Without question, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild made a huge impact when it landed in March of this year. Several months on, Nintendo is finally pushing out the much touted DLC content for its huge hit; expanding the core experience while delivering new ideas into the mix. The first of these is the ‘The Master Trials’. Is it worth the price of admission?
The first portion of DLC included in the expansion pass for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, titled The Master Trials, adds a significant amount of content while only adding a minor amount of depth. While the main pull of Breath of the Wild’s expansion pass will likely be the story-driven Champion’s Ballad out this December, The Master Trials offers enough interesting content to warrant another jaunt into Hyrule, if only for a short time.
The meatiest content in The Master Trials is The Trial of the Sword, a challenge dungeon that strips the player of all their gear and forces them to fight their way through with only the resources they can acquire in the trial itself. The Trial of the Sword takes boasts an incredibly high difficulty level and players who attempt it without properly preparing will find an incredible challenge ahead of themselves. The difficulty can be daunting at first, but Trial of the Sword offers a classic sense of brutal, punishing difficulty that culminates into one of the most rewarding experiences in recent gaming. The reward for completing the trial, a powered-up Master Sword, does not feel like an adequate reward for completing such a monumental task, but like most quests in Breath of the Wild: it isn’t about the destination; it is about the journey.
The other major addition in The Master Trials comes as an enhanced difficulty setting called Master Mode. Master Mode allows players to start Breath of the Wild from the beginning in a separate file with the difficulty ratcheted up to absurd levels. The new mode provides an excellent test of the player’s understanding of the mechanics, but fundamentally offers very little new content and I found myself uninspired to start a new play through on Master Mode knowing my experience would be only more frustrating with little in terms of new senses of enjoyment.
Master Trials adds a plethora of new costumes that veterans of the series will recognize. Again, the strength of the new costumes comes from seeking out the chests with only vague clues to go off of. Finding the new gear requires an intimate knowledge of Hyrule’s geography and finding something new because you’ve spent hours in that world is an incredibly fulfilling reward for investing so much time with Link and Hyrule. Unfortunately, the armor has astoundingly weak stats which are unusable in even the middle of the game and with no upgrade options, the armor can only be used to scratch a nostalgic itch, which is a novelty that fades fast. Similarly, the Travel Medallion feels unneeded, as most players are so late in the game that a custom fast travel point feels moot when shrines are littered all over the map. The addition would have felt more useful in the early hours of the game.
Hero’s Path mode, the final add-on, is an overlay on the map that shows how any given player has spent the last 200 hours. More importantly though, it shows where you have not gone. Hero’s Path is an excellent way of distinguishing new places for any given player to explore and helps show where some of the final shrines may be located based on gaps in your adventure. It’s a small touch, but one that can add hours of meaningful gameplay and unlike the DLC armor, it feels like the feature is being implemented at the appropriate time.
Master Trials does not add anything particularly interesting or memorable to Breath of the Wild, there is no additional narrative or lore that feels substantive. Instead, Master Trials optimizes the already tight experience in the base game and gives players a reason to return to Hyrule for another 20 or so hours. Master Trials feels very much like a stepping stone to what will hopefully be the more expansive Champion’s Ballad, but gives more than enough reasons to return to Breath of the Wild, if only for a short time.