The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only one of the best games of 2017 and an ultimate Switch experience. It's also one of the best open-worlds ever made. And it's a genuine one, too, as the adventure provides fantastic freedom in any aspect. BotW is the fulfillment of the famous promise Todd Howard made during the Skyrim presentation. "See this mountain?" he said. "You can climb it" this time, however, you didn't have to mash the jump button to actually do it.
So it's no wonder that Breath of the Wild reaped phenomenal ratings and it sold in more than 20 million copies (without any major discounts). Fans are eagerly awaiting the announced Breath of the Wild 2, but before its release, Nintendo offers something ostensibly very similar. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a game that looks like the new Zelda, although it is not the new Zelda. And for some players, this may be a problem.
If you like Dynasty Warriors, you already know what I'm getting at
If you know what musou games are or you've been playing Dynasty Warriors for years, then the thesis of this article will not surprise you. This is a somewhat niche genre, and this text is addressed to those mostly unfamiliar with it.
This isn't the new Zelda
Do you remember how Breath of the Wild made us kill thousands of enemies, then had us capture the outpost defended not only by bokoblins, but also their much more powerful commander? Or when you threw dozens of enemies into the air at once in order to launch a combo and finish them off before they hit the ground? Good, cause nothing like that happened in Zelda. These are all scenes from Hyrule Warrios.
New Hyrule Warrios is the second installment of the microcycle, which was created under a license, but has little in common with The Legends of Zelda gameplay-wise. The Japanese company Koei Tecmo specializes in musou games, which can most easily be described as a combination of brawler and hack-and-slash. Its most famous representative is the Dynasty Warriors series, based on the Chinese epic about the Three Kingdoms, and more than 20 years-old, but there are also titles that, just like Hyrule Warriors, were created using well-known franchises such as Dragon Quest and Fire Emblem (and soon also Persona).
So how does the gameplay in these games differ from Breath of the Wild? It's easier to name the similarities, because it's a completely different genre we're not exploring an open world, we're rather just fighting on closed arenas. There's no dungeons with environmental puzzles to solve, typical for the series. The essence of the game is decimating thousands of opponents, collecting new weapons, completing levels and making quasi-tactical decisions during the fights and then repeating it for dozens of hours. Breath of the Wild was a sandbox with an emphasis on survival; Hyrule Warrios is a OP warrior sim.
But don't get me wrong. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity promises to be one of the better musou games of recent years. The artwork is gorgeous, the killing of monsters is insanely satisfying, and the content is very extensive. It's hard for me to say whether it will continue to be the same fun, and the replayable gameplay will be appropriately varied but I'm having a great time so far.
But there's a lot of Breath of the Wild
Okay, we already know that if you're looking for a BotW-style game, you won't find it in Hyrule Warriors. But does this mean that fans of the series won't enjoy it? Not if they're only aware of what they're getting into. And what they're getting into is a hack-and-slash, in which there's a ton of references to Breath of the Wild.
First of all, there's a lot of history here. In the previous installment of this microcycle, namely in Hyrule Warriors Legends, the story was strongly pretentious, and the formulaic timey-wimey was supposed to justify the presence of characters from different episodes of the series in the same space and time. Age of Calamity, meanwhile, managed to surprise me.
In the new Hyrule Warriors, action begins one hundred years before Breath of the Wild, the game thus gives us a chance to better understand the disaster that led to the fall of the kingdom of Hyrule. The missions, scattered all over the map in BotW, take us to places we know perfectly well but this time the buildings, villages and settlements are not in a state of decay, but of flourishing before the arrival of Ganon. I don't know how the story will go, because I'm just starting my adventure with Age of Calamity, but the cut-scenes make a good first impression. It's also comforting to know Nintendo had supervision over the production.
The fact that it's canonical will be reason enough for hardcore fans to reach for Hyrule Warriors. However, the story is not all that Zelda fans will admire. I am very impressed with how many mechanics, ideas and referencces to Breath of the Wild the creators were able to weave into the typical musou gameplay loop. Of course, this is standard, because all their implementations strongly refer to the brands on which they are based, but in the case of Hyrule Warriors, these are not just cosmetic details. We learn new recipes and cook food that strengthens us. We collect a ton of new weapons (this time they do not break after a few blows). We can even glide, and though in practice, it's not much different from ordinary walking, thanks to such flavors, Zelda fans will feel at home. I don't even mention such obvious things as familiar characters or places.
Whos it for?
I do not hide, Hyrule Warriors is a lot of fun and I think many fans of the new Zelda will also fall in love with this game. But again, the most important thing is to know what you're in for, since I imagine it's easy to be rather unpleasantly surprised with lack of open world, or environmental puzzles.
The biggest drawback of this game, apart from the said disappointment, is the fact that this new not-Zelda is rather unpolished in technical terms. While I haven't seen too many glitches and bugs, the optimization on the Switch is begging for mercy. wavering framerate is not an exception, but rather a sad norm, which is a stark reminder of how weak Nintendo console are in terms of power. I hope that the developers will be able to somehow deal with this before the release, because players more sensitive to technical aspects will be repelled by that.
I consider myself one of them, actually. Well, I'm from the generation of players that remember how their PCs choked with Elders Scrolls: Oblivion, running the game at 20fps and we were thrilled anyway. I consider the technical problems that Hyrule Warriors has a detail that doesn't stop me from having fun. And I'll get back to that good fun as soon as I'm done writing this. I still have thousands of Bokoblins and Lizalfos to kill.
Adam Zechenter | Gamepressure.com