Well, okay, it's not really a mainline Zelda game. It's... something we've never seen before. And it's janky. I mean, I knew the Warriors games had a reputation for being simple-minded button mashers, but this is even more simple-minded than I was expecting. Hordes of enemies stand still while you run past them to fight the next Captain. The framerate is horrendous. Motion aiming doesn't work at all, there are shallow "map game" mechanics, unhelpful button prompts appear at random...
...I love it!
This is, like, the McDonald's of video games. Just pure delicious garbage. I get to plow through hordes of bokoblins as an overpowered impossible-to-understand Impa while an orchestral remix of Mipha's theme plays in the background? Sold.
And I think the story is genuinely good. When I first heard about the game's opening, I pictured a wacky cutscene where Robbie invents time travel and then a hilarious BB-8 robot falls in and inadvertently changes the course of history. Hysterical!
But no, it's actually this really well-directed, dramatic scene that has a sense of reverence for its source material. We've seen the Triforce bring people back from the dead and alter the entire world before; it makes sense that some similar power with the ability to alter fate would exist in this world. It's lame that our expectations were set up for this being a prequel played straight, and it's also lame that this is following the heels of FFVII Remake which tried doing a similar thing and absolutely dropped the ball... but taken for what it is, I think the story in this game is actually pretty interesting, and I'm surprised at how not-terrible it is despite its anime style. The fight choreography in Revali's first level is badass, I want a whole game where I just get to play as him! And I DO get to play as him in this one!
So I'm enjoying it. It's not deep enough to keep me engaged for more than one stage a night or so, and it's kind of just an excuse to make a Breath of the Wild movie, but, eh, it's great. Trying to wrap my brain around each playable character's moveset is interesting enough for me to power through the otherwise shallow "battlefield management" gameplay. (I assume it gets more complex later on. )
Aaah, okay... I just beat Chapter 2, and it's all starting to come together.
You have multiple characters on the battlefield at any given time, so you want to juggle them in such a way that you can capture an outpost in the time it takes your other character to arrive at the outpost that they're traveling to. If you have extra time, you can use this to grind out enemies for more XP, which is important for the long-term strength of your team; you can always grind in side missions, so there's no way to permanently screw yourself over, but the XP system incentivizes you to play efficiently.
Meanwhile, the combat itself actually does have some depth to it. Each character plays differently, and mastering their moveset takes longer than just one tutorial to pull off, so every enemy encounter is an opportunity to practice. Then the runes add depth on top of that.
The rods allow you to obliterate strong enemies quickly, which adds the extra objective of taking out Wizrobes as you go along.
What I still don't understand is the blacksmithing system. Is there any reason to not just fuse all of your weapons together into powerful mega-weapon? I got the soup ladle and the wooden training sword from playing the demo, do I just have to keep these in my inventory and never use them so I don't lose them forever? And cooking feels a little extraneous; the buffs those recipes give are so small!
This is, like, the McDonald's of video games. Just pure delicious garbage.
This probably isn't totally fair.
And the story is way better than FFVII Remake. They're making it clear from the beginning that this is a story about subverting fate. There's foreshadowing! There are mysteries! I can't wait to see where it goes. I just love getting to see more of the Champions interacting with each other.
What language do you guys have the game set to? Japanese all the way for me. I can't understand the little barks that the characters make when you cook something since those aren't subtitled, but BotW's English voice acting might've been its biggest flaw, and I'm not looking back.
It IS fun to mess around with the wacky movesets in Warriors games. Kind of like Bayonetta, except the enemies don't really challenge you. It would be interesting to see if Koei Tecmo could apply that moveset to a more technical action game. With less enemies and more complicated AI? That would be kind of blasphemous, though...
I don't know if I'll buy Age of Calamity, but I will definitely try this game out at some point. (Maybe when the Switch Pro comes out?)
Also, I never quite understand the upgrading/fusing systems in these games. Adventure Mode in Hyrule Warriors was also baffling.
You unlock a bunch of sidequests and "contribute X items to unlock a character upgrade" map icons in between each story mission. The game is meaty! Not sure how that stacks up to the NES map in the first game.
Bigger enemies like Lynels come close to providing that level of Giving You A Reason to Use Different Moves--using runes is pretty fun--but yeah, it'd be cool if there was some strategic crucial incentive to use Link's YYYX move versus his YYYYY move at any given time. Shooting for speed and style is enough to keep me entertained for now though. I need to make sure to avoid doing too many side missions so I don't burn out before the story is over, haha.
The game did such a great job of raising so many questions and introducing so many new elements to the world, I was so excited to see where it would all go!
And then the ending was a fart in the wind that didn't address anything. Hindsight makes all of the mysteries seem more like holes. Bizarre choices done more in the name of fanservice than consistency. After the big turning point 2/3 of the way through, characters' motivations suddenly don't matter and obvious, crucially important questions are never verbalized. There's no tearful reunion when Sidon appears to save Mipha, nor does anyone ever ask him "So wait, wtf just happened and what can you tell us that will help us in this battle?" The biggest mystery in the game is explained in a loading screen tip before the final battle.
The gameplay isn't deep, but experimenting with movesets was entertaining enough to justify the story, but since the story wasn't great... I'll just say that this game was "pretty good." If you're as obsessed with BotW as I was, you don't really have a choice but to play it, but if you're not, then feel free to skip. I was hoping this would be a cool appetizer and teaser for BotW2 and we'd have a delicious Zelda Trilogy on our hands, but as it stands, I'll always think of this game as a non-canon side-story.
At least it wasn't 30 hours long like FFVII Remake!
I play a bit every now and then to make some forward progress. I'm enjoying the macro stuff on the map (prioritizing one mission that I really want the reward for, using the sensor to find which missions can get me what I need, etc). The combat is probably the best in Warriors history (from what I've played) as well, particularly how everyone has their own Sheikah Slate abilities! Right now, my favorites are probably Urbosa and Daruk.
That being said, it feels a little lacking in addictiveness compared to HW and FEW. They seem to have cut or dialed down a few of my favorite aspects of the series, most notably the variety and emphasis on strategy/choice during battle. Keeps seem to do very little now, while in the past they were crucial for keeping your soldiers' morale (their attack/defense) high so that you could influence the flow of battle. In AOC, they seem to be little more than mandatory goals for you to hit, or optional ways to get loot if you feel like fighting the minibosses. Likewise, there seem to be fewer surprises and changes in goals throughout the missions; like one guy showing up to cause havoc, forcing you to choose between doing what you were already doing and going after them.
There's a lot less micromanagement and decision-making and it feels less like a battle I'm leading and more like me vs a couple big monsters with all the small monsters (and our own soldiers) basically being superfluous. And before anyone says it, that's not how the Warriors games have always been! The flow of battle was very important in past games, and since your AI companions could deal and receive damage, your strategic decisions made a big difference in your success! So anyone else missing that aspect of the series?
This being my first Warriors game, I definitely felt like both small monsters and keeps were superfluous. Everyone always sold these games as "battlefield management," but that aspect never really shone through for me. It really is a gauntlet of minibosses, and by the end of it I was pretty sick of them.
Well that's a shame! Plenty of people already thought this series was purely a button-masher and if they only play AOC it likely won't change their mind. Not that it's like a night-and-day difference between this game and the original, but those extra sprinklings of tactics and micromanagement really help the game feel more varied.