There are all sorts of questions about where The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 will go with the story. It’s likely Link at the front and center, but we haven’t even seen his face, and despite the events of the first game, the second seems to have a lot of narrative elements up in the air… literally in some cases. That said, while many ponder what Nintendo will do with factors like Princess Zelda, Ganon, Link, weapon durability, and all sorts of other topics, I found myself considering something else after the last reveal: Breath of the Wild wasn’t the last Zelda story designed by Nintendo. Age of Calamity was, and even if some details are shaky, its narrative under the guiding hands of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma and Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi could mean very interesting things for the sequel. Will Age of Calamity’s storyline… or rather… split of timelines have consequences in BOTW2?
SPOILER ALERT!: This article contains major story spoilers for both The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. If you don’t wish to be spoiled on either or both, do not read ahead.
Things as we left them in Hyrule
There are a few likely routes that The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild 2 could pick up from following the events of previous games. The first would be directly following the first Breath of the Wild. In that ending, Zelda discovers her divine power, granting Link the Bow of Light. With it, he defeats Calamity Ganon and Zelda taps into her power to finally seal the evil being away. In this ending, the original champions (Daruk, Revali, Mipha, and Urbosa) and Hyrule King Rhoam - having died in battle 100 years before - are granted peace and passage to the afterlife. Zelda, having spent the last of her supernatural power joins Link in embarking on a journey to rebuild Hyrule.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity complicates this matter. In that game, a small companion Guardian belonging to Zelda is able to escape to the past as Hyrule Castle is falling to Calamity Ganon. It shares the fate of Link, Zelda, and the Champions' failure with them. Moreover, when things come to their worst, the Guardian travels to the future once more and gains the aid of the heroes from Breath of the Wild, Yunobo, Teba, Sidon, and Riju, to travel back and save the Champions from their fated deaths. In this instance, King Rhoam survives, the former Champions survive, and even the nefarious Yiga Clan (after a dastardly betrayal by the game’s main villain) come to the side of the Hyrule warriors to aid in the defeat of their mutual enemy. Their combined forces result in Zelda awakening her power and, with Link, sealing Calamity Ganon in the time 100 years before Breath of the Wild after which the future heroes return to their own time. Assumedly, in the future heroes time, the situation left at the end of Breath of the Wild’s original ending remains the same.
That means that, much like the situation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Breath of the Wild’s overall arc has been split into two distinct timelines: One in which the original Champions and King Rhoam die, Link is defeated and put in stasis, Zelda is captured, and she and Link must defeat Calamity Ganon 100 years later… and one in which Zelda’s Guardian is able to not only warn them of their impending doom, but also bring the future heroes back to save them from their moment of utmost failure, after which they defeat Calamity Ganon 100 years before Breath of the Wild would have occurred.
Now, there are inconsistencies in the narrative which make the case for Age of Calamity not being a canon timeline. Issues such as the matter of when Link acquires the Master Sword in Age of Calamity and when he acquires it in the flashbacks of Breath of the Wild have pushed outlets and compendiums like the Zelda Wiki to rule it non-canon. Nonetheless, it would be foolish to rule it out altogether. After all, Koei Tecmo heavily consulted with Nintendo on the matter and longtime Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma was involved. Additionally, Aonuma said in an IGN interview that it was, in fact, Breath of the Wild and BOTW2 director Hidemaro Fujibayashi who came up with the idea for Age of Calamity’s story. Fujibayashi was even a scenario supervisor in his formal credits for Age of Calamity. It’s true that there may be some discrepancies to settle, but the deep involvement by Nintendo and Breath of the Wild core leads in Age of Calamity mean that its two-timeline situation can hardly be 100 percent ruled out.
The case for the Breath of the Wild timeline
So then, establishing that the two timelines put on the table by Age of Calamity and Breath of the Wild’s original ending are still available, let’s talk then about what small clues and reasoning exist for either timeline based on the Nintendo E3 Breath of the Wild sequel content so far. I’ll start with the original Breath of the Wild since it would assumedly be the branch Nintendo is taking and has some concrete signifiers to reinforce it.
First and most obviously is the topography of Hyrule in the Breath of the Wild sequel trailers in comparison to the Breath of the Wild and Age of Calamity endings. If you look closely at the area of Central Hyrule surrounding Hyrule Castle and the state of the castle itself, it seems to signify the wear and tear brought on by Calamity Ganon's victory. Recall that in Breath of the Wild, Calamity Ganon succeeded in ravaging the land, defeating the heroes, and entrenching itself in Hyrule Castle. In Age of Calamity, the Guardian’s intervention allowed them to keep Calamity Ganon from ravaging and corrupting the area thoroughly.
