Games this Week... Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity released last week, and I was able to sit down and enjoy a few hours of gameplay over the weekend. For those of you who may not know, Age of Calamity is a sort of prequel game to the wildly popular (and deservedly so) Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but in the same style as previous Hyrule Warriors games.  

For story context, at the beginning of Breath of the Wild, you wake up as Link, discovering that you have been asleep for 100 years after the fall of Hyrule to Calamity Ganon, and that Princess Zelda has been keeping Calamity Ganon sealed away in the castle, but her hold is failing. 

In Age of Calamity, the game begins as Princess Zelda is fighting Calamity Ganon, 100 years prior to Breath of the Wild. As her goddess powers awaken against Calamity Ganon, the magic also activates a miniature Guardian in her private study, who escapes the destruction of Hyrule Castle by jumping through a portal and traveling back through time to before Calamity Ganon's return. This little guardian's mission is apparently to save Princess Zelda from the fate destined to befall Hyrule. 

That's the setup for the story to come, in which Link and Zelda recruit the Champions who will pilot the Divine Beasts and muster forces against Calamity Ganon and the various monsters of Hyruleand who inevitably fail in the Breath of the Wild timeline.

Now, it's really interesting that Age of Calamity decides to employ time travel with this little robot, because as soon as you introduce time travel into a story, things can go one of two ways: 1) it creates a time loop, and everything stays the same (often paradoxically), or 2) it creates a new timeline. 

The Legend of Zelda franchise has used time travel in the past, namely in Ocarina of Time, and as a result, there are two major timelines to the entire Zelda universe, one in which Link defeated Ganon in Ocarina, and one in which Ganon won that particular battle. So I'm really interested to see what is going to happen in Age of Calamity. Will we actually be able to save Hyrule, Zelda, and the four Champions from Calamity Ganon? Or will the story play out exactly as it did before? 

Now, what really interests me about this question is the fact that there will be another Zelda game in the Breath of the Wild universe, confirmed by Nintendo. Previously, the game developers had planned to make another DLC for Breath of the Wild, but it turned out to be too much content for a DLC, so they decided to make a sequel instead. The unknowns about Age of Calamity have me wondering if the next game will be a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, or if it will be a different timeline in the same world, following the events of Age of Calamity.

Nintendo released a teaser trailer for the next Breath of the Wild game at E3 2019, but in it, there aren't any obvious signs of when the story takes place, so until I finish Age of Calamity, I have no way of knowing what the next game will be.

Speculations aside, so far, the gameplay for Age of Calamity is a lot of fun. I never played any of the previous Hyrule Warriors games, so my only frame of reference for Age of Calamity is Breath of the Wild

The controls are wildly different, with a lot of game features streamlined or removed altogether to allow for the mission-style gameplay. Cooking is simplified to creating buffs for a single mission. Weapons don't break and can be upgraded at the blacksmith's shop. Exploration is limited to the mission maps (no open world exploring here), but there appear to be some hidden goodies in each map if you care to look for them. Combat is very different, with a variety of abilities and fighting styles available to each character that weren't in Breath of the Wild. And obviously, you can play with characters other than Link, which is a nice change of pace. 

So far, I've unlocked Link, Impa, and Zelda as playable characters, and I've completed the first two major missions, defeating hordes and hordes of Bokoblins, Moblins, and Lizalfos, and a solitary Guardian. Combat itself is, at this point, a lot of button mashing as I familiarize myself with the controls. Some things are coming more easily the longer I play, and other things keep tripping me up for being so wildly different from what I'm used to, but I'm hoping that improves with time.

Another major difference between Breath of the Wild and Age of Calamity is the overall feel of the game. Breath of the Wild is, for the most part, relaxing, with beautiful scenery and lots to explore, and a few mobs of monsters here and there that you can avoid if you wish.  

Age of Calamity is just as pretty to look at, but it is all about the combat. You face literal hordes of monsters at a time, fighting anywhere from a dozen enemies to hundreds at one time. In my first mission, I defeated over 1200 enemies in 30 minutes. I would be surprised if I faced that many enemies in total in the 300+ hours I've put into Breath of the Wild

Differences aside, I think that this is a great addition to the Breath of the Wild timeline, and I'm really excited to see how the story unfolds (though I am prepared to ugly cry if/when Calamity Ganon wins).