Saturday, November 28, 2020

Age of Calamity War Log, Entry 6

Current Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Chapter: 5
  • Battles: 13
  • Challenges: 58
  • Quests: 149
  • Contribution Rate: 39%


Last time I've expressed my frustration about playing on "Very Hard" difficulty, mostly because of devilish double bosses or time limits, in worst case scenarios both. But the game has been really good to me, where yesterday had some great moments and was making some good progress, so I'm still sticking with the highest difficulty.

There is still this sick time limit fetish going on for the Challenges, where by now every new Challenge seems to get one, but at least I've finally managed to beat "Echoing Footsteps" after various attempts. With Mipha, of course, because she tends to be really good at large bosses, but the Lynel still required some excessive rod spamming at the end.

This unlocked yet another time limited Challenge against a single Molduga, which will be awesome to farm Molduga parts later on, but only when I'm actually able to do it within this time limit. This boss stalls forever, so of course Koei Tecmo had to slap a time limit on it...

There is also a new Challenge at the Lanayru Wetlands called "A Feast for Wizzrobes", where you get to fight a lot of Wizzrobes all at once. At first I was really excited about this, because so far there hasn't been a Challenge to quickly refill all of your elemental rods, but this one comes with a ten minute time limit and this may be cutting things close, depending on the character, because you need to defeat 17 Wizzrobes in total and they swarm you. With Zelda it was quite difficult...

Instead of this nonsense, there should have been an early Challenge in the game with three Wizzrobes, one of each type, to refill your rods and many crates to refill your apples as well... I wouldn't mind as much grinding for refills, if at least it was efficient. But ideally, there would be a service to refill these things, if it really isn't supposed to be happening automatically. Broken record, I know...

At least you also unlock one more rod usage after this Challenge, which will be extremely helpful with time limits going forward. So, that's something.

Zelda riding a mine cart into a Fire Wizzrobe

Anyway, I also got to try some of Zelda's new combos, which get unlocked by quests around this point in the game. One of them has her unearth a mine cart, which she uses to ride around for a bit. This is hilarious and I love moves like this. 

What I noticed during all these Challenges is that the two songs "Hold the Line" and "Battle of Liberation" are basically what "Under Siege" and "Kumite" used to be in the first Hyrule Warriors, which means they get used in Challenge battles all the time or whenever the developers didn't know what other music to use. At least they sound a lot more melodic and epic than a certain five second jingle on a loop. But they also sound so similar that I first thought this is one and the same song...

But overall the music in this game is excellent, where I can't really complain much. Especially the themes for the Champions Daruk and Revali are amazing and they are causing earworms all the time.

Also, the game now shows a completion rate at the center of the map now. And you'll get Link's outfit from Hyrule Warriors with the blue scarf as a reward for 100%, which is pretty awesome.

The Ancient Trial

When I first thought about a potential follow-up to Hyrule Warriors, I mainly wanted two characters from Breath of the Wild, other than the Champions: Hestu and Monk Maz Koshia. The latter felt more like a pipe dream, so to see the Master Monk make an appearance in this game as what could potentially be a playable character after all had me very excited. So, this had priority over anything else in the game.

And unlike the bonus character before him, you don't have to jump through a ton of hoops to get this guy to join you. Do three material collecting side quests and then face him mano a mano. No big "Final Trial" or whatever. 100 years earlier all you need are some gemstones and Lynel Trophies to prove yourself worthy.

Revali losing against Monk Maz Koshia in an Ancient Shrine

Maz Koshia: "In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I offer you this trial!"

Me: "What? No puzzle?"

But... there is a catch. Can you guess it? That's right, a time limit! Of course there is... Because beating Maz Koshia isn't good enough, you have to do it fast. Very fast, even, because you only get three minutes here, which isn't a whole lot. I'd assume this is even quite difficult when playing on "Hard" or even "Normal", so things didn't look good on "Very Hard".

Imagine Breath of the Wild doing any of this... Of course in Master Mode you still have to be somewhat fast, because the enemies regenerate to a certain point. But imagine doing one of the trials on a timer... It wasn't necessary, because the combat itself was always very good and for the most part challenging. And while Age of Calamity certainly has some of this combat goodness, Koei Tecmo screwed up badly here if they felt the need to add a time limit to almost all combat challenges to make them actually challenging. Fighting the guy on his own isn't really hard. You have to be careful to not be hit by some of his crazy moves, but once you've figured the patterns out, it's an easy win. Well, it would be, if it weren't for the time limit...

But I really wanted Maz Koshia and waiting until later was not an option, so I've sent my best man to do the job, Revali, the Chosen Hero. I fused together the best bow that I could at the time and fed him all the damage boosting meals I had and prayed to Hylia that this would be enough. Revali's arrows can wear down all the strongest foes, even if they don't show their weak points. But of course he also spammed rods like crazy during the last minute... for a photo finish.

Revali finishing Maz Koshia with only one second left on the clock

I'm not exaggerating here, as you can see, I've beaten Maz Koshia with only one second left on the clock. Luckily, the timer pauses during weak point attacks, much like with Special Attacks, or otherwise it would have run out in that moment. And this was on my second try... On the first try it actually ran out like one second before I could press "X" to perform the final weak point smash. But at least I knew that I could potentially do it, so I tried again right away.

This was another one of those extremely close calls on "Very Hard", but at least it counted. I even expected the game to show me the middle finger again by spawning three more Maz Koshias and telling me to beat them all in four minutes or so. It's what this game sometimes does to troll you...

But this victory counted for one of the most rewarding moments yet, because it gives you the next optional character and a fun one, too. You can summon ancient relics with your combos, like the spiked balls or one of the energy cells, and if you destroy them, you gain symbols similar to Impa.

Here the symbols let you grow large for a moment and slam your foes with a giant hammer, one of those that are used for the "mini golf" trials. This is an extremely good crowd clearing move. In addition you can summon an entire Sheikah Shrine wherever you are, which is quite hilarious, but can also get in the way.

It's easily one of my favorite characters so far in the game and I enjoy playing as Maz a lot, but this is not exactly what I expected from his moveset. His original boss fight in Breath of the Wild was heavily focused on him using ancient weapons, mainly a Guardian Sword, and creating many clones. Of course, Impa got the clone feature for her combat and Link will most likely get all the ancient weapons, so things had to be shared...

In the least Maz Koshia uses Guardian weapons, mainly the spear, and there are some moves where you attack with multiple clones. But you also get two entire combos about creating those spiked balls, which is something that I would have expected from a moveset for Master Kohga instead.

(Speaking of Kohga, there are two new time limited challenges at the Yiga Clan Hideout that feature the guy... I haven't tried them yet and something tells I don't want to anytime soon, unless they unlock the guy as a playable character, but that would be lame and not make any sense. Why would he join the good guys? Because he's sick of being beaten by them? If he joins, there must be a real good reason to make it not appear out of place...)

Anyway, what's interesting about bonus characters like Maz Koshia is that this is essentially how DLC characters could work in the game. You get some quests and challenge missions to unlock them, then you get their training mission and various quests to upgrade them. I can already get three Special Attack gauges for Maz Koshia, while Link still only has one.

Unlike the characters in Hyrule Warriors, you don't have Pieces of Hearts or weapon unlocks for them tied to specific missions or challenges. You get better weapons for them by playing later missions with them, where I already got a better tier for Maz Koshia, but not for the other bonus character, where I only dared to use it in early missions...

But this way Koei Tecmo could potentially sell characters on their own again, without most of the downsides that the DLC characters had on Hyrule Warriors for Wii U, where they've felt totally lackluster without any real unlockables. Here all you need is simply some more icons on the map and some small stories in text for them, done. This means they could keep adding more characters to Age of Calamity, without the need of any major expansions, like the Adventure Maps from the first game.

