on the loose is because some malice came back through the portal after the egg Guardian, but hey, waddaya gonna do?
Oh, and the last point on story – it appears there is also an Evil Diminutive Guardian (see slideshow below)… assumedly with a goatee. Is this the same Guardian? Just from the present as opposed to the future? Time will tell.
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3) I Want to Go (Back) to There
The iconic Breath of the Wild world map is back and from it we’ll be roaming far and wide across a Hyrule one hundred years younger. A lot has changed on the ground, but from on high key locations like Hyrule Castle, the Korok Forest and Death Mountain are exactly as we remember them.
4) A Life Before the Destruction
Age of Calamity will give us the chance to visit locations that were thriving during this time period, but only scrappy ruins by the time we came across them in Breath of the Wild. Of course, we’ll likely be fighting our way through many of them, so it’s not exactly sightseeing, but still, I’ve always been curious to know what places like Mabe Village and Goponga Village were once like.
5) Large, Varied Battle Maps
In Age of Calamity we don’t actually get to explore the world as a continuous landscape like we did in Breath of the Wild, but the mission maps themselves can be quite large, and for an action game in the Dynasty Warriors milieu, hopping directly to our destination is no bad thing.
6) A Towering Presence
When you’re on the map during the demo, by the way, Link is actually at Central Tower, so when you choose a mission that takes him somewhere else in the game world, you’ll see him teleport away from there. It’s likely that there will be a tower that functions as a hub location in each of the main areas of the map, as a different tower is briefly visible during the first shot of Vah Naboris in the Gerudo Desert in the trailer showcasing the Divine Beasts (below).
7) The New Loading Screen
Remember Breath of the Wild’s loading screen? As you completed each Divine Beast it showed up on the loading screen, so by the end of the game you had a little elephant, lizard, bird, camel and motorbike bopping along. Here it seems as though the loading screen shows the characters you’ve unlocked, so you very quickly have Zelda, Impa, the new mini-Guardian and Link (see screenshot below), and it’s not long after that they’re joined by the four Divine Beast pilots as well. Nice!
Best of all, the egg Guardian can be controlled! You can use L and R to move it left and right, while double-tapping either makes it run and B makes it jump. So. Cute.
8) You’ll Make Progress Across Whole Regions
Coming back to the map, the world itself is formally divided up into large regions, so missions and subquests completed contribute to your progress in the area as a whole, unlocking more options as you go. As an example, the Gerudo Region takes in the Desert, the Highlands and the mountains to the east and south-east, while Necluda encompasses Deya Village, Karariko Village and Hateno Village.
9) Familiar Locations, New Gameplay
It seems silly to get excited about how much some of the locations in Age of Calamity look like their Breath of the Wild counterparts, but still – they really do! Gerudo Town, for instance, is spot on. It even has the bar where we had to eavesdrop to hear the Gerudo Secret Club password. The screenshots below show a comparison, but to see Age of Calamity’s Gerudo Town in motion, check out this part of the Nintendo Treehouse presentation.
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10) Iconic Sights
It’s also cool being able to easily place yourself in the world. The Yiga Clan hideout, for instance, is still instantly recognisable. As is Korok Forest, thanks in no small part to the Great Deku Tree. And areas like Zora’s domain are as distinct as ever.
11) Oh, the Places You’ll Know
As you complete missions, more and more icons pop up across the map. Now, a lot of these represent text-based interactions, as opposed to places you can visit, but as a huge fan of this world I’m still keen to discover it all. After all, it adds flavour when a merchant is at one of the stables we remember from Breath of the Wild. Surely we’ll meet an ancestor of Beedle’s too.
12) Cooking is Only Used to Help in Combat
Cooking is back, but things have changed somewhat. Rather than experimenting and finding your own recipes, you instead have to unlock recipes first. And then, if you have all the ingredients, you can choose to cook a dish ahead of each mission to get a specific perk that will hopefully do some work. A meal may boost your damage, for instance, or increase your movement speed.
13) Meals Have Been Cleverly Adapted
Meals themselves have changed too. One of the recipes we saw in the Nintendo Treehouse presentation, for instance, used Chillfin Trout – an ingredient Breath of the Wild players would be familiar with – but the resulting dish had a different, but similar-ish, effect. Instead of turning into a meal that boosts Link’s heat resistance when exploring the world – which isn’t a factor in Age of Calamity, it instead boosts his heat resistance in combat – reducing fire damage taken by 50%. It’s a pretty neat fit, really.
