Title: Breath of the Wild: Master Trials DLC
Available On: Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Where To Buy: Nintendo E-Shop, Local Retailer
Should Michaelangelo have painted another ceiling in the Sistine Chapel? Da Vinci added a few more dishes to The Last Supper? Sometimes perfection should be left alone to bathe in its own glory. This ultimate question lead Nintendo into quiet the predicament. When Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched in March, it became widely applauded as one of the greatest games of a generation. However DLC was announced for Breath of the Wild before the critical admiration and as such, Nintendo had to keep to their word. So how can you add to perfection? Not in the way you might think but as per usual with the geniuses at Nintendo, they have given us not perhaps what we would have expected, but something every Zelda fan needs.
It should be noted that this DLC pack can only be purchased as an entire season pass with The Master Trials being the first of a two part expansion for Zelda: Breath of The Wild. The second, expected later this year, will include new story content.
Nintendo are still fairly new to the downloadable content trend. Notable titles which have received this treatment are Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 8 with the latter being released on the Switch with all the additional content included. We’ve seen DLC done well and at times, rather poorly, yet Nintendo has been more than generous with both the quantity and quality. The promise of a DLC pass for Breath of the Wild left many craving more adventures in Hyrule so what have Nintendo delivered this time?
The crux of The Master Trials is the Trial of the Sword; forty-five stages of combat trials unleashing the true power of the master sword. Alongside this comes a variety of content which includes a harder difficulty (as though Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not already grueling), Hero’s Path which highlights your previous 200 hours of traversal across the majestic land and cosmetic items embracing the rich history of perhaps gaming’s most recognizable franchise. The package will appeal to each individual differently, however, I found myself feeling as though some of the content should perhaps have been available to all without any additional cost.
Hero’s Path is perhaps the most underrated feature included here and is the addition I feel should have been a free update for everyone. Upon opening your world map, you now have the power to re-live Link’s journey condensed into a few seconds or minutes. Having spent over 100 hours exploring every field, village, mountain, and river; I soon found out that I had been less thorough than originally thought. You can immediately highlight the map with your entire adventure and I found myself gazing at large sections of unexplored territories just waiting to be surveyed. With this new insight, I teleported to the nearest tower and blissfully glided to a shrine that had been awaiting my arrival for months. The Hero’s Path is also rather nostalgic and reminded me of how brutal my adventure had been. After a hundred hours, I found myself forgetting the early days of my journey yet Hero’s Path brought those tough memories flooding back. Every death is recorded and Link emits a tiny scream every time he fell in battle… And it turns out I died a lot. This little addition reinvigorated an adventure I thought over which is brilliant, yet I empathize for those who have to purchase The Master Trials for this one feature, particularly as for Hero’s Path to function, your steps are already being traced.
Once you have truly scaled every inch of Hyrule, hard mode could be for you. Early comparisons were made between Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Dark Souls series and Hard Mode brings the two even closer together. I should state that this addition is not for me, I’ve experienced Dark Souls 3 with the balance of torture and reward not appealing to me, if however, that distressing balancing act appeals to you, hard mode will too. Enemies are tougher, more frequent and now have regenerating health which made my trick of tossing a bomb and playing a game of cat and mouse flawed. The great plateau which does a wonderful job of acclimatizing you to Breath of the Wild will once again be your tutorial here. Instead of learning the basics of combat and defense against weak Bokoblins you will understand how to survive against the toughest foes fighting the likes of a White Lynel, one of the toughest enemies in the game, with barely any weapons or armor.
The cosmetic items added allow Link to dress up as series favorite Tingle or don the iconic Majora’s Mask. Some of these wearable items have special abilities with the aforementioned mask allowing Link to befriend his regular enemies, setting up the perfect selfie as they look on bewildered by the whole experience. The outfits, although looking great sadly lack the real protection you need later in the game. Upon launch, the DLC granted players a Nintendo Switch T-shirt for our hero and although it looked amusing, the defensive stats were shockingly low and this same issue plagues the new items introduced. Another missed opportunity is the hunt for these exotic items as they involve you speaking to a specific NPC who delivers a boring, decipherable riddle. A fetch quest becomes old fast and these items could have been the rewards for much more imaginative quests.
As I mentioned earlier, Breath of the Wild is a gaming masterpiece so when Nintendo stated that the biggest new addition to The Master Trials was combat, I stupidly questioned their direction. Saying combat is the weakest part of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is like saying Lionel Messi has a weak right foot, you are being overly critical. The only more controversial DLC would have been an endless rainstorm in Hyrule and as an Englishman who is more than accustomed to rain, this would still have infuriated me. Thankfully Nintendo ignored my insignificant knowledge of game development and they developed The Master Trials.