One downside still is there... If you're already finished with the game, then there is no point in unlocking any bonus characters except for the fun of trying them. So, unless you're going to start the game all over again, you might not find any use for them.

And these characters naturally won't have any story impact. I mean you would expect Maz Koshia to give them important information, like the fact that there is still another Divine Beast in the earth, but he is just there to support you in battle. Or not, if you just put him on the sidelines.

amiibo Awakening

So, I was scanning my amiibo yesterday in the hopes of getting maybe another bow for Revali, but I got this special bow instead:

Sacred Bow. A bow prepared for Zelda once she was fully awoken to her power. Its design mimics that of the royal family's emblem, and it is capable of imbuing arrows with a sealing power.

Yay, Zelda has finally awoken her powers! We can beat Calamity Ganon now! Everything will be fine! And all it took was one figurine blessed by the Goddess Hylia herself!

Now that's what I call a spoiler. Well, it's not really, because Nintendo has shown her second moveset already in the launch trailer and this was to be expected to be part of the game anyway. But if you go into this game completely uninformed, this might come as a surprise.

This must be a bug, because so far I haven't gotten anything yet that I wasn't supposed to have. But it's kind of funny, because it let me play as the awakened Zelda already, while she still had her default clothes from the beginning of the game. I don't want to talk too much about this moveset yet, because I'm not supposed to have it at this point, but I can tell you that it's quite the shining light...

Zelda surrounded by a bright, golden light

It did make the two upcoming battles unintentionally funny, though, because the story was all about how Zelda has yet to awake her powers, while she essentially already had them as a weapon... (The game still equips her with the Sheikah Slate, though.)

"What do you mean, King Rhoam? She has her powers now! Look, she can even fire light arrows! What else do you want...?"


Calamity Now

There wasn't actually that much side quest stuff to do between the major battles by now, except for all the time limited and/or Yiga stuff that I chose to ignore, so I've made some good progress yesterday in continuing the story. But this was also because the next two battles were unexpectedly nice, especially compared to the hardships from all the missions since the end of chapter 2.

And with a title like "When Courage Fails", I fully expected the mission to spam Lynels at me until I give up, but it was just mostly Moblins and Zelda was never really in any danger, since your AI allies are made out of steel. So, I could take my time and explore the Damel Forest for some Koroks without worrying too much.

Link and the little Guardian in the middle of some jungle ruins in the dark

The atmosphere with the rain storm during the night was pretty nice, so when I played the mission for the first time I still felt quite uneasy about what could be happening next. And while some bad things happened, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I really thought that this would be where the shit is finally hitting the fan.

It does hit the fan in the next mission, where you still are at Hyrule Castle, before Zelda goes to the Spring of Wisdom, and the Calamity already strikes early. Surprise, mother fuckers!

This was completely unexpected and it was pretty awesome to experience the outbreak of the Calamity at first hand, where Hyrule Castle was suddenly filled with Black Bokoblins and Moblins, as well as various corrupted Guardians.

Link standing before the entrance to upper Hyrule Castle during the Calamity

Later on it would even throw the first white enemies at you with a nice contrast to the dark castle interior, which was very well designed and quite close to the original from Breath of the Wild. My old sense of orientation for this castle still worked here, where it even had some of the same Korok hiding spots. And it's awesome how this game makes good use of battlefields with multiple levels. This is a huge upgrade over the flat battlefields that the first game had. It's a little bit weird how they escaped the castle with a secret passage leading to the docks, but then went all the way up again, though...

But it was a completely linear mission and you could just go at it step by step. One horde of Bokoblins at a time, one Moblin at a time and one Guardian at a time. The only exception to this was a battle, where you face two Guardians at once, but with the Master Sword these things are complete pushovers, even on the hardest difficulty. I almost feel sorry for these guys, because they instantly lose all their limbs on a Special Attack and then just sit there, nearly helpless. It's a shame that the Master Sword doesn't do its "BAM, BAM" sound here any longer, but at least it always depletes the weak point gauge whenever hitting an enemy with malice, which makes the Guardians even more vulnerable.

Well, I also had a lot of practice reflecting the Guardian beams while playing the demo, where I've even defeated the Guardian at the Breach of Demise on first encounter just by doing this. It took forever, but I was curious about what would be happening, where it simply skips to the final cutscene of the chapter and it unlocks Zelda with the Sheikah Slate without any real explanation. And doing this was good practice, which now paid off, because a reflected beam now deals a good amount of damage, just like in Breath of Wild.

But because of all of this, I didn't feel threatened or overwhelmed like in some of the earlier missions. I even went all the way back at the end to defeat six of the additional Guardians that have showed up, because I could. A part of the map with two Guardians was still walled off, though, so I couldn't get them all. It's like the Eldin Cave mission in Hyrule Warriors, where it pretends that you're in pursuit of danger, but you can just go back and defeat those Lizalfos easily without a worry in the world.

Link fighting a Guardian above the dock of Hyrule Castle

It also helped that Hyrule Castle was filled with grates full of healing items. King Rhoam must really love his apples and I thank him for it. Much more useful than bananas, at least in this game. And it made sure that I could keep those sword beams up.

I'm not even complaining. I love this mission, where it's probably one of my favorite missions so far and I had a blast blasting through Hyrule Castle in this thrilling scenario. But it probably could have been somewhat more threatening, given the situation...

And I'm not sure I like the story aspect of it all. I was actually convinced that this mission had the primary purpose of adding King Rhoam to your roster, since the goal was to rescue him. What's the point of altering the story like this, if not for some new gameplay possibilities? And how awesome would it have been to play as him at the end, smashing Guardians with the Royal Claymore of his? But instead it seems like he meets his demise there, just like he did in Breath of the Wild, while you have to run away with Zelda, similar to the original timeline.

But you also don't get that infamous moment of desperation. You are experiencing one version of the events, but it's a very different one. Instead of shedding tears in Link's arms, Zelda sheds tears on the Guardian buddy, who as a reaction creates this beaming pillar of hope, which changes everything for some reason.

"We can still fix this!"

And somehow I feel cheated out of what was supposed to happen. I personally would have liked it, if they first failed like they originally did, but only then you get some more time travel magic to change everything. Part of me now hopes that there really will be a villain campaign, where you play as Astor to prevent the good guys from preventing the Calamity. To fix the timeline.

I can already see the evil loading screen with him at the front, followed by the corrupted Guardian, Kohga, Sooga and the four Blights. (I love that you can control the Guardian with L, R, B and X by the way. That's such a good feature and never gets old.)

By the way, we never got to see Hyrule Castle Town in its full glory. That's one missed opportunity, if I ever saw one... And going this route, the game won't feature Zelda's journey to the Spring of Wisdom, which could have been used for another nice defense mission, uniting all the Champions one last time before it all goes down. Instead, the mission is now to save the Champions from the Divine Beasts... Let's see how this goes. Those missions don't look inviting, that's for sure.


PS: You can actually see Robbie's first wife in one of the cutscenes here, who is also a merchant at the Akkala stable. She's named Cheria, where Robbie later named Cherry after her.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Age of Calamity War Log, Entry 5

Current Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Chapter: 4
  • Battles: 11
  • Challenges: 51
  • Quests: 116
  • Contribution Rate: 31%

Koroks in the Wild

After the last battle in Akkala, I've finally unlocked the ability to see which missions still have Koroks in them. But it turned that I've been quite thorough, where only four main missions had some of them missing. There was one waiting right at the beginning of the Tabantha Frontier mission, where I sent Hestu personally to do visit his friend.

