Title: Breath of the Wild: Champions’ Ballad DLC
Available On: Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Played On: Wii U
Where To Buy: Nintendo E-Shop, Local Retailer
For months, Zelda fans have enjoyed the sprawling experience of Breath of the Wild as the classic series has been taken in a new direction. Now, more than nine months after its release, this Game of the Year title is finally in its complete form. At least, as far as we know.
Since the gameplay-oriented Master Trials DLC this summer, Breath of the Wild fans have eagerly awaited the more story-focused Champions’ Ballad expansion.
The Champions’ Ballad was marketed as an expansion heavy on story. Indeed, the additional story elements that this DLC provides are fascinating and well-executed. However, this is not the savior of Breath of the Wild‘s storytelling shortcomings that fans hoped it would be. There is still a sense of unfulfilled potential when this expansion reaches its conclusion, and the sparse gameplay additions are not enough to distract from this reality.
This second DLC pack consists mainly of a new series of main quests that Link can perform to learn more about the Champion characters from the past and earn his own Divine Beast. There are also several new items for Link to find out in the wild, some yielding practical benefits and some hearkening back to previous Zelda titles.
Throughout the new adventure, the Rito minstrel Kass performs parts of the Champions’ Ballad to Link, unlocking five all-new memory cutscenes. These memories show Princess Zelda recruiting each of the four Champions. There’s Revali, the skillful and cocky Rito; Daruk, the strong and dependable Goron; Mipha, the sweet and love-stricken Zora; and Urbosa, the experienced and empathetic Gerudo.
Each memory attempts to depict a new side of its Champion’s character than what players have seen before. For example, it turns out the “almighty Daruk” has a crippling fear of dogs.
These new memories offer delightful, interesting glimpses into the lives of each Champion, but in terms of character development, they pale in comparison to another story element of this DLC. In addition to memories, each Champion now has a diary residing in their hometown for players to read.
These diaries are full of fascinating tidbits about the writer, Princess Zelda, and even Link himself. Seeing the world from the private perspective of each Champion is quite the experience.
Unlike the memories, players are not required to encounter the diaries to complete the Champions’ Ballad quests. However, I would strongly suggest that players read each diary right after seeing the corresponding Champion’s memory. Armed with the knowledge of every memory and diary, the player can enjoy the ending to the DLC quests that much more.
After a final dungeon and boss fight (which I’ll talk about soon), Link receives one last memory, one that brings him, Zelda, and all four Champions together just before the memories of the regular game. As it faded, this final memory left me with a strong sense of sorrow and nostalgia as I remembered that the Champions were all slain by Ganon.
The evident primary goal of the Champions’ Ballad was to develop the four supporting characters and make their parts in the main story (and subsequent deaths) more meaningful. At this, the DLC is mostly a success. However, rather than more backstory, many fans were hoping that this story-driven expansion would be able to provide a stronger resolution to the aftermath of the game.
Whether through additional post-game quests or by changing the true ending of the game after completing the Champions’ Ballad, fans held out hope that the final DLC would resolve what many found to be an unsatisfactory conclusion to the story. I personally hoped for the latter. After learning so much more about the Champions who gave their lives to help defeat Ganon, I rushed to confront the dark power once more, hoping that something would have changed at the end. No such luck.
After taking the series several strides forward in storytelling, Breath of the Wild disappointed with a scant and unsatisfying epilogue. Issues raised in previous memories (particularly with Zelda and the Great Deku Tree) remain completely unaddressed, even after this new addition. That’s the most infuriating part, personally: why would the writers bring up these plot points only to never mention them again? Barring more DLC or a sequel, this is a grievous oversight.
The story of the Champions’ Ballad is a good addition as a whole, but it’s simply not what fans hoped for. There are still gaping holes and unfulfilled potential scattered throughout the game’s story. I still hold out hope that perhaps more DLC will address these issues, but until such additions are announced, we must assume that Breath of the Wild is now complete.
Thus far I have addressed the story elements of this DLC pack since that was how the Champions’ Ballad was presented to fans. Still, there are several new gameplay elements to talk about as well.
Most of the gameplay additions occur within the sequence of new main quests. First, Link is given a new challenge on the Great Plateau, featuring the temporarily available weapon named the One-Hit Obliterator. This aptly named weapon lets Link kill anything in one hit, but he will also die in one hit. Regulated to this one weapon, players must clear several areas of monsters to unlock new shrine mini-dungeons.
At first, this challenge offers an intriguing experience, forcing players to strike quickly and retreat to safety to avoid being hit in return. However, Link can still use his runes, Divine Beast powers, and bows. With all these additional options, the entire point of the challenge can be avoided fairly easily.
Later, Link is sent back out into Hyrule to find a series of shrines near the home regions of each Champion. To unlock these shrines, players must accomplish a wide array of challenges, from fighting large monsters to navigating the landscape on a timer.
Aside from a few thrilling challenges, these tasks are mostly silly or mundane, performed only as a requirement to progress rather than something enjoyable in themselves.
The new shrines are more innovative than most of their predecessors, expanding on the possibilities offered by the various rune powers and challenging the player to new heights of brain and finger dexterity. Still, as has been the case, the shrines get old. Breath of the Wild got its name for a reason: the best parts of the game’s experience are in the overworld. If you’re not out in the wild, it feels like you’re wasting your time.
After completing each Champion’s new shrines, Link must delve into his own memories to engage in a rematch against each Ganon Blight boss, this time with item restrictions. Despite the equipment downgrade, the Blights are still boring and too easy, especially now that Urbosa’s Fury is available to use against Thunderblight Ganon, the only semi-difficult boss in the game.
Finally, Link enters a brand new dungeon and faces a new boss. This dungeon is probably the best in the game, incorporating the same structure-bending idea found in the previous dungeons. Still, its compact structure and quick runtime keep it from competing with the best Zelda dungeons of the past. Meanwhile, the final boss of the DLC has an interesting and enjoyable theme, despite still being quite easy to conquer.
Headlining the new items available to Link is the Master Cycle Zero, Link’s very own Divine Beast. It’s downright thrilling to race across Hyrule on a motorbike much faster than any horse, but it just feels wrong on a thematic level. I’m glad to have it now, but I’m also glad I didn’t have it on my first playthrough.
Other items include the Ancient Horse Bridle and Saddle. They add two spurs of movement to a horse and allow Link to summon it from any distance, but they still cannot enter areas like the Gerudo desert. Plus, the items look ridiculous.
Most other new items are simply aesthetic changes. My favorite of these is the Royal Guard set, lending an almost British feel to Link’s appearance.
Verdict: Overall, the Champions’ Ballad DLC is primarily a story addition. It meets its goals of storytelling well, but those goals simply aren’t what fans desperately needed. Gameplay additions are hit and miss, and even the good parts are over too quickly. Compared to the Master Trials, which adds countless hours of new gameplay content, this expansion is surprisingly lacking.