Monday, July 10, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - The Master Trials Review

DLC Pack 1 of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Expansion Pass has hit, just 4 months after the game’s release. Technically, The Master Trials is the second piece of DLC included with the Expansion Pass, but it is the first piece of DLC with actual playable content. The first piece of DLC was the Purchase Bonus, the red Nintendo Switch shirt. The next DLC Pack, The Champion’s Ballad, will include new story content and a new dungeon. All 3 pieces of DLC are only available as part of the BotW Expansion Pass for $19.99 on both Wii U and Switch.

The Master Trials includes a new map feature called Hero’s Path Mode, a few quests that will reward you with new items, the Trial of the Sword, and the new hard mode, Master Mode. I can’t be the only one who thinks all these Master and Trial names are a bit confusing.

The new map feature, Hero’s Path Mode, shows you where you’ve been on your adventure. You can now press X while on the map screen to reveal a green line that traces out everywhere you’ve been in the last 200 hours. This could be useful for deciding where you should go exploring next.

When you first load up an old save, you’ll hear the familiar “ooohhhmmm” of a Sheikah monk who will give you a bunch of quests labeled “EX”. One of these quests is for the Trial of the Sword and the rest will send you around Hyrule in search of some new gear and the Travel Medallion. The Travel Medallion is an item that allows you to set a teleportation spot anywhere in the overworld. I found it pretty useful for going somewhere to spend the night when it starts to rain. The rest of the quests will reward you with some new Zelda fanservice gear. There’s a suit of armor like the one Zelda wears in Spirit Tracks, which gives you Attack Up; a Tingle costume that allows you to run faster at night and freaks villagers out; a Korok mask that will let you know when you’re near a Korok seed; Majora’s Mask, which lets you get up close to some enemies without being attacked; and Midna’s helmet from Twilight Princess, which will give you some Guardian resistance. Is that hint about the origin of Midna’s helmet? These quests don’t take long if you’ve already uncovered the map. They only took me a couple of hours. All they require is hunting down some treasure chests, and most of them are in Hyrule Field. This gear will be useful for those playing through the game, but not so much for those who have save files at the end of the game. The gear you get from these quests is also not upgradable, so people late in the game will probably have better, upgraded gear from in-game vendors or amiibos.

If you already have the Master Sword, the Sheikah Monk will give you an EX quest for the Trial of the Sword. The Trial of the Sword is 3 sets of trials split up into the Beginning, Middle, and Final Trials. The Beginning Trials have 12 floors, Middle Trials have 16 floors, and the Final Trials have 23 floors. The trials are presented in the same style as Eventide Island, you come in with nothing and leave with nothing. The only things that carry over into the trials are your hearts, stamina, and your runes. No amiibo rune allowed, though! You get weapons by defeating enemies and you can pick up whatever food you find in crates or growing on each floor. After making it through a few floors, you’ll come upon a floor with fairies, food, treasure chests, and a cooking fire. This is your chance to do some real cooking to refill your hearts and get ready for the floors ahead. The chests usually have weapons, but there are a few that have a piece of armor in them, so you’re not always naked. There is no saving or continues while inside the trials, so if you die, you have to start the trial over from the beginning. You can save after you complete a trial and are sent back outside, of course.

The walls in these trials look like the walls inside Sheikah Shrines, but these are not the usual puzzle-filled Shrines. All the trials here are combat scenarios, which are cleared by killing all of the enemies within them. The real puzzle is in making it out alive. There are a few floors that look like regular shrines and have mini Guardians in them, but most of them are made to look like the Hyrule overworld. There’s trees, grass, water, lava, every kind of weather condition, and pretty much every enemy in the game shows up.

These trials will truly test your knowledge of the game. It’s pretty much required that you know how to fight every kind of enemy, know how to use your runes, know how to deal with all types of weather conditions, and know a few good cooking recipes. You have to have a good strategy or you will die.

I think the Trial of the Sword is the the best part of this DLC Pack. Even though the reward is not that useful for those who have already done everything in the game, it was a lot of fun to play through. I enjoyed the challenge, the strategizing, and putting all my knowledge of the game to use. If you must know what the reward for completing all the trials is, it’s an always fully powered Master Sword. Usually, the Master Sword has 30 attack power against regular enemies and 60 attack power against Guardians and bosses. After all 3 trials are complete, the sword will have 60 attack power at all times. And yes, it still “breaks” or runs out of energy.

The third major part of the DLC Pack is the Master Mode. Even though the name is a reference to the original NES Zelda’s Master Quest, it’s more like the Hero Mode of more recent Zelda games. While there are some big changes from normal mode, the game is basically the same, just harder. Every Shrine is in the same place, all the dungeons are the same, and every puzzle has the same solution. The changes only apply to the enemies and combat. I remember when I first started playing BotW, there was a big difficulty hump I had to get over until I got some more hearts, better weapons, and really learned how to fight each enemy. Master Mode feels like that, but now that hump is about 3 times higher.

Every enemy in the game has been upgraded one tier. There are no more red Bokoblins and silver Lynels are now gold, for example. The very first enemy you encounter coming out of the Shrine of Resurrection is now a blue Bokoblin. This really changes how you go about fighting enemies. Maybe you don’t want to fight a blue Bokoblin with a tree branch. Maybe you’ll just sneak around him now. All the Guardians and bosses have also been upgraded. Bosses still use the same strategies, but now they have more HP and do a lot more damage. Guardians do more damage, have more HP, and the walking ones now try and fake you out by delaying their laser beams, making it harder to parry them. I thought I was pretty good at parrying their lasers, but these new Guardians have really shown me who’s boss.

Another big change is the regenerating enemy health. If you disengage an enemy for too long, their health bar will start flashing and they’ll start to regain health. This might not sound like a big deal, but it makes fighting large groups much harder and makes some of the more creative combat tactics obsolete. You can no longer pick off enemies with bombs from afar, for example. The cooldown of bombs is way too long for you to kill anything before their HP regenerates. Any area damage you do to a group is now much less effective, because the group will regain their health by the time you’re done fighting one of them.

Enemies are also much more alert now. A lookout can now see you from a mile away and sleeping enemies will hear your footsteps and wake up much more easily. This makes stealth gear and food much more valuable.

There are also new enemies where there were none before. There’s a Lynel in the Great Plateau, for example. I don’t think he’s there for you to fight him with tree branches, though. He’s just there to scare you. There are also enemies on floating platforms all over the skies. Sometimes these platforms will have a chest on them, so trying to get to some of these platforms can become a little game. Some of these platforms are very high up, so just popping the balloons and letting the chest fall will not always work, because you'll lose the chest.

You also only get one manual Save and one Autosave in Master Mode. It’s not a huge change. It just means that if you mess something up, you have to live with it or lose some progress if you have not manually saved recently.

Master Mode is definitely not for everyone. I would not recommend it to anyone playing the game for the first time, unless you’re just a glutton for punishment. It is challenging and basically requires you to know how the game works already. BotW is the hardest Zelda game in a long time already, so I’m sure most people will not play all the way through this mode. I’ve come close to tapping out a few times, but I’ve made it through one dungeon (without getting the Champion’s boon at the end), and will keep on playing for now. I kind of want to see what 4 Blight Ganon is like in this mode.

The red Switch T-shirt was already worth my $19.99, so DLC Pack 1 is just the icing on the cake. Trial of the Sword was challenging and a lot of fun to play through. I think that is the real meat of DLC Pack 1 and will be what most people play. Master Mode is also fun and challenging, but probably too much for most people. Overall, I think this DLC pack is really good and makes me feel confident that The Champion’s Ballad will also be great.