Hestu in front of the Hebra Mountains and Rito Village

In addition, I was missing two Koroks at Death Mountain and Hyrule Outpost each, so I replayed these missions as well. In the latter I even found an entire new part of the town, which I previously didn't explore and where the two Koroks resided. But most of them are still waiting at Korok Forest, where I accidentally triggered the boss battle at the end, before I got to fully explore the Lost Woods. So, I'll have to do this one more time at least, but I'm saving this for later, much like the crazy time limit death run at Crenel Peak, which has three Koroks left in total.

Otherwise I found everything on my first try, which is a little bit disappointing. When I first played the demo, it took me multiple runs to find all Koroks in the Hyrule Field level. But that battlefield is so large and has so many optional parts, like the Lon Lon Ranch, that it takes quite some time to explore it all. The only other battlefield that was so extensive was Gerudo Desert and to some extent Hyrule Outpost, but otherwise the battlefields tend to be much more narrow with a corridor design. Literally, in the upcoming battle at the Yiga Clan Hideout...

And I don't like this development. Breath of the Wild was all about the large, open landscapes and you don't get a whole lot of this in Age of Calamity. It also makes fighting much more troublesome, if you don't have the necessary space. And it makes finding all the Koroks way too easy, because there aren't many possibilities for them to hide.

Scary Fairy

Next was a rather curious side quest... The Great Fairy Trials, where you have to collect a bunch of Rupees by defeating enemies and bring them to the Great Fairy waiting at the end. And reaching the end for the first time was quite the shocker, I have to say. (Please skip this part, if you haven't done any of this yet.)

For a moment there I thought that this game would do something nice, but no, you suddenly have a Great Fairy moving around in her plant pool and hitting you for massive damage. This was easily one of the scariest moments for me in the entire Zelda series.

It's up there with meeting my first Redead in the Royal Tomb in Ocarina of Time over 20 years ago, where naive, young me thought that the spooky looking figure might be a ghost of the royal family that just wants to talk. Well, it wasn't and this spooked me so hard that I was afraid of going near these things for the rest of the game...

Mipha in the Gerudo Desert standing in front of a Great Fairy Plant

Here it might not be as scary, it's super silly actually, but Age of Calamity tricks you into thinking that a reward awaits you, when it fact you have to face yet another tough enemy. Kind of like Maz Koshia in the Champions' Ballad. Good thing that I went back exploring all of the level to refill my health, once the time limit was over, just in case... And if you go through these troubles four times in total, one for each of the Great Fairies in Breath of the Wild, you will unlock what's effectively a secret character for this game.

When I first thought about the possibility, I was kind of skeptical with various questions in my mind. Will only Cotera be playable, but not her sisters? Will we see the rest of her body? What will her weapon type even be? Well, the game had answers for all of these questions in very creative ways, I must say, though the "Dazzling Bangles" weapon seems a little out there.

And yes, this is hilarious for the first time, but easily the worst addition to the roster so far. The Great Fairies are a living hitbox, where you really have to be careful with enemies around you. It was similar for the Great Fairy in Hyrule Warriors, but there each of her combos gave her invulnerability, almost as if her entire moveset was made out of Special Attacks.

But this isn't the case for the Great Fairies here and what they get instead is a shield, but this can only be summoned by one of the four, it seems. And without it you have to make good use of their other ZR attacks to stay clean of mooks, while any stronger foe can quickly stun-lock you with their attacks for some reason. This is by far the hardest character to play as (so far), while it probably shouldn't be.

But there you are, playing as the might Great Fairies who are trying to heal themselves with a couple of apples, because Hestu slammed them with his Maracas. It's up there with Vah Rudania when it comes to total failures in this game... How come that a young Zora lady can heal herself and others in battle, but not the Great Fairies?  They usually only have one job in Zelda games: healing you.

Their usage of the Bomb Rune is hilarious, though, I love it. It reminds me a little bit of Manhandla's seed attacks, only with bombs. I also love how Malanya shows up for a finisher. This is such a great detail, as usual. And imagine using this character for the final battle and kissing Calamity Ganon to death...

Well, since this is only a bonus character, there probably shouldn't be any more exclusive Challenges for the Great Fairies beyond their training battle. This way I can just invest even more Rupees in them to level them with the proper fighters and leave them be for now. So, I don't have to play as this character, if it just doesn't work out for me.

The great vulnerability of the Great Fairies also shows how quickly you can take a ton of damage by projectiles and alike, because you don't get any (or very few) invulnerability frames. This is a big issue with archer groups and especially a team of spitting Fire Lizalfos. If all their arrows or fire balls hit you, you will lose a heart (or more) for each of them. And you can quickly get killed by any multi-hit attacks.


Time Limits, Time Limits Everywhere

Another issue with the Great Fairy Trials was that all except one had you face a strict time limit. And I'm getting so sick of this, because it's often just not balanced properly for the "Very Hard" difficulty. I'm going at Challenges here with a recommended level in the 20s, while my characters have arrived in the 40s, and I often have to cut it very close or can't do it at all.

And it's simply not fun in a game, where 90% of the boss combat revolves around being defensive and patient, reacting to the attacks of your enemies. The only way to safely and actively expose your enemies' weak point gauges are Special Attacks and your elemental rods. But all of these come in limited supply, so for the rest of the battle you have to wait for your enemy to do what you want them to do.

Mipha fighting a Hinox in the Coliseum with a time limit...

I get some better results with certain fighters, especially Mipha and Revali, where by now Mipha is known as the Giant Slayer, not just the Molduga Slayer. Her Bomb Rune really is the bomb and her persisting water combos help quite a lot.

And with certain Challenges they get it right. The first Coliseum battle, which for some reason used the inside of a Sheikah Shrine instead of the Coliseum, seemed fair enough. Or there was another Challenge at the Hyrule Outpost, where you have to conquer some outposts and defeat a Lynel for the last one. You get like 12 minutes for this and that's also fair. But then you have missions like "Echoing Footsteps", where you have to defeat three strong Moblins and a Lynel in four minutes, which simply can't be done, if said Lynel takes six or more weak point attacks to be killed.

That mission would be totally cool without the time limit anyway. You have to face three strong bosses in a row. Why does it need these artificial time limits in addition? It's like someone at Koei Tecmo doesn't know how to make actual challenges, so they just put a time limit on everything and then don't test it against all difficulties. If it takes twice as long to defeat certain enemies, you need twice as much time...

Killing the Yiga to Death

This whole part of the game had a plot hole as large as Hinox. Purah sells you the Sheikah Towers as this amazing tool that lets them finally find the Yiga Clan Hideout... How was that even a secret? There seem to be hundreds of Yiga and you're telling me that none of the Gerudo ever made their way into the mountains to check out the environment? You could probably smell all those bananas from far in the desert...

Anyway, this mission lets you finally try Vah Naboris and I like the thing. It was my favorite Divine Beast gameplay so far next to Vah Medoh. For some reason the reticle for controlling the lighting strikes has inverted controls by default, but since my camera controls are inverted in the options, it negated that and I could control the reticle with the stick like you would expect right away. The motion controls don't do you any favors here, but you also don't need them, because you don't need to aim precisely. It's all about sweeping the areas with lightning.

Vah Naboris even gets the same shield as Vah Ruta, so you're mostly safe. The Sheikah must have really been drunk when they've designed Vah Rudania. Or maybe it was their first prototype of a Divine Beast and they hadn't come up with the shielding technology yet... I don't know, but it certainly sucks for Daruk. Good thing he's such a sturdy guy.

