Nintendo and Koei Tecmo launch the second part of the spin-off Hyrule Warriors, for Nintendo Switch and with the hook of telling everything we did not know about the great war 100 years before Breath of the Wild.
One of Nintendo’s big bets for this Christmas 2020 is focused on a spin-off of one of the most important sagas of its cast: Hyrule Warriors. Announced a few months ago as the great opportunity to experience what we never saw, but did know of its existence, The Age of Cataclysm arrives to narrate all the events that happened 100 years before Breath of the Wild and that led to the long lethargy Link (and his amnesia) to awakening, adventure and fight against the evil Ganon. Nintendo and Koei Tecmo go hand in hand again. More Zelda or more Musou? Without a doubt, the second. But with elements of interest regarding the first.
Hyrule Warriors was born six years ago from the collaboration between the Kyoto company and the kings of mass fighting, the fathers of the Dynasty Warriors saga. The game originally launched on the Wii U, then had a version on the Nintendo 3DS, and finally came out in the form of the Definitive Edition on the Switch not too long ago. Controlling Link, Impa, Sheik, Ruto, Darunia, Midna, Tetra or Toon Link, the title was an amalgamation of characters, final enemies and locations inspired by several of the titles in the saga. from Zant from Twilight Princess to Girahim from Skyward Sword, we were invited to review great battles against hundreds of enemies while maintaining some of the mechanics of the saga. If an enemy was vulnerable to bombs, like Dodongo, here too. If it was to arrows, like Gohma, the same.
Hyrule Warriors did not stop being a musou, a game in which we have a delimited area where hundreds of enemies, sub-bosses and bosses appear and we have to crush them all while we fulfill small objectives of recovering bastions, ending specific rivals and other tasks . But within being a musou, he adapted somewhat to the mechanics seen in The Legend of Zelda saga. With the Age of Cataclysm it is a bit the same. He is still a musou and that shows in the development and in the type of missions, as well as the fact of ending each chapter with 400, 500 or more than two thousand dead enemies. But with certain characteristics of Breath of the Wild.
The Great War, with another development
One of the great attractions of this new installment of Hyrule Warriors is the location and what counts. The game is set in the events of 100 years before Breath of the Wild, when the forces of evil begin to emerge and eat ground in Hyrule, Ganon awakens and his power ends up corrupting everything. It is the story that we learn through memories in Breath of the Wild, with Link recalling his adventures with the Chosen: Daruk, Revali, Mipha and Urbosa. And, of course, the fateful outcome that leaves Zelda fighting to infinity with Ganon until he wakes up. If we consider that the Ballad of the Chosen, the DLC of the Nintendo game, did not go too deep either, the opportunity is golden.
But it is also true that Nintendo’s way of presenting it has not been as precise as expected. At first, it sounded like we would have canon history in our hands and a way to find out what happened by heart. Also with its outcome. But the reality is that this is Hyrule Warriors and not The Legend of Zelda, and the nuance is very important. Already in the first chapter, which can be played via a free demo in the eShop, a disruptive element at the narrative level is made clear: the little guardian. A contraption that in the face of the defeat of the Hyrule troops at the hands of Ganon, opens a temporary portal and travels through time. We are on a new timeline.
We have already covered this in previous articles, but Hyrule Warriors uses a narrative technique that we have seen in other games. Ocarina of Time has three timelines: that of Link boy, where the game begins; that of Link adult, where Ganon is defeated; and the Game Over, which presupposes that Ganon ends up winning. Time travel generates new lines, and this is what happens here. The little guardian causes a new timeline in which he returns to the past because he wants to change what he knows.
And this is key. Because yeah, we’re going to have the locations, battles, and surely dialogues of what happened in Hyrule 100 years ago, but up to a point. In fact, we could say that almost everything that happens up to the middle of the game responds to “the official facts”. With nuances, because the guardian and other elements that we will not comment on from the enemy faction are present, but everything is developing as in the past. Until for reasons of script it begins to change.