Not only does Hyrule Castle seem uninhabited as it ought to be in a Breath of the Wild timeline, but areas of wall and fortress turrets around the outskirts of the castle look similar to their state in a Breath of the Wild outcome. In contrast, wall and castle structures and even villages remain intact in the ending of Age of Calamity since they stopped Calamity Ganon. Even so, we’ve also seen that Calamity and corruption are returning in Breath of the Wild 2 and there’s no reason to say Ganon doesn’t rough up the place in the opening hour of the game. After all, there are also floating bits of land and a floating Hyrule Castle in the trailers. That’s certainly not normal or good.
Then there’s the fact that Zelda is traveling closely with Link, but her little Guardian pal from the journey throughout Age of Calamity is nowhere to be found in the current trailers. By the end of Age of Calamity, all seems pretty much right with the world. Zelda has little reason to travel to dangerous places with Link and even if she did, it feels like her Guardian, which followed her throughout Age of Calamity, wouldn’t be far behind. At the end of Breath of the Wild, Zelda needed to join Link in working to repair the damage that had been done to the world and that would check out here. That said, it could also just as well be that it’s this new corruption that goads Zelda to explore the depths of Hyrule with Link and discover the source of new evil.
Whatever the case, the messed up topography of Central Hyrule and Zelda’s continual travel with Link in comparison to the direct end of the first Breath of the Wild both have me convinced that the Breath of the Wild sequel’s narrative at least physically follows directly from that of the first Breath of the Wild. In my opinion, it would take new reveals and a better look at the land and the situation to prove otherwise at this time.
The case for an Age of Calamity timeline
There are couple things that leave my curiosity quaking as we continue to look at Breath of the Wild 2 and the possibilities therein. Firstly, why would Zelda go into a corrupted place even if she was traveling closely with Link? At the end of the original Breath of the Wild, Zelda tapped out her power to seal Calamity Ganon and seemingly came to peace with the fact that she would likely no longer have access to it.
Do you know who would have access to it? Zelda from Age of Calamity, who also used her sacred power to seal Ganon, but wasn’t explicitly said to have lost access to her power in the process. In that regard, being as smart and sensible as she is, the Age of Calamity version of Zelda would seem far more reasonably equipped to travel with Link into a terribly dangerous place, even if everything went awry.
Then, there’s the crispy figure we’ve seen glimpses of in both Breath of the Wild sequel trailers who seems to be a source of corruption and evil. We could easily assume this is Ganondorf as signified by his red hair and the nasty auras and looks spilling out of him. That said, I do want to point out that Calamity Ganon did not have an overt bodily vessel throughout the entire events of the original Breath of the Wild. It was all corrupted energy manifesting itself into the monstrous creatures we fought.
By contrast, Ganon does gain a humanoid vessel in Age of Calamity. It’s Astor, the evil seer who aids in Calamity Ganon’s revival and emergence. Astor tries to wield Ganon as a weapon against Zelda, Link, and the rest of Hyrule and that turns out incredibly poorly for him. Calamity Ganon’s corruption fully overtakes Astor’s body and draws the unfortunate evil man into his being to become the humanoid final boss of the game, red hair and all. Additionally, putting Astor’s face side by side with that of the mummified-looking evil humanoid in the Breath of the Wild 2 trailers, they have some similar physical features, including the big, slightly upturned nose and gaunt cheeks, barring the rot and wrinkles on the latter.
What I’m getting at, at the risk of going all tinfoil hat, is that after Zelda sealed Calamity Ganon with Astor’s body as its vessel, it’s feasible that Astor become the enfeebled husk of human that we see in the trailer, deadened and warped by corruption. It would almost make more sense for Calamity Ganon to continue to use Astor as a humanoid vessel instead of suddenly having a body of its own after not having one for the entirety of Breath of the Wild. It would also go hand in hand with the fact that Ganon has been known to take on reincarnations or use servant vessels to carry out his revival in various games, such as Agahnim in A Link to the Past or Yuga in A Link Between Worlds.
Maybe both? Maybe not.
It’s good to finally see new glimpses of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 as it stirs up all sorts of conversation and possibilities about what’s coming next for adventure in the land of Hyrule. I think our path as it is now veers far more towards a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, but there are some definite holes that need to be filled in. I also happen to think that Age of Calamity introduced a ton of possibilities that are capable of filling those holes, even if it has some of its own. Wholeheartedly, I kind of hope Nintendo, Eiji Aonuma, and Hidemaro Fujibayashi don’t leave the entirety of Age of Calamity by the wayside. That said, it will remain to be seen what Breath of the Wild 2 has in store for us as Nintendo targets a 2022 release date with it. As a huge fan of Breath of the Wild and Age of Calamity, I’m excited to see what comes next, no matter what form it takes.