Impa doing stretches in front of Vah Naboris

Now, after this fun part, I went into the mission with Impa and Urbosa, because I felt like these two have the largest score to settle with the Yiga Clan. And it made sense to sneak through the Yiga base as a ninja. However, I probably shouldn't have chosen the characters based on story, but on combat, because I should have known what awaited me at the end...

Well, the Yiga Clan Hideout battlefield was actually quite excellent. It had the original part that you already knew from Breath of the Wild, but it got also greatly expanded in a way that made sense. This way this turned almost into a proper dungeon, where it feels like a missed opportunity for Breath of the Wild, really. Having a real dungeon there instead of the simple stealth mission could have been a lot of fun.

So, I like what they've done with the place, but I don't like that I can't heal with all those bananas around me. Why does my team only eat apples? What's wrong with bananas? Plus, I've made another mistake by not refilling my rods before going into this mission, thinking in overconfidence, "nah, it will be fine".

Usually, you always get some Wizzrobes or find ammo in chests, but it was all bananas. There were only two elemental Moblins, but they don't give you that much. And again, this was poor decision making on my part, because I should have known what awaited me at the end...

That freaking Sooga... After defeating him in the previous battle, I was actually hoping that he was gone for good and I only had to take care of some Yiga Blademasters and Master Kohga at the end. But nope, I enter a chamber and get sword beamed right in the face by that persistent prick. And when I finally got to fight Kohga, I kept thinking, "Sooga is coming back, isn't he? He will be showing up in the middle of the battle, right?" 

Yup, he did. Of course. Well, in the least the game doesn't throw the Double Kohga on you in addition and it had the mercy of letting Sooga respawn with only half his health, but fighting against the two at once is still such a mess that you have to be super lucky. You can't react to both of their crazy "use the right Rune" attacks. One of the two will hit you, unless you can use Stasis.

Sadly, the new upgraded Sheikah Slate Runes, about which I was super excited at first, don't really feel that much faster with their cooldowns. I bet it's just something miniscule, like 5% faster, since this game really likes its single digit percentage values.

Anyway, you need the Yiga foes always at the same spot to do anything, because otherwise the other guy will "kill you to death" from where you don't see it. The battle was such a disaster that I ended it on a quarter heart yet again. With both Impa and Urbosa – they both were on the verge of dying and one more mistake would have resulted in a defeat...

Impa and Urbosa in pain after their close victory against the Yiga Clan

It's a good thing that your AI controlled allies don't take damage (or only very rarely) or else this battle would have been lost for sure. And by now I don't even feel joy about such close victories anymore, because it's getting to be the norm and that's taking it too far. There are two things ruining the combat in this game and these things are:

  1. Unrealistic and unnecessary time limits
  2. Strong enemies hitting from off screen while you fight another

I'm honestly considering to lower the difficulty down to "Hard" and just enjoy myself breezing through the rest of the game, like I did with Hyrule Warriors, but so far I liked the challenge more often than not and if all fails I can always keep leveling. Let's see...

It also seems that now I can unlock a secret character about whom I'm a lot more excited about, because like Hestu it's someone I wanted for a new Hyrule Warriors long before Age of Calamity was announced. But I bet these trials will involve the words "time" and "limited" right next to each other once more.

And I really want those villains to be playable. Kohga, Sooga, Astor, the four Blights, all of them. Switching to a villain campaign, like Hyrule Warriors did, could really work well in this game, so let me be the Sooga for a change.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Age of Calamity War Log, Entry 4

Current Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Chapter: 4
  • Battles: 10
  • Challenges: 40
  • Quests: 84

Against the Clock

Last entry ended on the remark that I'm having trouble with some of the time limited Challenges, specifically the ones that want you to defeat a big and slow boss, like a Hinox or a Talus, as well as some other stronger enemies within a couple of minutes. I can't do those yet, where I have to return to these Challenges when I'm significantly over-leveled for them.

Now, after those bad experiences with time limits you can imagine how amused I was about the next main mission at Crenel Peak, where you have 25 minutes to reach the end with a gigantic army of tough foes in your way. Well, I wasn't. Especially the end of the level was a huge slap to the face...

Link standing in a valley in front of two Stone Taluses

Not only one, but two Stone Taluses? I had no elemental rods left, maybe one or two apples and only nine minutes. Joy. Also, climbing one Stone Talus will result in the other hitting you to death, so don't even think about it. And I can't believe I actually managed to beat this scenario by slowly bombing these two away. I just kept throwing bombs like there's no tomorrow, but bombs do slowly decrease the weak point gauge, so it works somehow.

This reminds me of my first time playing Eventide Island in Breath of the Wild, where I would just sit on a hill and keep throwing bombs at the Hinox. Except that this approach in Age of Calamity didn't take as long, because the bombs are a lot more powerful.

To be fair, the time limit was certainly balanced around the "Very Hard" difficulty here, unlike some of Challenges, though the majority of the level I just kept running and running, where everything else would follow. This would result in the outposts being clogged with all sorts of strong enemies, but in the least you can quickly build up your Special Gauge and then strike multiple tough foes at once for some weak point damage. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it in time.

When I've learned that this mission also had some Koroks to find, I could only sigh... I love searching for these little guys, I really do, but not like this... I think this mission would have been amazing if the goal was simply to clear the path for Princess Zelda without the stupid time limit.

But I get that this was really about letting you run wild with the Master Sword. And this could only be achieved by rushing into the enemy, instead of taking everything and everyone down carefully one by one. So, I get why they were going with this and it even would have been fun, if it weren't for the troll ending.

And why do the main missions always have to end on some evil boss fight? Come to think of it, it was pretty much the same in Hyrule Warriors, wasn't it? Most scenarios in Legend Mode ended on some sort of boss battle. It's just that I didn't really mind this there, because the bosses and commanders were usually easy to face and therefore a fun finish for the level. But of course I can't really compare this, because the only time where I've played Hyrule Warriors on a similar difficulty level was with the Twilight Princess DLC Adventure Map on Wii U. And I hated that one...


The Heroes' New Clothes

After this stressful mission, it was time for a break at Hyrule Castle, where the Champions finally received their blue garments. The game skips over the ceremony, because that's something that you could already see in the Champions' Ballad and it probably played out the same way. Instead the game focuses on a little more carefree moment and I love to watch the Champions interact with each other. The characters grow a lot more on you in this game than they did in Breath of the Wild and I can't have enough of those cutscenes.

It's too bad that this doesn't give you any attire options for the rest of the Champions, though. They do have their character models both with the blue garments and without them, so why not make this an option? I really hope that this will get unlocked or patched later on.

And while they are at it, they should add in a refill for apples and rods before each mission. Ideally, this would happen automatically, like with the healing potions in Hyrule Warriors. Or if there was a service for this, where you buy these refills, it would be okay, too. But the way it is, it happens too often that I start the game, eager to play the next Challenge, only to realize that I'm out of apples or rods. And then I have to exit the scenario, which sucks in case you just cooked something for it, and go play some early Challenges again to grind for some refills (and level-ups).

Anyway, as for the clothing options, they could have given Urbosa the Thunder Helmet as well. And it's kind of suspicious that this thing wasn't even shown yet. It's also weird how Revali gets a collection of Hylian bows, instead of any Rito bows... And all of this makes me wonder if the "Champion descendants", like Teba and Riju, won't be playable after all, where they could get to use things like the Thunder Helmet or the other Rito bows. But I suppose I'll find out soon enough (hopefully by playing the game and not some spoilers).

Speaking of weaponry, Link gets the Wooden Mop? No, no, no, why...? This was supposed to be Mipha's joke weapon! It's a perfect fit for her water ability...! Why, Koei Tecmo, why...? Bad game, 7/10.

