I’ve never been able to get into Dynasty Warriors, I like the basic premise of beating the crap out of hundreds of grunts at once in the role of a general leading an army, but the setting was never something I particularly cared about. Romanticised versions of Chinese and Japanese history aren’t my cup of tea, I’ve never been a huge fan of Gundam and I only recently started watching One Piece.
So when Hyrule Warriors was announced, not only was it the closest thing to a new Zelda game we’re going to get to play this year, but there was something about watching Link beat the snot out of hundreds of Bokoblins at once that looked like it could be a lot of fun, not enough to preorder it or consider running down to the local game shop and pick up a copy on release day, but fun all the same.
However, after coming away from a recent hands-on with the E3 demo, the first thing I did when I got home was preorder it. Here’s why.
In the relatively brief demo I played, first as Link and then as Zelda, I was tasked with defending an area that looks like a recreation of Hyrule field from Ocarina of Time from an invading horde of Bokoblins.
At its most basic level Hyrule Warriors is still very much a ‘Warriors’ game, If you’ve ever played any of the other entries in the long running series (except the first one) you’ll feel right at home. For those that haven’t, it’s a relatively simple premise: You play as a commander of an army in this case Zelda, and to a lesser extent Link, who likes to lead from the front, attempting to gain the upper hand and turn the tide of the battle in your sides favour by clearing sectors of the map of enemies, as well as completing objectives such as aiding NPCs in need of back up, defending areas from the advancing horde and taking out stronger enemies to help your advancing army break through. In short, if it doesn’t look friendly, twat it.
Combat is also firmly in the Warriors mould, as players use light and heavy attacks to soften up large groups of enemies before unleashing powerful and extravagant finishers on the pool fools.
The rank and file, in this case hordes of Bokoblins, are basically fodder, there to help fill up your special gauge and make you feel like badass more than provide any kind of threat. They do their job incredibly well, there’s something inherently satisfying about cutting through a huge group of enemies before unleashing a devastating finisher, even more so when it’s a supped up recreation of Link’s patented spin attack that acts more like a he’s attempting the hammer throw with his sword than merely trying to keep the bad guys at bay. Or having him leap into the air and come crashing down on top of his foes, in a much more extravagant version of his finisher from Wind Waker.
Being a Dynasty Warriors spin-off, Hyrule Warriors was always going to have multiple playable characters. Sadly in most Warriors games this often leads to lots of palette swapping and attacks tied to weapons. Luckily it looks like this won’t be the case with Hyrule Warriors as each of the characters that have been revealed thus far such as Midna, Fi and Darunia, have very different playstyles and move sets based upon their prior appearances in the Zelda series.
This was clear within the demo because although the basic mission and objectives were the same, Link and Zelda handled very differently from each other.
Link, is basically the Mario of the piece an alrounder that doesn’t escel at anything but doesn’t really have any weaknesses either. Although he does feel more aggressive than in the main Zelda series, he hits harder and has some rather nice new moves unique to Hyrule Warriors too. My personal favourite is a new running shield bash move that knocks enemies out the way, great to use when you have to get to another part of the field and you don’t have time for the Bokoblins nonsense..
Zelda on the other hand, is a much nimbler and more delicate fighter, attacking with flurries of strikes with her rapier as well as picking off enemies from a distance with her light bow before utterly decimating the enemy with magic attacks. There’s something very regal about the way she fights. Although she is just as powerful as link, she’s not quite so hardy and it pays to soften up groups from afar if you can, especially when you’re facing larger monsters as she can’t take half as much damage as Link can.
What impressed me most and subsequently lead me to preorder the game as soon as I could, was how core gameplay elements of the Zelda franchise have been incorporated into the game.
Just like in main series Zelda game’s, players will be able to find chests containing equipment that help open up new areas of the map and defeat each stages Boss monster.
In the Demo I was gifted with Bombs, these were used to blow up massive rocks barring your path and much more impressively, to help defeat a beautiful HD recreation of King Dodongo from Ocarina of Time.
As it threw itself around the battlefield, knocking over anything that was unfortunate enough to get in its way, attempts to attack the beast with me sword and shield were pointless, only chipping away tiny slithers of his health bar. However, once in a while it’d begin to suck in copious amount of air before breathing fire just like he did in Ocarina of time. At this point I chucked several bombs at it, which it swallowed, exploding in its gut, stunning the creature and opening it up to all kinds of hurt.
It’s this kind of practical fan service that sold me on the game, well that and the thought of fighting HD recreations of some of gaming’s best bosses is just too enticing to pass up.
Most importantly of all though, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play. As a Zelda fan, It’s clear there is a lot of effort being put in to make the game a fun Zelda spin off as much as a decent new entry in the Warriors franchise.
Here’s hoping that it’ll pay off when the game launches this September.