Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (NSW) Review

It's time for a new review here at SuperPhillip Central. This time we're taking a look at a game that combines two great things (one perhaps greater than the other): The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors to make one awesome Musou game. It's Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Here is the SPC review.

A magnificently made Musou 

The day that Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was announced by Nintendo was one where I immediately jumped back into the original Hyrule Warriors, albeit the Nintendo Switch's Definitive Edition version, resuming my 100+ hour save file. I was beyond hyped and wanted to get another happy helping of Zelda Musou-styled gaming goodness. I ended up playing 100 hours more from the announcement of Age of Calamity to around the start of November. 

My worry after playing so many hours was that I'd be burned out of Musou and be bored of Age of Calamity within minutes. Fortunately for me, the absolute opposite happened: I spent 50 hours enjoying the game this past month, and one of the main reasons for that is that Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity plays differently than the original Hyrule Warriors, thankfully enough. Plus, its structure is vastly different, too. It amounts to a game that both feels fresh and familiar as a Musou fan and lover of the original Hyrule Warriors.

Have no fear! Link storms the battlefield before Hyrule Castle to battle some Bokoblins.

One of the main things that distinguishes Age of Calamity from its predecessor is that the game is more action-focused than the strategic "run here, capture this outpost, beat this general, so you aren't overwhelmed and can turn the tide of battle". There's still plenty of outposts to capture in Age of Calamity, but there's more of a focus on battles and varying objectives. 

For instance, an early game mission based in the Gerudo Desert tasks you with first making your way to Gerudo Town while fighting through waves of enemies. Then, you're asked to make your way to Urbosa's chamber, one of the Four Champions, who is for some reason sending her Gerudo soldiers to attack you inside. From there, you need to dispatch several of the Yiga Clan's top blademasters, a group of ninja-like foes who wish to awaken Calamity Ganon. After accomplishing this, it's a rush to escape into the desert, where the Yiga clan strikes yet again, but by making noise by blowing up bombs, a Molduga worm awakens from the sandy desert depths to terrorize the Yiga Clan, making them retreat. Finally, it's time to capture some outposts to lure out and defeat Master Kohga, the leader of the Yiga Clan. As this hopefully shows, the variety on display in missions is much better than the original Hyrule Warriors, which makes for a less tedious and less repetitive game overall. Hence, my lack of burning out when playing.

Maps in Age of Calamity are incredibly large and complicated. The size and scope most times is just amazing, and the variety is astounding. One map has you battling in front of Hyrule Castle on Hyrule Field and the surrounding towns and fortresses that surround it, while another sees you entering the labyrinth that is the aforementioned castle with its satisfying layout of hallways, rooms and passageways. Secrets abound on these maps, as there are treasure chests to discover as well as hidden Koroks, which will reward you with a seed as a token of its appreciation for you finding it. 

These Yiga Clan members are probably kicking themselves for not requesting a sick day today.

Not all is great with these more expansive maps, however. For one, indoor areas are massively tricky when encountering larger foes. The camera can become obstructed by map geometry, which makes for some frustrating moments. More importantly, though, in every map, especially ones with waving grass that can be cut, the frame-rate takes a noticeable tumble into woeful territory. While I didn't mind so much, those sensitive to frame-rate issues might want to try the demo of Age of Calamity first. Regardless, there is much more right and many more positives than there are things wrong and negative with the maps in Age of Calamity.

Areas with lots of enemies and grass such as this one can result in some dreadful frame-rate problems.

I very much enjoy the parts of missions where I'm running around as one of up to four characters (these can be cycled between with the press of the up and down directions on the D-Pad), hacking and slashing my way through hordes of enemies and battling big baddies like Hinoxes, Stone Taluses, and even those especially pesky Lynels. The parts of missions that I don't enjoy are separate from the standard Musou-style gameplay. These are where you pilot one of four Divine Beasts. Controlling these humongous mechanical monstrosities can feel liberating as you fire massive beams of energy, lasers, and lightning into swaths of hundreds of miniature (at least compared to your Divine Beast) foes at once. However, for me, these Beasts move so slow and feel cumbersome to control. Obviously a gigantic machine that rivals the size of mountains won't turn on a dime or move with swiftness, but knowing that doesn't make these sections any more fun, any less tedious to play, or serve as tremendous pace-killers.

The Divine Beast segments of the story missions are decidedly my least favorite part of Age of Calamity.

While I did initially dread piloting a Divine Beast when those sections were interspersed between the traditional Musou action, I eventually came around to them--or at least tolerated them better. But, obviously, the main draw here in Age of Calamity is the hack and slash, destroy enemies, battle bosses, capture outposts, and complete objectives gameplay. And it's honestly better than ever in Age of Calamity. 