But really, it's a shame that Link gets all the cool stuff and the other Champions only get the bare basics. That was a poor decision, because this game should really be all about the other playable characters and not the one you've already spent hundreds of hours playing with.


Revali, the Chosen One

Now off to more side questing, it was time for Daruk to slay a Lynel for some upgrades of his own. And I have to say that his Bomb Rune weakpoint attack is absolutely amazing, because he summons these lava rocks all around your target, where you can quickly detonate them with ZR to deplete the weak point gauge. That's some really good stuff.

But the real hero of this game is Revali. While I was seriously underwhelmed by the whole Rito part in Breath of the Wild and I didn't like Revali very much, this game truly makes this Champion rise, literally. First of all, you get another of the Divine Beast training missions and playing with Vah Medoh is simply fun. Pew, pew, pew!

Vah Medoh shooting things around Korok Forest

What makes a big difference is that you don't have to deal with all the terrain around you, you can just steer the thing through the air and blast away. It's effortless and the fast lasers are super fun as well. It's actually the first time that I've replayed any of the Divine Beast missions for the fun of it. Vah Medoh for the win.

(By the way, that you can change cockpits to the lower side reminds me of the Cicada vehicle from Unreal Tournament 2004 and Unreal Tournament 3. It also had similar fast firing lasers for the lower gun, but I'm sure that's just all a coincidence.)

And Revali plays equally well when he's in the air. That arrow spam he does with his regular attacks is the answer to nearly everything. It does good damage and is the best crowd control in the game, where you can fill you Special Gauge super quickly. If I'm having any trouble with a mission, I'm going with Revali, where he is now actually my most leveled character in the game.

He was also super helpful in all those new Challenges that are all about defending your stronghold(s). Well, these missions feel more like they are about surviving the large enemy attacks yourself than protecting the keeps. Unlike the first Hyrule Warriors, your outposts and strongholds only take very little damage, even if they are filled with some of the toughest foes this game has to offer.

It's also the same with your allies. You can leave them fighting a boss or a horde of Moblins and they'll barely get any scratches. Of course they also won't do much damage themselves, but at least they aren't causing you any trouble.

But because Revali has proven himself to be the best, I've chosen him to accompany Link and Zelda for the next mission...

Attacking Akkala

After all the defense training missions, I actually expected this to be a defense-focused battle when I learned that it would take place on Akkala Citadel. The preview material for this game also had something like it, but that was during the night and it turned that I'm the one who is actually on the offense here, while the incompetent Yiga Clan defends the castle and has an issue with the Ancient Furnaces around it.

Link and the little Guardian in front of an Ancient Furnace

This mission was for the most part quite enjoyable, where right at the beginning I could explore most of the battlefield in peace. So, I took my sweet time to look around for Koroks and other things. This was certainly a nice change of pace after the previous main mission... And I welcome it.

Now, I was going into this mission quite over-leveled, where the recommended level was only 26 and I had everyone to at least 36 at this point. In the previous main mission Link gained a whole lot of experience and I decided to get everyone on par with all my hard earned Rupees. Still, the Yiga Blademasters and Sooga, who was the boss again, could take away all my health with just two slashes...

Combine this with the close quarters inside the citadel and you're in for some frustration. It's hard to dodge enemy attacks with walls and things all around you. And suddenly Revali was in a bad place, because he wasn't really in his element with all those narrow corridors.

Revali standing in front of a banana storage room, which is blocked by a cord

Nope, don't even think of it, Revali! You're not getting those delicious bananas to heal yourself! That cord with a "no entry" sign keeps even the best out, I'm sorry.

As a result, both Revali and Link had to take a long pee break, where they went outside to catch some fresh air, search for those rare apples and refill their Special meters by destroying some mooks.

It was quite funny to do this, but it helped and luckily Sooga didn't give me as much trouble as the first time. There is a Challenge with him that I haven't cleared yet (one of three so far), because you face him together with one of his Blademaster buddies on steep terrain and that proved to be quite difficult. But maybe I'm ready for it now.

That Challenge will go under in the mass of side quests that got unlocked after beating this scenario, however. There are now so many things to do at once, I don't think I will continue with the story any time soon, which is why I decided to write this post now. I finally get to see where all the Koroks are, upgrade Rune downtime and other things... This is super exciting.

And it was all made possible by activating all the Sheikah Towers around Hyrule, which was the main goal of this mission and is the second major plot point that has changed due to the time travel. The first being the recruitment of the other Champions, which played out quite differently in the Champions' Ballad. Let's see where all of this goes...

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Age of Calamity War Log, Entry 3

Current Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Chapter: 3
  • Battles: 8
  • Challenges: 30
  • Quests: 72


From now on I will be posting my current progress right at the start, so you can quickly see how far I'm in the game as of writing the post. This should guide you which posts you can safely read or not. (I've also changed the previous post accordingly.)

And those of you who are already past this point should know that I've just crossed a very important milestone in this game. Beating any of the major battles never felt as good as the eighth one. But let's start talking about the seventh battle first, "The Yiga Clan Attacks!".


Ghost Town

After the four missions for the Champions, this one felt a little bit underwhelming at first, mainly because of the music. The music tracks for the Champion missions were absolutely superb and beautiful, where I'll be listening to these for quite a while. Now, here you get a rendition of the Yiga Hideout theme...

But it works great for this missions' overall atmosphere, where as always the battle felt very unique and different. Again, it was nice to see the outpost town next to the Great Plateau in full glory, even though you don't get to interact with any people of course. It was quite spooky, because the heroes were just going for their daily business and suddenly the whole town turns into a Yiga ghost town. I also enjoyed the scenery around the level quite a bit, where you get to see the Coliseum, the Great Plateau and the Dueling Peaks a little closer.

Daruk standing on a barricaded Proxim Bridge with the Dueling Peaks in the background

Mipha with the Great Plateau and the Coliseum in the background

At the end you get to face Sooga for the first and hopefully last time. The guy is called "Supah" in German, as in "Super", which is kind of hilarious, but also fitting. He's a pure quick time boss during his second half. When he uses this attack which requires you to stop him with bombs, you either bomb him or you get stunned and slashed for eight hearts or something.

I don't know whether this is also the case on the lower difficulties or not, but at least on "Very Hard" the enemies love to abuse these kind of attacks, which means you never ever can use your Runes for anything else. Normally it's a good idea to use Stasis to extent the weak point phase of enemies, which works well against Sooga early. But if you do this in his second phase, he will immediately trigger his death slash attack when he comes out of Stasis, where then you can only run.

It's similar with Revali as a boss and his Bomb Arrow hail attack. It's either you bomb him or he bombs you hard. And Hylia forbid that you accidentally trigger any of the other Runes... It's a good thing that holding the R button will slow down time, so you don't have to panic.

Anyway, after dealing with Sooga, it was time to train again! With the first mission of Chapter 3, there was a sudden jump of the recommended level from 16 to 22. And ideally you don't just go in there with exactly level 22, where I brought everyone to 28, just in case. Luckily, the Training Grounds are quite cheap so far, but this might change with the higher levels...

But with "training" I didn't just mean buying levels, of course, I also meant completing side quests and Challenges and grinding. This actually took me the majority of play time yesterday and today, so in between the main story missions it really feels like I'm truly preparing for the Calamity and it's nice that the story at least acknowledges this, where in this case Mipha and Daruk talk about training with each other and they do some practice with their Divine Beasts...

Divine Blasts

The eighth main mission starts with another Divine Beast demonstration, where you blast all the monsters and their outposts all around Korok Forest with Vah Medoh. Before this I also played the training missions for Vah Ruta and Vah Rudania, where I had three Divine Beast runs one after another for some good comparisons.

