Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, demo trial

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, demo trial
The demo of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, released yesterday together with the Nintendo Direct Mini, finally allowed us to preview a title on which Nintendo would seem to want to focus its Christmas, betting against the prejudices towards the controversial musou genre . In reality, those who have played the previous musou developed by Koei Tecmo in tandem with the big N (Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition and Fire Emblem Warriors on Switch) will know that they are more refined titles than usual, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is too important a name to question, which is why Eiji Aonuma and his team have been called upon to oversee everything with the express purpose of raising the quality bar even further. The demo, in this sense, has helped us to better understand the scope of this collaboration, and what we have seen has definitely satisfied us.

Prequel ... or sequel?

The trailer that accompanied the launch of the demo revealed some very juicy details: it seems that at some point in the game we will be able to pilot the Colossi of Champions to devastate the battlefields; furthermore, it seems that King Rhoam and Castonne are also playable. While these characters have not yet been officially announced, it is plausible that they are playable as the official cinematics and illustrations depict them wielding their iconic weapons, a giant claymore in the ruler's caste and the wacky maracas in the case of the Korogu. Nintendo has not yet revealed the exact number of playable characters, but it is very likely that they are not just Link, Zelda, Impa and the four Champions, especially if we consider that the previous Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition had almost thirty. In that game, however, the different timelines of The Legend of Zelda met and clashed, while this one is all about Breath of the Wild and that's it.

Or not? The demo has not confirmed or denied our suspicions because it constitutes the beginning of the game: we can in fact complete the entire Chapter 1 of the campaign, and then eventually import the save in the final version released on November 20 and continue from where we left off. 'adventure. Despite this, Chapter 1 seems to be complete with all the kinematics, and has revealed a small detail that could have very important repercussions on the knowledge we have of the game. The mysterious miniature guardian we've seen in previous trailers actually comes from the era when Breath of the Wild takes place: ended up in the past through a time portal, and then into the hands of Link, Zelda and the others, the memory of the guardian, analyzed by Pruna and Rovely, shows our heroes the tragic fate that awaits them and Hyrule if they fail to defeat the Ganon Calamity that has begun the invasion of the kingdom. For this reason, at the end of Chapter 1, Link, Zelda and Impa set out in search of the Champions and the Supreme Sword, essential to victory.

This means that Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is not just a prequel but, in a way, it is also a sequel to Breath of the Wild or ... a new timeline, altered by the information that Zelda and associates find out early in the game. We are sure that many readers are already trembling: time travel is a trick that does not always work well for screenwriters, but in this case we do not feel like condemning the choice of Nintendo at all because we have always wondered what appeal could have a story of which we already know the tragic outcome, so much so that we had compared this prequel to Rogue One, the Star Wars spin-off that told in detail one of the most important subplots of the George Lucas saga, barely mentioned in the main films. Those who have played Breath of the Wild, in fact, know very well that The Age of Calamity ends with the death of the Champions, the conquest of Hyrule and the sacrifice of Zelda, who traps Ganon after saving Link, who wakes up then only a hundred years later, starting the game.

Now, however, this demo has questioned our certainties, because the story could take a completely different turn and make Hyrule Warriors a narratively autonomous title, albeit set in the same imagery as Breath of the Wild. It's a clever solution, in some ways, because it gives writers plenty of room to maneuver, as well as the ability to wow fans with unexpected twists, while better telling the charismatic Champions that the cinematics of Breath of the Wild had just sketched out. Furthermore, the trick of the time portal does not even prevent the introduction of characters and villains from other timelines into the story, even if only as a simple fanservice ... perhaps in the form of DLC. Now we are very curious to find out what will happen in the story, but we can't help but have a bit of mistrust: will they manage not to mess it up?

The gameplay

We are much less wary of gameplay which, Joy-Con in hand, turned out to be even more convincing than we thought after watching the various trailers over the months. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity remains a basic musou, so don't expect who knows what complexity in terms of controls and combat system; however, the influence of Breath of the Wild feels tremendous in many ways that we couldn't help but appreciate. Chapter 1 in the demo includes a few missions, two main ones that continue the story and a couple of optional ones to unlock on the map after solving the optional tasks. The latter are simple and intuitive: they appear on the Hyrule map - inspired by the one we opened in Breath of the Wild - in the form of icons and it takes a few seconds to complete them, usually by delivering the ingredients and materials collected during the actual missions. By doing so, you learn new combos, power up characters who earn additional hearts, and unlock various services such as the blacksmith, kitchen, grooms and so on.

