When Nintendo announced the Expansion Pass for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild there was understandable concern, especially as the company fell into the much derided strategy of announcing the plans well ahead of the game's release. The case wasn't helped, either, by the somewhat tacky initial add-ons in the form of three chests with special items, include a Nintendo Switch t-shirt for Link to wear. On top of that you have to buy the full pass for the content, there's no option to buy individual parts.
In any case The Master Trials is here, the first real part of the Expansion Pass. It's an interesting package, so let's take a look at each part.
Trial of the Sword
Disclaimer, your humble scribe hasn't yet cleared this personally, but has let out a sigh of anguish in the early hours of the morning when dying rather late in the final areas of the challenge. Over an hour of careful play in a run for nothing - well, not nothing, it was engrossing gameplay.
Trial of the Sword is the most substantial new content available in DLC Pack 1 and offers up a good number of hours due to the level of challenge, and a good 2-3 hours even for cocky speedrunners that make it look easy on Twitch; in case you missed the memo, you need the Master Sword to play. It's rather like Eventide Island on steroids as you start in your underpants and with no weapons or resources of any kind. You scavenge items and defeat every enemy in various rooms and environments; you simply kill all of your foes and then move onto the next room (there are more than you might expect, too...).
You retain your rune abilities but cannot scan amiibo to get free items, and you also lose your Divine Beast abilities. It's truly down to basics, and if you die during an attempt that's it, game over, back to your last save before entering the challenge. There is some mercy, however, in that the reward of levelling up your Master Sword is split into three sets of challenges, each progressively harder and with more rooms. Even the easy set may take a few attempts but is relatively short, and once you stop playing like your in-game Link - with all that powerful equipment and terrific resources - and start to think back to your early days in the game, progress becomes steady. Unlocking the next set and mastering it, right up to the tough final batch of rooms, is a satisfying difficulty curve.
What's fun about this mode, and is likely to draw this writer back despite the painful memories of that late-run death with glory in sight, is that it does strip the game back to its basics; you can regain an appreciation for elemental attacks, utilising runes, outsmarting enemies and making use of the game's physics engine. If you can use the environment to kill an enemy rather than use up precious arrows or weapon strength, that's a way to go. Conversely, you may deliberately position a killing blow so an enemy is flung back away from a pit; after all, you don't want their weapon to fall into an abyss with them. In some rooms we'd spend a while sneaking around scouting the terrain, looking for high spots or potential explosions to set off. For many hours in the main game our Link has been a powerful killing machine with amazing weapons and armour; this mode reminds us of the skills that got him to that point.
As the showcase feature of this DLC, then, Trial of the Sword does a good job. For all but the most skilful players it'll offer a stiff challenge, sharpening the senses and encouraging a more careful, strategic approach. Many of the rooms are attractive and smartly designed, the drip-feed of resources is clever and impeccably balanced (in normal mode, at least), and it's a showcase of how well Nintendo mastered movement and combat in this game.
We move to this next as, actually, The Master Trials seems like a good warm-up. To start with the admin, you get an entirely new save file and set of autosaves in Master Mode, which is the 'Hard' difficulty setting that should have arguably been there since day one, and some feel should be a free update at the very least. In any case when you select it on the front screen the game essentially offers a whole new set of menus; it all looks the same, but partitions off the save data. You also have a small Triforce in the bottom left of the screen to remind you that you're in the harder playthrough.
Unlike New Game+ modes this is a fresh start, with no items or abilities to help out early on (unless you opt to put amiibo to work). The enemies are not only different colours and tougher from the start, but their health also regenerates slowly when you're not hitting them. This is an interesting choice as it forces you to be pretty aggressive, taking the initiative while trying to trigger flurry attacks at every opportunity. Even right at the start you're only a couple of hits from death, too, so fights feel high stakes right away.
