Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a Champion return for the Legend of Zelda spin-off

Set 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity details exactly what it claims: the Calamity. As everyone’s favourite mute protagonist and a host of other familiar faces, you take on the forces of evil in skirmishes across Hyrule. You even have the opportunity to play as the Champions (probably the best thing about Breath of the Wild, don’t @ me).

As you would expect from a musou title, slashing through unimaginable numbers of enemies is the order of the day. Each character has their own quirks, but largely you’ll be hammering combinations of the face buttons to combo your foes into oblivion and unleash a devastating attack on practically everything in your vicinity when you have it.

The combat really gets interesting when you meet one of the more powerful enemies of the game. In this instance you need a strategy, waiting for openings to strike at their vulnerability gauge or performing perfect dodges to then execute a Flurry Rush. You do have a couple of other tricks up your sleeve however, with individual character quirks and the runes of the Sheikah slate.

Starting with the quirks, and the most basic example of Link, he can fire his bow repeatedly into a crowd with a tap of a trigger, which is excellent for decimating groups by hitting exploding barrels. Each character has their own unique abilities – I’m a real fan of Impa’s clones – but Link’s attacks change depending on the type of weapon he is holding, with the two-handed weapons being mighty, life-sapping strikes.

The Sheikah slate runes operate exactly as you remember them from Breath of the Wild, with Magnesis, Cryonis, Stasis, and Remote Bombs all returning. Each of these behave slightly differently depending on the character you play as, but you’ll want to break them out for more powerful enemies, which will be temporarily vulnerable to one of these during particular attacks. Time it right and you effectively blast a hole in their defence.

These runes are also useful in standard battles with mobs, such as the ability to freeze enemies standing in water with Cryonis or stopping a group attack with Stasis. The Sheikah slate has really been implemented in a satisfying way here, and it being so readily accessible makes for some interesting and frenetic gameplay.

What did we all want to do in Breath of the Wild, but couldn’t? That’s right folks, you can finally pilot the Divine Beasts. While these missions are considerably slower than the others, the sheer devastation you can bring down upon your foes and the environment and rapidly mounting KO numbers during these segments is just so satisfying.

Another major improvement over the first Hyrule Warriors is how the experience outside of combat has been streamlined. Everything of note is managed through the world map, so there’s no need to switch to other menus for the Smithy, for instance. Even all of the combo and health upgrades are done through little side quests on the map – it’s just a far cleaner experience.

Age of Calamity is gorgeous to play, with character and world design stripped cleanly out of Breath of the Wild. The UI is clean yet informative, with touches of the instantly recognisable visual style liberally sprinkled throughout, a far cry from the cluttered feeling of the previous title. It genuinely looks and feels like simply another adventure in the same world, which is genuinely to its credit.

As of yet, the frame rate issues of the previously release demo haven’t proven to be much of a problem for the final game. The exception is with the co-op mode, where the frame rate really tanks when you and the other player are in the same area. Luckily a lot of the missions have spaced out objectives so you can avoid the worst, but nonetheless this is slightly disappointing to see, considering how well implemented the multiplayer is otherwise.

After playing the first couple chapters, there’s only so much to share, but the game so far is fantastic. It really feels like it has built upon, not only the foundations set by the original Hyrule Warriors, but also brings in some great things from Breath of the Wild too to create a thoroughly enjoyable prequel story. Now, if you’ll forgive me, I have a Hyrule at war to return to.

Oh, and one last thing: the little egg Guardian is a baby and must be protected.