Why ‘Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity’ Is Best Played on Hard Mode
[This article is based on the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo, not the full game]
Koei Tecmo seems to love making Warriors games, but it seems like a lot of people view them as spin-offs and mindless, dumb fun. Warriors games are part of the hack-and-slash genre, but there is a way to make them more than just button-mashers—all you have to do is turn up the difficulty.
Turning up the difficulty changes Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity from a simple hack-and-slash to a full-on war simulation. What was once just mashing the A & B button turns into worrying about character placement on the battlefield, item loadout, and actually having to focus during combat.
You’ll realize this isn’t your standard Warriors game once you get to the first Moblin mini-boss while playing on very hard mode. Combat becomes much more reactionary because you’ll essentially get killed in two hits and you have to use all of the tools at your disposal to succeed. Instead of just mashing buttons, you can bide your time and dodge at the perfect moment to do a classic Breath of the Wild flurry rush to do some extra damage. You can use your bombs or arrows to trip up your foe and stop them in their tracks when they’re about to attack you. Or maybe you want to save your special attack for when you run into your next mini-boss so you can do some real damage and move onto your next obstacle faster.
All of this is what is happening in front of the player though; there’s a lot more in the background that you have to worry about. While you’re fighting, you also have to worry about your other characters on the battlefield. You can send them off to fight a new mini-boss across the battlefield, but then you have to worry about whether or not the AI can take on such a formidable foe. All of this happens while you fend off the boss in front of you. Maybe one of your bases is starting to lose its health, so you send Impa or Zelda to help defend it. Do you stay and fight the opponent in front of you and risk losing your base and one of your characters dying, or do you trust in them and keep fighting so you can push forward instead of doubling back?
These are all just examples of things that went through my mind when playing the Age of Calamity demo on a harder difficulty and man, did I ever enjoy it. I had the same experience when I first played Fire Emblem Warriors; it was way too easy and I got tired of just plowing through enemies until I turned the difficulty up. Then it became much more strategic and less about hacking away at hundreds of enemies (which you definitely still do on hard mode) and easily getting to the end of each level.
Warriors games have a lot more mechanics than just pulling off cool combos and flashy special attacks, and Age of Calamity highlights this. The Breath of the Wild mechanics are incorporated to an amazing degree with this game; they make combat and exploring feel more unique when compared to other spin-off games like Fire Emblem Warriors or One Piece Warriors.
You have the sheika slate at your disposal, which allows you to use tools like bombs, freezing time, and the big magnet from Breath of the Wild. But each character also has their own tools; for example, Link can use a bow while Impa cannot. Features like cooking and crafting are also important and become integral on the harder difficulties because you’ll need the bonuses from cooking to add to your attacking power or to add some hearts to your health. Crafting the best equipment will also give you the means to best protect yourself against the much tougher enemies you’ll be facing.
Playing on a harder difficulty in Warriors games means that you get better rewards when completing levels and certain objectives. This means you could get better weapons, armor, or materials for food. Age of Calamity also has an overworld map where you can complete tasks like making certain dishes and collecting materials in a battle to help your blacksmiths and merchants. The harder and better you fight, the more the game rewards you, and the more fulfilling it is in the end.
All of these mechanics make a more varied game that feels like it really belongs in the Breath of the Wild canon, but playing on hard mode makes all of these mechanics integral to victory. And this was just in the demo alone, not the full game.
A lot of the arguments against games being so difficult is that it means the barrier to entry is high but this is still just a Warriors game. Yes, the harder difficulty will mean you have to be more strategic and more careful during boss fights, but it’s still simple enough that anyone can do it. The game does a fantastic job with explaining its mechanics and combat, even if you’ve never played Breath of the Wild.
Another argument for not playing games on hard mode is that as players get older, they don’t have the time to spend mastering a game, which is valid. But it only took me about an hour to really get the combat down—it’s still mostly hacking and slashing—you’ll just have to dodge more and smartly use the tools given to you!
If you don’t want to play on hard mode after all this and just want to mindlessly kill hordes of enemies and experience the story, don’t feel bad at all and don’t let anyone tell you how to have a good time. All of this is simply to say that the game is more rewarding in many ways when played on a harder mode. The fun mechanics can be used no matter how you play—it’s just that they’re better utilized and more important when faced with a tougher obstacle.
All in all, from what we’ve seen from the demo, Age of Calamity seems very promising. It doesn’t matter whether you want a simple hack and slash experience or a more strategic war simulation, Zelda games are just pure fun, no matter how you play them.
If you want to check out our review of the full game, click here!