Having kicked off a save in the Great Plateau we've also discovered that managing weapons will become even more important; the enemies are stronger, take more hits and therefore break more weapons. Initially our tactics were the same as in our first playthrough - attack camps for their loot - but after being reduced to two weak weapons our approach shifted. Now it's about avoiding camps and enemies, scavenging the land and making a note to come back and dispense true Hylian justice once weapons have been accumulated.
Beyond the tougher enemies we've also seen the floating platforms, on which enemies reside and protect item chests. Early on they may be avoided while we gather the initial rune abilities, but they'll add an extra challenge; likewise the fall from shooting out their platform's balloons will likely do much of the work.
For players that want a challenge and to approach the game in a different way, playing more as a survivor in nature than a rampaging warrior, this should be a terrific option. Revisiting the game from scratch is pleasing in itself, but the steep difficulty will likely mean playstyles change a fair amount. It seems fair to question why this wasn't included at launch, or at least whether it should be a free update; those are valid points, but ultimately for those that do have the content it's a tempting option.
Masks, a Medallion and the 'Hero's Path'
Moving back to the extras to be found regardless of standard or Master Mode save choice, this DLC Pack adds a range of new armour items, masks and some other features. In terms of the presentation they're relatively nicely woven into the game, with a minor cutscene introducing a series of side quests (including the Trial of the Sword). For those that don't want to use guides the game does structure the quests properly, giving you clues to find notebooks which then point you in the right direction. They're not headscratchers or riddles, as such, but they at least give the collect-a-thon a bit of purpose.
Some have rightly pointed out how handy the Travel Medallion can be, which allows you to set your own custom fast-travel point, handy for those gaps between shrines and towers. This can tie-in nicely with the 'Hero's Path' mode, which allows you to see - through a primitive graphical overlay - the areas you've visited on the map.
Beyond that we have the various masks and outfits that deliver nostalgic series references. They all have buffs on offer though, frankly, players that have spent a lot of time playing will already have those bonuses in more powerful armour. There's something alluring about running around as Tingle or while wearing the Majora's Mask, however, and on top of that we have the Korok Mask. It alerts you to nearby Koroks and facilitates the game's almighty busywork of collecting Korok Seeds. For some that'll be a wonderful prospect, for others it'll likely go largely unused.
The outfits are neat additions, and the quest to get them is relatively fun. Due to a narrative quirk a number of them are found around one of the most dangerous parts of the world, tasking players with a bit of a challenge. In some respects it's a shame the items aren't located in context-appropriate locations - such as Tingle Island - but it is fun rampaging around an iconic part of the world to retrieve most of the 'EXP' treasure chests.
In this writer's experience the quest for the outfits actually introduced a few specific towns / ruins that had been skipped past in general play, so there's some discovery in the activity. It's a minor part of the DLC, though - a fun diversion but not the main attraction.
Is it worth buying the Expansion Pass right now?
It's all about opinions, of course, but our suggestion is that the content does make the Expansion Pass worth a purchase, just about. The premiere additions are surely still to come with the Holiday content to include new story gameplay, so a purchase likely has "The Champions' Ballad" in mind.
For those that have beaten the game and are still interested in braving the world, DLC Pack 1 does offer some delightful gameplay. Trial of the Sword is well designed and an enjoyable challenge, taking the Eventide Island concept and turning it up to 11. While hunting for outfits and the Travel Medallion is also a decent diversion, the other selling point is another run through the challenging Master Mode. Not a New Game+ but rather a difficult remix (albeit relatively minor in its differences), it'll give players an alternative run with Calamity Ganon's forces evidently having the upper hand.
In summary, DLC Pack 1 gives us more gameplay in one of the truly great video games; we may be waiting for the bounty of the second pack, but this will certainly tide us over until then.
For the purposes of this article we played the Expansion Pass content in the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
Can't wait to sink my teeth into this. The base game was getting boring, I could beat all the enemies easily already. Shield deflecting is sooooo satisfying in this game.
That said, I do agree with some that a harder difficulty would have been nice from the get go. Oh well.