The missions in Chapter 1 take place in maps large, extrapolated from the open world scenarios of Breath of the Wild, and allow you to play as Link, Impa and Zelda, which at some point we can also exchange on the fly during the game. The characters differ significantly in terms of attacks and fighting styles, and the demo also allowed us to better understand the functioning of the Sheikah Tablet which, in reality, is an alternative repertoire that changes from character to character. Take, for example, the Rune Bomb: if we use it with Link, the latter will throw a series of bombs at the point where we aim; Impa, on the other hand, will materialize one that hits an entire area in a moment; Zelda, for its part, calls a guardian who we can temporarily control while scattering bombs all around. Each Rune - Glacyor, Stasis, Magnesis and Bomb - behaves differently depending on the character, although they have some rather important common functions.

If common enemies generally remain helpless to be beaten as in traditional musou , bosses and minibosses represent a more challenging threat that we can weaken or counter just using the Runes. For example, some enemies could charge us, and we just need to use the Glacior rune to materialize a wall of ice that they will crash against, remaining stunned for long enough to land some nice combo. Runes interact differently with the environment, but the same goes for the magic wands that drop the Shaman, and then Glacior can freeze and slow down all enemies that are in a pool of water, while the electric wand can electrocute them, whereas fire damage not only deals area damage, but sets a fire to the surrounding grass, spreading the damage to larger areas. Each time these skills are recalled with the appropriate key combinations, time slows down giving us a few moments to choose the targets more strategically.

We will have to wait for the full game to better understand the variety and complexity of these interactions. but above all the importance they have in terms of gameplay. The first missions are extremely easy because they act as tutorials and are certainly not the most suitable environment to evaluate all these functions, but the mere fact that they exist and that they make the gameplay enormously more varied and fun is already a notable arrow in the arc of Hyrule Warriors. There are so many goodies that have positively surprised us but that we can't wait to better analyze how the paraglider, for example, that we can use after taking a leap - following a combo or after using a wall as a trampoline - but which has not yet shown a practical implication.

The three playable characters will also need more time to assimilate. Link reminded us of his counterparts in the previous Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, although this Link is much more spectacular, powerful and armed; Impa has good potential to become a deadly fighter thanks to its high speed and gimmick of hostility symbols, which it can impose and then absorb to generate an army of clones that enhance combos and special attacks; Finally, Zelda uses a variant of the Sheikah Runes as normal and powerful attacks, but can trigger the special properties of the Runes in a creative way, combining them with the environment and with the other Runes, since her Sheikah Tablet has a cooldown period. much shorter.

Zelda is also the character who put the Switch hardware to the whip the most. Mind you, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, despite an obvious pop-up of medium / long-range enemies, moves a lot of stuff on the screen, has amazing art direction, wonderful cel shading that makes it look like a cartoon and variety. of amazing animations, but it pays the price of the musou and all these elements at some point affect the fluidity. We didn't notice an option to reduce graphics detail to stabilize the frame rate like in Fire Emblem Warriors, but to be honest we experienced very few slowdowns during the battles ... until we played Zelda and used its Rune Glacior that generates many small blocks of ice to explode at will, generating bursts, splinters and various graphic effects that visibly slow down the action.

Nothing tragic or shocking, mind you, but we are obviously concerned that it may occur more often, especially in the more difficult missions, when the clarity of the image and the fluidity of the gameplay could make the difference between victory and the game over. It goes without saying that we are confident in greater optimization from now to launch, or in some corrective patch, also because Hyrule Warriors would seem to be a very valid title with all the credentials to convince not only the fans of Breath of the Wild, but also the players who see absolute evil in musou and risk missing out on the game that could revolutionize and definitively clear the genre.

The demo of Hyrule Warriors: The Age of Calamity convinced us further, in case we needed it, of the commitment that Nintendo and Koei Tecmo have put into the development of this musou. The premises are excellent, net of some technical uncertainty that we hope will be resolved with a last-minute filing. The goodness of the combat system, intuitive as in any musou but enhanced by goodies inspired by Breath of the Wild such as the Sheikah Runes, could support a campaign that, taking advantage of the trick of time travel, should reserve many surprises for all fans of The Legend of Zelda that has revolutionized adventures and now, it seems, also the musou.

CERTAINTY

The combat system is more varied and fun than the usual musou Breath of the Wild's influence is massive DOUBTS Will time travel change history as we know it? Will the final version be less uncertain on the frame rate front?

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