Using a combination of weak and strong attacks, characters perform combos to unleash damage onto hordes of enemies. As enemies are damaged and eventually defeated, characters have their special gauge build, that when filled and used, delivers a devastating area-clearing special attack. Weak enemies can be defeated after a few hits, but stronger foes, like commanders and bosses, take more hits as well as more tactfulness to beat. Each of these have weak point gauges that appear when they perform certain attacks. Weakening this gauge completely allows you to unleash a strong attack that deals a considerable chunk and dent of damage to their overall health meter. You can also dodge an attack with proper timing to slow down time and perform a flurry attack, which also takes off a chunk of health and their weak point gauge. 

Urbosa spins to win like a slot machine to battle this Blue Moblin.

Instead of the items from the original Hyrule Warriors, every character in Age of Calamity possesses the Shiekah Slate, used to perform one of four abilities in battle. Each use results in a cooldown period before it can be used again. These before mentioned abilities include freezing an enemy in place with the Stasis rune, throwing a concussive blue bomb with the Remote Bomb rune, summoning a pillar or series of pillars of ice with the Cryonis rune, or grabbing metal objects such as crates or even an enemy's own weapon with the Magnesis rune. Many enemies will use moves that can be countered by a specific rune, making them susceptible to an assault and have their weak point gauge be revealed and depleted. This is especially useful for large boss enemies.

An icon appears near an enemy when they have a move that can be countered by a Shiekah Slate rune.
This Moblin, for instance, can have its hammer turned against it via some Magnesis!

One of the greatest pieces of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is simply how robust the playable roster of characters truly are. Each has a unique twist to their play styles, which makes each worthwhile for the most part. Some take more practice to learn than others, such as some of the unlockable, less obvious to mention playable characters in the game, but the reward for doing so is truly fantastic. The previously mentioned Urbosa can channel the powers of electricity to shock foes into submission with bolts of lightning, needing to occasionally charge her powers when they run low or deplete completely. Meanwhile, Link has multiple move sets he can use based on what weapon the player gives him. From a sword and shield combo, to a long-range spear, to a powerful but risky two-handed blade or club, Link has the most versatile set of abilities in battle. 

Revali makes it rain pain down on these enemies.

Like Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, then 3DS, then Switch, each character levels up through gaining experience from defeating foes. Alternately, there's a training ground area that allows you to spend Rupees to level up your cast of collected characters as well for fast--albeit expensive--leveling capabilities. Further, each character has their own assortment of weapons they can acquire in missions and after missions are completed. Weapons have their own power levels and attached skills such as increased damage to aerial enemies, increased likelihood of earning rare materials, increased defense, and much more. Weapons can also be fused at a special shop to not only make them stronger but also give them bonus skills.

There are a total of 20 story missions in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, but there's plenty--and I do mean plenty--of more content to discover in the game. Completing story missions unlocks alternate side missions, which are shorter in length (fortunately, because story missions can run a tad too long for my liking) and feature varying objectives. Generally, though, they involve beating down a number of enemies or bosses before time runs out, protecting another character, or capturing outposts. While there is some semblance of variety in these missions, you don't really notice it after the seemingly hundredth time you're tasked with battling a Lynel.

Most side missions have set rules, such as limiting the character you can play as,
whether you can use items, heal, or even whether you can take any damage!

Nevertheless, completing side missions rewards you with materials and Rupees, both of which are used to complete requests around the kingdom of Hyrule, which uses the same general map as seen in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. These material requests earn your characters new combos, more health, new abilities, new shops to do business with, and much, much more. There are hundreds upon hundreds of these to complete, and the more you do, the better your characters become in battle with more strength, abilities and moves to utilize. It can be a bit overwhelming seeing a massive abundance of icons on the screen needing completion, but at the same time, these are purely optional bits of content made to extend your enjoyment of the game.

And as you've seen, there's a LOT to enjoy about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Between the reimagined story that certainly GOES places, the fun that comes from slaying a slew of enemies like they were nothing, rushing about the maps like a Cucco with its head cut off as you complete objectives, the robust roster of playable characters with unique play styles, and the massive amount of content available in the story missions, side missions, material requests and Korok hunting, Age of Calamity is up there as one of my favorite Musou games. Admittedly, it certainly helps that it's one based off of one of my favorite video game franchises of all time, but in general, it's just a great Musou. It definitely won't make fans out of haters of the genre, but for those who love games like Dynasty Warriors and want an evolution of the formula, you have one with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.

[SPC Says: B+]

No comments: