The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is easily one of the best games of the year, which is really saying something considering how good a year 2017 has been for video games. Fans loved the game, which was a vast departure from previous Zelda titles in a number of ways, so the announcement of DLC was met with lots of excitement. The first DLC pack wasn’t much to get excited about though, offering some cool new items and a challenging gauntlet of combat. But it was DLC Pack 2, later titled Champions’ Ballad, that everyone was anxious for.
This set promised additional story content, which was something Breath of the Wild lacked in its main game. This also led players to assume that the DLC would offer additional areas to explore, feeding into the strengths of this latest Zelda game. Instead it seems that Nintendo has doubled down on the things that Breath of the Wild didn’t do so well, namely combat and boss fights.
This isn’t to say that this is a bad piece of DLC. I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t purchase the Expansion Pass that bundles both DLC packs together. For the price, it offers up a nice chunk of content, and deepens the endgame a bit. However, it does feel a lot like a missed opportunity to wow people with Zelda’s very first DLC release.
The problems stem from the focus, at least in the beginning of the Champions’ Ballad quest
The problems stem from the focus, at least in the beginning of the Champions’ Ballad quest. Combat in Zelda has always been fun, though aside from its initial innovation of the Z-Aiming from Ocarina of Time, few would argue that the series has the best combat out there. Instead combat is usually a means to an end, or a roadblock in your way to further adventure. You have to defeat the enemies in the room because the game requires it, not necessarily because you are enjoying the very act of fighting them.
Breath of the Wild subverted this a bit, with combat that was certainly deeper and more enjoyable than past entries, but still to be avoided for many players. And you can avoid it quite often thanks to the open nature of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, Champions’ Ballad focuses on combat quite a lot, especially in its opening moments. It also artificially ramps up the challenge, taking away those hard fought character upgrades that likely took you dozens of hours.
If you haven’t played it, the opening quest of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Champions’ Ballad DLC has you exploring the opening plateau once again. This time you have a special weapon that can kill any enemy in a single blow. The catch though is that you also can be defeated with just one hit. This does offer players who have completed the game with an extra challenge to overcome, but it does so in a very frustrating way, presenting you with tons of enemies that you’ll likely defeat with arrows and bombs, rather than the apparently intended new weapon.
Death will come often and swiftly, and this might lead to some humorous moments for you, but it will also cause endless frustration. Defeating these early challenges feels less like a triumph and more like a slog that you trudge through to get to the minuscule story content that’s hiding near the end. This quest will also unlock new Shrines however, and these are actually quite enjoyable. Getting to the later ones can be a pain, as they are intentionally obtuse with their directions, but overcoming them can be a truly fun challenge.
What waits at the end of the next piece of the Champions’ Ballad DLC is another blunder though. Players will have to, once again, face off against the various incarnations of Ganon. These boss fights weren’t stellar the first time around, one of the few things that BOTW did worse than its predecessors. The second time they are simply a chore, especially with the weapon and item restrictions placed on the player.
Defeating these bosses once again will deliver the promised story content, but it’s so sparse that it would be surprising if most players felt it was worth the effort they had put in. If you enjoy Breath of the Wild’s combat, then that might be a reward of its own. For those who didn’t particularly care for the fighting this DLC is a bit of a wash.
Focusing on combat was OK for DLC pack 1, as we were told that more story and exploration was coming in the second release. Now that we have this second DLC pack, it is clear that Nintendo was set on more combat from the beginning. Few players seem to care for this aspect of the game though, so it’s confusing why this was the direction they went in. If this DLC had simply presented players with a new landmass to explore, it would have been far superior to what we got. Instead the Champions’ Ballad DLC just isn’t what I was looking for from Zelda’s first big DLC release. It doesn’t tarnish the near-perfect original game, but I’ll be less excited the next time we’re promised more content for Zelda titles.