I haven't played since completing the game back in April, so naturally I jumped straight into Master Mode and got my butt handed to me for an hour straight. Tree branches and rusty swords are no longer viable against camps, that's for sure.
@RedMageLanakyn I have a feeling that I'm going to be stocking up on a ton of arrows this time around. Arrows to the face are always helpful.
I got the Wii U version and enjoyed it to the end. Haven't played it since to avoid getting burned out because I plan on getting the DLC when I eventually get a Switch.
Sounds like the expansion pass content will make for a great second playthrough, I have a hard time replaying Zelda games but BotW may be the exception.
Master Mode is a torture and a joy. It's forcing me to play better and more stealthily. I've died more times than I can count, but I'm improving. Since Zelda is still the only Switch game I own--or am interested in owning for awhile--the DLC was easily worthwhile.
Less than you'd think. Because monsters regenerate and because the early bows rarely have a "quick shot" option, by the time you put another arrow in the nock, part of that enemy's HP has already regenerated. Because you're also attacking monsters one level higher than normal, it takes a crazy number of arrows--even with criticals--to down them, at least until you get better bows or +attack power bonus food/armor. I was all "bow+arrows" in the first go-round, but I'm forced to focus more on melee weapons and perfect dodges/blocks to survive.
@Kalmaro Those floating platforms, if you can get on them or drop their contents safely, provide very valuable loot early on. The Bokoblins on them almost always have some elemental shot you can take from them (one of them actually seemed to even have a Lynel 3-shot bow!), and the chests tend to have better than average equipment.
I absolutely LOVE the Trial of the Sword! Coming back to the game I was very rusty and making many mistakes, but eventually I slowly got my skills back and enjoyed the wonderful challenge. I even plan to replay them later today. They're so much fun!
Although very interesting I'll wait until further details for The Champions Ballad get revealed before dipping in. I feel that there isn't much in the first DLC pack
I bought the DLC and I have to say I'm overall disappointed with Pack 1. Don't get me wrong, I love the game. It's up there now as my favourite game of all time, but let me explain about what's bad about it.
So I've said the 3 chests with the Switch T-shirt was lame as have many others. Well this pack is bad as well. I've said most of it was too late(4 months), it should have been free and should have been there at launch.
Korok Mask: I'll never see that little wind vane spin.
Tingle Costume: They copied all the effects of the Dark Link costume. Defense base 3 per piece, no upgrades, night speed up and NPC's cringe at its sight.
All the other costumes offer no new effects, they're the same as existing costumes already in the game and worse still after finding them all last night and going to the Great Fairy, I found out none of them can be upgraded. Seriously, WTF? What's the point?
Travel Medallion: No effort whatsoever, that could easily have been there at launch.
Hero's Path: Now, this really bothers me. I thought it was a new feature, that it would track my movement from now on. But I went on the map and pressed the button by mistake and up pops a green blur. So the game was tracking my movement from the start back in March but they've only unlocked it now(when you pay of course). Real low!
I actually have more colourful language to describe how I feel about this.
Trial of the Sword: This I like as it's a REAL challenge. But look at what it is. It's existing assets thrown together inside a Shrine like environment. Its reward is to make something already in the game now permanent and against all enemies as opposed to just Guardians and inside Hyrule Castle. A line of code is all it takes to make your sword deal 60 damage permanently.
Hero's Mode: 500 hours of completed playtime and I've finished the game. It's too late. I just can't start over again, not now at least.
Roll on Pack 2. Please don't let me down.
You can,t upgrade the new armors? well that,s lame indeed, you have a point on that.
Not enough to make me come back to one of the worst Zeldas in a matter of replayability.
Once it's done, it's done. Was a fun ride while it lasted.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Your image broke.
@meleebrawler Oh! Nice tip. I'll keep that in mind, thanks.
@AirElephant This makes me sad lands. Looks like I'll be burning through a ton of weapons afterall.
