Nintendo has recently graced us with a sneak peek into the upcoming Zelda game, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. First off, credit should be given where it’s due. In a world where paid (or pre-order exclusive) demos are becoming a norm, Nintendo is still sticking to releasing free demos. Aside from it being a smart promotional move, it’s just nice from a consumer standpoint. Now with that out of the way, let’s dive in and see what this demo is all about.
What to expect from the demo
The demo contains the first chapter of the game. That might sound like a small amount, but it actually lets you try out a good amount of the games’ mechanics. First of all, the first chapter includes the first two main missions, taking about 20 minutes each to complete. In these missions, you’ll get to try out Link, Impa, and Zelda as playable characters (more on them ahead). In terms of difficulty, you can play these missions on four different difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard.
The map is chock-full of activities and side stories
Aside from the main missions, you will also get to try three side missions. These are character-specific, which for the first three means you only play as Link. These side missions are bite-sized levels which include specific objectives and different mechanics (from learning how to better use your bombs to having fun shooting exploding barrels).
Another mechanic present in the demo is resource management, which is more engaging than it sounds. During missions, you will accumulate different kinds of resources (ranging from monster parts to fruit, fish, and wood). You can then use these resources to unlock different nodes on the world map. Each node has a bit of flavor text and a different benefit. These benefits range from unlocking a shop, unlocking the blacksmith, gaining more moves and hearts for your characters, and more. Don’t be afraid to invest in this part of the demo, seeing as progress is carried over to the final game.
Are you Zelda or are you Warriors?
As suspected, playing this game feels much more like playing a Zelda game than playing a Warriors game. The inclusion of mechanics like BoTW’s Flurry Rush really helps with this regard, but it goes even further than that.
First off: the map layout. Instead of a map full of squares representing the different forts, the fort system is integrated quite seamlessly into what feels like a standard BoTW map. A fort might be a Bokoblin camp or a small part of a town. This feels refreshing and much more alive than a map based on a grid. A great contribution to the feel of the map is of course the inclusion of Kork seeds. Personally, I think it’s much more fun to look for the certain something that might be a Korok than stressing over finding a Skulltula once you pass that 1000 KO mark.
The completionists out there are going to have a field day
In terms of character gameplay, this game feels much better realized than the previous Hyrule Warriors. Each character feels much more unique. It starts with the combos, which still use the same button combinations for every character, however, each character has a different twist. While using Link, for example, you can hold the heavy attack button at the end of every combo to unleash one final blow. But the variety doesn’t stop there. Each character has a unique character action tied to the Zr button. For Link, it’s shooting some arrows, for Impa marking an enemy with one of her signs, and for Zelda, it’s activating any active Sheikah runes. On top of all of that, there’s also variety in how each character uses the Sheikah slate. We’ll let you experiment with this one yourself to find out.
Now on to one of the most important aspects of a video game: art style. This game is leagues ahead of the previous one in this regard. The UI is sleek and clean. The prompt to use a certain Sheikah rune is a stylized colorful rune that appears on the enemy, instead of the last game’s version which showed you a logo of the proper tool to use. The team in Koei Techmo really went above and beyond, creating a real feast for the eyes.
Excuse me, you seem to have dropped some frames
It’s time to discuss the less polished part of the demo: Framerates and textures.
While docked, the game is sort of able to maintain 30 fps. It dips a little under it when there are many enemies on screen (which happens often) and combos are flying about. In handheld mode, however, it pretty much maintains 30 fps only while standing still and sometimes when walking around. During combat it will dip way below 30. I didn’t test it accurately, but I’m quite sure it can go under 20 in some points.
In terms of textures, get ready to see some pop-ins. Pretty much every time I turned the camera around there was some element popping in (whether it be a rock, some grass or even a building). Draw distance isn’t great either, with far away models being low-res.
Hopefully the developer will address these issues at or before launch with some sort of patch. It doesn’t seem impossible seeing as the previous Hyrule Warriors game runs much better.
To wrap things up
Aside from the technical issues, playing the demo was very fun. I felt much more invested in the story than in the prebious Hyrule Warriors game. Instead of what felt like an artificial effort to bring every Zelda character together, you get to experience a prequel to one of the best games on the system. The combos are more fun to execute, the maps more fun to explore and the character development much better realized.
As mentioned, the demo is free, so there’s no reason not to grab it. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity releases on November 20, and it will cost $59.99.
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