After almost 50 hours I finally finished Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity last night. That is, all story content of the base game and DLC - though I wouldn't be surprised if there's at least one more secret story battle left. It was quite surreal to play this one exactly when the whole world was going crazy over Tears of the Kingdom.
Last year its predecessor, Hyrule Warriors, got me hooked from the very first moment and I literally couldn't stop playing it. It was one of those games which just instantly put a smile on my face and keep doing it for dozens of hours. Its mix of colourfulness and power metal and extreme Zelda fanservice had this pure raw positive energy that just put me in a happy place, like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater of Crazy Taxi. And the Warriors series gameplay, with its mild strategic elements where you constantly have to react to developments on the battlefield, kept me engaged.
Age of Calamity has none of that.
Already Hyrule Warriors was quite "casualized" compared to the Warriors games I've played before but it kept the spirit of the series intact. With AoC the developers took no prisoners in their pursuit of accessibility and mass appeal and, in my opinion, the result is by comparison a very unfun, shallow and repetitive game. Several big things happened here:
1. Where the first game was an obvious crossover between two very different franchises and felt like the work of Zelda fans, here they did everything they could to make it feel like the Breath of the Wild developers themselves created a Warriors game. The look, the feel, the sound, the story - all of it just oozes BotW. It's honestly impressive how much AoC feels like an actual prequel to BotW. But: it viscerally made the game just far less fun to me than any other Warriors game. I never got "pumped", slashing away at the hordes of enemies just wasn't as satisfying. The game also feels much smaller and more repetitive as it only resorts to characters and enemy types from BotW.
2. Superficially the Warriors games are very dumb and monotonous slasher games but what you actually do in those games is control the battlefield - I've compared the games to classic space combat sims like Wing Commander in the past and I stand by that. You can't just mindlessly slash away, in order to win you need to prioritize, constantly make decisions whom to attack in what order and where. Remove that aspect and the Warriors games would be just as dumb as they seem. And that's exactly what they did here.
Pretty much the entire systemic aspect of the Warriors games is gone and (unlike in Hyrule Warriors 1) not even objectives are used to put any pressure on you. The battlefield isn't alive in any way, for the most part enemies are just waiting for you to come to them. All you do in this game is to push forward and attack the same pathetically small set of "leader" enemies over and over again and even fighting those is very monotonous and shallow. Fighting these tanks really just boils down to performing camouflaged QTEs by performing dodges and using Sheikah Slate powers at just the right moments which will allow you to deliver devastating "weak-point smashes". Even the rating system is gone and so there isn't anything left here that would require you to even fight effectively - and staying alive is for the most part trivial. I literally didn't die a single time (though one time I admittedly got close).
So yeah, it's not a battle simulator anymore in any way, it's just an incredibly mediocre slasher game where even the best story levels aren't remotely as fun as the average level in Hyrule Warriors 1. Crazily the story battles are far more narrative-driven and scripted than before and still end up being samey because none of that is used in favour of any gameplay diversity. All Warriors games I've played had some custom mechanics throughout their levels, e.g. areas covered by artillery and whatnot, and for some crazy reason you will find practically none of that here.
3. Finally, and this really pissed me off, they integrated all the optional battles and auxiliary systems into the main campaign. Between battles you get a bloated world map that looks like something from a Ubi game, with millions of markers with optional battles and "quests" - all of this is designed to cheaply turn the game into a time sink and highly encourage you to play dozens of tiny optional battles over and over again by hunting down crafting components and farming rupees and XP. Many idiots have praised the game for its amount of content but all I see is a very dirty scheme to generate a ton of "playtime" with cheap content. I really just wanted to get it over with and beat the story levels but no, I constantly had to level up my characters and unlock attacks for them by playing crappy mini battles where you have to quickly kill a few bosses or several hundred mobs. So actually there is a portion of the game here where you need to fight effectively in order to win but sadly you will only find it in shitty challenges that always feel like they were slapped together by an intern in a few minutes each and only reuse locations from the story levels.
Oh, and finally: it has shitty performance and suffers from more camera problems than any other game in the series I've played. Jesus.
In summary: I'm pissed. They finally made a Warriors game that's exactly as stupid as most people think the series is and ironically it's the best-selling and highest reviewed game in the series. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.
Post edited May 28, 2023 by F4LL0UT