I'm hoping there'll be more DLCs for this game. I'd love to keep coming back to it every year or so !
At least I have this to look forward to when I have to come back home
"the other selling point is another run through the challenging Master Mode. Not a New Game+ but rather a difficult remix (albeit relatively minor in its differences)"
Can we really say "relatively minor differences" at this point? Has anyone beaten the entire game on Master Mode? I just wandered around the Great Plateau for a bit and got the magnesis rune but there's a friggin' lynel on the plateau now, not to mention the ballooon platforms. These may be minor changes in terms of programming but depending on how extensive these changes are throughout Hyrule, this will make a major difference in terms of the player's experience.
It's easy to say the Trials are the most substantial new content because you can easily access and evaluate the content right away. While I've really enjoyed the first two parts of the Trial of the Sword, (haven't tried the final trials yet), I think the Master Mode is the most substantial new addition to the game, especially when you think about how many hours it's going to add to a complete playthrough. What's the Trial of the Sword going to look like in Master Mode? I shudder at the thought.
My only disappointment with this expansion is the new gear. All of the new sets have the same abilities as armor sets already in the game and you can't even upgrade them. Am I going to wear the Phantom armor set that's fixed at 8 defense per piece and gives attack up or the Barbarian armor that I can upgrade to 20 defense and has the same set bonus? I guess they'll be useful in Master Mode since I can get them all pretty much right away while I work on tracking down the upgradable sets that are scattered across the world.
I'm actually really impressed by the difficulty of both Master Mode and the Trial of the Sword. It's refreshing to have to strategize while fighting again instead of being an overpowered beast.
Trial of the Sword was nicely fine-tuned. It forced me have to come back to the nuances of cooking. Key info I learned in the trial break rooms: A cooked Hearty Bass, or a Hearty Truffle cooked with a piece of meat is a full heart fill-up dish (sometimes + a heart or two). I couldn't have cleared the hard stages without those.
Quick question. Is the Trial of the sword the same difficulty on normal mode as it is on master mode?
I love the trials, but don't have the gall to attempt the final trial... at least, not yet.
Master Mode looks awesome though. And one day, years from now when I've forgotten most of my playthrough, I'm going to give it a shot. I like it being there though, as an option.
Korok mask I love. And the hero map. The armors are meh, but whatever.
@Kalmaro I tried that, in the beginning it took about 15 headshots to kill a blue moblin, then the rest of the camp slaughtered me! With a knight's bow, definitely doable though.
If you start a Hard mode playthrough, will your first playthrough still be there?
I don't want to lose 200 hours of my life (even if they are arguably actually lost xD)
In hard mode, is the trial of the sword also modified? if so, it must be hard AF!
@Nin_Myski I think the Hard Mode has its own save file, just one though unlike the regular game which has 5 or 6 slots.
@Nin_Myski Hard mode has one manual save and is limited to one autosave, and they're separate from normal mode. Choose between modes on the title screen.
The Trials have been humbling and a re-education on combat in BotW. Enjoying them very much. Does anyone know if they double both levels of the Master sword? To explain, normally it does 30 damage and 60 while glowing because of orcses. When upgraded through the trials is it, say 60 all the time, or is it 60 normally doubling to 120?
Master mode for me evokes that same sense of danger and dread that I felt when first starting normal mode back in March. The vulnerability of Link makes you measure twice, cut once when it comes to tactics. I'm going to see this through to the end for sure, and probably play the Winter DLC in Master mode instead of normal.
As for the rest of it, it's already been said. The medallion is nice, as is the Hero's path, and perhaps the Korok mask if I'm brave enough to get it early on, but the rest is cosmetic fan service, especially as they can't be upgraded.
Edit: Having spent several hours in Master mode now, I have changed my opinion on the DLC armour. The Phantom set, Midna's helmet and Majora's mask are coming in very handy. If you're brave enough to get them, the Phantom set is the best early armour by far, with a healthy attack bonus. And Majora's mask is essential if you don't want a pitched battle every 100 yards.