14) Iconic Ingredients, Monster Parts and More
Chillfin Trout, of course, is just one of many ingredients and items you’ll collect as you fight and visit different locations on the map. Check out the screenshot below to see just how familiar it all is. That said, there are some new things. You’ll get a “Trophy,” which actually just looks like a piece of paper, each time you kill a specific type of enemy – which means you’ll quickly acquire hundreds of them for enemies like Bokoblins – and these are then used as resources to complete certain subquests. You’ll also gather Ethereal Stones – “a mysterious stone brought back from an otherworldly battlefield.” Yes, some battles appear to take place in a different timeline.
15) Bokos, Moblins and All Your BFFs Are Back
So, crafting ingredients are largely the same, but really, that’s nowhere near as cool as the bestiary that’s also been brought across to Age of Calamity. I love how faithful these foes are. Bokoblins stamp their feet in rage before attacking, Moblins pound the ground with clubs, Lizalfos try and blend into the environment, Lynels leap at you, Hinoxes try and crush you, Taluses have ore deposit weak spots on their backs, and Yiga Blademasters will try and take you out with tornado attacks. It seems likely ALL the key enemies from Breath of the Wild will be represented, extending from skeletal versions of Bokos, Moblins, etc, all the way through to bigger beasts like Molduga.
16) A Delightful Dance of Death
Combat against Age of Calamity’s malicious marauders is a heap of fun, whether you’re launching enemies into the air and firing off a volley of arrows mid-combo, sending waves of enemies crashing into those behind them or you’re dodging perfectly to trigger Flurry Rushes. Each character has a distinct play style too, from Zelda’s heavy Sheikah Slate use through to Impa’s incredible agility. But more on the playable characters later.
17) You Can Still Use the Environment in Combat
While combat looks sweet, it’s certainly less improvisational than Breath of the Wild, so you’re not going to be doing things like disarming enemies then taking their weapon, or dropping metal gear during a thunderstorm to shock enemies. Even so, the environments are still littered with opportunities to cause havoc in combat, letting you use metal crates, bodies of water and explosive barrels to your advantage. You can also leap off walls, trees and other objects and into a mid-air combo.
18) You’ll Know What to Expect from Enemies…
Enemies have wield similar weapons to their Breath of the Wild brethren and generally attack in the same way too, so those hundreds of hours you’ve already spent fighting Bokos, Hinoxes and the like weren’t for nothing. I also love that they’ll still do things like throwing rocks at you if there’s no weapon to hand. Will Moblins throw Bokoblins? Unconfirmed at this stage, but fingers crossed.
19) …But There Will Still Be Surprises
Many enemies have learnt new tricks too. Some Bokos actually throw their clubs at you, for instance, while Moblin area bosses in Goron country wield fire. Bokoblins also come in super-sized varieties now… when they’re area bosses at least.
20) Somewhat Destructible Environments
Breath of the Wild fans will notice some pretty familiar enemy structures too, like platforms built around trees and giant stone skull dwellings. The difference this time is that they can almost all be demolished!
21) Link is Still a Woodsman
Trees also can be chopped down or toppled by explosions. It wouldn’t be a Breath of the Wild prequel without felling trees. You’ll even get wood for your trouble.
22) All the Colours of the Boko
In Breath of the Wild, an enemy’s colour dictated how tough it was, starting with red, then blue, black, and moving on to silver and eventually gold if you were playing Master Mode. It will be interesting to see if colours mean the same thing in Age of Calamity. It’s possible that they’ll just denote different variants. In any case, so far we haven’t spotted any silver or gold enemies, but it seems extremely likely they’ll be included.
23) New Characters… Maybe
Age of Calamity introduces some new faces, such as a dual-wielding Yiga warrior, who is second in charge after Master Kohga. We’ve also had a glimpse of a mysterious new villain… who may well be the fortune-teller referenced in Breath of the Wild.
These two will certainly play a big role in the story, and you can see their introduction in the trailer below.
