So yeah, this demo dropped kinda out of nowhere (i say “kinda” because a listing on a Soutch Corean site basically gave it away) during yesterday’s Mini Nintendo Direct, and since i’m clamoring to play a new Hyrule Warriors, you bet i’m gonna sink me teeth into it, and write a quick hands-on.
The demo is basically the first chapter of the game, and it will let you use the saved data in the full game. So already it sounds a bit more meaty than the demo they put out for the 3DS port-expansion Hyrule Warriors Legends. And it is.
As you will know, i’m fairly jaded about Omega Force’s output in the last years, i love Warriors games, but even the better ones in recent memory left something to be desired, and/or had some familiar bullshit DLC practices, like the Character Pass for Pirate Warriors 4 (just the characters, not even some post-launch support or patching in the missing story arcs), or the WO4 Ultimate edition… still requiring you to buy the season pass for the base game. And still charging full price.
There’s more i could say, but i’ll shut my mouth in this occasion, if anything because Hyrule Warriors was and is one of the best musou titles ever made, definitely one of the best cross-over Warriors titles, and even from the info we could gather or discern so far, it seemed like Omega Force did put a lot of effort in this one, for whatever reason, maybe because it’s Hyrule Warriors, Nintendo is even more involved in the project than before. Heck, even the choice to make it a story prequel to Breath Of The Wild is kinda bold, as in most Warriors crossovers (including the first Hyrule Warriors itself) of series like this are non-canonical excuses to get many characters from the franchise together and let them fight in huge hack n slash battles.
Though, i’m not gonna talk about the story seen in what the demo offers or relates to the story seen in Breath Of The Wild, to avoid some potential spoilers, you never know.
Gameplay-wise, it’s definitely Hyrule Warriors, which is already quite good, and they further improved upon repurposing elements from the main Zelda series into the Warriors style gameplay, and in this case translating many features of Breath of The Wild, with every character being able to use the main Sheikah Plate functions (bomb, ice, magnesis, stasis) as special auxiliary attacks, timed last-minute dodging giving you a chance to chip at the “weak point crystal” (also displayed after certain attacks) of medium and strong enemies, so you can do a stylish finisher.
Also, if there are walls nearby, you can do a contextual wall jump to start aerial attacks, or use the Paraglider (or equivalent) to remain airborne. The Sheikah powers also work as counters to specific enemy attacks (like using stasis while they do spin attack, wail on him and see him receive all the damage seconds later), and you can equip and use Elemental Rods to trigger enviromental reactions (and pieces of the scenario are destructible to that end), like using Ice on water freezes the enemies, Electricity can be charged to metal objects, grass spreads fire, etc.
They really did implement many staples or common elements from Breath of The Wild, down to having Boblin skull-shaped caves with treasures, completely optional and minor, but they are nice and the game even lets you equip the garbage weapons here as well, like the stick or the boblin wood mace, but of course they didn’t make a specific moveset for each of them, so the birch has the same moveset as the sword. And yes, HERE they don’t break after being used 3 times, at most.
Not the weapons you use, anyway.
That said, we already know Link will have different movesets, heck, even a lance moveset very reminiscent of Zhao Yun’s (not in the demo, to be precise), and each characters feels different, with some having specific playstiles, variations to the combo strings, or unique attacks that can be activated like Zelda triggering a deployed array of Sheika Plate items, powering the next special attacks, etc. And most importantly, all the playable characters available in the demo (Link, Impa and Zelda) are a lot of fun to use, and even the medium officers-type enemies can put up more of a fight than usual, even on the standard difficulty setting.
The game uses the standard Charge System seen in most Dynasty Warriors title (most of them), the standard level up system (instead of the weird thing they tried with Pirate Warriors 4), and the maps also feature the fairly typical Empires-style capture base system, but also are more “free-form” and less dependant on bases dictating the flow of battle (or morale, for that matter), a trend more common in recent Warriors titles by Omega Force. A returning feature is the commands systems (seen in SW handheld titles and later added in Hyrule Warriors Legends), so when you have multiple playable characters available on the map, you can switch to or order them to move to a specific point in the map or attack an officer-type enemy.
Given the absolute disaster it was in DW 9, it’s no wonder Age of Calamity doesn’t have an open world, even if it would make sense in this case… but Omega Force clearly can’t do them, so i won’t miss it. And i don’t want every fucking game to have “open worlds” just for the sake of it, at the expense of anything else.
Oddly, Omega Force has basically reprised the world map system from Warriors All Stars, and refined it, so from the hub world-map you can access story battles, engage in some challenge battles with special rules, offer resources to complete side-missions, which reward you with other side-missions, cooking recipes, extra combo strings, more health, and unlock facilities like the blacksmith. Also, completely quests “gives your allies more health and power”… it says, i don’t know what exactly that means in practice, i know doing so fills a bar, and each region has one.
Ok, performance. In handheld mode it’s kinda disappointing, there are some occasional slowdown; then again, the art style is great and it’s a musou title so the usual sacrifices to have many enemies on screens are made… but in reverse this time, so there are less enemies, but they look better, and so do the textures and assets. In docked mode it runs and looks better, yes, but i feel this should run better regardless, and i hope by the time the full game launches they can improve the framerate.
I do hope they still have an Adventure mode planned for this one as well, it was the best secondary mode you can offer in a musou title, i’m not entirely sure due to this world map system.
That said, now i’m REALLY looking forward to play the full game, from the demo it definitely looks to be one of the better musou titles in years. Which makes me quite happy and kinda sour because i wish Omega Force and Koei wouldn’t “need” to marry the formula to another license in order to not phone it in, introduce some interesting ideas that they never fully develop, or shit themselves trying to do badly things they clearly are not good at that.
Sorry, getting off my soapbox, this is quite, quite damn promising, i really want to play the entire thing, really… well, not “hyped”, but entusiathic, and not just “cautiously optimistic”. This in itself it’s quite surprising, to me.