The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favorite game of 2017, and at 215 hours including The Champion’s Ballad DLC, it’s easily my most played game on Nintendo Switch. For me, Breath of the Wild ranks somewhere above Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker but below Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time. Link’s latest outing has some of the best aspects in any Zelda title — like the overworld design, freedom to explore, and art style — but also has some of the worst dungeons and storytelling in the series.
The Champion’s Ballad is the second DLC pack for Breath of the Wild, and when it was initially announced Nintendo promised it would feature a new story and a new dungeon, whereas the first DLC pack was just a series of combat trials to power up the Master Sword.
Unfortunately, while The Champion’s Ballad technically has a “story,” it’s not the kind of story many of us were hoping for.
Warning: Spoilers for Breath of the Wild and The Champion’s Ballad follow!
The perfect ending to Breath of the Wild — the one you get if you’ve completed the Captured Memories quest line — has a line where Zelda mentions that something is going wrong with Vah Ruta; it’s implied that that’s where Link and Zelda’s next adventure will be, so it made sense to assume that The Champion’s Ballad would take place after Calamity Ganon has been defeated. It’s a good idea, too: a post-game story could have Link and Zelda adventuring together, restoring Hyrule to its former glory as they are now the kingdoms last champions.
Instead, The Champion’s Ballad adds a new quest line that takes place after all four Divine Beasts have been freed, but before Calamity Ganon has been defeated (beating the game doesn’t change this, as there’s no post-game with our without this new DLC).
The first part of The Champion’s Ballad feels completely unnecessary. Back at the Shrine of Resurrection you’re given a temporary weapon called the One-Hit Obliterator that can defeat enemies in one shot, but lowers your health to 1/4th of a heart. You’re tasked with clearing out four monster bases on the Great Plateau and then completing a shrine that rises from the ground for each one. This part feels like needless padding because at this point in the game players are pretty powerful — in my case, I breezed through with the One-Hit Obliterator and bomb arrows. Having only 1/4th of a heart didn’t matter because the enemies were never more difficult than a couple Lizalfos and a couple Moblins.
Upon clearing the four bases and finishing their shrines, the One-Hit Obliterator will break off into four pieces that shoot into the sky and each land next to one of the Divine Beasts. Each spot has three little pillars with a piece of a map on it and a yellow objective marker, and you have to match those map pieces with your full map in order to find the locations for three separate trials. Kass mentions that these trials are the same ones that the four champions had to endure to be worthy of their Divine Beast, and in typical Breath of the Wild fashion, Kass gives you a clue for each of the trials.
This is where The Champion’s Ballad really let me down. The trials, of which there are 12 in total, are pretty much the same for each Divine Beast. Each one has a trial where you have to run through rings, a couple have ones where you fight a boss monster that’s too easy, and a couple have ones where you just land on a circle. Each trial unlocks a new shrine, and completing the shrine awards you with a special Spirit Orb exclusive to that particular champion’s Divine Beast. Getting all three for any given Divine Beast will trigger a boss battle against its corresponding Blight Ganon, but you’re given limited weaponry and few items to eat; this doesn’t make these bosses any more difficult though, because the weapons you’re given don’t break and the Blight Ganons have the same exact patterns as before.
Completing a Divine Beasts three trials, three shrines, and defeating its Blight Ganon will unlock a short flashback where the champion pals around with Zelda and then either protects her from monsters (Urbosa and Daruk) or does a cool action sequence (Revali and Mipha). You’ll then get a “powered-up” version of their ability, which just cuts down the cool off time between uses.
That’s right: the “story” in Breath of the Wild‘s story DLC is five separate cutscenes of the champions; characters that are barely in the base game, and died 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild even take place. It’s so disappointing. Instead of creating a unique narrative and something that stands out from the base game, Nintendo decided to throw in some more memories and 16 more shrines. There are already 120 shrines in the game — we don’t need more. The memories were some of the weakest parts of Breath of the Wild; it would have been great to see a new story with Link and Zelda together instead of more inconsequential flashbacks for characters that kick the bucket before the game even begins. And as far as trials go, The Master Trials in the first DLC pack are far more challenging and rewarding than the meager trials in The Champion’s Ballad.
Thankfully, the new dungeon saves The Champion’s Ballad from being a disaster. It’s the second best dungeon in the entire game, right behind the Gerudo’s Divine Beast and far head of the other three. This new dungeon is pretty large with four separate themed areas that have to be manipulated from the outside before solving the puzzles within them. The 16 new shrines are pretty good, too, but the issue there is that with 120 shrines already in the game, an additional 16 just felt like a chore.
The final reward for completing The Champion’s Ballad came out of left field: it’s a… motorcycle. Dubbed the Master Cycle Zero, you can pull it out at any time via a rune and fuel it with materials. It feels pretty good to ride around in, surprisingly. It doesn’t make any sense narratively, though; Zelda keeps telling you that these trials are to make you stronger to fight Calamity Ganon, so it’s pretty silly to be rewarded with a motorcycle at the end.
Rounding off The Champion’s Ballad are some new armor pieces for Link and his horse, although the Master Cycle Zero renders the latter obsolete. My favorite piece of armor is the Ocarina of Time Phantom Ganon set, and it looks especially cool wearing it while riding around on the Master Cycle Zero.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of The Champion’s Ballad DLC for this review.