ZelThis week saw the first release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s Expansion Pass: The Master Trials. This first content pack besets us upon Hyrule once again in search of several interesting new items, a hefty helping of cosmetic attire, and the main attractions: Trial of the Sword, which sees you delving deep into a sequence of challenges testing your mettle, and Master Mode, for the inner sadomasochist adventurer. All of this is well and good, but is it worth the asking price for the Expansion Pass?
Right off the bat: it becomes immediately clear that everything that is NOT The Trial of the Sword and Master Mode is but icing on the cake; little shiny collectibles to bide your time. The Korok Mask is a godsend if you have any dream of collection all 900 of the Korok Seeds, and the Travel Medallion has some use if you want to revisit your favorite woodland camping spot, but that’s about it. Dressing up as Tingle or wearing Midna’s helmet is cute and all until you start taking fatty damage from everything looking at you sideways and go back to wearing your powered up gear because you’re not suicidal. This is especially true when playing on the brutal Master Mode.
Master Mode is basically a straight upgrade to every enemy in the game; traditionally the tiers of enemies went Red, Blue, Black, and Silver, and had more health and damage accordingly. Across the board every enemy is leveled up here; Reds are Blue, Blues are Black, Blacks are Silver, and Silvers are now the terrifying Gold. Oh, and they regenerate health over time in combat too, so have fun with that! Aside from this, Master Mode also mixes up the location and generation of enemy spawns as well, such as having floating Octo Balloon platforms for enemies to snipe at you from above (looks like you need to get Revali’s Gale ASAP now) and even throwing some new enemy locations in the world. Have fun when you find the Silver Lynel on the goddamn starting zone.
While Master Mode definitely nails its mark at making the game significantly harder, it does not increase difficulty in any impressively unique ways. There are no new enemy types, enemies do not have any new attacks, no new behaviors, etc. Floating octo platforms aside, there is nothing new here aside from how many weapons you’re going to go through when carving your way through the countryside, and even this is relatively negated due to the increased amount of higher level weapons. Overall Master Mode is a weak addition that is only useful if you were already pining for a second playthrough such as myself, though it fails to encourage a second helping if you had plenty of Hyrule the first time around.
Then there’s the Trial of the Sword. For those unfamiliar, Zelda games (or Nintendo games in general) traditionally have one extra, combat heavy dungeon, revolving around you descending further and further with no way to heal aside from what you’ve brought with you, as you overcome some of the game’s toughest challenges. Breath of the Wild spins this trope on its head by 1) having the Trial of the Sword be paid DLC, and 2) stripping you naked and hurling you into the depths to fend for yourself. It’s lovely.
The Trial of the Sword exemplifies Breath of the Wild‘s strongest features when it comes to enemy engagement; using every tool at your disposal and acting like a truly crafty trickster. With no weapons you will find yourself hurling rocks at foes to stun them, pick up their club and crack their skull open with it. You’ll need to drop metal boxes on foes, throw foes off cliffs and into water, and all sorts. Each room in the Trial is cleverly designed and purposefully crafted to give the player a unique combat scenario, something the game’s typical open-air approach is sorely lacking for. In turn this leads to the game’s most intense, most challenging, and most gratifying engagements around. The last floor in particular was an adrenaline rush and made me feel like a god among men for overcoming in the end. As you complete the Trial, the Master Sword will slowly power up in the rest of the game, which is a truly worthwhile reward.
With the Breath of the Wild: Expansion Pass totaling up to $19.99, the question stands: is this first installment worth $10? The honest answer is not quite; the three or so hours it will take to run through the Trial of the Sword and find all of the cosmetic items aren’t the greatest. Hopefully the second installment, The Champions’ Ballad stacks up a bit better, otherwise this DLC pack so far feels more like what should have been a complementary update.