Something that on the one hand leaves the canon told in Breath of the Wild intact, and also gives us surprises at the plot level in this Hyrule Warriors. Everyone will appreciate the fact that it is not canon history with its ending known as a good thing or a disappointment. We have to say that despite some disappointment at the beginning in this regard, in the end the development of events and what causes the presence of the little guardian gives interesting moments within the plot, although the fact of finally falling into a spin- off or a what if ends up taking it away from what we initially dreamed of in the presentation of the game.
Some Breath of the Wild, a lot of musou
The choice of the musou genre, according to Nintendo, was precisely to be able to convey the meaning of a great battle like the one fought with hundreds of enemies. And as a starting point it is not far-fetched. The game knows how to transfer, especially in the second half, that feeling of great war. And there are many moments where we actually encounter multiple targets at once and the feeling that enemy troops are overwhelming us. Another issue is what is Zelda and what is musou. More of the second, without this being really bad: Hyrule Warriors is what it proposes at the playable level from the first moment.
We started by controlling Link with his usual sword attacks: loose and fast, the ability to make evasive movements, cover ourselves and the possibility of using other weapons such as the actions of the sheikah stone (the magnet, the ice block, the bombs remotes or the paralyzer of time) or staffs with different elements: fire, ice and electricity. The combat system is based on all this to be able to eliminate enemies in bulk that come from the cast known in Breath of the Wild: Bokoblin, lizafos, centaleones, chuchu, guardians, summoners, octoroks, keeses, moblins and all their variants by color , changes according to the elements they can use, etc.
The combat system works well and forces us to be attentive to what happens on the screen. We are not facing a button masher where we will have to repeatedly press the Y button to kill many enemies. Yes, we will do this too, but the patterns of certain enemies, especially sub-bosses and bosses, force us to expand our range of movements. Link, for example, has arrows as a special attack, and these are key to flying enemies or weak points such as the eye of a Hinox.
In addition, to all this are added some peculiarities of the combat system of Breath of the Wild. On the one hand, the perfect evasions. If we dodge an attack at the right time, time is slowed down and we can counterattack to crush our enemy quickly. On the other, the enemy guard breaking system, which by attacking when they are drained, we reduce their guard and, when it is completely broken, we can land a lethal blow (or almost). If we add to this that the use of scepters can give us an advantage (ice to freeze fire enemies and vice versa), we end up seeing a certain strategic point in our actions to optimize our attacks and knock down the enemies before, knowing when to use the attack special with A and how to use to our advantage the unique abilities that are very different from one character to another.
Because yes, choosing a different character gives us differences, worth the redundancy, palpable in combat. The very simple combo system, which is based on repeatedly pressing Y, doing it with X or combining both, has a different response on the battlefield. Zelda can be generating all kinds of elements with the Sheika stone that then explode and affect a much wider radius; Revali fights at high speed, being able to fly and shoot at medium and long distances; Urbosa has a similar combat to Link, but his lightning charge allows, if we manage this energy bar well, electrify several enemies at the same time. And so with other characters, such as Impa, who has an interesting combo system, or Mipha, which makes it easier to surprise with air attacks.
If to this we add a good number of unlockable characters that we cannot list, the result is varied enough for us to notice differences between each character. In addition to a showy and spectacular proposal for the combinations of attacks, explosions, number of enemies … It is an intense game that catches you easily without being extremely complex and allows you to get adrenaline out of control with ease. Of course, with some camera problems on some occasions that make you lose the sense of what is happening on the screen.
From interaction to reaction
One of the most important gameplay changes between Breath of the Wild and this Hyrule Warriors is how we interact with our surroundings. The modules of the sheikah stone changed absolutely everything when it came to fighting in the Nintendo game and relating, physically by, with anything around us. Here this interaction gives way to a purely reactive system. The bombs, the magnet (almost nonexistent), the paralyzer or the ice floe are to be used when the game asks us to. And it will be often, but they are not to combine with each other and generate a controlled chaos of events as we would like.
