Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

The original Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U had one of my favorites soundtracks of 2014, featuring a blend of rock arrangements from across the series alongside some great original tracks. It felt very much like Dynasty Warriors and made sense given the game was a mash-up of different Zelda games. When Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was announced, I thought perhaps we’d get rock arrangements of the beautiful and thoughtful soundtrack to Breath of the Wild. That’s not what we ended up with and for good reason. The Age of Calamity soundtrack is very much in the style of Breath of the Wild with a few action-oriented excursions here and there, but for the most part, the soundtrack lives within the world of Breath of the Wild. This is important given how story-driven Age of Calamity ends up being and how integral to the Breath of the Wild timeline it is. In that way, this approach to the score makes a lot of sense.

Read more about what the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity soundtrack has to offer below.

The soundtrack for Age of Calamity is just as large if not more so than that of Breath of the Wild. There are many hours of music to enjoy, so it’s impossible to call it all out, but right out of the gate with the ambient and sparse title screen, I knew metal was not what Age of Calamity was about. The story segments before each stage are accompanied by emotional score that works perfectly throughout the game’s story arc. I think it’s the stage themes that people are most excited for, however. The first stage, “Battle for Hyrule Castle,” incorporates the Breath of the Wild battle theme, which is a very fun and eclectic piece that many have grown to love. It’s after this first stage that players are introduced to what is one of my favorite pieces, the results screen, which sports triumphant piano and string stabs and a sort of a hip hop vibe that is the one instance where Age and Calamity gives in to its hip action-oriented stylings from a musical standpoint. There’s the sweeping map theme with huge strings and rolling piano and snare (the map theme “evolves” over the course of the game and is always a standout musical space), the playful and sweet theme for Teraku, the team’s mini-guardian companion, and the quirky royal lab with some nice guitar riffs. Each of the champion themes that were introduced in Breath of the Wild are re-introduced and extrapolated upon here, taking a more combat-oriented edge, with my favorite, Mipha, taking up a decisive tone with big brass, whereas Daruk is adventurous and more “wild west” sounding. The divine beast music is also fantastic, taking on their respective dungeon themes from Breath of the Wild, but these sections are so intense with explosions and more that it’s hard to hear them in-game. The battle chants found in the Yiga clan battles are lot of fun, and I enjoyed the Hamauzu-esque piano work in the training stage.

The game’s antagonist gets a suitably unsettling theme with string stabs, harp runs, and xylophone, but this is immediately answered with a grandiose take on the original Zelda overworld theme as Link lays the smackdown on the bad guys. There are tons of musical easter eggs drawing from across the series, but they’re never overt as the main focus is on Age of Calamity’s ties of Breath of the Wild. Things take an epic and especially desperate and driving turn throughout the final stages, but the real highlight of the score are the champion theme mash-ups in a series of battles that focus on two champions at a time. There’s a clever take on the Zora and Goron themes borrowing the melody from the former and the rhythm of the latter before a swap occurs. Similarly, there’s an exotic and Celtic convergence in the Gerudo and Rito mash-up. The final encounters are as epic as you’d expect, sporting glitchy electronics and piston-like percussion that set them apart from the rest of the encounters, and the credits theme that revisits all of the key themes from the game is a great recap and closer.

In all, the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, while much different than the original Hyrule Warriors soundtrack, will please Breath of the Wild fans and is easily one of the best of 2020. While the original Hyrule Warriors soundtrack never got an official soundtrack release, Breath of the Wild did, so here’s hoping that Nintendo finds a publishing partner for this incredible Zelda soundtrack.

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