Vah Rudania promotional shot

And I'm sorry, Daruk, but your Divine Beast is trash. It's basically made out of Sheikah cardboard and it's a miracle that it's still around 100 years later... With Vah Ruta and Vah Medoh you get nice defense mechanisms and a great firing rate. With Vah Ruta you can just hold the shield button and nothing will happen to you. And these Divine Beasts really should be nearly invincible or else they would be no threat.

Vah Rudania, however, only gets this silly counter move, where it grabs an enemy attack and throws it back. Well, good luck with that, if you have like six Igneo Talus all throwing magma rocks at you, which for some reason do massive damage on the Divine Beast that throws magma rocks. It's almost like the Gorons, who suddenly are hurt by fire...

Well, in the least it makes things really challenging, where you have to play it super safe, while you're also in a hurry, because you have to defeat 4000 enemies in a time limit. Oh, those time limits... Luckily, the enemies don't immediately attack you on sight, so you can snipe them from afar. You really have to look for anything in the pixelated mess that might resemble a Moblin or an Igneo Talus, then stop and blast at it, before they blast at you. Rinse and repeat.

But you also have to do this fast enough, so that you reach the end of the level in time. And this took me a couple of tries, while the Vah Ruta mission was a win on first try. Needless to say, I wasn't really psyched about the start of the Korok Forest battle, but playing as Vah Medoh was super fun, where again this gives Revali all the reasons to be bragging. But it probably helps to not have any lava giants throwing rocks at you all the time...

Also, I tried going with stick controls here and it was awful. I really like having the motion controlled aiming and with Vah Ruta and Vah Medoh this wasn't an issue. I only kept having problems with Vah Rudania, which didn't really help with its more difficult missions...

Now, I'm really curious about trying Vah Naboris. Since this used to be my favorite of the Divine Beast dungeons, I really hope that the Divine Beast itself won't be a such a disappointment, like a certain Death Mountain loser. It would also be absolutely amazing, if they were to use the whole time travel story to unearth the fifth Divine Beast, whatever that thing was supposed to be.

Ghost Forest

This is another battle with quite the spooky atmosphere. I always liked the Lost Woods in Breath of the Wild with that "maze theme" playing in the background, where I now wonder whether one of the Lomei Labyrinths could act as a battlefield as well... But they did a great job of translating the Lost Woods into this interwoven map, where the battlefields are massive improvement over what Hyrule Warriors used to offer.

And like all of your weapons, it seems like Stal enemies used to be much sturdier 100 years earlier. They don't go down on a single hit here, where they would be basically just a re-skin of the normal enemies, if it weren't for the company of the cursed enemy heads.

Anyway, the biggest surprise was easily Hestu. And I don't mean the fact that he was going to appear in this mission, because I fully expected this to happen, but that he got added to the playable roster right away... Yihaha! It almost feels like he is supposed to be the Korok Champion, where all he needs would be a Divine Beast in the form of a giant squirrel.

But since Nintendo made such a big secret about any further playable fighters, I expected characters like Hestu or King Rhoam to be endgame material, where you unlock Hestu for collecting 100 Korok Seeds or something. But that's not the case and I'm really happy how this fighter turned out.

How Hestu summons all the little Koroks with his Maracas reminds me of Olimar and his Pikmin. And I love all the silly things that they did with this, like throwing all kinds of junk. Or when Hestu uses the Bomb Rune, he throws a big bomb and then the little Koroks join him and throw multiple small bombs. That's so great. (Though, despite of this, it's sometimes tough to hit explosive barrels with this move.) And I love how the Bokoblins dance around you when you do your Special Move.

Hestu's voice acting in German (where he's called "Maronus") is absolutely horrible, however. In Japan it seems to be some sort of custom to dub quirky male characters with (older) female voice actors. Son Goku from Dragonball or Luffy from One Piece would be the most prominent examples for this. This doesn't translate all that nicely to the west, however, where I'm glad that the English voice for Hestu didn't turn out as bad.

Otherwise, the attention to detail with these fighters is just amazing and it's good to have a goofy character like this in this quite serious setting for a good dose of humor. And then it gets more serious already at the end of the mission with the introduction of Astor, the "Prophet of Doom".

At this point I really wonder if the theories about this guy being the fortune teller who told King Rhoam to unearth the Divine Beasts are true, because it could make sense. And it feels like Koei Tecmo is trying to do their own version of Agahnim with this, where this Astor could be just a manifestation of Ganon's malice. But he also reminds me a little bit of Cia with his ability to create these shadow clones (in this case of the Champions), as well as some of his attacks. Sadly, he doesn't look as good as her...

Facing Astor for the first time is also where the weapons of Hyrule finally show what they are made of, meaning that Link's trusty sword suddenly breaks. Luckily for him, there was a new sword nearby to loot:

Shirtless Link pulling the Master Sword

He can also count himself lucky that he already had 13 Heart Containers in my save game or else he probably would have died on the spot. I'm joking, of course, but I wonder whether this was just a coincidence or by design. But if you don't do all the side quests and aren't leveled up properly, you won't have the 13 hearts at this point.

Another coincidence was that the Master Sword had the exact same attack value as my sword that just broke: 34. And it's nice that the Master Sword comes bundled with the Hylian Shield in this game right away. Imagine some Hylian Soldier in the background, waiting for the chosen one to give him the mass produced shield of legend. Let's face it, the destinies of these two items are intertwined, much like Link and Zelda's.

But you need some good equipment, because the fight against Astor isn't exactly easy, where he plays quite differently from the humanoid bosses before him. He is not a quick time boss, for a change, where instead he keeps bombarding you with bullshit magic. What gave me a lot of trouble where the large orbs, which for some reason went through my brandnew Hylian Shield (and here I thought blocking trumps all) and was also hard to dodge. And it of course did the most damage, where my apples were eaten up quickly.

So, I fought the bullshit magic with some bullshit magic of my own. It turned out that all the elemental rods that you can get throughout the Lost Woods are there for a reason. Burn him, freeze him, fry him for some cheap weak point attacks. Since he doesn't do evil quick time stuff, like Sooga or Revali, you could also extend weak point phases with Stasis, so that helped...

But at the end I was standing there with just a quarter heart left and only one round of Lighting Rod at my disposal. I knew, if Astor was going for his shield again, where he summons the Dark Champions, I would be dead. So, I made that one last lightning count and finished the battle on a quarter heart. What a thrill!

It's moment like these where playing on "Very Hard" makes the game feel tremendously rewarding... But it also always makes me feel uneasy before going into the next battle, like when I'm doing the Trial of the Sword in Breath of the Wild.

Though, this time I don't know what to expect from the upcoming battle at Crenel Peak at all. I didn't even expect that they would consider this location for a separate battlefield, where this already quite amazing. And I have no idea what could happen here... I just hope that it will be something different and not end on a major boss fight for the eighth time, because that's getting a little predictable and also stressful.

At least the recommended level was only raised by one, so I could play this battle right away. I was still playing all the side quest things first, where finally I was able to beat the One-Handed Weapons Training for Link thanks to the Master Sword. Those sword beams at full hearts made all the difference and I even had plenty of time left on the clock when I finished...


Koroks, Lynels, Moldugas

Sadly, unlocking Hestu doesn't show you right away where you're still missing Korok Seeds or else I would be focused on this right now. The Korok Seeds also still don't work like I expected them to, where you have a fixed place to trade them for more inventory space. Instead there are side quests with maracas icons, where you can trade them once... Okay, will the entire map be plastered by them at the end or what?

