Title: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity – Pulse of the Ancients
Developer: Omega Force (Koei Tecmo)
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release Date: June 18th, 2021
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity managed to do, in four days, what no other game in Koei Tecmo’s entire Warriors franchise has ever done: sell over three million copies. The instant success of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity prompted Nintendo and Omega Force to continue to support the title with some additional DLC content. The February 2021 Nintendo Direct confirmed that the game would get an “Expansion Pass,” later stating that two different waves of content would be included in the game’s $19.99 Expansion Pass.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity – Pulse of the Ancients, the first DLC content pack, features a new location hub known as the Royal Ancient Lab (a name that should be a little familiar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild fans). Most of the DLC content stems from this area, which is really comprised of different objectives that, when completed, offer several different rewards such as ability upgrades, new weapons, and even a new character. However, the required recipe materials to unlock many of the rewards need to be obtained in the specially-labeled mission points on the map (thankfully, all DLC-related missions are marked with an “EX” by the icon, presumably standing for “Expansion Pass”).
In addition to the new objectives are the “vicious monsters” boss battles that seem to randomly alternate different bosses and objectives, although the missions do eventually repeat. The vicious monsters themselves can range from the expected cast of Silver Lynels and Malice Guardians, but Pulse of the Ancients also introduces a few new monsters, all of which are massively tough. Some of the new monsters include giant Chuchus, barrel-bomb tossing Moblins, and some massively upgraded Wizzrobes.
The new weapons added by Pulse of the Ancients include some flails for Link, as well as Zelda’s Master Cycle Zero, which initially appeared as a reward for completing the “EX Champions’ Ballad” quest from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC content of the same name (which itself was inspired by the Master Cycle that originally appeared in Mario Kart 8 as part of a DLC pack). Link’s flails mostly feel like a combination of a whip, morning star, and nunchucks, while Zelda’s Master Cycle Zero feels similar in gameplay to the Ancient Spinner top-like weapon from the original Hyrule Warriors.
Link can obtain three different flails, each one controlling slightly different to each other, since the flails have different properties that make them feel largely unique, despite being similar in power and gameplay to each other. For example, the Fortified Flail is a bit slow compared to the other flails, but it can summon a shield that can trigger a “Perfect Guard” if timed correctly. The Ancient Bladed Flail favors speed over strength, with one of its unique properties the ability to aim and shoot a beam at enemies. Link can attain the flails early on through the Royal Ancient Lab, allowing players the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the weapons’ controls and properties before taking on the monstrous challenges ahead.
The only other new weapon of note is the Master Cycle Zero, which is exclusive to Zelda rather than Link, strangely enough. However, the Master Cycle Zero is easily Zelda’s best weapon, especially thanks to the ability to utilize its wide-sweeping attacks, allowing for some easy crowd controlling tactics. The Master Cycle Zero can also accelerate at turbo speed, mowing down anyone unfortunate enough to get in the way. A gage in the upper left-hand corner measures the engine’s “temperature. If the meter fills up completely, the Master Cycle Zero will “overheat,” temporarily stalling out. Despite this minor (and unnecessary) gimmick aside, the Master Cycle Zero is one of the best additions to come from Pulse of the Ancients, largely thanks to how unique and different it can make the somewhat-tedious hack-and-slash gameplay feel.
The only new character introduced in Pulse of the Ancients is the Battle-Tested Guardian, finally giving players the opportunity to properly control one of Link’s fiercest foes from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unfortunately, after finally playing as the character after unlocking it, I found the character to be largely disappointing to play as. The Battle-Tested Guardian isn’t that powerful to begin with, though with the right weapon fusions and leveling up, it could become a formidable character.
The Battle-Tested Guardian may not be very strong initially, but its biggest flaw is how unbearably slow the character controls. The Battle-Tested Guardian’s attacks and movements actually feels very similar to the Great Faeries, but its surprisingly mediocre strength doesn’t compensate for its lack of speed, making it a weak addition to Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity’s roster of playable characters.
Regarding the DLC’s “missions,” it’s evident that Pulse of the Ancients was primarily designed to “extend” Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity’s post-game replayability. The initial suggested levels for the first few DLC missions is level 55 and up. These beginning missions aren’t that difficult, but eventually, the required character levels take a very large leap, almost immediately going from level 55 to level 82 and up. The vicious monsters were all usually set around level 83, and since I only had two or three characters leveled up enough to even attempt these trials, it made the DLC feel very unbalanced at times, not to mention the limited variety of objectives.
Perhaps the biggest issue concerning the DLC is how it enhances or detracts from the game’s overall replayability factor. It’s disappointing that no new storylines was included. One of the initial selling points for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was that it was presented as a “prequel” to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it largely delivered on that front. It’s a little puzzling that the first wave of DLC content really doesn’t add much to the story or overall Zelda lore, which may alienate more casual fans who are either in it for the story, or in it because it’s technically a Zelda game.
While some of the new weapons introduced in Pulse of the Ancients are really fun to use, the DLC itself unfortunately suffers a bit from its overall lack of mission variety. In some ways, Pulse of the Ancients feels like a tacked-on “hard mode” rather than a substantial DLC offering, not to mention that the DLC actually includes the “Apocalyptic” difficulty setting.
The second DLC pack, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity – Guardian of Remembrance, is set to be released in November later this year, promising more new characters, brand new stages, and other features that have yet to be revealed. This second wave of content does add more value to the Expansion Pass, and should be seen as a silver lining for those who might have been disappointed by Pulse of the Ancients.
Ultimately, determining the true value of any DLC content is to examine how it extends and improves upon a game’s overall replay. Pulse of the Ancients does add quite a bit of post-game challenges that extends the post-game content of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity by a few hours. However, the overall DLC content offered does feel a bit lacking at times. Hack-and-slash games can become tedious simply due to the very nature of their button-mashing gameplay, but stand-out titles like Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity show that, with the right amount of variety offered, even hack-and-slash titles can be elevated into something unique and special.
Pulse of the Ancients doesn’t succeed in vastly extending Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity’s overall replay, but it does offer some cool new weapons, another new character on the roster, and a slew of post-game missions. The offerings that Pulse of the Ancients brings to the game isn’t substantial enough to entice back those who’ve already moved on after finishing the game, but hardcore Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and hack-and-slash fans may find the post-game objectives fun enough to warrant a purchase now instead of later, especially since the Expansion Pass does include another DLC pack releasing later this year.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.