24) A Fresh-Faced Introduction to Impa, Robbie and Purah
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Age of Calamity is the fact that we’ll be able to spend time with some of the most iconic allies we met in Breath of the Wild. It’s awesome to see Impa as a powerful young woman, for instance. Robbie and Purah, meanwhile, are as offbeat and punk rock as ever, and will pick up where they left off (in a manner of speaking given this is a hundred years earlier) as Sheikah tech researchers for our heroes.
25) Fighting With the Champions… and Their Divine Beasts
And then there are the Champions, who we only met through flashbacks and ghostly interactions in Breath of the Wild. It’s awesome that they’ll get more screen-time in Age of Calamity, and each promises to have a distinct fighting style, as well as a unique Divine Beast that we’ll also be able to pilot, destroying enemy armies with ease. Let’s quickly profile each one.
26) Urbosa’s Fury
Urbosa is the Gerudo pilot of Vah Naboris, and – during this time period – the owner of the Thunder Helm, so it makes complete sense that this fierce warrior harnesses electricity. More than that, if you can find a moment to step outside the fray she can use ZR to charge up and actually store electricity, which she can then channel into more powerful attacks.
27) Daruk’s Protection
Daruk is the Goron Champion and the pilot of Vah Rudania. While bulky and a little slow on his feet, he can get around the battlefield pretty quickly by rolling – a classic Goron move! He uses the power of magma in his attacks, and of course, he can shield himself from incoming damage.
28) Mipha’s Grace
Mipha is the Princess of Zora, the pilot of Vah Ruta and… quite a fan of Link’s. She’s also a healer, so it’s likely that will come into play, although so far we’ve primarily seen some of her spectacular water-based attacks.
29) Revali’s Gale
Revali is a member of the Rito tribe, Vah Medoh’s pilot and… not a big fan of Link’s. He’s most comfortable up in the air, raining bomb arrows from above with his sweet, multi-shot Great Eagle Bow.
30) Wielding the Weapons of Champions Again
Speaking of Revali’s Great Eagle Bow, this was a pretty special piece of gear in Breath of the Wild, as were the other Champions’ weapons – Urbosa’s Scimitar of the Seven, Mipha’s Lightscale Trident and Daruk’s Boulder Breaker. Why? Because they could be repaired. And now we get to use them again, and in the hands of their original owners, no less. Remember how massive the Boulder Breaker was for Link? Daruk wields it easily with one hand.
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31) The Greatest Hits
These aren’t the only familiar weapons in Age of Calamity, of course. You’ll also get to swing Boko clubs and bats, as well as a bunch of familiar swords, broadswords, spears and claymores. And tree branches – can’t forget about tree branches.
32) A New Feel for the Classic Iron Sledgehammer
The Iron Sledgehammer is also in the mix. During the Nintendo Treehouse presentation (below – from about 14:30 in) we got a really good look at this weapon in action and it’s a far cry from the slow and heavy tool it was in Breath of the Wild. It’s shaping up to be a totally viable – and super fun – choice.
33) Weapons Can Be Upgraded and Given Perks
I actually really liked the fact that most weapons were gone for good after they broke in Breath of the Wild, but this won’t be the case in Age of Calamity. Instead, your weapons persist but you’ll be able to level them up by fusing them with other weapons at a Blacksmith. This not only makes them stronger but lets you add perks too. I’m not too sure how the Master Sword will factor into this system, but I like the fact that we’ll be able to take a Soup Ladle and, erm, soup it up to be a force of wanton destruction.
34) Your Combat Options Evolve
Visiting the Blacksmith isn’t the only way to improve your abilities in combat. Subquests pop up regularly on the map and many will reward you with a bonus combo for a specific character. (Others can give you things like an additional heart of health.) The more you progress, the more combo options you have for each playable character, which is great, as chaining together flashy moves on the ground and in the air is a big part of what makes Age of Calamity’s gameplay satisfying.
35) Having Fun With the Weapon Selection
One of the hallmarks of Breath of the Wild was how playful its selection of weapons was. In that game Link was able to wield all sorts of objects, like mops, pitchforks and… the bones of his vanquished foes. It feels like Age of Calamity may be heading in the same direction – if weapons like the Soup Ladle, tree branch and the pot lid shield are anything to go by – and that’s definitely a good thing. Here’s hoping we can also wade through Calamity Ganon’s forces wielding weapons like a Spring-Loaded Hammer or Korok leaf.