Great enemies tend to perform actions that we can block in different ways. This is indicated by an icon of each action to be performed, and that if we use it at the right time, we block its onslaught. The stun can stop a rolling attack from the guardians, and the ice block can stop a Centaleon onslaught. And so with many enemies and many variants. But neither the paralyzer allows us to throw the enemies very far so that they impact with others, nor does the magnet give us the option to collect metallic elements to use them in our favor except in specific cases … Not above all, it is sensible to spend the use of the modules, which have a recovery time, beyond when we have to react.
If we spend the bombs or the paralyzer to attack several enemies, and immediately afterwards a sub-chief launches a special attack and we are still recharging the actions, we will lose a golden opportunity to take advantage. And this is surely its main drawback: that they are actions designed to be used in reaction, not to expand the combinations and options as in Breath of the Wild. The use, in short, changes drastically. Not so the scepters, which we can fill in, ending with specific enemies and then using it to our advantage when we consider.
Experimentation gives way to action, because as we said, this is above all a Musou. And the important thing here is to attack and defeat hundreds of enemies. The objectives tend to be: kill specific enemies, recover areas infected with monsters, escort certain characters or reach specific points on the map. Everything is channeled through combat, so expect nothing more than to go from one point to another eliminating Ganon’s minions.
One of the interesting additions is the ability to control divine beasts in more shooter phases than anything else, with scenarios where we have to clean thousands of beasts. Although they are not the most inspired phases or the most complex ones, it is true that the sections with the divine beasts in the second half of the game have a bit more demand when it comes to being overcome. Of course, as a playable experience they are not at the level of the rest of the game because they are based on ending a huge number of enemies with devastating attacks in scenarios where the framerate suffers more than necessary, by the way and as we will explain later.
In any case, and without the possibility of getting spoiled due to the limitations of the embargo, something that the game does stand out is in the battles with the final bosses. All of them come from what we have been able to experience in Breath of the Wild, and our pulse does not tremble to say that some of the best boss fights set in the Zelda world we have seen in this game, due to the demand, intensity and skill that he demanded of us as players. We have had intense fighting, in which we have had less than a quarter of a heart left and where we have snorted with satisfaction once we managed to overcome it successfully.
Collect, expand challenges, and start over
If the first Hyrule Warriors had the adventure mode to offer us endless extra content, here we have the Hyrule map in which icons and challenges are constantly appearing. We will have many secondary missions to overcome, with various limitations, enemies and rewards to get. And whenever we fulfill a task they open up again. The objective, in addition to leveling up, getting more life or new combos and weapons for the characters, is also to collect resources of all kinds that allow us to fulfill tasks to earn new rewards, build new facilities in which to buy other resources to unlock other tasks, and so on to infinity. Or almost, because new icons keep opening up with every step we take.
Food allows us, recipes in hand, to make new dishes that give us benefits before fighting (less damage, more experience, more speed …). The weapons that we are accumulating can be merged to give them extra effects and level up, we have a tracking system that tells us where to find indicated resources that allow us to complete tasks … There is a lot of collection work for those who want to exceed 100% of the game. If we go to a fixed shot with the main campaign and some extras to level up, it will take a little over 10 hours to finish it. But then there are many more to do. From general secondary to exclusive tasks for each character that improve their performance. Despite all this, the reality is that the secondary content does not have enough variety at the playable level when compared to the first Hyrule Warriors, and many are narrow objectives that move away from the larger stages of the main campaign.
In general, the game is quite user friendly. First, because if we die, it always returns us to a certain control point so as not to start from scratch battles that can last 30 or more minutes. Then, because there are facilities that make life easier for us: the one to fuse weapons to quickly raise the level or the training guild to raise the level, only paying in rupees, of the characters that have been left off the hook because we do not use often (the cap is always the maximum level of the strongest character we have). They are little things that make it easier to advance the game without getting trapped due to lack of level or weapons.
The proposal is completed with a two-person cooperative mode on split screen, where the general quality at the graphic level drops quite a few integers (also in performance) and the use of amiibos, which allow us to get varied resources as it already happened in Breath of the Wild, yes, limited to four dolls per day.