But I suppose that it was similar in Breath of the Wild, where at first you meet Hestu in two places and only can do limited expansions, before you can do it regularly. So, it might be the same here, where a true Korok Seed trading feature will be unlocked later, probably together with the Korok Seed indicator on the missions. But you can also get Korok Seeds as a reward from side missions, so this seems to be kind of a mess right now...

Hestu standing in front of a scary tree. It says Hestu's Training Victory.

The Korok Seeds also let you increase your apple storage... But what I really need is better apples, because if you use up like half of them to fully heal yourself once, it's not going to make a big difference. So, I hope that this will be possible later on. The lack of health really makes playing on "Very Hard" a nuisance sometimes, as much as the fact that your apples and rods aren't refilled at the beginning of a mission.

Talking about side missions, there were some quests that required Link and Mipha to get one more Lynel Trophy and a Molduga Fin. So, I decided to take my new Master Sword to the one Challenge in Hebra, which seemed way easier with Revali. He makes it look easy, I guess. It was worth the trouble, though, because it gave one-handed swords a special feature, where they do more damage after a strong attack.

As for Mipha, her quest gives her the first ever Special Meter expansion. And with her healing ability this will be extremely useful, so it was worth it to revisit the Gerudo Desert scenario for the first time, where a Molduga is inhabiting the northwest corner. When I first played this mission, I didn't dare to go near it, but back then almost everything could kill me easily, so that was a good idea to stay away. But now I've grown much stronger, so Link donned his freshly completed Desert Voe set and Mipha followed him into battle like a loyal puppy, both ready to take on the giant desert monster.

Link and Mipha fighting a Molduga

I love how these side quests all create these little stories. They already have some story details attached to them, but in addition you might do certain things that creates another tale of its own, like Link and Mipha heading into the desert to slay a Molduga together. They are actually quite a good team, where Mipha's Special can heal Link, so that he can use his sword beams again.

Mipha did most of the work, though, because her usage of the Bomb Rune is amazing against the Molduga. She's now known in all of Hyrule as "Mipha, the Molduga Slayer". And overall the battle was a lot easier than they used to be in Breath of the Wild, where you basically were dead if you dared to step on the sand. Here you can just walk around the giant monster and wait comfortably for some weak point attacks. But so far the Molduga is really the only boss enemy that feels easier than in Breath of the Wild and that's a good thing. And I get it that they couldn't replicate the exact mechanics in this game, where it's cool that the Molduga appears at all.

The battle against Master Kohga also was a breeze now, where it didn't give me any trouble and the whole mission felt like I was playing on "Normal" difficulty. But that's what the increasing levels do for you and it feels good to have this sort of accomplishment in the game, where it's fun to revisit the earlier missions just to feel like a god now. I will do a lot more of that, once I know which missions still have hidden Koroks in them. And I suppose there is also a damage cap, so you don't just one-hit-kill everything after a certain point.

However, there are two Challenges right now that I'm unable to do, because they want to you to fight big, slow bosses in a strict time limit, which is impossible if they take like six weak point attacks to be defeated... All the time limit stuff really isn't fun, Koei Tecmo.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Age of Calamity War Log, Entry 2

Current Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • Chapter: 2
  • Battles: 6
  • Challenges: 17
  • Quests: 49 


It's like they say: ladies first. And after adding Urbosa and Mipha to my entourage, the two gentlemen, Revali (aka "Mr. Dodo") and Daruk, were next, where right now I've finally assembled all four Champions and I'm ready for the next mission.

Most dedicated players out there will probably have made a much greater progress by now, maybe they've already beaten the game, but I'm taking my sweet time here. And I'm actually playing the game twice on two separate save games, at least for the weekend, because I'm playing with someone in coop on that person's Nintendo Switch. And then I try to catch up with my "Very Hard" playthrough on my own Switch.

But that has actually the advantage that I get to know the missions, before I tackle them in the currently hardest difficulty. It also lets me compare how the game plays in both single-player and two-player modes, where the latter actually runs much better than I remember it to. The frame rate still crashes tremendously whenever you attack the same enemy at once with flashy specials and combos, but it's usually more funny than annoying, because you're destroying both the enemy and the game.

(Update: the experience was actually much worse in the following missions. And not only does the frame rate go down, the resolutions drops significantly as well, where everything looks pixelated all of sudden.)

The biggest problem with the two-player mode is the split screen, where I often can't see where I'm going. It probably would have been better, if the screen was split vertically instead of horizontally. Of course then you might miss something on the sidelines, like a Korok, but at least you would see what's ahead of you. The coop playthrough will stop after today, however, where I will focus entirely on my own playthrough starting tomorrow.

Smashing (with) Revali

The next big mission on my list was going to Rito Village, where the highlight of the game awaits you: you can hit Revali on the head with a giant Boko Bat.

Link facing Revali

The mission itself goes for the (Hyrule Warriors) cliché of allied troops fighting against you, because they were tricked by a scheming enemy. Urbosa's mission also does this at the beginning, but here it's from beginning to end, where Revali is even the final boss.

So, there is some good variety with how the four Champion missions are set up. Mipha and Daruk join you right at the beginning, where you can play as them right away, Urbosa joins you in the middle and Revali only after completing the mission. And overall I enjoy the great variety of different troops and settings so far, where this game might even top the first Hyrule Warriors in that regard, despite focusing on a single Zelda game

It just shows how much Breath of the Wild has to offer, but at the same time I was always quite disappointed in how Hyrule Warriors didn't have stages based on Majora's Mask, or Zora troops, Shadow Beast troops, or even any Gerudo. But with Age of Calamity it seems like they are going all-in here and I like that.

The reasoning why the Rito fight against you is a little bit silly, though, because they confuse the friendly, little eggbot with the evil one. And despite the fact that you're a Hylian and taking out monsters, they don't stop fighting you. It's almost too bad that Link is perpetually mute or else you might have been able to reason with the Rito verbally instead of using the Boko Bat. Well, the club is more fun, of course...

The mission itself also felt a little bit simple, but maybe that's just me. But it reminded me of how in Breath of the Wild the whole Rito storyline seemed somewhat underdeveloped when compared to the other three Divine Beasts.

I really did enjoy the setting and music of this mission, though. Seeing the whole Tabantha Frontier area covered in snow, with Rito Village in the background, with that beautiful music. It's so good and that's all I can say. From the atmosphere it was probably my favorite mission so far, but the Gerudo Desert was also excellent, of course.

Now, unlocking Revali is quite the achievement, much like Revali's Gale in Breath of the Wild. His arrogant personality might be annoying, but it doesn't come from nowhere. He might be the best fighter so far, where his flying mode is insane. Well, it's insane for combat, not so much for the flying itself... As expected, he simply hovers over the ground where you normally can walk. This means whenever there's a small rock that acts as an obstacle, you will have to fly around it...

It's a little weird, but his normal attack string with the quintuple arrows is such a crowd pleaser and works also wonders on fighting any foes from a safer distance. He made the next mission easier than it probably should have been...

Smashing with Daruk

Last stop, Death Mountain! It's not that I like the Gorons the least, quite the opposite. They have been my favorite tribe in Ocarina of Time, where I adored them as a child. And it feels so great to be finally rolling around as a Goron again, the first time since Majora's Mask.

That was actually quite disappointing about Darunia in Hyrule Warriors. While he had some rolling attacks, he was running around the battlefield on his feet in this comedic fashion. But Daruk gets it right and his moveset is quite good as well. It's a little bit similar to Zelda's with his ZR ability, where here you can blow up any of your magma rocks around you with it. And you should, because otherwise they will block your path...