The Master Sword is perhaps your greatest ally in Breath of the Wild and essential when facing the tougher bosses. Attaining the sword is a challenge in itself and it can feel like an eternity when the sword’s power is depleted and you cannot wield Link’s Excalibur for twenty minutes. The Trials of the Sword alleviates this hindrance by boosting the power to a formidable 60 attack points and removing the time restricting setback. Achieving this is no easy task, however.
Eventide Island is one of the best side quests in Breath of the Wild and if you have not yet ventured to the island in the South-East of your map, you are missing out. The reception to this particular quest has evidently influenced this expansion with the same concept being utilized. Eventide Island stripped you of every thing, literally leaving Link in his underwear. With no weapons or armor, you must instead use you Sheikah slate abilities, scavenging skills and wit. As if this was not tough enough, there was no autosave meaning an hour of progress could be lost by the simplest mistake. All of these rules apply in Trials of the Sword.
Returning to the Great Deku Tree where you initially removed the dependable Master Sword, Link places it once more into the ground and embarks on 45 levels of BOTW’s finest puzzles. You are transferred to a large square room with rivers, fields, and trees erupting from the floor. The Master Trials begin fairly easy and should be a breeze for anyone who has access to the sword already. Low-level Bokoblins can easily be sent soaring through the sky with a well-tossed bomb. Once all enemies are defeated on a stage, you are able to teleport to the next, more difficult challenge.
Although the first few stages are barely taxing, the resource management is the real puzzle. You never know what awaits Link on the later stages and as such, I found myself gathering items I would usually snub. In Trials of the Sword, you would be foolish to leave a tree branch on the floor. Although I may skip the odd apple dangling from a nearby tree in Hyrule, here that succulent fruit could help turn a meal into a more nourishing one. This is a survival challenge and gathering tools are just one-half of the mission, how you use them being the second perhaps more important. Attaining an average sword could make short work of a foe ahead but should I instead save this weapon for a later enemy and beat this Bokoblin with a weaker club? These are the constant predicaments thrown at you and with every enemy packing a punch, the wrong choice can cost you vital hearts.
Although the trials fundamentally strip every player down to their weakest form, preparation will benefit you. You need thirteen hearts to remove the master sword but more hearts will help as your maximum health bar remains the same. A wise move is to consume a health boosting meal before entering the trials for a much-needed boost. Stamina too is vital for the latter stages allowing you to glide and secure pinpoint accuracy with the bow. Have you upgraded your abilities? Improved bombs and the stasis ability we be more beneficial here than ever before. The trials will be tough for everyone, however, preparation will aid you.
I mentioned previously that combat is perhaps the weakest element of Breath of the Wild and multiple stages of combat could be tedious. However, I would call each of the stages a different puzzle with the combat being second to that. There is only a hand full of traditional circumstances and soon the environments will change. Think of how both Superhot and Portal are both technically shooters yet their intricate complexity makes them much more than that, the same applies here. For example, later stages introduce a constant updraught of wind allowing Link to glide over a bottomless pit whilst an onslaught of fire and bomb arrows sail past him. Dropping bombs would seem the obvious choice, however, the wind is strong enough to elevate these too. I cannot count how many times a blew myself out of the air with an accidental misfire and started on as I reduced more hearts than any enemy could have. Although explosives, if timed well, can be effective; so can other more experimental ideas. Goading an archer with a bomb arrow to fire near another enemy could cause some friendly fire. Free-falling and timing the perfect head shot from your bow feels immensely satisfying. You need to be creative but when death is permanent, you need to be calculated too.
As the stages progress and the difficulty increases, more unexpected elements are introduced to the fray. The introduction of lightning storms and lava covered floors will require you to adapt or you may find yourself engulfed by total darkness as the terrifying noise of a Guardian powering up looms in the distance. One of the greatest products of Breath of the Wild are the conversations players have had after spending some time in the rich world of Hyrule. As great as it is to hear of other wondrous experiences, you cannot help but feel you missed them. The Master Trials allow you to experience the best of what Zelda: Breath of the Wild has to offer in a quick, condensed offering.
The entirety of the Master Trials is divided into three sections giving you the chance to rest, save and consume more health boosting meals. The final stages took me nearly two anxious hours to finish but the victory felt deserved and satisfying. I now possessed the strongest weapon in the game but the real gain was the knowledge and confidence to embrace what makes Zelda: Breath of the Wild one of the greatest games of the year, experimentation.
VERDICT: The first half of the DLC pass for Breath of the Wild is mostly brilliant. Some parts could perhaps have been free updates, others could have been more creatively integrated however the Trial of the Sword is fantastic. Within the first couple of stages, I knew my fears of a combat heavy expansion were needless and instead, you are treated to a compressed version of everything that makes Breath of The Wild such a joy. With the promise of story DLC in the second half of this season pass, Nintendo may have once more over delivered on what is expected from post release content in games.
- Revitalises the original adventure
- Huge variety and ideas
- Cosmetic items look awesome
- Generic quests to find new items
- Some content could have been free