We Are the Champions
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been one of the most successful games in the series. Eiji Aonuma and the development team created a vast, open world that resonated with many players. Through their reinventing of the classic franchise, the Breath of the Wild received the honor of Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards. But the event had a bigger surprise in store for Zelda fans: Nintendo revealed that the second DLC pack, The Champions’ Ballad, would be downloadable immediately that very same night.
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Nintendo teased this as a more story-focused DLC, and it’s true to an extent. There are indeed new cutscenes, but they don’t progress the original story. Rather, they give more insight into the history and personality of the Champions, some of Breath of the Wild’s most memorable characters. If you were expecting deep postgame plot, you may be disappointed. Nevertheless, the added scenes were heartwarming and helped me to appreciate the Champions even more.
In truth, the most substantial additions are gameplay-related. Whereas the first DLC pack (The Master Trials) simply added a few extra modes, The Champions’ Ballad provides more of the excellent core content found in the base game. You get to scour the map once again to find hidden locations and complete quests – some of which are novel puzzles, while others are unnecessary minigames. Regardless, fulfilling each requirement unlocks a Shrine. As a fan of the original’s miniature puzzle areas, I was pleased to go through 16 new Shrines, all of which held truly creative and tough trials. My favorites were the complex Rube Goldberg mechanisms requiring precise planning and timing. All of this culminates in a full dungeon that tests your mastery of Link’s magical Rune powers. I won’t spoil the dungeon, but its novel mechanics and fulfilling payoff produce a worthy finale. It took me a good eight hours to finish, which is a decent amount of playtime for what is essentially half of a season pass.
However, the first portion of the DLC is a frustrating exercise in patience and humility. Before you can reach the majority of content, you must first revisit the Great Plateau…with a twist. You now wield the One-Hit Obliterator, a powerful weapon that kills enemies in one hit…but in turn, one hit from enemies instantly kills you. The steep penalty made enemy encounters downright stressful, especially considering the One-Hit Obliterator needs to recharge after every two attacks. This certainly brought back vivid memories of trying to tactically survive the base game’s opening hours, but it’s still an odd decision to gate progress behind this forced gimmick.
The remainder of the DLC adds more costumes, which you must manually locate using clues much like in The Master Trials. Surprisingly, the horse gear is the most useful, increasing your mount’s stamina and allowing you to call it from anywhere. On the flip side, Link’s costumes are little more than cosmetic fanservice, providing only decent bonuses at most. I love Ravio’s hood, but its inceased sideways climbing speed effect is underwhelming. The same goes for Zant’s Helmet which grants unfreezable status, and the Island Lobster Shirt which only offers heat resistance. The Royal Guard Armor would be fine with its charge and stamina bonuses, but since you can’t upgrade it, it quickly becomes outclassed.
My favorite was the Phantom Ganon Armor, which in addition to helping you blend in with skeletal enemies, makes you look extremely cool doing anything. It especially looks great while riding the Master Cycle Zero, Link’s new motorcycle. Sure, the bike is somewhat out of place and you have to fuel it with random materials, but cruising through Hyrule on a hot ride is such a rad experience that I didn’t care what it implied about Sheikah technology or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s place in the Zelda timeline.
Is The Champions’ Ballad DLC worth it? The previously teased story content may not be the biggest highlight, but the emotional payoffs are heartwarming, particularly if you adore the Champion characters. By far, the easiest way to determine this pack’s worth is to assess whether you liked the shrines and dungeons enough to want more. You actually have to beat the core dungeons to even begin this pack, but I would go a step further and suggest that you also complete every shrine before taking the plunge. In the end, The Champions’ Ballad isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s more of what made the original game outstanding. Since both this and The Master Trials are combined in the expansion pass, it’s easy to recommend the whole set to fans of the core gameplay experience.