When going into this mission, I didn't really expect too much from Death Mountain. It's just bleak rocks after all. So, I was surprised to find funny details like this one:

Daruk standing in front of a stage

It's a stage! With a microphone! I bet this is where Daruk does his stand-up comedy... Or maybe he's rock roasting Ganon. Apropos, there also was this little BBQ spot for the Rock Sirloins:

four Rock Roasts

That's some nice attention to detail, where I didn't expect to find any. That related scene at the end of the mission was utterly disturbing, however... HOW?!!! Just how?!! My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

Anyway, the biggest challenge of this mission were the Igneo Talus, where you better bring a full stack of Ice Rod magic with you. (I can only repeat myself, Daruk using the rods like little tooth picks in his hand is absolutely hilarious.) These boss battles had a frustrating learning moment for me, because the rock giants have learned a new move in this game: they jump into the air and body-slam you. And you lose like eight hearts when this hits you... My problem was that I was applying Breath of the Wild logic here and tried to dodge these attacks, more or less successful.

But I was playing as Link, where I've tried his spear moveset for the first time, which worked wonders with keeping all the flame enemies at a safe distance. It didn't really work wonders with the Igneo Talus, however, because I always tried to dodge instead of blocking. But you can just stand there with your spear in your hand and hold the ZL button, while a magma giant as large as a building jumps on you like Super Mario, and nothing happens. You are safe, because you're blocking.

Yes, this isn't Breath of the Wild logic and physics, this is still a Warriors game. And this I had to learn the hard way. Daruk probably would have given this away more easily, since his shield employs Daruk's Protection, but I was shying from using Daruk on the big bosses, because he was severely under-leveled for playing this mission on "Very Hard".

Luckily, I brought the arrogant Rito with me, who does what he does best. Showing off and bragging about it. And again, you just have to spam your normal attacks while in the air to deal with the Igneo Talus...

Curiously, Revali handles the heat as well as any Goron, where fire attacks actually can harm them... Okay, this now finally confirms it, it's not canon. Move on, people! Gorons can swim in lava, but some Fire-breathing Lizalfos are a threat to them? That's gotta be a joke.

At the end you also get to try another Divine Beast with Daruk, so that's two out of four at this point. I wish that these missions were separate, so that you could quickly play them at any time, because playing the Death Mountain scenario actually took me over an hour... Of course you will be faster on repeat playthroughs, but it still would be nice to have a shortcut for the Divine Beast mini-missions.  Oh, you actually can select both the Divine Beast part and the normal battle separately on replaying. That's thoughtful and I have said nothing!

Controlling the thing didn't work as well as with Vah Ruta, however, because it would always put my reticle on the ground after using the magma rain attack with ZR. And pressing ZL to re-center didn't really work well... I almost died at the end against the Igneo Talus army, because I couldn't properly aim at them. But I suppose I'll have to turn off the motion controls next time and try aiming via stick.

However, it would be better if the Divine Beast had their own options for controls. Now every time I'm going to play with one of them I have to un-invert the camera controls, turn off motions controls and turn on the control help, because I like having them here on the HUD since every Divine Beast works slightly different.

And I hope that a Skyward Sword remaster on Switch will handle the motion controls a little bit better...



The next mission will be the "Hylian Outpost", but the recommended level rose to 16... Okay, time for some side quests and grinding! And fusing weapons. Lots of fusing weapons.

I didn't notice this before, but one of my most wanted features from Hyrule Warriors made it into this game: locking weapons. This is quite important, so that you don't accidentally sell or fuse any of your best weapons. You can only lock five at a time, but that's only an issue with Link, who gets the most of everything in this Hyrule Warriors again. Three different weapon types (four if you count Boomerangs) with lots of different skins and all the different outfits, where so far none of the other playable characters seem to have any. But this might change later on.

Speaking of Link's weapons and locking them, I did get the Training Sword from my fresh Breath of the Wild save game, but these must be like the worst bonuses ever. I hope that no one out there actually pre-ordered the eShop version of this game just for Lucky Ladle. I suppose, these are nice to have, but ultimately they just clog your weapon space for now and Link runs out of weapon space quickly.

Once I make it to Hestu, I'll probably put all Korok Seeds into Link, until his inventory is maxed. If that's the way it works... Also, the weapons are consumables, so it's kind of weird to get a bonus item that could be lost forever at any time. So, hopefully the Training Sword and Lucky Ladle will become available on other means via an update or DLC later on. And I wonder whether you can get the Champion weapons back or not, if you happen to waste them....

I also tried some of my amiibo, where you can scan five per day for some rewards, exactly like in Hyrule Warriors. You'll get weapons for characters you already have. So, scanning Daruk only gave me materials at first. Some amiibo might also give you specific materials, where the Guardian will give you Ancient Screws and so on. But I have to experiment a little bit more here.

After recruiting all four Champions, you'll also have lots of side quests to go through, where many of them require "Trophies", which are certificates for slaying specific types of monsters. And with monsters I mean any monsters: Bokoblins, Keese, probably any enemy in the game...

And while this is a nice idea to have you focus on defeating many monsters and all kinds of monsters, it raises a very important question: who makes these? Like, is there someone always secretly following Link, Zelda, Impa and the Champions around to record any monster they've defeated? And are there like people in Hyrule who write and sign all these trophy deeds for every single monster that was slain?

"Oh, Link has defeated 3000 Bokoblins today again, this will mean after hours for all of us!"

It's funny to think about... What's not so funny are Link's training missions for the one- and two-handed weapons I got to play today. These are those typical "Defeat a couple hundred enemies in a couple of minutes!" missions, where in this case you have four and five minutes for 500 and 400 K.O.s respectively.

And... I suppose it's easy enough on "Normal" difficulty, where the cannon fodder dies quickly in one or two hits. But on "Very Hard", where everything takes at least two combos, it's super tough. Well, normally these missions aren't a problem on "Very Hard" either, because they have this mechanic, where everything gangs up on you towards the end. This makes it easy to score some cheap Special Attacks for the last 100 K.O.s or so.

But the Hylian Soldiers that you fight in these two missions were more like, "what, moving? I'll stay right over here, where I'm comfy." This way I came into the predicament that I had only 10 or 20 K.O.s left, but I couldn't do it, because the enemies were all scattered around the place... Ugh. I still managed to beat the two-handed weapon training with a couple of seconds left on the clock after a second try, but for the sword training I'll probably have to wait until I get a better sword for more damage. Maybe the Master Sword will do the trick. I guess, it's really my own fault, if I go into these missions with a Boko Bat and alike.

But at least the Challenges are actually challenging, so I'm not complaining. Except for the "Hair-Width Trials", where everything kills you on a single hit... That's like the one thing I didn't want for this game and I hate that Koei Tecmo couldn't resist adding this type of bullshit again. If at least it worked like the "All Attacks are Devastating!" missions, where you can also kill everything with one hit, but it doesn't – the enemies get to tank, so you have to defeat them "normally". The "Beginner" version only has you fight a bunch of Bokoblins, so I could do it on first try, but I dread any later challenges of this type. I bet they let you fight a Lynel or so without getting hit... In the least I'm playing "Don't Get Hit!" most of the time anyway, so I'm having some good practice.

Other Challenges are still quite easy, even on "Very Hard", where usually the time limit is quite forgiving and lets you explore the stage a little bit. And you might have to, because I found a Korok in one of the training missions... After the demo I assumed that Koroks would only appear in the main scenarios, but this doesn't appear to be the case. But it's these kind of assumptions that sometimes make me overlook one of the little tree guys. Like, when I was playing the demo, I wrongfully assumed that Koroks would not appear within keeps for some reason... And that's why I kept searching for one last Korok in the Breach of Demise mission for quite some time.

Anyway, one more reason to make my way to Hestu, where hopefully it then will show you what missions still have Koroks left in them...