Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is an excellent Musou game with several flaws inherent to that subgenre. When I played the original release, the smooth progression of the main narrative pushed some of those flaws to the back burners. Now, the first half of the DLC brings these problems back into the cold light of day. It turns out that the endgame content in AoC is a bit of a hellish slog. Furthermore, Wave One is almost entirely built out of endgame grinding and sidequests. There’s a whole lot of content to chew through, but that might not be a good thing.
For a longer look at the base game, you can check out my review. In brief, this is the second entry in the Dynasty Warriors / Legend of Zelda saga. This time, we’re exploring the world established in Breath of The Wild. To that end, the bulk of the Wave One DLC content – Pulse of The Ancients – is focused on Robbie and Purah’s ancient tech experiments. You’ll be collecting data and raw materials while fighting pitched battles against high-powered monsters. New gear will be unlocked, along with at least one new character. While I love the core gameplay loop, going on a string of sidequests reveals a flaw in the system. Loading these levels takes a while. Worse, you’re doing it 10 or 12 times a session.
Load times are something I never noticed during the campaign. Story missions, cutscenes, shopping trips, and upgrades all helped soften their impact during gameplay. It’s only when you’re hitting six maps in a row hunting for a certain monster that the load times start feeling downright oppressive. This sensation pairs nicely with repeated attempts at a difficult map. Getting creamed in the last segment of a long mission for the fourth time can make that enormous EX quest map feel like a crushing burden. Thankfully, since levels and upgrades are something you can buy, you’re never totally doomed. The load times can just make it seem that way.
Part of my frustration stems from the challenging nature of Wave One’s content. This is all grindy, nasty endgame business. Upon reflection, it’s hard to raise a serious ruckus about this. After all, tough gameplay is what you need at the very end of the game. I’m just terribly rusty, having not played AoC in any serious capacity since the game’s proper release last November. In particular, the Vicious Monsters will absolutely clean your clock if you aren’t careful. These are boss monsters with boosted stats and advanced skills that you must slay to make progress. If you’ve just finished the main campaign, itching to take on a tougher challenge, then these fights are perfect.
Beyond the Vicious Monsters, there’s a series of unlockable rewards tied to the Robbie/Purah mission grid. Link gets access to a sort of copycat flail, one that imitates the weapon breaking system in Breath of The Wild. There’s also upgrades to all your Sheikah Slate powers, as well as a new playable character or two. I can’t confirm that last bit, but it seems like you’ll be able to control a Guardian at the end of this nasty slog. The flail is a fascinating weapon, one that rewards experimentation and taking risks. Also, it looks rad as hell, which is always nice. In fact, the flail represents a fascinating alternative to the old weapon breaking system in BoTW. The weapons you copy quickly break, but then you still have the flail afterwards. You’re still constantly cycling through weapon types, but you’ve got a base weapon to fall back on. It’s a clever idea that we’ll never see outside of Age of Calamity.
DLC content needs to walk a fine line between substantial and exhausting. Pulse of The Ancients doesn’t always pull it off, but it almost isn’t meant to. This is endgame content, you see. There’s no handholding or pleasant jaunts happening here. This is a vicious gauntlet, a sweaty sprint through harsh plains under a blistering sun. The boss battles are brutal, the Royal Ancient Tech Lab is crazy long, and there’s little relief on the horizon. Players hoping for a victory lap after the main campaign might find one, but only if they fully dominated the base game. Otherwise, Pulse of The Ancients is a tough new challenge that sits neatly at the end of Age of Calamity.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
Tons of content
Boss fights get intense
Flail fixes BoTW weapon system
Endgame grind gets nasty
No story content yet
Hard to pick up after a break