There are two issues most individuals will inform you about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One, that the genre-defining open-world journey is wonderful, if not one of the most effective video games of all time. And two, that they need they may expertise it once more, contemporary.

So far, Nintendo hasn’t but perfected the mind-erasing tech essential to make that occur, however Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is perhaps the subsequent neatest thing. It’s like discovering the director’s lower of your favourite film, or discovering out that the writer of an incredible e book has much more the place that got here from. For dozens of hours, Age of Calamity means that you can spend extra time with beloved characters in a world chances are you’ll not have wished to go away within the first place. Perhaps probably the most exceptional factor about that is that Age of Calamity pays homage to all the pieces that made Breath of the Wild nice whereas additionally establishing its personal distinct sense of grandeur.

I’m unsure you’ll get practically as a lot out of Age of Calamity if you happen to didn’t play Breath of the Wild, or if you’re a hardcore “Musou” fan who’s hoping that Koei Tecmo pushed its signature hack-and-slash collection into new floor. If something, Age of Calamity looks as if a crossover recreation meant to introduce new folks into the style, which is understood for its large-scale battles and flashy fight. In some methods, the sport already assumes you’re invested within the characters from its epic story.

Breath of the Wild takes place in a ravaged world 100 years sooner or later, with many of its heroes of fable lengthy useless by the point Link wakes up. You go on to avoid wasting the day, of course, however there was a deep sense of melancholy and pathos in figuring out the big worth that was paid to make sure your eventual victory. Age of Calamity’s proposition as a prequel to that could be a juicy one: What if I might play via all of the occasions I heard about in Breath of the Wild?

Link and the Champions in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Image: Koei Tecmo Games/Nintendo by way of Polygon

Age of Calamity begins in that catastrophic future, after which inexplicably throws a mysterious robotic right into a time time touring vortex. I used to be instantly intrigued by that premise, and spent your complete time questioning how — or if — issues would possibly deviate from the timeline I performed in BOTW.

Everything that I took for granted in Breath of the Wild doesn’t essentially exist in Age of Calamity, not less than not at first. I get to observe because the Sheikah Towers get erected, and the way Zelda convinces the Champions to pilot the Divine Beasts. Despite figuring out precisely what all the pieces was and the place the overarching story was going, I used to be nonetheless thrilled to participate in all of it.

It helps that Koei Tecmo clearly have a deep love for the supply materials. The Japanese developer discovered methods to include practically each factor from BOTW into Age of Calamity, from accumulating Koroks for power-ups to gathering components for status-affecting cooking. Even minor issues, like bespoke animations for each character, are imbued with an simple reverence and pleasure. Link doesn’t simply kill his enemies with a sword, y’all. He’ll defend surf on a Lynel’s face, too.

Mostly, although, the fight is sick as hell. Few video games make me really feel this cool for pulling off even easy combos, which helped encourage me to be taught extra in-depth methods. I marveled as I lower down huge mobs of enemies with the benefit and charm inherent to the Hero of Time.

I used to be particularly excited to see how Age of Calamity turned Princess Zelda into a complete badass. After spending the whole thing of Breath of the Wild watching Zelda bemoan that she couldn’t contribute extra to the conflict effort, I used to be joyful to see Age of Calamity let her tackle a extra hands-on position. Sure, most of the sport nonetheless has Zelda second-guessing her capability to awaken the facility essential to defeat Calamity Ganon, however that doesn’t imply Zelda isn’t extraordinarily succesful.

Where Breath of the Wild presents a extra pinpointed story about one hero’s journey, Age of Calamity’s scale is far grander. Battles happen throughout massive (and generally complicated) maps full of enemies, and it’s your job to think about your complete taking part in subject, not simply your rapid subject of imaginative and prescient. I might break up my consideration a number of methods, sending off characters to defend factors of curiosity. With the press of a button, I can swap via completely different characters relying on the altering goals or factors of curiosity. The scope was huge sufficient to strengthen I used to be main a conflict, not an instanced battle.

Playing on the Nintendo Switch Lite, I discovered that Age of Calamity generally buckles underneath its personal weight. There are instances when I discovered myself killing enemies so quick, I needed to wait for the sport to load extra. Sometimes, when the taking part in subject is frenzied with a myriad of talents and results, issues get uneven and gradual. Texture pop-in is fixed. The recreation can’t fairly appear to deal with the breadth of the conflict it needs to showcase, not less than not within the Nintendo Switch. That stated, none of these technical points had been ever unhealthy sufficient to get in the best way of me having fun with the sport.

The rune attacks screen in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Image: Koei Tecmo Games/Nintendo by way of Polygon

Most of the time, what the sport requested me to do was pretty easy. You can be spending a lot of time attempting to seize factors overrun by Bokoblins and different such creatures, or tasked with clearing larger bosses, just like the Stone Talus and Guardians. Every so typically, Age of Calamity switches issues up by asking you to work together along with your setting in a number of other ways, like reducing down a tree to dam a path. But for probably the most half, the sport provides you a collection of playgrounds and allows you to go hog wild with Breath of the Wild’s iconic solid of Champions.

And let me inform you: They are known as Champions for a cause. There’s a big roster of characters to unlock, and practically all of them have a singular play model. Daruk, for instance, is a gradual and regular beast relegated to the bottom, whereas Revali is a swift soldier who can fly via the air. My favourite of the bunch must be Urbosa, who expenses ahead with lighting assaults that have to be charged up. Watching Urbosa snap her fingers to drown the battlefield with bolts by no means will get previous. There’s a palpable verve to all of it — Urbosa turns to the digicam and laughs as her enemies get decimated. The uncooked would possibly and delight are intoxicating. It’s not typically that I get to play a brown girl who kicks this a lot ass.

While the core gameplay loop stays the identical all through Age of Calamity’s prolonged recreation time, I by no means grew drained of it. I discovered myself switching via characters so much, ensuring that everybody was leveled up and had sturdy weapons. There’s some good depth to fight prep right here, as the sport helps you to gather a range of weapons with completely different strengths. One broad sword would possibly bolster your protection, whereas one other would possibly reward you extra rupees after a profitable mission. These results could be combined and matched as you fuse weapons collectively and stage them up.

Unlocking further hearts, combos, retailers, and kit requires grinding tons of technically repetitive aspect quests, however I reveled in it. I discovered myself consistently discovering new depths to the fight, whether or not it was discovering a more practical mixture of Sheikah talents, or utilizing a distinct set of gear and power-ups.

Eventually, it grew to become a recreation to see how briskly I might destroy enemies who used to terrify me. The extra perfectly-timed dodges that triggered devastating flurry assaults, the higher. The recreation additionally poses loads of novel challenges, like thrusting you into an optionally available battle the place a single hit can kill you. There’s nothing fairly like beating a stage with a second or two left on the clock, and solely half a coronary heart to your title.

The recreation by no means totally embraces the potential alternatives of its time-traveling premise, however I used to be nonetheless hooked all through. Possibly it helped that Breath of the Wild already did such an excellent job of establishing the stakes. Age of Calamity didn’t should do a lot to drag on the identical heartstrings. Sometimes, a brief cutscene with a pained look or a wavering voice was all it took to reinvigorate the drama of all of it.

Age of Calamity’s mandate is much less about saving the world as soon as extra, like at all times, than it’s imagining that you’re one of these knowledgeable Breath of the Wild speedrunners who can slice via Lynels prefer it’s nothing. And I, for one, am joyful to take pleasure in that energy fantasy.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was launched Nov. 20 on Nintendo Switch. The recreation was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch Lite utilizing a pre-release obtain code offered by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.