36) Ya-ha-ha! Korok Seeds Are Back!
And speaking of Koroks, you didn’t think they’d be left out did you? Yes, you’ll still be finding Koroks and collecting their seeds, although to what end we don’t know yet. Will they serve a similar purpose to Breath of the Wild? Maybe, as we do know that Hestu is featured and… fully voiced now (see the trailer below). Weird.
37) Princess Zelda Has the Sheikah Slate…
Age of Calamity may be a game that’s all about combat, but there’s one character that doesn’t wield a traditional weapon at all – Princess Zelda. No, the only weapon Zelda needs is the Sheikah Slate, and using it her base attacks are a wonderful kaleidoscope of rune powers, switching between whacking enemies with metal crates, rolling oversize bombs at them, casting multiple Cryonis blocks and freezing them in place.
Like other characters she has a host of different combos to explore using combinations of regular attacks (Y) and strong attacks (X), as well as rune powers that can be selected by pressing R then hitting a face button, such as deploying and steering a huge remote bomb spewing remote bomb (see image below). Her ZR ability, meanwhile, lets her trigger any sheikah runes in the field – Cryonis blocks, remote bombs etc. Finally, Zelda’s special skill uses a familiar Sheikah Slate ability – the camera, which highlights then damages all the enemies in frame.
38) …But Everyone Can Use Rune Powers
Sheikah rune powers are available to ALL, but each rune – Stasis, Magnesis, Remote Bomb and Cryonis – corresponds to a unique attack for each playable character. It’s very cool seeing what each individual can do. Impa’s Magnesis move, for instance, sucks all the metal weapons out of enemy hands and forms them into a huge sword which she swings at them.
Time doesn’t freeze entirely while you select a rune to use, but it does slow down enough to give you a little breathing room. Another gameplay element that’s slightly different from Breath of the Wild is the fact that you have a universal cooldown timer, so if you’ve just used Cryonis, you have to wait through the recharge before being able to use any other rune.
We should also mention that runes aren’t exclusively used during battles. In a neat nod to Breath of the Wild, you can use Magnesis to pull up half-submerged treasure chests!
39) Harnessing the Elements
Importantly, it’s not just the Sheikah runes that you’ll be drawing on in addition to hacking and slashing. Elemental powers are also just as important in Age of Calamity as they were in Breath of the Wild. Defeated Wizzrobes drop elemental rods, and once you have them they can be accessed much like the rune powers. Each can only be used a limited number of times before being topped up, but are a pretty ideal way to electrocute, burn or freeze your foes.
Elemental attacks can be used to counter an enemy too, so if you come across an Ice Wizzrobe you can use a fire attack to do considerably more damage to it. Or if you target a metal crate with a Lightning Rod it will shock a larger area.
40) Impa is Insanely Cool
Age of Calamity’s combat also packs more mystical powers, and there’s no better illustration of this than Impa. This Sheikah is fast, furious and ninja-like, slicing far and wide with her short blade, disappearing and reappearing in a puff of smoke, and using seals to grow in power. Perhaps Impa’s most alluring ability is one she shares with Monk Maz Koshia from The Champions’ Ballad – she uses the energy of enemies to create clones of herself, amplifying her attacks many times over.
41) Fight Through Hyrule With a Friend
You can swap to any playable character on the battlefield at will, so if you’re attempting a mission with three friendlies, you can use them all. You can see who’s in the battle on the left hand side of the screen. Importantly, you’ll also be able to play with a friend in local co-op.
42) Changing Your Tunic
Age of Calamity is full of iconic outfits from Breath of the Wild. We’ve seen Link in Soldier’s Armor, the Champion’s Tunic, the Hylian outfit, Stealth outfit, Desert Voe outfit, Flamebreaker Armor, Zora gear, Snowquill clothes and so on. Will all the armor sets from Breath of the Wild be included? I sure hope so – the thought gets me all… Tingle-y.
43) Clothes May Not Make the Hylian
Whether clothes actually impact gameplay remains to be seen. Age of Calamity does refer to these options as “attire” as opposed to “armor,” so it’s entirely possible they’re just cosmetic choices. (Other characters are lacking the option to change attire in the demo entirely.) And if that’s the case, well, I’ll be happy to just run around as semi-naked Link. After all, Breath of the Wild had a bunch of easter eggs to discover based on lack of attire, such as Link showing off his muscles in an idle animation and NPCs reacting differently to him. Even kicking a chest open without shoes on was hilarious. Hopefully Age of Calamity will have similar goodies to discover. (Sadly, we can confirm he doesn’t hop on the spot in pain after kicking a chest without pants on.)
