Nintendo has officially released a surprisingly extensive demo for the upcoming The Legend of Zelda spinoff Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, following a new trailer drop. The demo allows players to fight through hordes of monsters as Link, Impa, and Princess Zelda, completing Chapter One of the main story.
Right from the beginning, Age of Calamity thrusts you back into the world of Breath of the Wild as Guardians raze Hyrule Castle, with the full force of Calamity Ganon underway. We get a pivotal scene from Breath of the Wild, Link’s fall and Zelda’s powers awakening, from the perspective of the small, egg-shaped Guardian hiding away in Hyrule Castle. After being restored by Zelda’s magic, the little Guardian plays a small tune to open up a wormhole covered in ancient Sheikah text, and at this point I realized all of my expectations had been completely wrong.
In a Back to the Future-esque turn of events, the little Guardian flings itself through a time portal and emerges in the past, right before Calamity Ganon begins his siege on Hyrule. We even get a cool little detail showing this time traveling Guardian being retconned into the Calamity Ganon Tapestry heavily featured throughout Breath of the Wild. The involvement of time travel in Age of Calamity is a huge twist, and while many fans were expecting to see the fall of Link, the Champions, and Hyrule itself, there might now be a way to change history. The Legend of Zelda franchise is no stranger to time travel, but seeing it utilized in the world of Breath of the Wild is certainly exciting.
When the actual demo begins, we start with Link as he defends Hyrule Castle from a legion of Bokoblins and Moblins. Link, who is not yet the legendary hero, easily cuts through enemies with light and hard attacks. At the very beginning, Link does not have the abilities of the Sheikah Slate, but I never felt like I was hindered without it. Instead, Link can use his sword, bow, and shield to knock down enemies.
The very first thing I noticed while playing Age of Calamity was that I had to remind myself I wasn’t actually playing Breath of the Wild. Everything is so similar, from Link’s run cycle to the save menu, and many of the locations are easily recognizable. I had to stop myself many times from exploring the small map of Hyrule Field instead of helping the Hylian knights.
The gameplay is closer to that of the game’s predecessor, Hyrule Warriors, but with small elements of Breath of the Wild. For instance, you get the hack-and-slash, one versus one hundred mechanics that are very prevalent in Hyrule Warriors, along with a little bit of the exploration and crafting found in Breath of the Wild. There are certain spots throughout the map where players can find hidden Koroks, so I frequently found myself wandering around trying to find more. The combat is a nice blend of the two franchises, focusing on combos and item use to open up enemies’ weak spots.
After defeating a certain amount of enemies and following a familiar cutscene involving Link, Impa, and the little Guardian, we unlock Impa as a playable character, as well as half of the runes for the Sheiah Slate. In the previous Hyrule Warriors, Impa was more of a brawler, using mostly strong heavy attacks, but her gameplay in Age of Calamity is closer to that of Sheik in that she has a faster, more agile moveset. She has the unique ability to create clones of herself that really came in handy when enemies started to overwhelm the map. I spent most of my time playing as Link, but Impa is definitely a lot of fun to play as. The Sheikah Slate itself can be used by any playable character, and can help when defeating certain enemies. Each rune works differently depending on the character, which fits their personality and play style. Link’s remote bomb attack, for instance, involves hurling bombs at enemies, while Impa’s is closer to shooting off fireworks. It took a while to adjust to the controls for the Sheikah Slate, and ultimately I focused on using attacks with Link and Impa’s swords instead. Around this time I also began to notice how the frame rate was lagging significantly, with many of the game’s assets coming out fuzzy. At one point I had to set my Switch down because of how hot it had gotten from chugging so hard.
Following the first act of Chapter One, we unlock the last half of the Sheikah Slate, as well as Princess Zelda herself. This battle takes place on the road to the Ancient Tech Lab in Akkala, in which we get to fight our first Guardian. To be frank, it was a little terrifying. At this point in time, our heroes do not yet have the prowess to defeat a Guardian by themselves, resulting in a mad dash around the map to wake up stationary Guardians for aid, while weaving in and out of laser fire. Princess Zelda joins the battle a little later on, and her gameplay is fairly basic. She uses the Sheikah Slate for her main attacks, along with being able to utilize the runes like the other two characters. Zelda is the character I played as the least, as I found her a little boring, but with it being so early in the game I have no doubt she will hold her own against the rest of the playable characters later on.
The frame rate was much better in this mission, and hopefully any issues will be fixed when the game releases this November.
After completing Chapter One, there is not much left to do save for a few small missions that include learning how to better use the remote bombs and defeating a certain amount of enemies within the time limit. That being said, it really does have me excited to continue the story and see how the rest of the Great Calamity plays out. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is overall a ton of fun, offering up a lot of exciting gameplay and action. It does have some frame rate issues, but nothing that cannot be fixed before launch day. As an added bonus, for those that have completed the demo and want to continue the story, Nintendo will allow save data to transfer from the demo to the full game once it launches.
Pick up Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity on November 20th.