While playing through Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, I kept thinking to myself, “How would I sell this game to someone who, like me, cherishes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?” Calamity is a prequel set a hundred years before the events of Breath of the Wild. The latter, of course, was a sad, somber story about a failed kingdom and the fractured remains of a hero who no longer remembers how to save the world. This new game promises to unfold the events leading up to Hyrule’s demise, including the rise—and fall—of the Champions, the legendary protectors from the four corners of the kingdom who aided you in Breath of the Wild from beyond the grave. Pretty good sell, right? I wish it was that simple.
Five minutes into Calamity, you’ll find that this prequel is almost nothing like the quiet, meditative open world game from 2017. Sure, since Calamity is technically a spinoff of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series, you might expect it to be big, splashy, and bombastic. But I don’t think fans of Breath of the Wild are prepared for just how disorienting it is to drop back into the leafy, watercolor-textured world of an abandoned Hyrule, only to find it resembling something close to a 1990s Major League baseball game, back when all the players were hulked out on performance enhancings.
You’ll pick up the controller and find that Calamity functions a lot like Breath of the Wild, except everything is, well, pushed to the max. Like, if Link pulls out a remote bomb, he doesn’t pull out just one, he hurls five or six of them, blowing up the entire battlefield and painting the screen with dismembered Moblin parts. The models of these once humble characters are precisely the same as before, but this time, their powers are god-like. The cut scenes are in the old art style, but instead of brimming with mystery, they rattle around like slapstick gags from a Spy Kids movie.