44) You Get a Paraglider, And You, And You, And You!
Link, and indeed all the other playable characters we’ve seen to date, will have access to a paraglider. It can be deployed in-game any time you’re up in the air – so out of wall jumps or after using a launcher combo or rune – and can help cleverly extend combos. And if the ground is sloping down you can actually use it for traversal.
45) Each Weapon Class Looks Really Distinct
While Link was a generalist in Breath of the Wild, in Age of Calamity he’s more of a specialist, and is restricted to three weapon classes – sword and shield, two-handed weapons and spears. That said, there’s a bunch of weapons in each of these categories and it’s impressive how different each class looks from one another.
46) You Can Shield Surf
Which weapon type should you use as Link? Well, to be honest I think sword and shield is going to be pretty tempting. Why? Because one of the combo strings sees Link shield surf his way through enemy mobs at speed. He’s also able to use his bow mid-combo, which is pretty satisfying after launching enemies into the air.
47) You Can Parry (Guardian Lasers)
Shields are also great because you can parry everything from enemy attacks to Guardian lasers – just like in Breath of the Wild. Here’s hoping Lynel shields can be used to attack.
48) Timing is Just as Important
Flurry Rushes also return, giving players a chance to show off their ability to dodge at just the right time to launch a devastating counter attack.
49) You’re Forced to Shake Things Up
Sometimes you won’t have a choice of what weapon class to use. Age of Calamity sets parameters around combat a lot, restricting allies that can be taken in, weapons that can be used and so on. This should help ensure there’s plenty of (forced) variety. And besides, while combat in Breath of the Wild was largely about limitless possibilities, it too made good use of situations where you were restricted. Think about the Trial of the Sword, wielding the One Hit Obliterator, or proving your mettle on Eventide Island.
50) Mid-Battle Meals Are Still a Thing
When Link is wielding a two-handed weapon, he has a particularly awesome ZR move – he can sacrifice a little of his health to power up an attack. You can tell it’s powered up because it flashes red… and corresponds with a dip in his hearts. Thankfully, you don’t need to live with that health hit, as he can also heal that damage back during battle by pressing X to eat a meal. These mid-battle meals are a spectacle of their own, and packed with personality.
51) Strategy in Combat
Any time you face an area boss, you need to whittle down their “Weak-Point Gauge” – a segmented hexagon that functions like a shield to chop through. Do so and you can trigger each character’s bespoke “Weak-Point Smash” attacks. They’re pretty showy and generally finish off the area boss regardless of health total. At least early on. And speaking of area bosses, they can each be countered by a specific move. A Moblin that charges at you with a spear, can be stunned with a well-timed Cryonis block, while a Boko with a shield just needs a few remote bombs tossed at it.
52) The Purpose of the Pillars Outside Hyrule Castle
You know those ominous pillars around Hyrule Castle? Well, according to Age of Calamity’s announcement trailer, they house Guardian Stalkers, which drop out of the hatches like a swarm of mechanical spiders and head off to terrorise the neighbourhood.
53) Ganon Brings a Blood Moon
Age of Calamity’s announcement trailer also seemed to show a Blood Moon when Calamity Ganon was resurrected. Was this the very first Blood Moon? And a direct result of Ganon’s return? Possibly, but we may not see Blood Moons in Age of Calamity given it is the story of the events leading up to the Great Calamity.
54) A Good Egg (Guardian)
Age of Calamity’s adorable mini Guardian sidekick may feel like R2D2, BB8 and Baby Yoda all rolled into one, but c’mon, it is cute. And as we’ve discussed, it seems as though this little creature may well be the lynchpin upon which the whole story relies.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity launches on Switch on November 20th, so keep your eye on the site for more content and our review. And for now, why not dive back into Hyrule and check out our video on why Breath of the Wild is still riveting in 2020 and watch our tutorial on how to Bomb Impact Launch your way around the map.
Cam Shea is based in Sydney and has been mixing a lot of rave era breakbeat lately. He’s on Twitter.