Let me begin this review with the ceveat that I absolutely despise the Warriors series, I mean absolutely despise the series. Let’s just say that my first WARRIORS experience left a nasty taste on my tongue, one that still lingers at the back. And I suppose it is equally important to mention that I am also a massive Zelda fanboy. So, unsurprising, I walked into Hyrule Warriors with bias from both ends of the spectrum. I had a pre-perceived idea that the game was going to be terribly repetitive and mundane, but also, I was going to absolutely love the title for the fan service made to Zelda fans. It would be correct if you said that I bought Hyrule Warriors purely for the Zelda coat-of-paint, and I am sure many other fans have done the same. Despite my bias, I went into the experience with an open mind, willing to give the game a fair go and wanting to give the Warriors franchise a second chance.
No doubt the influence of Omega Force from Koei Tecmo, Hyrule Warriors exceeds expectation in the storytelling. The one dimensional and predictable story tropes that the Legend of Zelda franchise is known for, has been thrown away, replaced by a more complex and admittedly more engaging narrative that compliments the gameplay missions incredibly well. Gone is the one-dimensional conflict, whereby a a defenseless Princess needs saving from a mean old wizard – the story is multi-faced that often changes and evolves – reeling you into the conflict and keeping you engaged during the process.
I particularly liked how the story sells the idea of a wide-scale calamity in Hyrule as oppose to solitude troubles that only affect a select few commonly found in the mainline Zelda games. It superbly tells the tale of a kingdom in peril and demonstrates wells the struggle of the cast… well in my opinion. Hyrule Warriors is able to achieve this through the dynamic expedition. By this I mean, the main plot points takes place before your eyes and inside the battlefield; making you an eye-witness to the event that unfold within the game. What I particularly enjoyed is the voiced-over recap of the story before every mission. It essentially replicates a story-book that is experienced through the form of videogames.
From a gameplay point of view, Hyrule Warriors does not stray too far from the Dynasty Warriors formula. At the crux, Hyrule Warriors is about territorial control, achieved by capturing several enemy keeps located throughout the battlefield. For the large part, you will be pressing the Y and X button, as you mow down hoards upon hoards of enemy forces. It is the epitome of monotonous and repetitiveness. If you have played Dynasty Warriors, then you can expect a similar experience here until victory is earned.
However, Hyrule Warriors, like its namesake suggest, does incorporate elements from the Legend of Zelda series, which, in my opinion puts it above many Warrior games. For starters, the appearance of large boss battles in the battlefield adds welcome variety from the average mindless drowns in the fields. Zelda fans will appreciate that series staple bosses like Dodongo and Gohma will appear in Hyrule Warriors. Likewise, fans will also appreciate that the items that are used to defeat these bosses will appear in Hyrule Warriors. The Bombs, Bow & Arrow, Boomerang and Hookshot will be usable weapons in the Warriors arsenal. And best of all, these weapons are used in some Zelda-like puzzles within the game (mainly as tools to defeat boss enemies).
Koei Tecmo does attempt to add a few layers of depth in the game. For starters, Hyrule Warriors has a character level-up system… a bare-bone level-up system at that. As you might expect, earning KO’s will grant experience points that will eventually level-up your character, leading to a much more powerful warrior. Really basic stuff. In addition to that, you can add badges that add traits to your character, which will further assist you in battle. Though you won’t need to worry about the character progression in Legendary Mode, it is important that you have a fundamental understanding of the system when you go for the harder challenges in Adventure Mode.
Despite being repetitive in nature, Hyrule Warriors is able to maintain the players attention and engagement by constantly changing the objectives of the mission. Unlike, say, the mainline Warriors game which primary about territory dominance, Hyrule Warriors is more objective base. By this I mean, often progression and victory is achieved by completing a set objective successfully. Firstly, you might need to rescue a stranded platoon at the far side of the battlefield, next you could be asked to protect an ally from an incoming raid and then target the enemy commander. The missions get particularly exciting when there are a set objectives tasked to you simultaneously. How you prioritize these objective and how you cope with the anxiety makes the missions in Hyrule Warriors exhilarating and more importantly fun.
This is especially true in Adventure Mode. Adventure mode is a challenge based mode, whereby players gradually take on grids and sections of the original Legend of Zelda Map. These challenges have a focused objective and often are bite size, so they never feel dull and tedious. What I enjoyed most about Adventure Mode is collecting all the treasures, weapons, rewards and characters. There is a sense of discover about the mode, which is surprising for a concept so simple.
This leads to my next point, Hyrule Warriors is a completionist’s dream. There is so much here to collect. From the Golden Skultula’s, the heart pieces, medals and weapons – the game is packed to the rafters with content. There is a lot of game here and you will certainly get your moneys worth.
So far I have only lauded Hyrule Warriors, but the game has glaring flaws. Firstly, especially during co-op play, the frame rate in Hyrule Warriors drops to unacceptable level, so-much-so, that it literally becomes unplayable at times. Slideshow might have been acceptable a few years ago, but nowadays these sins are less forgivable. Also, the lock-on system is downright infuriating. Changing the lock from one enemy to another is so cumbersome that you often will find the urge to smash your control on the floor.
I’ll be the first to admit that Hyrule Warriors exceeded my expectation. It’s solid gameplay, interesting plot and volumes of content will have you satisfied from the moment you boot the game. It’s rather unfortunate that the technical flaws bring down, what is, a solid game. Despite this, I would still recommend Hyrule Warriors to any Wii U owner, regardless whether you are not a fan of the Warriors series or the Legend of Zelda for the matter.