I remember there was a user arguing how it's worth paying for the hard mode because god know reason other than a potential new casts of enemies and monster. One with common sense would know hard mode would usually only mean harder hits and different colour variation. I wonder does this user still thinks hard mode is worth paying for now that we know it to be the latter (which should be obvious in the first place)
@RedMageLanakyn Oh man, this new mod is no push over then... I'm going to need some Lionel bows ASAP. At least Lionel are easy to kill just with mounts and face shots. I could stock up on their boys perhaps and clean house.
Just finished the final trial this morning. Was a good couple hours of game play but was a bit underwhelming. The first was actually the most difficult for me. Got through the middle and final trials first time but the first took me probably 15 tries. Was a fun challenge but still doesn't feel worth the 20 bucks yet. Hopefully the winter dlc will be good
@JaxonH the final trial is actually not bad at all. Finished it first try. Some on the rooms are daunting at first but with patience are quite easy in all honesty
I'll give it a shot... just not today lol.
It's just the whole "if you die you start all over" aspect. One mistake can cost you dearly.
Rediscovering the joy of earlier this year.
I'm gonna hold off on buying dlc and see what the next pack is like before buying, since they can't be bought separately. I feel like what's on offer so far is either kind of pointless (the armors) or things that should have been already included with the game (master mode, trial of the sword).
I greatly enjoyed my time with this game but I kind of got burned out on it, and don't feel the desire to come back to it just yet.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Everything you said confirmed my fears about this DLC.
Here's hoping pack 2 offers something more substantial to justify the price.
@rushiosan I totally agree. It's fun for one time but that's it. Easily to forget tbh. We've seen better Zelda games
I was at 60 hours, 3/4 guardians, some armor maxed, 15 hearts. I didn't play in a while but the DLC really pulled me back in.
I managed the trial of the swords (and I didn't even know you could insta-kill a Lynel) and now I'm running around with the Korok mask. Still so much to do! And it makes tracking things easier, especially after a break.
I wasn't sure where exactly I was in the game, but now I'm back on target!
I think what put me off back then was that too many enemies were too much of a challenge. Actually they are even tougher now, but thanks to the trials I am not afraid of any Hinox, Talos, Stalinos, guardian or even Lynel anymore. I just pull out my 60-Master Sword and go at 'em. Now I don't even care which armor I'm wearing, I can dodge most attacks.
BTW, beating the trials does not give unlimited power to the sword. It will still drain, but it takes much longer and recharges within 10min.
So far the Trial is pretty hardcore. I've died several times over the dumbest things. It kind of reminds me of Metal Gear Solid VR Missions or Bitterblack Isle on Dragon's Dogma. Just wished it spooked me with some missed enemies. Like Likes or skulltulas. That was my biggest complaint over the game in general. I still found the extra items to be silly, wished they were more useful. Like, if the Tingle costume would let you Mary Poppins away on some balloons in a pinch. Something fresh, but no... once I 100% normal finally, I greatly look forward to Master Mode. When I think this is all only $10 of it, I'm less grumpy.
@Switchcraft Thanks for clarifying the about the sword draining. I was wondering about that!
I mainly wanted it for the 'Hero's Path' and the Travel Medallion (easily the most useful DLC item) and I have to say I'm very pleased with both.
Especially using the Hero's Path - although it's a pretty simple feature that could've been part of the main game as well - surprised me and gave the most pleasure. I knew there were areas I still hadn't explored (but already uncovered), but never would I have imagined it'd be that many. There were (and still are) some pretty huge gaps on my map, so before doing any of the EX missions (apart from the Travel Medallion, which I already got), I'm busy exploring the rest of the map for the near future.
I already found lost of shrines and seeds, so for me, the DLC has definitely paid off because of the 'Hero's Path' featurealone.
