It is completely understandable that, even three month after its release, you could still be working your way through the sheer ocean of content that Breath of the Wild offers. After all, some of those Shrines, and especially those Korok Seeds are tough to find. That jam-packed overworld didn’t need DLC to keep you occupied for innumerable hours, but Zelda fans are being treated to a season pass that’s the first of its kind in the long-running series.
The first half of the pass, dubbed The Master Trials, was made available only a few days ago. It brings some grueling challenges to Breath of the Wild owners, along with a few extra goodies that are there just for good measure. Read on to find out exactly what the DLC has in store, and, fear not, there will be no spoilers or solutions revealed here.
The hallmark of this first DLC pack is a challenge mode called Trial of the Sword, which pits you against a gauntlet of enemies in different rooms. Ocarina of Time had the Gerudo Training Grounds, Wind Waker had the Savage Labyrinth, Twilight Princess had the Cave of Ordeals—Trial of the Sword is a whole other monster.
It is superb at tasking you to be at your very best when it comes to every staple of the game design: the immediate combat, utilization of the environment, maximizing the resources you may find, prudent use of said resources, surveying your surroundings for advantages, reacting on the fly, etc.
This may very well be the most difficult combat experience in the 31-year history of The Legend of Zelda. By stripping away Link’s entire inventory prior to beginning each leg of the trial (there are 3, in all), you’re not asked to be resourceful; you’re forced to be resourceful.
It’s a jarring shift if you’ve become accustomed to using the game’s best weapons and armor, one that takes you back to your earliest sessions playing Breath of the Wild where you had to utilize what’s available in your immediate surroundings, and live and die by the Sheikah Slate’s Runes. It’s humbling to have to work your arsenal back to respectability. Your finite items, whether they be weapons, arrows, shields, or food, all take on new significance as you add them to your depleted stores.
You get your previous equipment, materials, and meals back once you either complete the trial leg or fail, and you’ll appreciate all of it that much more once you’ve had to fend off waves of enemies without it.
Trial of the Sword has the depth and complexity that justifies coming at a later date, and not being available within the game day one. Each room has its own unique layout, as if each is a piece pulled right out of the overworld. These are not bare, four-walled chambers, and many sport some form of environmental attribute that is often fighting against you just like the enemies are. What strategy you employed in one set of rooms may not be feasible in another, so don’t get too attached to just one method!
There’s even a subtle narrative behind the Trial of the Sword and its purpose, and this writer is willing to guess that it all will eventually figure into the “new story” that has been touted as the centerpiece for the second DLC pack, which releases later this year.
The other fiendish challenge in The Master Trials is its namesake, Master Mode. In this option, you can play through the game all over again, but with the difficulty kicked up a notch. New enemies have been sprinkled across the overworld, sometimes in unexpected spots; there’s a particularly-nasty beast now sauntering around the Temple of Time on the Great Plateau. Enemies are stronger than before, dishing out more damage, coming in Golden forms (a step above the previously-strongest Silver variety), and with the ability to slowly regenerate their health.
That latter addition is the most significant. It drastically changes the way you approach battles, whether they be one-on-one encounters, or battles with a horde of foes. When confronting a group of enemies, you now must focus on one enemy at a time, as trying to divide your attention will only allow them to heal up. With the big guys, you can’t be as patient as you used to–aggression is a necessary evil.
The sheer challenge will be compelling for some, but it comes with a price. Because of that regenerating health, you don’t quite have the freedom that you used to when fighting enemies. Certain tactics that you may have used before are now close to being, if not, are outright ineffective. In a lot of cases, Master Mode forces you to charge in headlong and get in your foe’s face. Whether or not the trade off between increased difficulty (and you better believe it’s a big increase) and options is worth it will be up to the individual.
The rest of the content that rounds out this first DLC pack is mostly there just for kicks. There are several new pieces of equipment hidden across the overworld, including armor, a Korok Mask that helps you find those many Koroks, and a Travel Medallion that lets you create a warp point. Various journals pop up in different spots through Hyrule giving you hints as to the locations of these items, and it’s up to you, then, to decipher the ambiguous descriptions and track them down. Be warned, for they usually take you into some pretty dangerous parts of the overworld.
The pieces of armor are all throwbacks to different games of Zeldas past. You can find Majora’s Mask, Midna’s helmet from Twilight Princess, an outfit based on Tingle, and an armor set based on the Phantoms from Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. For the most part, these are just fun decorations; they can’t be upgraded, and their base stats are much too low to be of serious use to anyone who has already played the game extensively. Their greatest purpose comes in Master Mode, as they are attainable early on in the story if you should choose to seek them out, and they offer different abilities that you wouldn’t find from armor until much later in the game. For example, Midna’s Helmet grants you extra defense against Guardian enemies, while the Phantom armor increases your attack.
The last part of The Master Trials is a nifty feature on your map called the Hero’s Path Mode, which diagrams your progress across the overworld from the previous 200 hours played. Essentially, you’re just sitting there for a half-hour or more watching a green marker draw itself across the map, also notating where you died, so it’s hardly enthralling viewing, but it can be amusing to see precisely what route you took. By showing what areas you have (and haven’t) explored, it may even help you narrow down where you to need to look if you’re struggling to find a Korok Seed, Shrine, etc.
So, is all of this worth the price that the DLC asks for?
The expansion pass charges $19.99 (plus tax), and it includes both The Master Trials, and the second DLC pack, The Champions’ Ballad, which is scheduled for Holiday of this year. Looking at The Master Trials as a $10 purchase, it’s hard to say that the content manages to match the price. Trial of the Sword is one of the best levels in the series, but you can complete it in a couple of hours if you’re up to the task. A few new items and a new difficulty setting really don’t do much to justify this kind of money.
With all of that said…don’t hesitate to buy the expansion pass. Trial of the Sword is truly a phenomenal gaming experience from start to finish, even if it feels a little overpriced. Master Mode may even be the incentive you’re looking for if you’re interested in replaying the game. Given that the second DLC pack is poised to be much meatier when it comes to content, putting down $20 now feels like a safe investment.
Now put down your viewing device, and go get your butt kicked by Trial of the Sword.
What do you think? Is the DLC worth it? What other thoughts do you have about Breath of the Wild? Leave me a comment below.
Jeff Pawlak lives and breathes (!) The Legend of Zelda series. He started with the original Legend of Zelda back on NES when he was just three years old, was captivated by Ocarina of Time in 1998 on the N64, and he got lost within Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule on the Nintendo Switch. You can find him on Twitter @JeffreyPavs, where he’s often sharing his thoughts on the wacky world of Nintendo. You can also add him as a Friend on the Switch with his Friend Code SW-1774-4999-4185.
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