It’s a Bit Brutal for a Legend of Zelda game, but Hyrule Warriors is Amazing Homage to the Venerable Franchise.
Let me get this out-of-the-way early: I love this game. Maybe this comes from being new to Dynasty Warriors or maybe it’s just me being a huge Zelda fan. Who knows. The point is I fell in love with Hyrule Warriors from the very start. Having said that, it’s definitely not without its problems.
Hyrule Warriors Gameplay
Hyrule Warriors is basically a hack-and-slash game. You cut through hordes of enemies in an attempt to capture keeps to win skirmishes against an evil sorceress’ army. Fundamentally, it’s quite simple. But there are multiple layers of strategy that I really enjoyed. For example, focusing outposts to bolster your own forces or play the hero and charge the enemy base is a common strategic choice.
One of the major selling points that Nintendo were emphasising was the amount of different characters from the Zelda universe players would be able to use. Truly, the characters are where much of the value is. Each of them has some unique mechanic that sets them apart. Lana has the ability to create walls that she can combo with or otherwise utilise. Sheik, on the other hand, has access to strong control abilities that she can prime with particular combos.
There are three major game modes in Hyrule Warriors. There’s story, challenge, and adventure mode. Unfortunately, very little overall difference exists. Essentially, the core of the experience is the same no matter what mode you play. With only different victory/defeat conditions, it feels very much like the same thing with a new coat of paint.
While much of the game is the same sort of thing, it’s action-packed and rewarding enough for players to overlook it. In general, Hyrule Warriors is simple enough for most anyone to jump right in but meaty enough to be a gratifying game to play.
Visuals and Sound
I could talk about the expected things here but it’s easily summarised by Hyrule Warriors‘ visuals ticking all the boxes. They’re clear and easily understood. Nice to look at. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Textbook good.
What I appreciated were the nods to previous games in the Zelda franchise. One of the stock enemies was the Stalchild of Ocarina of Time, Goron City looks the way we all remember it, and the old Great Fairies complete with pink hair and no clothes.
It’s very clear that Hyrule Warriors is taking cues from Zelda‘s roots. Given the story mode centres around these three major eras (Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword), it’s nice to see it affording these games respect.
This is where the game really falls down. Although there are technically four modes (I didn’t count Free Mode before because it’s basically Legend/Story Mode), they’re all very much the same. To make matters worse, the unlockable characters are spread out across these modes.
This means that if I wanted to play as Ruto, I would have to look up how to unlock her and then go do that before even looking at the other modes. Because, and this is a major letdown, there is nothing left to do once you have them all.
The RPG elements of levelling up your character/s and finding rare and powerful weapons really don’t stack up. There are badges you can make with materials found on the battleground. These badges can improve resistances, give access to more combos, and increase the duration of power-ups.
The problem is that not assigning the basic set of badges (combos/potion/keep capture speed) for everyone leaves you gimped when forced to play as the character you’ve overlooked. Conversely, there are so many pop-ups and windows to go through for each badge that it’s a chore doing even the minimum.
Personally, I feel Hyrule Warriors would have benefited greatly from an online competitive mode. With it, there would be a reason to grinding levels on your favourite character and gives players something to do when they’ve finished what the game has to offer. That, and the strategic value of the battles feels a little lost in the fixed scenarios of Legend and Adventure mode.
Mostly because the game bends the rules to either tell a story or add challenge. A straight fight against other players with ten keeps (four per side, two neutral) would be a really nice addition.
Speaking of multiplayer, there is a local co-op. I know I’ve been screaming for local co-op in games for a while now but it doesn’t salvage what’s wrong with Hyrule Warriors. Sure, playing the game with a friend is awesome and I totally approve of it. But – and this is a big but – it’s still just the same content. Once you’ve finished these modes, playing them with a friend is still repeating levels that were all very similar to begin with.
Given there is already four sets of DLC on sale (staggering releases between October this year and February next year), I think Tecmo Koei knows Hyrule Warriors is a bit short on content. But it does indicate that Nintendo will be supporting this game for a long time. We can remain hopeful that some form of online competitive mode will arrive. However unlikely that may be.
Hyrule Warriors is a good game and definitely worth the buy. It’s a strong title in the lead up to Nintendo’s holiday season and may give them a voice while Microsoft and Sony get things like FIFA 15, Alien Isolation, Destiny, and Sunset Overdrive. It’s addictive and will keep you busy for a while but once it’s done, it’s done. On that note, I might shell out for the DLC pack and get that swanky Dark Link avatar…that no one will see.
Hyrule Warriors is available now in standard and limited editions. The limited edition includes Link’s scarf from the game itself for an extra $20.