A world of Breath of the Wild reeling (literally)
Hyrule Warriors: the age of cataclysm is a transparent game in its proposal, and in fact the available demo of the entire chapter 1 is a declaration of intent from Nintendo: give it a try, because this has a not so well-known genre and the best is not for you. Playable it has enough elements to differentiate itself from a pure musou a la Dynasty Warriors, although it surely does not mark as much of its own profile as some graduates, as is the case of the Dragon Quest Heroes. But it is at the audiovisual level where the title offers one of lime and another of sand.
If we look at the artistic section, it follows the line of Breath of the Wild at a general level, something that is appreciated if we compare it with the first Hyrule Warriors. The characters look especially good especially in video scenes, where the fan will feel more than satisfied and comforted by what they say, how they tell it and the high points. In combat, things change. Yes, we really like to fight in mythical battles such as Akkala, inside the castle, on the mountain of death or in the city Zora, but it is true that the resources used by the title are one notch below what that we saw in Breath of the Wild. It is a replica, and at the level of animations, models or AI, it seems the same but it is not. And when we expand combos, we like how the characters unfold and the capacity we have, but their recreation looks more to the musou than to The Legend of Zelda, and it is something that many will notice as a step backwards. At the level of detail, textures and viewing distance, the game is below expectations, and is supported by the inherited art style and the video scenes, which are generally very good.
At this point, it is important to stop at the performance and general appearance of the title. Either Nintendo Switch can’t handle it or the game is not well optimized. And we lean towards the latter. There is a pass for what we mentioned before at the asset level because the game is what it is, surely it does not have the budget of a first Nintendo sword and in the end, on an artistic level it is quite faithful to the world we met in 2017. But the Resolution, which falls short of 1080p, takes a toll on the game’s overall level of detail, and the frame rate falters. The title constantly moves between 20 and 30 fps, with 25-28 being the most common, but having drops below 20fps in moments of many effects, explosions and large enemies.
Framerate problems are present. It is true that at the playable level it does not affect as much as it might seem, in the sense that due to its simplicity in the combos, we are not going to miss a sequence for it, because it is not when it suffers the most. The framerate suffers a lot when there are many enemies in the air, an activated module and a special attack from an enemy all at the same time. It is not unplayable by any means, but the result is very poor with this fps dance, especially in final battles where the load of enemies on the screen is huge. It is not something that has prevented us from enjoying the title, because many things happen on the screen and very quickly and the response to the controls is good, but it is something evident that it has not been optimized well.
Highlight, to finish, the soundtrack. The mantra that Breath of the Wild does not have music should be over, but it is true that in this case the soundtrack is much more traditional in its way of appearing, with melodies that fit perfectly, versions of songs that we already knew and not only in Breath of the Wild and moments in which they accompany perfectly. All this, by the way, with a high-level Castilian dubbing, with the cast of voices that we already met in the Nintendo game and with a work that is more polished: it shows that there is more confidence and that they are already more made to the characters they recreate.
Hyrule Warriors: The Age of Cataclysm offers a most interesting plot framework and setting for fans of The Legend of Zelda, although the development in a different timeline from the official one may not be to everyone’s liking. The combat system works, the diversity of characters is appreciated (and the differences are noticeable) and it has some of the most spectacular battles, both massive and in final bosses, that we remember in the Zelda universe. To this are added video scenes that the fan will like and certain additions, such as the battles with Divine Beasts. But it is also a game that falls a bit short, not for quantity but for lack of variety in extras, especially compared to the first Hyrule Warrior. But what undoubtedly penalizes the title is its technical section: poor performance and a visual finish that should have been much more ambitious and polished.
- To be able to relive certain moments and battles of the time in which it is located
- Large-scale battles are like actually living through the great war in Hyrule
- Some final bosses shine with their own light
- Combat system that works well, and sufficiently differentiated between characters
- The soundtrack has good times
- It has a large amount of content, characters, weapons …
- Technically it is very improvable: drops in framerate and level of detail and finishes below what is desired
- Bonus content is not as varied as in its predecessor
- Various mechanics and elements of Breath of the Wild have a much more limited role
- The camera will give us more of a headache
It meets the expectations of what a good game is, has quality and does not have serious flaws, although it is missing elements that could have taken it to higher heights.