I was doing good on the final trial and then was destroyed by the lynel. I have about 90 hours into the game and just now found out you can one shot them. At least that will come in handy next run through.
@MyNameIsRandy that helped SO much
Does it have to be a head shot?
@MyNameIsRandy that I'm not sure about. I tried to aim for the head when I shot it - I don't think it was perfect though and I got him
@MyNameIsRandy also, I saved my ancient arrows for the lynels and flying guardians. The rest of the guardians I could get by stasis, regular arrows and swords
@SLIGEACH_EIRE - I think you make some valid points. However, I think the whole ship has sailed on the DLC concept....I was initially incredibly displeased by Nintendo going this route, but since I'm such a Zelda freak and had the accompanying FOMA, I went ahead and bought it.
In this day and age, it is just smart business for Nintendo. And some items, like the Trial of the Sword, aren't what I would associated with the regular game, so it seems justified to have it as an add-on for additional cost. But yeah, why not have the "Hero's Path" available with the regular game? Why put something in a game and make people pay to unlock it?
I highly recommend saving any Ancient Arrows you find in the trials mode. 3 are gifted to you in a chest early on. I found a second in lava and a third in ice. Saving those for lynels or certain guardians was a life-saver as was saving the bomb arrows for the baddies on horseback on the final floor. I also used the heck out of stasis .
I keep hearing that "hard mode and hero's path mode should have been in there on day one." Okay, well then day one wouldn't have been March 3rd. You guys have to accept a compromise somewhere.
I've always hated "hard" modes on games. I like a challenge but maddening difficulty drives me insane in any game. I'm sad that the Hero's Path feature has to be paid for because that's the only thing I'm interested in.
I honestly found no joy in Trial of the Sword. It was tedious busy-work IMO.
@MyNameIsRandy I died most at the beginning trials, haha. The medium levels were challenging too, but allowed better use of strategy. Most of my deaths were random.
General tip: Always use stasis in a 1-on-1! Especially lynels, wizards, guardians and any Hinox, Talos, etc. Much easier to make that head shot!
As for the finals:
1. First room you can cheat. The guardian on the other side will wake up and shoot at you. After you defeat him, two or three more wake up. As soon as the level starts, run into a corner. That way it won't wake up. Grap a dualhanded weapon and rotate at one of the sleeping guardians. You should kill it before it makes its first move. Work your way forward to the last one, stasis him and shoot arrows into his eye. Easy.
2. Use stasis on walking guardians and use the axe to cut off their legs. Almost easy.
3. Flying guardians are terrible. But I think you can find up to 9 ancient hidden arrows (use magnesis for burried treasure). Use Stasis and shoot them down. A single hit is enough, but if you find all arrows, you can risk a second shot.
4. Lynel 1on1 is easy. Single ancient arrow and they're gone (but don't drop weapons). In the final stage, the lynel comes with a heard of riders. Run immediately and turn your camera away! The goblins will lose track of you and only the lynel will come chase you down. Single-shot, boom! Over!
Peace of cake. Enjoy!
On my third try, I forgot to search all the arrows, so I actually had to fight the lynel. It was my second ever, but somehow I managed with help if the ferries.
@invictus4000 In my opinion, the "normal" difficulty is incredibly easy, once you leave the plateau. I have a feeling that Master Mode is closer to what the developers originally wanted the game to feel like. And it's not maddening at all, you just don't have complete free reign of all corners of Hyrule right away like you do in normal mode.
I'm on the fence on whether or not I'll start a new master mode. It's daunting and fun at the same time.
I am pretty sure they wouldn't have any complaints if they just sold the game 20£ dearer with the DLC content included.
In Trial of the Sword, do you keep your current heart/stamina levels or go back to 3 hearts and 1 wheel?
I am looking forward to this, but since I already played through twice I will probably wait until the second half drops to fully dive back in.
@FantasiaWHT you keep your hearts and stamina, thankfully
@RobotReptile even better, you don't even need the piece of meat and still get the same effect
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